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Holger Sindbaek on Building an Online Card Game Platform

Written by:

Howard Tillerman is the Chief Marketing Officer for Step By Step Business and an award-winning marketing professional.

Holger Sindbaek on Building an Online Card Game Platform

Join us as we step into the world of online gaming with Holger Sindbaek, the mastermind behind World of Card Games. From crafting a solitaire app to revolutionizing a multiplayer card game website, Sindbaek shares his unique journey. Discover the intricacies of game design, user engagement, AI challenges, and the fine art of maintaining an online community. Dive into this engaging conversation where innovation meets passion in the realm of digital card games.

Journey to Leading World of Card Games

SBS – What inspired you to take over World of Card Games, and what is your vision for the website?

Holger – In one way or another, I’ve been in the casual gaming scene for a long time. I created my first card game, a solitaire app for the Mac App Store, over 10 years back as a way to hone my design skills and learn a programming language. I never imagined that I’d someday make a living from it, though I did hope that I’d be able to make some “beer money” with the app that I’d made. Fast forward a decade and all of a sudden I was earning a full-time income from my solitaire website Online Solitaire.

I had been talking casually with the former owner of World of Card Games for a while. Since we were both in the same scene, so to speak, without really being competitors, we were sharing ideas and worries. So I had been aware of the site for a good while, and though it was a little rough around the edges, I liked it! So when I got the chance to acquire the site, I jumped at it.

Though a solitaire site and a multiplayer card game website might seem very alike, they’re very different from a programmatic point of view, and the challenges the sites pose can also be very different. I saw a lot of opportunity for improvement in World of Card Games and a lot of potential for growth, and since I felt like I had reached my limit for what I could do with my solitaire games, throwing myself into the world of multiplayer card games seemed like an exciting thing to do and, so far, it has been!

Designing for Balance

SBS – How do you ensure a balance between user-friendliness and the complexity of features in the game design?

Holger – That’s always a tough one. Multiplayer card games, such as Hearts and Spades, have a lot more features than solitaire games, such as FreeCell or Spider, so making the re-design for World of Card Games has been a bigger challenge than I first anticipated.

One thing that I’ve tried to do with the new design is to make sure that the user is only shown the features that are needed at that very moment. For example, people can like, block, and mute each other, but you wouldn’t want to show those buttons all the time since those aren’t things you’d want to do all the time. So those features pop up if you hover over a person’s avatar.

An extra challenge in the re-design of World of Card Games has been that many of the players on the site are seniors, and if there’s one thing that seniors dislike, it’s change. Even if it’s for the better!

Fostering Community

SBS – What strategies do you use to build and maintain a strong online community of players?

Holger – One important lesson that I’ve learned, and this might sound obvious, is to keep the site as stable as possible. When I launched the re-design of the site, the new version had a lot of bugs that annoyed people in different ways and even made some of the old-timers leave. So making sure that the site is always working and being very responsive when it comes to fixing bugs is an important point.

The AI Challenge

SBS – Could you describe the process and challenges of implementing AI bots for single-player modes?

Holger – That’s still a work in process and something that I hope to improve a lot on in the future. Making a computer play as well as a human, or at least making it play in a way that’s interesting for a human to play with, is quite a challenge. Making the computer play in a logical way might seem like a straightforward thing to do, but there are so many edge cases that it can become very complex!

Online Security Measures

SBS – How do you manage online security, especially for registered users?

Holger – People simply sign up with their email and a password, like most other sites. Since the site doesn’t store a lot of private information that hackers would want to get their hands on, the site isn’t really a target for any attacks. Most people even use a pseudonym for their username, so they’re not playing with their real identity.

Monetization and Accessibility

SBS – What are your approaches to monetization while keeping the games accessible and enjoyable for users?

Holger – Most of the revenue generated on the site comes from ads. Like most other sites on the internet, the revenue model for World of Card Games is ad-based, though I have recently implemented a subscription service where people can sign up for a paid subscription to get rid of the ads. A respectable amount of people have signed up for it, but I don’t think the monthly recurring revenue will tip in favor of the subscriptions anytime soon.

Technical Challenges in Website Development

SBS – What have been the biggest technical challenges in developing and maintaining the website, and how have you addressed them?

Holger – The codebase is huge! At least compared to my solitaire site. So, after acquiring the site, I spent a good deal of time getting familiar with the codebase and updating a lot of things. 

The previous owner hadn’t put a whole lot of energy into the site for the last year or so, so there were a lot of things that needed updating. The biggest among those things was to switch to a new server, which posed quite a challenge for me since the tech stack was so different from what I was used to. I’m finally in a place where I feel very familiar with the codebase and feel like I can start adding new, bigger features and such.

Integrating User Feedback

SBS – How do you handle user feedback and incorporate it into website and game improvements?

Holger – I respond to all emails I get, and I do get quite a few. People who play World of Card Games are very passionate about their play and have a lot of great ideas for how to improve the games. I also run a suggestion board, which is where I encourage people to put in new ideas for the site. Most of the development that I do on the site these days is driven by user feedback.

Effective Marketing Strategies

SBS – What marketing strategies have proven most effective in attracting new players to World of Card Games?

Holger – The main driver for new users is Google. So, one of the first things I did once I acquired the site was to do SEO optimizations on it. The previous owners hadn’t done much in regards to that, which Google wasn’t very happy about. Since I’ve done those optimizations, the site has started to rank better for different terms, and it’s continuing to do so. I’m also thinking about creating an app version of the website for the iOS App Store and Google Play Store, but I’m not sure those plans will ever materialize.

The Game Selection Process

SBS – Could you discuss the decision-making process behind adding new card games to the platform?

Holger – I have an SEO-first perspective on that. So when I’m thinking about which game to create next, something I’m actually thinking about at the moment, the first thing I do is to figure out which multiplayer card games people are searching the most for and how hard those games would be to rank for. Once I have that list, I do a search on Google to see if someone has already made some really good versions of those games. If it seems like there’s room for improvement, I go on to the last step, which is to estimate how hard those games would be to create. Using that method, I’ve already decided which game to do next, so if you check back in a couple of months, you might see it live on the site!

Data-Driven Decisions

SBS – What role do analytics and user data play in shaping the user experience on your site?

Holger – I must admit that I rely more on people’s feedback for most of the decisions made on the site. I mainly use analytics to keep track of how many people play on the site, how many games they start, and so forth. I’ve also found that it’s an effective way to gauge whether I’ve accidentally pushed a bug. If I have, there’s usually an anomaly in one of the graphs.

Content Moderation Strategies

SBS – How do you manage content moderation and ensure a friendly and respectful environment for all players?

Holger – I’ve gone to great lengths to make sure that people talk nicely to each other in the chat. Of course, most people do, but like all other places online, there are a few people who are very mean. So I’ve spent a lot of time implementing Perspective, a project made by Google to detect when people aren’t writing nice things. People can still write what they want on World of Card Games, but if the system detects that people are about to write some mean things in the chat, I prompt them to make sure that they really want to write that thing. And if they keep writing mean things, or if those things are downright abhorrent, then they’ll be automatically banned from playing on the site.

Banning people effectively on the site has also been quite a challenge since people don’t need to be signed up to play. Initially, I thought that it would be as easy as banning people based on their IP, but a lot of people use a VPN, so that’s not very effective either. In the end, I’ve signed up for Fingerprint, which is an expensive but effective way to ban a person. So if a user is banned from the site, that person will have to change their device and their IP to be able to play again. It’s also very effective at banning people from playing through a VPN, which is something some people do to cheat.

Advice for Aspiring Gaming Entrepreneurs

SBS – Finally, what advice would you give to someone looking to start a similar online gaming platform?

Holger – Figure out what your niche is. The way I went about it was to look around at what people were playing, and if I thought that I could make a better version of that game, I went for it. Essentially, that’s what I’m still doing! 

There are a lot of great casual games out there. I’ve had great success re-creating games that people already know. In other words, I try not to “reinvent the wheel.” If people already know a game, they’ll be searching for that game, and if you can create a better version, there’s a chance that’s the version that they’ll end up playing. Good luck!


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Holger Sindbaek on Building an Online Card Game Platform