As we approach the 10-year anniversary of the social casino mobile game phenomenon, Heart of Vegas, the PG.biz team catch up with Bryan Hurwitz, Head of Game and Joraynee Sarno, Senior Creative Director at Product Madness to learn more about the journey and the secrets to its decade of success.
PocketGamer.biz: What’s the secret to Heart of Vegas’ longevity?
Bryan Hurwitz: There are a lot of social casino games in the market, so we know that Heart of Vegas has to be different. We listen to our players, we question things, we always want to innovate and improve, and we stand by the adage that ‘if one person is complaining, everyone is complaining’ so make sure you keep your players happy. We have an incredible player base that is very knowledgeable and loyal to the game, and we work hard to meet player expectations. That’s something we’ve been consistently true to.
Joraynee Sarno: As Bryan said, it’s about respecting our players. Our players are so involved, their feedback has shaped what HOV is today. And it’s always important to understand their point of view.
Why do people love Heart of Vegas so much?
JS: At its heart, HOV is a simulated game, so it’s all about recreating an authentic feeling. I think we’ve really struck something that our players love in terms of the way in which the game creates a fun and memorable experience each time they play.
BH: A lot of other games make their virtual slot-style games ‘friendly-to-start’ with over inflated starting results to artificially entice players. We don’t do that. We are true to the core of what that social casino experience should be like.
What’s it like to work on such a successful title at Product Madness?
BH: It’s obviously fantastic to work on a successful game, and there’s something about HOV and the people who work on the game. It’s become its own ecosystem within the wider Product Madness business. We’re a true community internally and with the players - everyone who is involved in the game cares and has ideas and suggestions. That’s very refreshing.
During the pandemic when we all had to move to remote working, the whole team worked hard to improve communications and ensure nothing slowed down. We continued to collaborate, ideate and grow. In fact, we created some of the most incredible things for HOV during that time.
How has Heart of Vegas remained relevant even after a decade?
BH: I have to put the longevity of the game down to two factors, our amazing customer base and our incredible team. Our players really know what they want from the game, they’re knowledgeable, loyal and vocal and that helps. They know what they want in HOV and it’s our job to deliver that. This has allowed us to improve the game and meet expectations authentically.
And our core team who work on HOV, many have been around from the beginning 10 years ago. That stability has allowed us to keep the game consistent while continuously innovating and improving. We have new ideas and test them, then we listen to the feedback. Things that don’t work go and things that work stay. We’re always looking to evolve and grow whilst remaining authentic to the essence of HOV.
JS: It’s important that we balance nostalgia with a modern experience. For example, we can’t have an old-school user interface (UI) in our game, but we can have old school characters. We need to make sure we age in a good way and future proof everything we do.
What are the main challenges facing a 10 year old HOV game?
JS: The biggest challenge we always face is supporting a live game whilst developing new features and ideas. That idea of maintaining and creating at the same time, in parallel. Sometimes that gets difficult - there has to be an element of trial and error. We aim to ‘fail fast’ so if something isn’t working and players are not enjoying it, we react to that with speed. But I think the biggest challenge is how to update something that millions of people are still playing and enjoying. How we evolve and innovate without disruption, I think that is the biggest challenge.
BH: Absolutely, players love the game today and that’s great. But at some point, they may feel they need the game to change, and our challenge is keeping it fresh so that they don’t experience that fatigue. We have some players who have been playing HOV since day one and in that time have only ever skipped playing for two weeks per year. Keeping that game experience fresh for long-term players as well as new players is our biggest challenge. But we’re up for it.