Interview with Paul Conroy from Electric Elephant Games

Electric Elephant has been impressing everyone lately with eye-catching new games like Space Spins, Dragon Strike, and – most recently – Wild Society. Founded by two friends five years ago, the gaming company only turned to slot production relatively recently. We asked co-founder and Chief Product Officer Paul Conroy to tell us their unexpected story:

Paul Conroy: During the online poker boom, my friend Ali Masterman and I, who were both professional poker players, created a staking stable.

Casinos We Love: Can you explain what a “staking stable” is?

PC: Sure. We provided training and stakes to online poker players who in return gave us a cut from their winnings.

We were really successful for some time, but poker really changed five or six years ago. Lots of new hand tracking technology became available, and there were more and more tutorials available for new players. Winning suddenly got really, really hard.

Then one day we saw that PokerStars had launched a casino. We thought “Hey, this is a sign!”

We started thinking about how we could get involved in casinos. As our expertise was in poker, Ali and I thought up half a dozen poker led, player vs house table games and presented our ideas to PokerStars. They liked them, and asked us to create online versions.

That was really exciting, but I remember Ali and I turning each to each other and saying, “Great! How do we do that?”

CWL: You mean you had never designed a game before?

PC: No, software design was all new to us. But we worked hard at it, put together a team, and produced four new table games for PokerStars. We had Swap the Flop, Texas Switch, All In Hold’em and Double Ditch Hold’em.

PokerStars were really happy with what we’d done, so we started talking to other casinos about building more table games for them. Pretty much everyone we spoke to would say, “These are great but do you have any slots?” So Ali and I both thought “Maybe we should build some slots.”

CWL: So you went from staking poker players to developing slots – a total change in your business plan – just like that?

PC: Pretty much, yes via table games. Three years ago we produced our first two slots. Because of our relationship with PokerStars these were produced exclusively for them. Since then we’ve continued to build some of our games for specific casinos.

Wild Society
A screenshot from Wild Society, developed by Paul Conroy and the team at Electric Elephant

CWL: I saw that your most recent game, Wild Society, is an exclusive for Unibet and has been for some time. How does that work?

PC: We talk to online casinos like Unibet and ask them what sort of games their players enjoy the most. We then create a game with these specific players in mind, so we make the exclusivity last much more than a couple weeks. Wild Society is a six month Unibet exclusive.

CWL: Wow, that’s a long time! So when you say you are building slots with specific players in mind, what factors are you considering?

PC: Lots of things, actually. The operators share some data with us. Things like the best performing games on their site and what kinds of features and/or themes seem to resonate. We use that information as a base and move forward collaboratively.

Then there are the things that data can’t quantify. The things that really determine the player experience. Pace is a really important one. You have to keep new players in mind, who might need time to figure things out, but you’ve also got to be sure not to bore experienced players who have played thousands of spins before.

Also, things like how long does it take for a spin to resolve? Players want to move on quickly following a dead spin, but if the pace is too fast you lose the suspense and the important moments are lost. And if a player wins, they need a moment to see why they’ve won.

When it is working, you don’t think about pace. It’s one of those things you only really notice when it is wrong.

Also music. Music is massively important to the overall experience, and getting more important all the time. Players used to commonly play with the sound off, but that’s changing.

CWL: I saw that you are actually a professionally trained musician. Does that help with slot design?

PC: It’s really useful when I’m talking to music producers. I can talk about different orchestrations, chords, and that sort of thing.

CWL: Have you ever worked as a musician then?

PC: Yes, I played saxophone professionally for ten years, including a stint travelling around the world on a cruise ship. I also worked in the orchestra pits in different London theatres for several years.

CWL: I’ve got to ask, how did you end up in the gaming industry then?

PC: I grew up around gambling, playing rummy for pennies with my family. That progressed into sports betting, and when the online poker boom started I realised I could make a living as a player. That lasted for three or four years, and led to Ali and me starting our staking stable.

CWL: Is Ali a long-time gamer too?

PC: Yes. We both bet on sports regularly, and we always have games on the TV at the office. We both love any kind of gambling. We will literally bet on two raindrops running down the window.

CWL: You make a day at your office sound like a lot of fun.

PC: We really try to make sure it is. We don’t take ourselves too seriously.

CWL: What is a typical day like?

PC: A lot of our team is based in Sri Lanka, which is five and a half hours ahead, so the first part of my day is always spent catching up with the art team and the developers.

The afternoons are creative time. We spend a lot of time thinking of new games, listening to music and making prop bets. And we watch a lot of streamers.

CWL: Which streamers do you watch the most?

PC: We watch several, but I especially follow The Bandit, and Josh from Fruity Slots.

CWL: And do you enjoy playing slots yourself?

PC: Absolutely. I don’t play any poker now at all, really, just lots and lots of slots.

CWL: As a player, what are you looking for in a slot?

PC: I like volatile games. Something relatively easy to follow with lots of win potential. As well as playing for fun, I have to play them with an analytical point of view. Why is a slot good? Why is it popular? We analyze slots from other designers and try and figure out volatility and trends, and what makes a particular game popular.

It can never be 100% science, though. There’s always some magic. It’s like the music industry: you can’t tell what will become a hit record. A hit record just is.

CWL: Have you identified any trends in slots you can share with us?

PC: The way players digest games is changing, and everyone wants things to happen more quickly.

Games are becoming much more volatile with more chances to win, and an overall better experience. Slots are increasingly much more than a gambling experience. They are an entertainment experience as well.

CWL: Looking farther ahead, what do you think slots will be like in years to come?

PC: I think slots will continue to evolve more and more quickly, and players will digest their games in new and different ways.

I wouldn’t be surprised if reels completely disappear from most games before long. Fishing-style games are really popular in Asia now, and these provide a similar experience to slots but with a completely new format. There is no reason to expect online slots to continue to look like the slot games in land-based casinos.

I also expect players purchasing features and bonuses to become increasingly popular, regulations permitting. Getting dead spin after dead spin is not a lot of fun, and people increasingly want to go straight to the bonus game.

5G technology will also accelerate mobile-first slots, which is already a massive trend, of course. It’s not possible to build games that are as immersive as you see in a land-based casino at the moment because it would take too long to download them. 5G will allow us to make the games for mobiles much more immersive.

CWL: And how about for Electric Elephant? What’s in your future?

PC: We’ve got an upcoming game I’m really excited about called Sherlock Bones. It’s about a dog detective. It’s coming out next month – another exclusive for Unibet,

CWL: One last question. Where did the name “Electric Elephant” come from?

PC: We had a shortlist of different names, and we wanted to come up with something that reflected our connection to Sri Lanka. Ali sent me a texted me the name “Electric Elephant” one morning at 4am. We both thought it was perfect!

CWL: Thanks so much for your time!

PC: It’s been fun!

Thank you to Paul Conroy for taking time to speak to us. For more information on Electric Elephant Games please visit the company website. And to keep up to date with new releases from Electric Elephant and other top slots producers, stay tuned to Casinos We Love!

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