Recently Playson has announced several changes, as the studio strives to enhance its position as one of the best gaming developers on the market. The announcement of Nikolay Illiustrov as Head of Games highlights the company’s revised ambitions and more specifically, its elevated game development process. In our interview, Illiustrov walks us through the many components that come into play in creating award-winning games. From better retention rates to in-depth analysis of gameplay, Illiustrov tells us more about how the internal cogwheels of Playson turn to create some of the most memorable titles.
Q: Nikolay, can you tell us a bit more about your immediate plans for the job? How is your current
position going to be different from your past responsibilities?
My new role means I’m more strategically focused on Playson’s entire slots portfolio strategy, rather
then the management of individual games development.
As Head of Games, I will be defining the strategic direction and goals for the whole games tribe. I’m
also responsible for revising and optimizing the games development process to deliver a higher
quality range of games with more variety. It’s a great challenge that I’m thoroughly looking forward
to starting with the team.
Q: How has Playson’s game development process evolved over the past year and in light of the
company’s most recent rebranding move?
The quality of games has always been our main priority. We aim to offer operators and players the
best possible product – developing a world-class UI, focusing on a mobile-first user interface, and
merging this with intuitive, familiar mechanics that keep players engaged. This is exemplified best by
the Power mechanics in our Hold and Win titles, as well as the 10-spin cycles featured in the range of
Solar titles we have produced. Not only do these inclusions create an immersive gaming experience,
but they also maintain the rhythm of the gameplay – making it suitable for short mobile play
To achieve the best results, we have not only restructured the game tribe to the full stack agile
teams working independently on the game’s roadmap, but we also support and motivate people to
push the boundaries. Our teams now have the freedom to work with new game themes and
experiment with alternative approaches, providing them with greater control over the project.
As a result of these changes, we are already seeing fantastic results from our most recent game launches.
Lion Gems: Hold and Win is one of those performing exceptionally well. It quickly became our
number one game across several key markets, and the number of bets taken from the title is 37 percent higher than the next game in our portfolio ranking.
Q: What are the main challenges Playson has to address to maintain its competitiveness and continue
to grow its content footprint?
The market is dynamic, and you need to react quickly to changing trends to keep up with
competitors. While this might be a concern for some, we actually embrace the challenge – it forces
us to keep reinventing ourselves, think more creatively and deliver more high-performing games.
In order to grab the attention of operators, we put a lot of effort into providing not only great games
but extras such as promotional tools, seamless integration, marketing materials and data analytics.
We also send out customer satisfaction surveys to listen and adjust our approach, ensuring we’re
developing the best possible product to match the needs of every operator.
We have amplified the Playson gameplay by investing into various promotional tools, which make
our games even more appealing to players, and drive retention for operators. Reel of Fortune is an
innovative example of this, as it gives more reasons as to why players should come back to our
games. With the tool, players collect virtual coins which can then be used to spin the wheel and win
additional prizes. It helps to build much-needed retention within a very saturated market.
Ultimately, we see ourselves as a service provider more than just a slots studio.
Q: As someone who has looked into the development of new games on a deeper level, what is the
main difficulty in determining what a new product should be about?
I would say adjusting to the different requirements of multiple markets is the main hurdle. In order
to stay on top of this, we take into account cultural differences when brainstorming new game
themes, as well as closely monitor local regulations to ensure our games are fit for purpose and hold
the right certification. However, this is our choice to invest in certification, guaranteeing safety to
the operators and players, and contribute to the industry’s overall development.
There’s also an element of risk when creating new game themes and mechanics. The safe option is
for developers to adopt the “sequels strategy”, but that is often successful in the short term only and
maybe perceived by players as “just another slot provider” without any creativity. Striking the right
the balance between original ideas and using classic themes is what we do best at Playson, introducing
new mechanics that take popular genres forward.
Q: How do you think slots will change over the next years or is this a question best left for the future?
I feel it’s already changing. The demand for mobile-first content is increasing, and playing sessions are
getting shorter. Stricter regulation is influencing the games too, and high volatility games are
growing in popularity.
More than ever before, we need to focus on providing an entertaining experience featuring different
mechanics to keep players enthusiastic. This was the inspiration behind the development of our
upcoming release Juice Inc., which offers a very different take on the classic fruit slot theme.
Elsewhere, we anticipate M&A activity will continue to grab the headlines as the industry continues
to move towards consolidation.
Q: We understand that Playson is impacted by the current geopolitical turmoil in Ukraine, do you want to use this opportunity to send a message to your colleagues from across the industry?
We continue to stand with Ukraine. A big part of our product team is based in Ukraine and a lot of
our employees are volunteering to help the cause. With this in mind, we seek to support these
members as a company and as individuals – we encourage the rest of the industry to continue