As one of the industry’s foremost experts on game content and operational excellence following his directorship at both William Hill and Superbet, James Curwen, CEO & Founder at Golden Rock Studios, is feeling confident as the brand launches its latest slot game, Volatile Slot. At a time when playing safe bets is the strategy du jour, Golden Rock is instead focusing on big wins, customer and operator desires and how unpredictability is the “secret sauce” behind the company’s ongoing success…

Previously you worked for some big industry names, how has the journey with Golden Rock differed to your past high profile roles?
It is the first time in 30 years working as a supplier or for myself, so it has been a bit of a change. Previously I was managing large teams in multiple locations on a multitude of aspects raging from operations, VIP through to marketing. I now manage smaller teams and being so close to the product it’s been very exciting to see the progress we have made in our first year.

How has the freedom of driving your own studio offered new perspectives on the industry and is there a feeling you can help drive the future of gaming more significantly than in your previous roles?
I am focusing 100% of my attention on the games we are delivering, the previous operational experience we have is invaluable and we believe it’s our strongest competitor advantage as we have a deep understanding of both the customer and operator needs.
We are launching new games throughout Autumn and the first game is called ‘Volatile Slot’, due in September. It is volatile by name and volatile by nature. With up to 25,600 times your stake available as your biggest win and our unique ‘multiplier wild scatters’ big wins are always only a spin away.

Yourself and your founding partner, Will Mathieson, are adept at delivering blockbuster slots which change the course of the industry, how does the new title fit alongside both your past achievements in game design?
We are always innovating and looking at customer trends, we believe gamblers are more mature now and expect more from their gaming session. Our aim is to deliver those experiences and we believe ‘Volatile Slot’ has our secret sauce.

How much impetus is put into R&D of new games like this at Golden Rock and why is that important to you?
While many studios are just churning out re-skin maths with new graphics, we are totally dedicated to innovation, be that in our game concepts, our maths, our UX/UI to our features, we have spent endless hours ensuring everything is right before a game is launched. This is evident even into the way we have designed our games roadmap, which is in a unique Periodic Table format, to demonstrate that each game we release will be unique in its own right.

Golden Rock’s founders are renowned for producing cutting edge games, playability and appeal, how does an organisation like yours instil a culture of innovation: what practical steps does it need to implement?
Well, at our heart we are gamblers and we build games for people like ourselves, we want to play games that have us on the edge of our seat and have a sense of excitement and anticipation. We hire people who are as passionate as we are about the games we want to build.

With more than 20 years of land-based casino experience, where do you see the big wins taking place in online table games going into 2020?
I believe that there really has been a lack of innovation in terms of RNG table games compared to online slots. We have spent a huge amount of time exploring this area and strongly believe that we have bridged the gap with our new up and coming games Roulette X2 and Back Blackjack which both incorporate bigger wins with better odds and will both be out this year.

August saw your former employer William Hill post significant loss due to regulatory changes, where do you stand on how to achieve a balance between social responsibility and enabling business to operate in a competitive environment?
This is a difficult question as I believe that 99% of gamblers just enjoy the thrill of the ride and gambling is entertainment. Unfortunately, gambling does negatively affect some people and it is up to the operators to identify and help those customers. Not everyone that likes a drink is an alcoholic, not everyone who eats chocolate is overweight and not everyone who likes a bet is a problem gambler however I believe that the media paint it that way and the regulators are having their hand forced.