“SG is About Building Content for Markets Mines Games Tips, Not “One Size Fits All”” – Rob Procter, SG Digital
Bigger, better, stronger – the easiest way to describe the Scientific Games iGaming online casino division SG Digital. Thanks to decades of experience in the industry, SG Digital offers one of the most curated gambling libraries to its partners – and quality abounds whatever release you pick up. The Las Vegas-based company is behind some of the most beloved slots on the market, and it seems we might get to see SG Digital give even live casino games a try soon.
CasinosOnline had the honor of chatting with Rob Procter, the VP of Game Development. Read our full interview below.
- Hello, and welcome to CasinosOnline.com, a gambling portal specializing in online casino content. Could you please introduce yourself?
Hello! I’m Rob Procter, VP of Game Development at SG. I look after all our releases, including everything from new game concepts to deciding which games to build and why to build them. I also then get to decide which countries we launch our games in.
- You’ve been working in the industry for nearly a decade. What has working at SG Digital brought to you in terms of experience?
For me, working at SG gives you an idea of the vastness of what SG is as a business and the scale it operates at. Looking back at previous roles, I was always relatively in my comfort zone, working well within my means. Since I’ve joined SG it’s put me outside my comfort zone, which is great to challenge me and has grown me as a person and as a professional in this industry. It’s that sense of scale and that sense of being part of such a huge machine while still tangibly making a difference and seeing the difference that I’m making. It’s been a great journey so far.
- As the VP of Game Development, how would you describe the company’s game production process? What are the main stages of development that each game must go through before reaching the audience?
The most exciting part for me is the start really – coming up with new ideas and floating them around the team. It’s a very collaborative process; it’s not just one individual from the team going away into a dark room and coming out with a new game idea. We’re talking daily about new ideas and concepts, but every week we get together for a few hours to focus solely on new games and ideas. Those are the fun times where you’re discussing a theme or a mechanic or a math model. Those are the most exciting times because you can start to see an idea coming to life.
“It’s that sense of scale and that sense of being part of such a huge machine while still tangibly making a difference and seeing the difference that I’m making. It’s been a great journey so far.”
–Rob Procter, SG Digital
- Scientific Games has a precious collection of subsidiaries, and you’ve recently expanded the network with the acquisition of Elk Studios and Authentic Gaming. What did the two new companies bring to the table and how did that reflect on SG Digital’s work?
We’ve been past masters at mergers and acquisition but we’ve been quiet for the last couple of years in that space until Lightning Box. It’s great to have them on board – that’s been six months or so now and they’re well integrated with us and had been for a while pre-acquisition, but it’s great to be getting closer to those guys.
Then there was Authentic, which was a must for us; there was a big product gap that we’ve known about in the Live Casino space, a gap that we needed to fill and wanted to fill. It was just a case of finding the right business to help us on that journey, and Authentic have definitely done that. They really fit the ethos of what SG is all about, so it’s great to have them on board. Elk Studios was the latest one, and these guys are content specialists. They make great games – that’s what they do. and they’ve done it for a long time. They make very strong performing games, especially in Europe, and that’s an area where it’s fair to say we haven’t performed as well as we would have hoped. We’re trying to buck that trend in our own right and produce games from an SG stable that start to tip the scales in Europe, but Elk was ready-made to do that, and has been doing it for a long time. They are, again, someone we’ve had really close affinity with for a long time and, similar to Authentic, they fit the bill in terms of the way they work, their attitude, and their ethos in the industry. It was just a great fit. And from a selfish point of view, it’s great to have such good content people to work shoulder to shoulder with. It’s good to have them on.
- What’s next for SG Digital in terms of network and market expansion?
We’re always working on ways to expand our network and into new markets where available. It’s well known that we only play in regulated markets, so it’s always about keeping up to speed with what markets are opening up and which markets are changing and reopening. Ontario will be huge for us when that comes online at the start of April. Planning and preparing for that is taking up a lot of time at the moment. We’ve always got eyes on where we can expand from a market point of view and, similarly, from a network point of view. We’ve got some really new and exciting partners joining us throughout 2022.
- Speaking of markets, the US gambling market has been one of the focus points for SG Digital so far. What are the main challenges with developing content for the US audience, compared to other markets?
It’s different, you know… it’s just different. The US players want something different to the UK players versus European players. SG is about building content for markets, not trying to build “one size fits all” content because we know that doesn’t work. I think from a player point of view we really know what the players want now in the U.S. We’ve been there a long time and we know what we’re doing. We’ve brought games online from land-based, we’ve brought digital native games to the U.S., and we feel like we’ve got a real good handle on what the players want and what they need. The challenges for the U.S. are more around the compliance and regulatory side of things. There’s a second regulatory layer of approval for every state, whether it’s DJE or PGCB… whoever it is, you’ve got a secondary layer of approvals that just adds a bit of complication and challenge to the process. We’ve got processes in place, but it’s another challenge to overcome – it’s not as simple as building a game, getting it certified and releasing it; you’ve got another part of the jigsaw to complete, so that’s probably the bigger challenge we have, but we’ve been doing it for long enough now to know our way around it.
- Thanks to the acquisition of Authentic Gaming, SG entered the lucrative sector of live gambling. Does that mean we might soon see SG Digital live casino games?
We’ll see more Live Casino games and we’ll see Live Casino games entering the U.S. Authentic are part of our family, so in that respect you’ll be seeing live dealer games coming up from SG that are built by Authentic Gaming. If the question is more around “will we see SG-branded games?” then yes, potentially – watch this space!
- This February and March, you are bringing several new SG Digital slot releases to our favourite casinos. The first one we’ll see is Direct Hit. Can you tell us more about the release? What are the focal points of the new release?
Direct Hit is a really interesting one. We’ve been working on this game for quite a while. We’ve dropped it and picked it up a few times and come back to the drawing board to try and really get it right. It’s been a tricky one, hence why we’ve taken our time making sure that we’re happy with what we’re putting out there – and we are very happy with it now – it’s great! Of the games that are coming out in the next couple of months, this is the one I’ve played the most in demo mode, just getting a feel for the math and the mechanic. We’ve really toiled to get it to where it is, and it’s now a fantastic game that plays really well. It’s mathematically very strong and mechanically very strong. It’s a reactor game, which is the challenge – it’s not a straight-up four-by-five slot with a free spins bonus. In my opinion, only one or maybe two people have cracked the reactors online, despite the fact that everyone’s probably had a go at it. It’s a space that I genuinely see a desire for from players, so it’s important that we get it right – you don’t have many chances at these things. It’s been a really good one for us to get our teeth into, and I think what’s come out of this is a really good, strong, solid reactor.
- We are also very excited about the Stargate Megaways release launching in March. Not only is it a branded slot, but also comes with Megaways – a true marvel we’re looking forward to playing. Please tell us more about the game!
Stargate Megaways has been a long time in development and is a huge release for us. If you’ve seen any footage, you’ll appreciate it’s very cinematic and stays solidly within the Stargate brand. It features a new mechanic for us as well – Trailways – where cascading wins climb you up the trail on the left-hand side and with enough cascades you’ll then trigger the bonus. It’s something our players will see more of in the coming months as well as in our future titles. It’s a great-looking game that plays fantastically well. Anyone who likes Megaways is going to love this game.
- Thank you for taking the time to chat with us. Is there anything else you’d like to share with our readers, a message maybe?
Historically, we’ve built games a little bit sporadically, as most people do in this industry. You think of a game, you build it, there’s a theme, it works, you knock it out the door and then move on to the next one. Something we’re really keyed in on this year is to really focus on game families. We’ve got a game called Stash and Grab that’s going to be launched in Q2 this year, and that’s game one – we’ve already got game two, three and four planned and in the pipe. We’ve already started doing it in the U.S. with Nights of Dancing Drums Explosion that builds on the Dancing Drums family. We’ve got Dancing Drums Prosperity coming out early this year as well. These families of games – and building up a bit of a reputation around these games – has worked ever so well for us in the UK with Rainbow Riches over a long period of time. One of the challenges for me is answering “What’s the next Rainbow Riches?” And that’s tricky because it’s like saying, “what’s the next Megaways?” which no one can really answer. We’ve got a few irons in the fire; we’ve got a lot of considerations and building game families is not always just about a theme, sometimes it’s more about the mechanic, so building on mechanics and building game families around certain mechanics and evolving them over time to really resonate with players digitally – that’s something that’s been a big focus for us this year and hopefully comes through in our game schedules.