During the first day of CasinoBeats Summit, the panel, entitled: Slots: Mechanics, Megaways and more – sponsored by Spinmatic Entertainment – asked if studios should be developing its own IP series instead of using branded franchises.
Over the years, developers have looked to produce or acquire slot gaming brands that would deliver longevity. Yet, in recent times, the most popular current slots are based more on original/exclusive titles.
Pressing the panellists on “overdoing” a branded IP, session moderator Jeremy Coleman, commercial director at RNG Foundry, asked where does brand extension become too much?
Markus Antl, head of sales and key account management at Greentube stressed suppliers have to be “very careful” when utilising a brand and, when a company decides to leverage this method it needs to be “sure about the mathematics”.
He continued: “If you don’t test the maths properly and just give the game out to players you risk damaging the brand long-term. Just copying the game and using the brand or mechanic will not be enough and you can see with a lot of copies of Book titles out there, not all of them are successful.
“Reusing the brand by introducing new mechanics that are also proven already and testing the math model properly, that’s key.”
Echoing Marcus’ point, Rob Procter, content director at SG Gaming, commented: “We’ve been doing this for a long time when it comes to brands, whether it’s Rainbow Riches or 888 Fortunes or external IP games like Monopoly. We are very diligent when it comes to this. We don’t just throw these brands on our roadmap and hope they stick. There’s a careful plan that goes behind them and not to saturate the market but to give the players and operators the title that they can absorb and are asking for.
“We could release another six Rainbow Riches games next year and the operators will be happy in the UK because they love it and it drives player volume and acquisition. But that’s not our state of mind or our play. We are very confident that we can’t be lazy when extending these big brands. New mechanics and maths models, but we have to be innovative at the same time whilst leveraging what you know and what the players trust.
Moving forward, Coleman asked the panel if suppliers should be developing its own IP series and why iconic slot brands continue to stand the test of time.
On that point, Procter noted that, from a data point of view, familiarity is a “huge driver for slot players” as they want to be familiar with either a brand, mechanic, theme or a character as it has a “strong pull to a player”.
He said: “From a player’s perspective, when you recognise something on a screen, it always pulls you in and makes you want to see what they’ve done new and if it’s something they’ve added to the brand. That’s a huge part of why these brands are so popular.”
Following on from Procter, Antl highlighted that all the big titles, such as Starburst, Bonanza, Gonzo’s Quest and Book of Ra, have one thing in common… “they all had an innovative game mechanic”.
“This combined with a good maths model, and a good marketing and promotion, made these games popular,” Antl explained.
“Some of them were also taking advantage of already being famous on land-based. Speaking on Book of Ra for example, we can see back then that it was the first time that Book was introduced to the audience and combined with the free spins mechanic and getting the player to hype this situation where they are just waiting for this symbol to appear made that game stick.
“Now you can see in many markets all over the world, especially Germany, that players are still searching for the Book everywhere. In Germany, at the time we had to step out of the market, other suppliers were using the Book and are really famous with this version.”
The talk then inevitably turned to Big Time Gaming’s Megaways mechanic, where Coleman, after having a similar discussion with an industry friend, asked the panellists if Megaways is here to stay and what do suppliers need to do to keep the mechanic fresh and exciting.
Antl pinpointed that the challenge with Megaways within the slot sector is to “not overdo it” and emphasised that the mechanic is “here to stay”.
“You can create loads of copies of Megaways and try to make it better but in the end, I think suppliers need to go back to where the game originated, the original mechanics and what made players stick to that game and take it from there again,” said Greentube’s head of sales and key account management.
“Megaways for me is definitely going to stay, if you compare it to other titles mentioned before that introduced an innovative game mechanic, it’s still here. It’s just how we’re going to use certain mechanics and math models and attach it to Megaways.”
Responding to Coleman’s question on “is Megaways a fad” Procter was adamant that, unless the definition of fad was changed to last “two to three years” the industry “can’t call Megways a fad”.
He added: “It is undoubtedly here to stay and it’s now just become ingrained in the digital casino player’s minds. They know what Megaways is – again familiarity. It’s here to stay but there’s challenges on how to use it.
“I think some suppliers are a little bit lazy, to a certain degree they’ll just use the Megaways branding and mechanic to get a bit of airtime. If that’s your strategy, that’s okay… but it won’t work in the long-term. The ones which are more successful are the ones that add a layer of innovation.
The panel also discussed if game studios should be developing its own IPs, smaller studios competing with big B2B brands, familiarity with land-based titles online and looking into the future for a new innovative mechanic.