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Branded Slots In Casinos

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You’ve seen the movie, bought the t-shirt, played the Xbox game and been on the ride – so why not play the slot game at online casinos? It makes perfect sense. Slot manufacturers have never been slow to jump on the bandwagon when it comes to cross channel marketing, so why do we still see so many slot games that allude to well-known films but don’t go all the way with a full tie-in? There are slots out there that are Indiana Jones or Sex and the City in everything but name, although as long as that’s as far as it goes then the images, styling and music will never match the rest of the branded merchandise that goes with these hugely popular productions. The demand is obviously there, but the reason we don’t see more branded slots - both offline and online slots - is simply because it takes time and effort to reach a compromise that both studios and casinos are happy with. But things are moving, so what deals are in place at present and what have they led to?

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Probably the best-known branded slots anywhere are the Marvel series from Playtech. In 2009 the now seemingly-unstoppable software house was struggling to compete with the likes of Microgaming and Cryptologic, but no-one could ever have predicted what would happen:  Although Cryptologic has, since 2005, owned the rights to make games based on the Marvel comic books, a deal was reached between Playtech and Marvel Characters BV, a subsidiary of Marvel that produced the films using their characters. This was a rather sneaky, yet devastating move that allowed Playtech to make games based on the Marvel movies made in the last two decades – like Blade, Elektra and the Incredible Hulk.  Players flocked to these games as they used classic, established characters within a contemporary movie setting, bringing state-of-the-art production values to their favourite childhood heroes.

The importance of these brands is highlighted by just how difficult things subsequently became for Cryptologic: They’ve now been taken over by Amaya Gaming, and currently have a presence in just two well-known casinos – Intercasino and VIP Casino, whereas Playtech are grabbing an ever-increasing slice of the UK market share, with the Marvel games always given prominence. To add insult to injury they even replaced Cryptologic as software provider for William Hill, which must have hurt more than an uppercut from Iron Man. Nonetheless Cryptologic do have Braveheart, Ferris Bueller and Forrest Gump – which you won’t find anywhere else.

It’s easy to forget that Playtech are not just about Marvel: they’ve also had productive working relationships with Paramount and Universal:

The Mummy, based on the 1999 Universal blockbuster with all the visuals and sound features you’d expect hit the spot with a classy production with sequences from the film; ditto Kong, based on the 2005 remake by Universal, from a deal between Playtech, Universal and MGM.

Gladiator, whilst every bit as impressive to play and look at, suffered a slight setback: Its main star Russell Crowe was not covered in their deal with Paramount, so he’s missing – but the game’s still true to the movie, with great animated clips and music – although Crowe’s absence highlights how difficult it is to get games to market even when the studio agrees to let you.

Playtech also made Rocky, based on the early versions of Sylvester Stallone’s series. With opponents Apollo Creed, Ivan Drago and Clubber Lang all appearing, they’ve got enough of the six films covered so we’re not expecting a sequel – but it looks good, with animated fight sequences from the films really burning the feel of the movies onto your screen.

Whether or not Playtech will stick with Universal is unclear: Net Entertainment have recently signed a deal with Universal, so Playtech may be out of the frame, though it’s unlikely to bother them as at the end of 2011 they announced a new deal with Platinum Studios. Their first collaboration will be Cowboys and Aliens, based on the recent movie by Dreamworks and licenced by Platinum.

Net secured the rights to make games based on some of Universal’s films towards the end of 2010, and the first two are already with us: Frankenstein was a lovingly-crafted tribute to the 1931 Boris Karloff original – which as we all know is the best version.  Pundits consequently expected Scarface – their second Universal game – to be based on the little-known original, but thankfully it’s the definitive Al Pacino version. Unveiled on 24 January this year, it’s rumoured to be superb, and will coincide with the second remake coming this May.

Surely the biggest hitter of them all can’t be twiddling their thumbs when it comes to movie branding? Their Lord of the Rings game raises the bar out of reach for many, with its swooping sequences over the mountains of Middle Earth and trademarked Cinematic Spins upping the opacity of the reels as they spin to reveal scenes from the movie. In fact, their Tombraider game was one of the very first branded slots out there, so they’re bound to be on the case – and unsurprisingly they’ve gone for a deal with DC Entertainment, Marvel’s main opponent and owner of rights to the Batman movies. We’ll therefore be seeing The Dark Knight and The Dark Knight Rises in game form this summer and in 2013 respectively.

That really ought to cover all the movie franchise slot deals out there – but actually it doesn’t. It’s easy to forget Party Casino’s games: They do their software in-house, giving you slots that you simply won’t find elsewhere and they’ve got movie tie-ins as well. The Godfather Part 1, The Naked Gun, Gone With the Wind, Mission Impossible and Saturday Night Fever all get a look in, so quite what Party Casino will give us next is anyone’s guess but they’ve broken the mould with some departures from the usual macho themes, so let’s hope they keep it up.

That only leaves IGT, of course. You’d expect an outfit with decades of land-based casino experience to be heavily in on the movie franchise act as well, yet strangely only their Star Trek game seems to appear online – but it’s a decent production despite not being too heavily promoted.

So what can we expect in the near future?

Marvel films that have yet to be made into games include Wolverine, Ghost Rider, Spiderman, Magneto, Thor, Nick Fury, Deathlok, Luke Cage, The Avengers, Captain America and Ant Man. With Playtech churning these games out faster than Quicksilver after several bowls of Weetabix, the chances of several or all of these making their way to the small screen in slot form within the next few years is almost the safest bet around – though as Playtech specifically secured rights with Paramount for The Untouchables as well as Gladiator, it’s almost a dead cert that the former will be with us in slot form pretty soon as well…

The more prominent entries in Platinum’s catalogue include Atlantis Rising,The Weapon, Jeremiah, Metadogs, V.I.C.E. and Blood Nation, so we won’t be surprised to see Playtech games based on these either.

Microgaming releases are expected to include sequel productions to follow the first Immortal Romance and Lord of the Rings slots. Given the overall size of the Batman franchise we suspect there’ll be more games featuring him as well, though not for some time as the two Dark Knight productions are taking up a lot of resources at present. Don’t necessarily expect Microgaming to churn out endless games from further DC agreements either: although they’ve been highly proactive in branded slots they’ve also been very choosy about what they release…

Slot-friendly Universal titles that seem to remain unclaimed include the Back to the Future trilogy, Dune, Flash Gordon and the Jaws trilogy – but we’d put our money on the Jurassic Park films, with their monster-inhabited island theme lending itself perfectly to the world of slots – along with the hugely popular and very male-orientated Bourne trilogy. Who will make them? With Playtech busy elsewhere and Microgaming being extremely picky, we’d guess Net Entertainment, though they have been slow to capitalise on their relationship with Universal, but if Scarface does well –which it’s bound to – then they’ll be very tempted to try something else.

Ironically, given our comments earlier, there has actually been an IGT Sex and the City land-based machine recently launched to great acclaim, so for all the branded games that are so clearly aimed at men, there’s finally something for the girls that could make its way onto the web in due course.  That may not seem like a big deal, but in the world of branded slots it’s like Ferrari launching a pink car, meaning anything’s possible. So if you’re a movie buff, keep an eye on all the major slot manufacturers, as your favourite film of all time could be showing up in your favourite casino lobby quicker than you think.

As for now, if you want the absolute ultimate in movie-branded slots, we still think Lord of the Rings is the one to beat despite being nearly 18 months old. Now that they’ve developed their amazing Cinematic Spins there’s no way Microgaming will be putting the technology aside – but they won’t give any old flick this kind of treatment, so whatever they decide to work on will be well worth the wait.

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