"The classics never disappear" - Interview with Steve Collett, Chief Product Officer at Inspired
Steve Collett at Inspired shares valuable insights to their successful Megaways adaptions of the classics Reel King & Centurion. We were also lucky enough to hear about their upcoming games and the importance of social mechanisms.
Steve Collett, Chief Product Officer at Inspired
Welcome Steve, we’re glad to have you and Inspired in this week's provider spotlight! Could you give our readers a short background to who you are and what your history in the iGaming industry looks like?
I found my passion early. I’m turning forty this summer and it will also be my nineteenth work anniversary with Inspired. I’m the Chief Product Officer at Inspired, responsible for all the content and innovations across Inspired’s Mobile and VLT divisions. Prior to being appointed Chief Product Officer, I served in multiple game development roles at Inspired.
What is it like working at Inspired?
It’s incredibly fulfilling because of the people and the work we’re producing. It’s really amazing to see how much my colleagues care about what we are building, and how their contributions affect their team’s and the company’s goals. It’s energizing to work with people who are passionate about doing a good job, rather than just doing their job.
Reel King and Centurion brands have a very loyal following. Players know and love each of these brands for certain features and mechanics that we knew we had to include in the Megaways versions. We were fortunate to have key people from the original Centurion and Reel King development teams to discuss direction and to help develop the Megaways editions. Our insight and market research gave us a clear understanding of what players loved about Centurion and Reel King and what made them so popular.
Our priority was to build on those established and loved attributes and enhance the overall experience with the Megaways mechanic, rather than just slapping the brands on a Megaways game.
In your opinion, what are the key aspects behind them being received so well among players and staying at top real estate in the casino lobbies?
Reel King Megaways not only benefits from the look, feel and sounds of the original but also offers players additional ways to win. The game includes a symbols hierarchy where the royal is worth slightly more than the fruit symbols, bonus hit rates that deliver Reel King coming in 1 in 100, and a chance for players to win money on free spins. All these features make Reel King Megaways stand out from a common Megaways game.
Likewise with Centurion, we didn’t take a big brand and slap it on a cookie-cutter Megaways game. We leveraged the features that made Centurion a hugely successful game by incorporating three of the original four big bonuses, adding super versions and making them all Megawazie. These games were designed for the original Centurion and Reel King players, and for the future players.
Reel King Megaways, released in the first half of 2020, was the 7th most popular game in the United Kingdom market. What has this achievement meant for you?
It was the first online game that the recently integrated Astra team worked on as part as the Inspired team. The acquisition was only finalized in October 2019 and we started working remotely in March, so these teams were somewhat new to each other and couldn’t work face-to-face—but they continued to work seamlessly hand and hand, and achieved some of the strongest cross-team collaboration I’ve ever seen. It was amazing to see the Inspired studio dev and production team work hand in hand with the Astra design and art team to deliver this game, along with a little help from the team at Sky Vegas who sponsored it as an exclusive game. They really knocked it out of the park! Wait till you see the string of titles coming from these teams in 2021.
The game has done very well in most markets but it seems a tad more popular among United Kingdom punters. Why do you think this is?
You’re right, it has done extremely well in all the markets it’s in. The Reel King brand originally launched as a retail brand in the UK, and many players see it as an iconic British brand. So for the UK players, their loyalty stems not only from Reel King being one of the first top-performing brands, but from the idea that Reel King is a UK brand.
Talking about markets and player segments, which are your most important markets and which segments of players are you focusing extra hard to please?
If you asked me this question a few years ago, I would have told you the UK. Fast-forward to 2021, and with the strong growth Inspired has experienced throughout Europe and our push in North American markets, now all markets and all types of players are important to Inspired. Inspired produced a 2020 Interactive product roadmap that released more than double the number of games per month as in 2019, and we leveraged our most popular retail and interactive brands and mechanics. The speedy integration after we completed the acquisition of Astra and Bell Fruit brands in October 2019 allowed Inspired to further strengthen our offerings by converting some of their most popular themes and titles — like Reel King — for online gaming.
In 2021 we are positioned to break our 2020 interactive game release record with a roadmap for the most diverse player experiences possible, from higher volatility and bigger win potential, to low volatility and universal appeal, to classic and innovative mechanics. All these games deliver great entertainment value with strong math foundations.
What have been the most important key takeaways for Inspired in 2020?
We’ve seen a lot of adaptation in the marketplace as our interactive customers gained players. We saw the importance of being an omni-channel provider, and this will only intensify in 2021. It will be even more important for retail customers to be able to make players’ favorite games available online as well. In this difficult year, we didn’t waver in our customer support while still increasing the cadence on successful game mechanics. We saw regulatory changes, and Inspired is committed to implementing forward-thinking features into our games to keep players safe and playing responsibly.
The new studios we moved into after the acquisition turned out to be a huge asset in 2020; having that additional bench strength couldn’t have come at a better time for the company and our customers.
What upcoming games do you have in your roadmap and why should we look forward to them?
I’m extremely excited about Bonus Island, which features the new Mystery Boost™ game mechanic. It had a limited launch at the end of 2019 and will be fully deployed by the end of January. Vegas Cashspins™, coming out at the end of January, is another great game that should do super well. This game is not highly volatile, but it can deliver 1,000x bonus wheel prizes. The theme and style should appeal to all players, with 25 win lines and the cash spins resetting live bonuses. Later in Q1 we have Reel Lucky King Megaways, hot on the tails of Santa King Megaways. It’s fair to say this is an Irish clone of our top Reel King Megaways, but players seem to love a good Irish game and combining them both should be great for players and operators.
But the game your readers might be most excited about, coming out at the end of Q1, is Cops and Robbers Megaways, which brings the UK classic to the Megaways mechanic with a few surprises. The Bell Fruit Inspired studio has been working hard on this one, and it’s going to be massive.
What game features and trends do the Inspired teams find the most interesting in today's slots environment?
Classic and social mechanisms. New mechanics are bringing new life to classic games—the classics never disappear, they’re like a good story told in a different way. Social mechanisms make it easier for players to communicate with each other, competing, challenging other players and sharing experiences. It really has never been a better time to be a slots player, there is so much out there for all of the players’ needs.
Innovating in the industry is getting harder and harder with so many good games and providers out there. It’s a challenge we are excited about and up for.
What are your personal predictions regarding game trends and content output for this year?
I think 2021 will see a bit of shift for the larger operators. With the amount of games coming to market, I think they really want to select the best games for their player base rather than just taking everything. This approach is great for Inspired, as we work with our customers to understand their player needs and are always honest about what games will work for them, instead of pushing them all. RTP will be a big conversation in 2021; I can see the RTPs reducing slightly, though they will be still substantially better than the retail offering.
Thanks for the chat Steve! Is there anything you would like to say to your fans, future fans or future employees before we say goodbye?
Thank you for a great 2020. If the players did not like our games as much as they do, we could not keep making them-so keep playing our games responsibly, please! As players ourselves, we want to make sure we have the most engaging and fun games for players to play. We strive to make games you want to play, from classic like Reel King, Centurion and the Cash Pot family of games to new and exciting features in Bonus Island and Big Bonus. If the players are happy, we are happy.