Interview

Playtika's Alex Galasso on why the casual gamer is dead

Playtika's Alex Galasso on why the casual gamer is dead

At the Montreal Games Festival 2015, Playtika's user retention director, Alexander Galasso, announced “the casual gamer is dead.”

Looking at the games Galasso has worked on - notably Scrabble (while at EA) and now Playtika's The World Series of Poker - one may contest that he's spent his entire career catering to that which he now denies the existence of.

However, when we caught up with him post-speech, he argued that “the lines between the ways casual and hardcore players are defined today are blurred".

Indeed, those people playing Playtika's games are just as committed as those playing Blizzard's.

Not so different

“We see the same passion and intensity [as in Starcraft] when it comes to winning and losing at The World Series of Poker,” he explains.

“When we have limited-time events we see people play, on average, multiple hours per day.”

“And that's very contrary to the idea of casual players playing casually, like a few minutes here and there on the bus ride to work ... what we find as an industry now is that mobile players are actually playing at home.”

World Series of Poker isn't about winning a hand, it's about levelling up

“Look at the new iPad Pro, for example - it's not very portable. For people who want immersive mobile experiences, such as Clash of Clans, they're going to be setting that up at home and playing on their couch, and not on PC or console.”

The definition of a 'casual gamer' is simply at odds with the reality of those engaging with mobile games today, Galasso argues, with successful free-to-play games requiring a much more engaged audience. 

The definition of a 'casual gamer' is at odds with the reality of those engaging with mobile games today.

“Casual players are supposedly less competitive, yet with Hay Day we see a competitive clan mechanic laid over a farming game - it would be hard to be 'casual' and stay in that realm,” he reasons.

“Casual players don't engage in online communities apparently, but our fan page has 1.4 million likes - which is small compared to the likes of Candy Crush, which has 60 million likes.”

R.I.P products

He continues to argue that with games becoming services, with new content constantly being pushed out, is another contributing factor to the death of the concept of the "casual gamer".

Bar a few more one-off “art pieces” such as Gone Home, he says that every game today should be viewed as a service.

"In the next 5 years I think premium games won't exist, or at least be a very small part of the overall gaming market," he adds.

Not so casual threats

But, returning to his original point about casual/hardcore lines blurring, it's perhaps extreme reactions among the player base that most effectively crystallise his point.

“When Dong Nguyen removed Flappy Bird - what he thought was a very casual experience - he started receiving death threats,” Galasso recalls.

He adds that he has also received death threats or threats of violence in the past, while working on ostensibly casual mobile games.

“The only other developers that I know of receiving death threats on a regular basis are on games like Call of Duty or World of Warcraft, so for me that really blurs the lines.”

“Why would you send death threats to a developer if you didn't really care about the game and played less frequently?”

Features Editor

Matt is really bad at playing games, but hopefully a little better at writing about them. He's Features Editor for PocketGamer.biz, and has also written for lesser publications such as IGN, VICE, and Paste Magazine.

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Julie Borkowski
Here are my observations of after thousands of hands played with the Playtika wsop game... This is a game for the gullible, But eventually the player will start to see strange unnatural patterns of play that do not occur in face to face poker, or even in play that is truly generated randomly by a computer.

The odds with Playtika's wsop are worse than the roulette wheel. Players have negative advantage with wsop, and the ones that appear to have luck are robo assigned profiles that have tools to manipulate outcomes of the hands.

The more I played, the more bizarre odds kept happening, and it did not match any statistical algorithm in the real world.

At first, I thought there was no way that the game's developers would try to manipulate the odds, and I must be imagining it. I thought surely Playtika would rather stay popular by remaining true to the game rather than piss off good players that would promote Playtika's wsop rather than bad mouth it.

But the more I played the stranger it got, so I decided to see for myself if my suspicions were right. I mean surely a K-A would not loose 90-100% in the real world! The poker trainers all say differently, but the Playtika game did not follow any of the norms, and the odds were consistently stacked against players with skill.

So I did my own statistics and I kept data on my own hands played that were won and lost, and I observed the stats of those playing with me. I am not a professional, but I have played in enough rooms and forums as well as face to face to develop enough skill to know when something is not right. I won novice tournaments in person, and was looking to increase my skills here.

Unfortunately, I discovered Playtika's wsop is not the place to do it.

There are percentages and odds that are not natural in this game, and it becomes more noticeable the more you play. There are better descriptions of what I am talking about in the app reviews in the app store if anyone cares to read those as well.

The most disgusting thing that I discovered is there are people assigned to the rooms to appear as players, but they can see your pocket cards and often manipulate the outcomes. Sometimes there are several robo or fake players at the table that plant themselves around you that may or may not be run by one person. The more hands you play the more obvious it becomes of who is there to manipulate the outcomes. Often they slip up and reveal themselves when confronted.

After you play for awhile you will see the patterns. If you dare to see for yourself, I recommend anyone serious should take time observing in order to notice how raises are done and who raises when you are in. And check their player stats. Spend time just observing how they play the game, and see if you see what I see.

Dont get me wrong. The game starts out fun, but it will frustrate you quickly. If you can play with the free chips given that is what I recommend. Because your money is better spent in other ways if you want to increase your skills and have fun playing poker.

In computer generated play, there are several algorithms that determine play and how winning cards are randomly generated. However, the dials in this game are not random by any definition.

I also discovered that this game not outside audited to ensure integrity of game play. It is "self audited."

When you notice playtika and the robo players can only win by cheating you know you have more skill to play poker than the developers who cannot do it without cheating. It is sad knowing playtika would rather cheat then play for real with real people who love the game.

It is shocking that their game is rather popular. But ultimately Playtika is creating thousands of frustrated players who have learned to hate the game. Do yourself a favor and find a different way to learn and enjoy this game. Playtika's WSOP is not it.
Onn Lee
0166241151
Louise Gipson
why cant I get on scratch that it says oops,connection was lost is it on my end or yours I would to play it again but cant get on
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