Obtaining a brand and mechanic that marry well together is something “truly special but rare”, according to Simon Hammon, CEO of Relax Gaming.

Speaking on a panel session at SBC Summit Barcelona titled ‘Branded slots: tapping the zeitgeist’, moderated by Arjan Korstjens, Chief Operating Officer at Merkur Casino Nederland, Hammon expressed that branded content for providers “isn’t worth the money”.

He continued: “If you look at the ROI of it, you look at the expense, you look at the restrictions from an operator, the marketing perspective, the brand guidelines, so on and so forth. It’s a bit of a nightmare to tell the truth. 

“Most suppliers did it three, four years ago as a marketing exercise, me included, to show that we had big brands that we were a big supplier and we could command the respect of those brands to actually do those deals. And it was great advertising to create hype and excitement around you as a supplier. 

“There is so much competition today. There’s so many slots launching the landscapes totally different. Operators are no longer as excited about branded new content. On extra payment, I don’t think any supplier should be paying extra for brand new content these days. That argument should be out the window as far as I’m concerned.”

Joining Hammon on the session was Nicolas Longmuir, CEO at AvatarUX, who, reminiscing on her previous experiences, echoed Hammon’s belief regarding IPs and supplier partnerships. 

She stated: “The brand collaborations with our previous role as a supplier, where we paired up with very well known gaming brands – the main one being Rainbow Riches/Slingo collaboration – really, really resonates with that audience for that well established game. 

“Those I feel are much more valuable than perhaps some of the big movie deals or the television series, because of the challenges and the limitations that you have, not just as an operator, but as a supplier to. The limitations you have, the creativity you can have with the brand and the restrictions and with the brand guidelines.

“Players don’t want to see the cost of the brand being reflected in the RTP of the game, they want to have a really old school playing experience. I think it’s better to have the brand and the game need to be in sync, they both need to be good. I don’t think there’s any value at all in having a branded game, which is just an awful game with the brand assets added on to the game. 

“I think there needs to be a really good level of quality within the game to match the expectation from the brand. Otherwise, you see that the customer retention rates just fall by the wayside.”

Adding to Lonmuir’s point, Hammon stressed that the “real strength” in the current slot landscape is creating a brand in your own IP, highlighting the supplier’s Money Train series, is a “special thing to do” and can “build residence” and cost less. 

In short, Hammon stated: “The days of the ROI question around brands are, for suppliers, done.” 

Gaining the perspective of an operator, sitting on the panel was Lucas Lebleu, Casino Director at Betcris, who explained that just managing a lobby is “so hard” currently due to the volume of monthly releases. 

He commented: “If you have a branded new game that is so expensive to produce through promotions, etc, etc, then you have to really try to balance the value, or maybe come up with something unique instead of a branded game.”

The fourth and final panellist came in the form of Boris Kiknadze, CEO at FortuneJack,  emphasised that branded games are becoming “more and more expensive” and stressed timing is important. 

“You can push up the Viking or Love Ireland branded game,” Kiknadze said. “But when the season finishes, or the movie becomes unpopular, you also have a decline in the user activity. 

“I think what we will see in the future is branded slots will be popular, but more connected to the brand itself and the operators or maybe game developers or the studios. More popular than the movies or the TV branded slots can be the gaming slots, like it was in 2014 when Microgaming first introduced Lara Croft back in Las Vegas, it was a really popular game. 

“I think now we will also see sports teams and football clubs following the brands and they’re pushing towards tokens or branded slots, because it can be a longer activity than the movies, or Jurassic Park, something like that. 

“So firstly, it’s expensive. Secondly, you need to have really good timing, and then not to frustrate your users. Because once you give them the bad experience with Jurassic Park themed slots, then they probably won’t join another slot. So it’s really important to choose the right game developer.”