Gaining an edge – a 1to1 with Nolimit City
Gaining an edge – a 1to1 with Nolimit City
To enhance the feel of Stockholm as the Silicon Valley of gambling, a nascent pool of gaming start-ups has formed recently led by executives fleeing the confines of the larger operating and supply beasts, hoping to strike out on their own with new ideals and a renewed zeal. One such is games developer Nolimit City, formed by Per Lindheimer, an industry veteran with time under his belt at Net Ent and latterly Bwin, and Jonas Tegman, now chief technology officer at Nolimit City and previously senior executive again at Net Ent and then ComeOn.
TotallyGaming.com caught up with Tegman to discuss how the company was “born out of frustration” with how the larger operators and suppliers in the industry worked and their lack of flexibility. Nolimit hopes to change that by doing something that seems obvious – asking operators what they want from games and then being flexible enough to deliver. We start with the biggest challenge for any start-up; that of gaining traction in a competitive environment and attracting the right people.
Totally Gaming: What is the biggest challenge for a games developer such as NoLimit?
Jonas Tegman: We started with nothing more than ambition, a strong work ethic, and the desire to build the best slots games in the world. That, coupled with a desire to produce consistently good quality games, is what we’re about in essence. But growing quickly and reaching a critical mass of content whilst retaining that quality is the biggest challenge. Attracting the right people to the company who can help us deliver that quality is always hard too – but we won’t compromise just to increase our workforce. As a small company, there is also the challenge of integrating games into operators without the use of third parties. Content aggregators play an important role in the supply chain and we are not averse to the idea of using them. But we feel it is more beneficial to both us and operating partners if we go direct at this stage. The days of games taking months to get to market are gone. With a modern platform like ours it now takes a matter of days, allowing us to invest our time and resources into designing and building more and better games.
Totally Gaming: The company was formed by gaming veterans - what common mistakes do you think you will be able to avoid?
JT: Nolimit City was born out of frustration. We have both worked for some of the largest suppliers and operators in the market, and from our point of view they are all making the same mistake. Instead of asking operators what they want from their games, they are telling them. In some ways, the big suppliers are now so big they are unable to flex and bend and mould their offerings to suit individual operator needs. It is easier for us, as a sort of start-up, to structure our business in this way. But that in itself is not without its challenges, particularly when it comes to employing the right people for the job. As your company grows it is easy to hire mediocre candidates in order to fill seats and to roll out more games. But in the long-run this just doesn’t work. That’s why we, as a company, are doing all we can to be appealing to the brightest minds and creative talents in the industry, and bring them on board.
Totally Gaming: How intuitive is the math behind game features? Do you need to have a feel for games to be able to design features?
JT: Maths is very important, but is just one piece of the puzzle when making a successful slots game. The math has to gel with the theme, graphics, sounds and so on. To do that effectively requires a team of different competencies; people who are intelligent, passionate, and live and breathe slots games. Here at Nolimit City we work together from the outset, taking a wider view of the game and what we want it to look and play like.
Totally Gaming: How much is the process one of iteration and testing?
JT: Iteration and testing is at the core of our approach to making games. We test, tweak, and test again until we are happy with the end product. We can repeat the process hundreds of times for any one game, and have a policy of not releasing a game until we are 100% happy with it. If that means screwing it up and chucking it in the trash, then so be it. We are obsessed with quality; in this industry you have to be. You are only as good as your last game, and when you are a small supplier like us, a bad product could stop us firmly in our tracks.
Totally Gaming: Do you think greater personalisation is needed in gaming and how will providers and operators manage this in the future?
JT: Personalisation is very important, but more for the operator than the supplier. Some are investing heavily and putting a lot of energy into personalisation, and they are the ones enjoying impressive growth spurts at the moment. That is not to say suppliers don’t have to be more flexible, because we do. That means doing things around the game to make it easier for the player and, of course, more engaging. Things like points systems, competitions, leader boards and so on. We can create individual games for operators, but that costs them a lot of money as we are essentially cutting off revenue streams from other partners. But we can certainly offer periods of exclusivity on new games to help them stand out from their competitors.
Totally Gaming: How do you think the games sector will develop in terms of technology in the next few years?
JT: I think the focus will remain on HTML5 development; it has happened now and suppliers and operators are hard at work extracting its full potential. It is the perfect platform from which to design and build truly innovative slots games, and will have more of an impact in the near-term than gimmicky tech such as AR and VR. I am very careful when speculating about the future, but I just don’t see players donning helmets in order to enhance their experience – the last people to wear helmets in Sweden were the Vikings. So for me it is all about HTML5, coupled with mobile, and using that combination as a base from which to create games with innovative features, intelligent math, and themes that catch the attention of players all over the world.
Totally Gaming says: The online games market is one of the more vibrant areas of the sector right now. Despite the evident issues around integrations and the proliferation of ‘me-too’ content – often linked issues – there is evidently a thirst among consumers for more creative and innovative games. New suppliers such as Nolimit City face a tough task, but Tegman and Lindheimer are surely right in thinking there is a gap in the market right now.