Dream Spin’s journey from slot streaming to slot developing has continued to shine a light on the challenges faced by small studios, hoping to make it big.
In the latest instalment of The Journey, Josh Green, Co-Founder at Dream Spin, explains the group’s decision to launch a game studio while continuing to manage the affiliate websites and streaming channels of Fruity Slots and Hideous Slots, before diving into the company’s first game venture.
Josh Green: As creators of one of the largest and most popular slot streaming channels on YouTube, Fruity Slots, for many years, we have been presented with numerous opportunities to collaborate with existing game studios.
However, we never took the plunge to work on a game with anyone else. Instead, we fostered close relationships with established studios dominating the sector and niche start-up studios, allowing us to gain invaluable insights into the fundamental requirements and steps involved in designing and building a game.
With over six years of experience as streamers who’ve played online slots, accumulating more than 50 million views and over 15 million hours of watch time on YouTube, we believe we’ve played nearly every type of slot game out there.
“WE HAD TO CREATE SOMETHING EXCEPTIONAL.”Josh Green, Co-Founder at Dream Spin
This extensive experience has given us a deep understanding of what resonates with our audience and what makes a slot game popular. We’ve encountered a plethora of unique ideas and concepts, as well as a substantial number of repetitive themes and features, all packaged differently. Both approaches can be successful.
We brainstormed plenty of game ideas among ourselves, frequently critiquing and praising the games we played. In early 2022, while discussing a game with a studio, they proposed that we assist in designing and producing (not building) a game for them, which we would then promote on our stream.
Although this offer was enticing, we decided to take a step back and actually commit to building our own game. Stripping away much of the complexity, we identified several core components and essentials required to make this endeavour possible:
- Game development team – including developers, animators, artists, mathematicians, sound engineers, and game producers.
- Distribution partners/aggregators
Interestingly, we took a somewhat unconventional approach here. While most startups either self-fund or seek external investment, we were fortunate to be able to fund our business ourselves due to the success of our affiliate sites, Fruity Slots and Hideous Slots. Although we might consider raising investment at a later stage, that’s a topic for another discussion in this series.
With financial resources in hand, our next step was to approach major companies that offered studio partnerships and distribution deals. A studio partnership typically involves the studio focusing on game development, while the partner handles licensing, infrastructure, regulatory compliance, financial negotiations, integration, and distribution.
The responses we received were unanimous: “What experience do you have in building slots?” Unfortunately, our answer was “none.” They followed up with, “Build a game and return to us when you have something to show,” and this left us with no choice.
To pursue our goal of establishing a game studio and creating slots, we had to take the risk and build our first game before securing any commercial or distribution deals. In short, we had to create something exceptional.
At this stage, we were surprisingly confident and determined, even though we hadn’t assembled a team to build the game yet. At least now, we knew what we needed to do.
Over the next few months, we began recruiting the key individuals necessary for this venture. Building a game from scratch requires a complex framework. Fortunately, we found someone with significant expertise in this field, having previously worked at reputable studios on similar projects. This was a crucial step as it allowed us to transform our ideas and concepts into a tangible reality.
“WE WERE NOW BEING TAKEN SERIOUSLY, PROVIDING US WITH A CLEARER DIRECTION.”Josh Green, Co-Founder at Dream Spin
Approximately nine months later, we had the core framework in place, complete with design, animations, basic mathematics, and some sounds. We had the foundational elements and something resembling an online slot game.
Achieving this milestone was a significant accomplishment. While we had to hire some full-time staff, other game elements could be outsourced to specialised freelancers, a common practice in this industry, particularly for smaller studios.
This progress led us to the February 2023 ICE Gaming Conference, where we had our first opportunity to showcase the game to all the parties with whom we had previously held discussions.
After two to three weeks of sleepless nights, making frantic tweaks and adjustments to the game to present it in its best form, we received overwhelmingly positive feedback. Several aggregators were pleasantly surprised by how far we had come in such a short time. We were now being taken seriously, providing us with a clearer direction and potential partners.
However, the process was neither quick nor easy. Each partnership opportunity came with its own set of pros and cons. We engaged in extensive internal and external discussions, seeking advice from existing game studios collaborating with various aggregators to determine the best path forward. Although we had attractive options on the table, we couldn’t create more games without signed commercial and distribution deals.
While exploring our options and negotiating with potential partners in the months following ICE, we continued refining our first game based on the feedback we had received. In July of this year, we proudly announced a partnership with Light & Wonder. They would distribute our game to their extensive operator network through their OpenGaming platform in key regulated markets worldwide.
This partnership not only boosted our confidence and validated our ability to create high-quality products but also provided a level of security. It enabled us to double down on our investment in Dream Spin and expand our team to develop more games and prepare for integration with Light & Wonder in anticipation of our first game’s launch next year.