As seen on Slotbeats.
In the latest series of Slotbeats Spotlight, we take a closer look into the online world of branded slots. These titles range from movies, music to books yet how effective are they for operators to tap into an already established fan base?
In this episode, we asked four experts for their views on branded slots and the positives they bring to the sector.
SlotBeats: What are the positives from a developer/operator’s point of view when it comes to producing branded slots?
Catalin Bratosin, Pragmatic Play: Branded slots are a fantastic engagement tool to attract audiences from other entertainment
channels. With television shows and movie franchises boasting millions of fans worldwide, acquiring the right licence can be a great way to leverage a new audience.
Some may be casino gamers already, while others might be onboarded to igaming for the first time when they see associated content with a brand that they’ve already heavily invested in.
Carl Ejlertsson, NetEnt: Having a strong branded slot portfolio asserts our position as a leading supplier in the industry and shows that we are doubling down on our ability to develop amazing content.
Teaming up with names such as 20th Century Fox and Universal comes with a significant up-front cost and minimum fees that can’t be recouped if the game doesn’t hit. This makes it a riskier investment than your average slot release, but we back our studios to deliver content that brings considerable returns.
From an operator standpoint, branded content is a powerful tool for acquisition. A new player entering a casino lobby for the first time will naturally gravitate towards a game they recognise, so if a slot is based on a cult TV series or iconic music artist, then it’s more likely to pique their interest.
This level of familiarity goes a long way to converting customers without previous slot experience, but also attracting fans of the brand.
Simon Hammon, Relax Gaming: There are lots of opportunities in working with a branded partner, with the main benefit being an inherent curiosity from the end player to try the game and see how the brand has translated into a slot experience.
There are certainly risks attached too, however, ranging from public perception of whether the supplier did the brand justice, to whether the revenue generated justified the investment.
Branded game projects bring both unique challenges and pleasures, the balance of which depends on the brand involved as well as the rights owner. Where there are heavy restrictions and approvals in place, it can impact the ultimate game performance as a studio is given less freedom to develop in line with their vision and experience.
Dealing with pre-existing art assets and preconceived storylines can present their own set of obstacles when producing the game as can contractual inclusions/omissions (such as key characters/actors from a well-known show or film), but there are always many valuable lessons to be learned from the collaborative experience.
On the plus side for suppliers, the chances of the game being used in marketing activities by an operator are higher, giving the game better visibility and raising the profile of the studio.
Additionally, the theme rarely requires explanation. It may be a less straightforward production experience, but it is one that comes with great opportunity too.
Uri Cohen, Skywind Group: Branded slots are a great acquisition tool. They provide instant recognition and trust. This is especially important in a market over-saturated with games and game providers. There are hundreds of new games flooding the market every week, and players can get overwhelmed, unsure.
Amazing games can get lost simply because they are one in a million. But branded titles have the advantage of recognition. There is an immediate spark that occurs when a player sees something that is both new and familiar. These games are far more likely to be picked up and tried as the players feel they already know us and our game.
This is what makes branded titles such a great acquisition tool. From here, you need to be great at creating these games in the spirit of the brand so as not to disappoint the players. Because they will remember who provided them with the branded game, and they will remember the experience. If you do your job right, this experience will encourage players to attach this brand affection to your brand.
This means branded titles are not just a great acquisition tool for their own games, but for the suppliers and operators’ other games as well.
Do branded slots still reach a new demographic of players or are they just a short-lived phenomenon?
Uri Cohen, Skywind Group: Branded slots are as strong as the brand used. When the brand is strong and a significant part of pop culture, it’s a strong asset. Different brands appeal to different audiences, which is why at Skywind Group we create market-specific games using game designs and features that are popular in the brand’s market.
As we said earlier, brands are a fantastic acquisition tool, and continue to prove themselves as such. We believe that as long as there is brand recognition, branded content will remain relevant. Providing strong branded content is a stamp of quality assurance.
While a specific brand targets the fans of the brand, the advantages of being attached to it is relevant across markets. It’s a promise to the players that there is something to love here. It’s a promise they can trust us. It’s a promise that we know what we’re doing.
Catalin Bratosin, Pragmatic Play: They can be leveraged for both purposes, but we see more value in generating longer term value for our operator partners with established brand names that are proven to be successful in driving repeated engagement.
Our first branded slot Peaky Blinders demonstrates this well. With the television show being a smash hit across numerous countries, and with many series under its belt, it’s clear that it’s a phenomenon that’s here to stay and we can leverage the strength of the brand over time to drive success in the casino space.
Carl Ejlertsson, NetEnt: With the volume of content that floods the market you could say that all games these days are short lived, albeit with a few exceptions. Casino managers see at least 20 new releases each week, making it increasingly difficult for a slot to cut through the noise and stay visible in lobbies for an extended period. But that’s where branded slots standout.
These games are by their very nature attention grabbing, allowing operators to reach new demographics of players by appealing to their outside interests. They also open new avenues to explore different marketing messages in order to present the online casino experience in a new light.
Simon Hammon, Relax Gaming: To a certain extent there is potential for a branded game to attract a new demographic, especially in cases where a player might not have ordinarily considered the content of a particular studio.
However, regardless of the brand, the game needs to deliver a great experience in order for it to succeed. A brand name will only get you so far. That ‘feel good’ emotion is mainly influenced by the winning potential.
A great brand coupled with a great mechanic could be truly special, but since there have been so many poor releases, it is more likely that a player’s affinity and loyalty will lie with a supplier’s IP.