Interview with Mats Andersson – Creative Director at Light & Wonder
By Dave Sawyer Aug 3, 2022
Today we sit down with Mats Andersson the Creative Director at Light & Wonder, who has kindly agreed to be interviewed by us here at Casinomeister. Many thanks for agreeing to take some time out of your busy schedule to talk with us, specifically concerning Light & Wonder’s latest release Summer Vibes Accumul8.
Before we begin, could you provide our visitors with a bit of information concerning your background in the iGaming industry and how you now find yourself as the EU Creative Director of Light & Wonder.
I’m Mats Andersson, EU Creative Director. I’m a slots fanatic. Before joining Light & Wonder I was on the operator side for many years. Since my introduction into the industry, I always wanted to be on the creative side and work with slots – to see behind the scenes and see what works.
You spent just over 4 years at LeoVegas progressing up the ranks after starting out as a Customer Support Agent to the role of Junior Casino Release Manager, before joining SG Digital (Now known as Light & Wonder) as a content specialist.
Did your experience working for an operator provide you with good standing for your role as Creative Director?
100%. I’ve worked with some of the best people in the industry from both the operator side and on the supplier side. I was able to absorb a lot of knowledge, and that’s what – hopefully – I’m carrying with me into this position as Creative Director
Could you also expand on as to what input exactly you have in the creation of new games produced by Light and Wonder?
The main thing is the conceptual phase. Together with the math lead, I will come up with various concepts and we’ll figure out what fits. Other than that, much smarter and more talented people than me are creating the games from an art and visual perspective.
However, throughout the project I continuously play the games and give feedback on anything that I feel needs changing from a player perspective. So it’s more the players’ perspective that I add to the process.
This leads us to Summer Vibes Accumul8, which was released across Light & Wonder’s network of operators including the Casinomeister accredited casino PlayoJo at the beginning of July.
The game contains a brand new game mechanic in Accumul8 and also features cascading reels. Can you provide information as to how the Accumul8 mechanic works and how it affects game play?
What we’re doing is removing unnecessary lines and ways. It’s a simple “what you see is what you get” kind of game. It’s all in the name: “Accumul8” – eight of the same symbol anywhere on the reels will guarantee you win. The idea behind it is to create something that’s very simple for players.
There are a lot of complicated games out there today. I won’t mention names, but some games… even if you look at them and play them, you don’t understand them. This game can be explained to a novice player without needing visual guidance to understand it. It’s super simple and very new user-friendly. I think that’s one of the things we’ve been missing from our portfolio.
This is something we’ve never done before from a slot perspective but it’s like a scratch card: “match three, get a win” – super simple and effective, right? It’s just taking that to the next level by incorporating tumbling reels, adding some multipliers, etc. We’ll keep adding stuff to it – while keeping it simple – to make it pack a punch.
How long in total from the initial concept of the game to the final delivery did it take to produce Summer Vibes Accumul8?
I think with this one we first talked about it 6 to 8 months ago. Certain things are always fixed (e.g. certification and Q/A time) but we spent a lot of time in the conceptual phase on this particular game trying to understand what we wanted to do, how to get the math correct, etc.
Can you provide us with some details as to what it entails to produce such a game from start to finish?
Well, you start with an idea and then you pick it apart. You add to it, you remove from it, you do some early mock-ups from a math perspective just to get a feel for it. And when you’re happy with that, you move along and have art involved, front and back end, Q/A, compliance, legal… there are a lot of components to get from writing an idea on a piece of paper to see it go to market.
Classed as a medium to high variance slot with a maximum payout of 20,000 times your bet stake. Do you think players in the main prefer playing slots that feature potential big wins, but on the flipside have the propensity to eat through their bank roll?
It’s difficult because each player has their own profile. I think in general there is an appetite for those high variance, super-high-potential slots, but at the same time players want achievable wins. It’s very easy to write “20,000x” or “1,000,000x” but if no one ever sees it, does it really exist?
I think what players are looking for are achievable wins; whether that’s 1,000x 5,000x or 10,000x, that’s the main concern. Of course, there will always be a market for the high-volatility games and the high max exposure, but I think there’s a balance to had with a great slot but that offers an achievable win too.
Our membership, like big wins and like to hear about players winning big. What’s the biggest win a player’s managed to hit on any of your slots?
I think the biggest one we’ve had is Spartacus Megaways with 94,000x. A lot of our games are capped at €250,000 because that’s what operators want and it’s still a life-changing amount. We see plenty of them, just last week we had one in Italy. But if you’re looking at timesX, 94,000x is the biggest one.
In your view will we continue to see slots pushed out with win-potentials of up to 150,000X?
Yes, I think so. As I said, there’s always a market for everyone – that’s the beauty of this industry. Gone are the times when you make one game that actually suits everyone: that’s impossible. You’ll see more and more of these high-end potential games, but at the same time you’re going to continue seeing more medium variants. I do think that the low variance games are few and far between these days.
Is there a need for new mechanics and more creativity – or do you think the age of lower variance slots has passed?
We’re never going to say the age of low variance has passed because there’s always a market for somebody. Take a big section of bingo players, for example. They want time on the device, and that’s one player base.
You have another player base that is happy with 5,000 to 10,000x wins. And then you have those who have £200 and want to play it all and want absolutely nothing in return but the big win possibility. It’s like playing the lottery: nine times out of ten you won’t win, but if you feel happy about that, do it.
I think if you just compare where we’ve gone in the last couple of years… how much the industry has changed and especially the mechanics of the games and the innovation that we’re seeing. When I started in about 2015 it was ‘lines’ and ‘ways’; it was a very simple game on the outside compared to what we see today.
What is your own personal favourite slot and why?
I’m a sucker for Magic Mirror Deluxe 2. Mainly because it’s downgraded; there are no fancy animations, in fact there’s nothing fancy about it. I’ve won a lot on it in my time and it’s my go-to slot. Whenever I have a gamble, I go back to it, give it a play and try and get those re-triggers!
When developing a new slot game, who is at the forefront of your mind, players on mobile devices or the old school desktop players?
It has to be mobile devices. It comes in as soon as we start building the games. A big part of what we do is game porting, so we have a huge portfolio of land-based content, and we need to port that onto digital. The biggest challenge is how to get that experience from the floor into your device.
On desktop it’s a little bit easier because you have more computer power and more real estate. But we have to think, ‘how do we fit this in a mobile and make it snappy?’
Not everybody has a 5G, perfect phone – even though it’s improving – so it’s mobile first and it starts from deciding how we design the assets and which programs we use in order to incorporate it into the client. Mobile has to number one. And if you get mobile right, desktop is a breeze.
Where do you see the online gambling industry in five years’ time and do you expect there to be further merger and acquisitions of casino game studios during this time?
I think one of the biggest things we’ve seen popping up in recent time is the multiplayer aspect. There’s a lot of talented companies – some of which I’ve been very fortunate to work with in the past – going in that direction.
I think that’s where we’re really going to see the industry change shape: from historically there being a stigma about gambling (depending on which jurisdiction you’re in) to becoming more socially acceptable. The most fun way to gamble is when you’re with someone else and gambling with friends.
In terms of mergers and acquisitions, that’s never going to stop; it’s just going to keep going and going. The bigger players just keep getting bigger!
I think ultimately there will be just a few big shots that hold the reins. You see it all the time in the news: the big ones are absorbing, especially with the US markets opening up. But we’ll keep on doing our part and others will do their part.
Many thanks for your time Mats, it has been a pleasure to speak with you
Thank you for some great questions!