Land-based casinos and AWP machines have had a long history of utilising popular IPs and integrating them into a title’s aesthetic, gameplay and overall theme.

As the igaming industry increasingly explores the inclusion of established brands into its slots, we spoke to Jo Purvis, Director of Key Accounts and Marketing UK at Blueprint Gaming and Bob Hays, SVP, Chief Commercial Officer iGaming at Light & Wonder about the benefits and challenges of creating games based on popular IPs.

CasinoBeats: There is a noticeable increase in the number of providers creating branded slots – why do you think this is and will it continue?  

JP: As most in the industry will know, Blueprint enjoys long-established excellence in curating branded slots. Obtaining the rights to a certain IP to craft a slot around it is generally a lengthy, involved and precise process, but done right, the benefits are clear.

There are higher costs involved compared to developing a proprietary title, but these can of course be mitigated by strong performance so it’s essential to ensure that the usual requirements of successful slot creation are also met, rather than simply relying on the pull of a popular brand. As the marketplace becomes increasingly crowded and competition continues to be fierce the right brand can make a big difference. 

As for the increase in occurrence, it’s difficult to explain – perhaps more studios have become satisfied with the potential of such games – but as long as there is demand among the player communities, studios like Blueprint will continue to meet that. 

BH: The simple answer is that consumers are naturally drawn to names they recognise. This is commonplace in practically any industry, but I’d say that it’s especially prevalent within igaming. 

I’d wager if you were to take a look at the games lobby of any top operator in the UK or US right now, there’s going to be at least one or two branded titles amongst their top games. It’s much easier for players to put their trust in a well-known brand that already resonates with them. 

I don’t see this trend slowing down any time soon, the battle for the top spot in casino lobbies has intensified over the last few years as more developers rise to prominence. Suppliers are willing to take more calculated risks by investing in IP which may well prove to be an instant hit with players.

CasinoBeats: Traditionally, slots developed from popular IPs have used film and television series as a basis for their inspiration. Why is this and do you think this will evolve to encapsulate other forms of media or IPs in the future? 

BH: It’d be right to suggest that film and television are the basis of what most branded slots are built upon, however, at Light & Wonder some of our most successful branded games both online and in land-based casinos feature IP from classic and globally adored boardgames. 

Nostalgia is an incredibly strong stimulus; it might be shortsighted to only look towards one or two forms of popular media in television and film. We have seen games that utilise the IP from family favourite board games explode in popularity, which shows that you don’t have to be limited to television and film only.

With regard to the evolution of branded slots, there’s certainly scope for suppliers to expand their horizons when it comes to creating unique content. However, branded IP comes at a cost. It’s not always worth taking a risk on niche IP if it isn’t going to provide a return on investment.

JP: Film, TV and to a lesser extent, music have all been the subject of licensed products for decades. Perhaps the first, finest and most famous example was with Star Wars when a young George Lucas ceded US$500,000 of his directorial paycheque to keep merchandising rights. It was a move that was ridiculed at the time but as we know, the rest is history.

Since then, any movie or TV show worth its salt makes the most of its popularity through its merchandising. These were the early major pop culture sources, and making the most of these opportunities makes perfect sense.

As tech and media have evolved, we’ve come to see the same enterprise encompass video games, and latterly celebrities and even streamers, all take advantage of the power of mass merchandising. 

Popularity is king and as long as people enjoy a product or person’s content, licensing deals will quickly follow.