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Design Works Gaming

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About the Company

Design Works Gaming, DWG, is an online casino game developer located in the United States. In addition to online content, the firm also does third party work for most of the major land-based slot developers and runs a social casino component.

Founded in 2005 in Phoenix, Arizona, the company’s President and CEO of American operations, Troy Zurawski, founded the company and built it from the ground up after spending a couple of years at Atronic Americas LLC in the early 2000s.

Andy Harris is CEO of Design Works Gaming UK. His previous experience in the real money gambling world was earned with a 6 year stint at Realistic Games in Reading.

Most of the rest of the team of some 50 participants - mostly in the US - have non-gambling related backgrounds, coming from pure craft positions in mathematics, design, programming, sound, engineering, and art as well as data science to name just a few disciplines.

While homegrown and US based there are also a few team members located internationally in countries as diverse as Bulgaria, Lebanon, and Pakistan.

Troy Zurawski: “My goal was to create an independent studio that truly understood what players wanted—and hire the best talent possible—to give slot manufacturers exactly that.

One U.S. motion graphic artist with the company in Phoenix is Dylan Greene. We were able to locate one of his personal projects as seen below. By way of illustration I think it shows great creativity as well as impeccable skill - not to mention it’s just fun to see!

Design Works Gaming (UK) Limited and Design Works Studios, LLC are licensed and regulated in Great Britain by the Gambling Commission. The company's games are live tested to ensure the theoretical return to player percentages (RTP) are in line with the actual RTP in the real world. 

The random number generator (RNG) is tested and certified by Gaming Laboratories International (GLI). Some of the jurisdictions testing and certification have been completed for include the UK, Gibraltar, the Isle of Man, Alderney, and Malta - which is to say, all of the premiere European licencing jurisdictions. The games are also licensed for play in U.S. states with  online gambling regulations.

Over the course of time, Zurawski’s brainchild has entered over 500 slot titles into development with more than 15 different global powerhouses and distributors. Their branded games (those not created bespoke as a third party developer) are available at online gaming sites in regulated jurisdictions the world over. 

One recent addition to the family of operators making use of their titles is the Kindred Group. Games like Hold Your Horses and Flippin’ Rich are now available at 32Red, Unibet, and other Kindred gaming sites.

Other platform providers that partner to deliver the games online include Scientific Games, Relax Gaming (Silver Bullet RGS), iforium, and Swinnt. The games are also available at Whitehat Gaming sites such as Playzee, Dream Vegas, and Spin Rider.

According to the company, a good part of their success is down to perspective and culture. Rather than cloning existing maths models, over 80% of their games are completely unique. The balance is most likely found in their social slots catalog. 

Rather than trying to craft games for certain markets, they take a maths first approach to create unique and engaging content, and only then seek the best vertical or market to deploy it in. This approach results in a diverse portfolio of games - each with something different and unique. And while they do develop for other big names, none of the work on DWG slots is ever farmed out - it’s all created in-house from ideation to the launched product.

Since the fundamentals are sound, this process works across all media whether a game lands on a casino floor in Las Vegas, on a mobile or desktop computer, or in a social slots lobby.

Software and Games

The games are delivered to casinos via an application program interface or API. Individual or bundled - some aggregators and platform providers allow individual game selection and others only offer packages or all games.

We don’t have much insight into the work that went into particular titles they have helped develop for Amatic, Aristocrat, Everi, Greentube, IGT, Incredible Technologies, Novomatic, Scientific Games, or other well-known land slot providers. We do know that the studio has been highly sought after as a 3rd party developer for more than a decade and a half.

Some of the casino floor titles you might be familiar with that contain at least art, animation, and perhaps audio created by DWG include Panda Queen (online with IGT), Wonders of Africa (ditto), Dragon Journey (IGT), and Komodo Dragon by Aristocrat.

That experience along with the in-game promotional tools they have developed for social slots combine to give operators a competitive product and to give players engaging and highly professional content.

Look for a wide variety of themes, features, math models, line numbers, reel sets, and progressives ranging from digital reel slots to full-function video bonus slots.

We mentioned before that the catalog contains a wide assortment of online games and 80% of all their content uses unique and original math models. “Clone” has always been sort of a dirty word to slots purists dating back to the days when Microgaming would slap a new coat of paint and plug some news sounds into one of their games and release it as “new”. In and of itself it’s just cheesy to do, but in those days you had to totally reinstall the entire Viper desktop client whenever they released a “new” game or updated the inner workings of others.

The good news for today’s player is that each game you play now resides on a remote gaming server as an independent entity and they don’t even stay in your browser’s cache for very long after you play one. The HTML5 framework (browser language) is lean, mean, and purpose-driven. You play one game, go on to the next and soon your system completely ‘forgets’ you ever played the first one.

Ultimately, the market - you - determine whether any clone is good enough for you or not. I’d suggest you would be hard pressed to find one among the more than 5 dozen online titles out there as of review time - I couldn’t.

However, when comparing game elements I did make another minor discovery - some of Design Works’ (3rd party dev.) games have been online for a very long time. In fact so long that the companies that claimed them have changed hands so many times it’s difficult to pin the origins dates down.

A case in point…

Armadillo Artie was (most likely) created by DWG for NextGen. However, NextGen licensed it out to Chartwell or Cryptologic and when Amaya took over those companies for a brief time it became an “Amaya” game. But - NextGen was acquired by NYX and NYX was eventually acquired by Scientific Games. Today, it’s a DWG title and most likely because it was born in Phoenix Arizona way back in the day. To say that Design Works created the title for SciGames would be like saying I have my grandfather's ax... I have replaced the handle three times and the head once, but it’s still grandfather’s ax.

Why on earth any reviewers have ever ascribed this slot to Novomatic is far beyond me - after hundreds of hours of historic research, I have never drawn any lines between any NextGen license holder and Novomatic. I’d be more inclined (without offering even anecdotal evidence) to say that DWG is more apt to be the art studio behind slots from Genesis, at least in the past, but that is only an assumption based on thin threads, certain artistic elements, and both companies being based in the U.S. 

With well over 10,000 slots available online now, my old school ways of divining the original studio from elements found in the games (maths, mechanics, art, animation, etc.) are simply not as reliable as they were when the number was one-tenth of that or less.

While there are certainly more DWG legacy games out there, and we may have identified a few, we’ll spend some time on today’s offering regardless of creation date or any potentially shared ownership.

The games

Almost all of the games we have played have had a very distinct “Las Vegas” feel to them. They are simple, straight-forward, and don’t have Vegas-style bonus mechanics. One good example is Hold Your Horses.

This game has 5 reels with 4 positions each and 40 fixed paylines. The graphics are fairly flat, and the sound effects are straight off a casino floor. Granted, when there’s only one machine making the sound it’s not quite the same, but it does trigger feelings and memories for me.

The RTP is fairly high at 96.61%. Wilds substitute for all other symbols except Bonus, and some reel positions contain “double symbols” which give you 2x as many wins each when they land in the right place. The Wild serves as a double symbol when matching horses. However, the maths are arrived at in a funny way. 

Certain single horse symbols do not appear on reels 2 or 3, others do not appear on reels 1 or 3, and a certain single horse symbol will never appear on the first or second reel. Add to that, stacked reels and it can become a bit of a mind bender for those who like to reverse engineer the paytable from reel strips.

Lock and Spin

Here’s where it gets interesting and potentially profitable. When the first reel is filled with the blue symbol, all matching symbols on the reels are locked in place before a respin. The regions that allow stacks (above) have more of the blue symbols available. Every new spin that locks another symbol triggers an additional spin. If the entire screen gets filled with those symbols a new bonus is triggered.

Fifteen free games are triggered with the lock and spin feature active. Now, any time the first reel is filled with any same horse symbol, those symbols plus any wilds on the reels will lock into place along with all matching horses. After a respin any symbols that match the horse one reel #1 will be locked. New spins are triggered every time a new symbol is locked. This goes on until no more symbols lock or until the entire screen is filled with matching symbols.

It doesn’t get much more “Las Vegas Slots” than that!

Checkout Vice Squad to see one of their games in action!

The Final Analysis

Design Works Gaming is a venerable gambling industry veteran with their main base in the USA. The founder was raised and attended university in Las Vegas and represents the third generation of his family in the casino business.

The studio has produced games for an elite contingent of world leaders in the industry and has participated at least in part in the creation of thousands of games spread across land casino floors all over the world. Some of their third party creations have been online under various brand names for over a decade and now we get to see titles branded specifically as DWG.

The majority of games we tested were very-Vegascentric. Some that were only available to us via video presentations, the Lucky Tap series of instant games were are more like animated scratch cards with an extra punch.

These games seem to have found a niche in players who prefer land-based games and they are being distributed through more and more platform providers and aggregators all the time. They’ve been on the Relax Gaming system for over a year and are also available at White Hat sites as well as within the Kindred Group’s gaming sites. Most online casinos will let you try them in demo mode, and that’s a good way to get a feel for them.

US players already have them at New Jersey online casinos and they are being released in other states as well.

All in all the slots are an excellent addition to any casino suite of games - not so much for groundbreaking innovations in online play (so far) but because they represent an entire genre of Las Vegas-style games not easily found as provided by other developers.

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