As has been written about previously in these pages, brand licensing can play a huge role in gaming product development, especially when it comes to both online and offline slots. Nothing, it seems, can boost the consumer popularity of a game than a clever and appropriate partnership with a hot brand, be that a movie franchise, cartoon character or superhero.
Slot games are the dominant force in mainstream gambling and because there is a never-ending stream of new games for players to choose from, the competition for both appeal and loyalty is intense. In terms of grabbing attention, and encouraging those vital first few plays, brand licensing is a potent ploy.
In addition to the gambling element, the best slots need to be fun, and entertaining to engage with and play. And interestingly, one of the entertainment genres that never ceases to prove popular with game developers is popular music and specifically, rock music. Quite what this says about the demographics of the core player, or the target player, I am not sure, but what I do know is that whilst there have been a handful of slot games themed around more mainstream icons like Elvis, Elton and the Rolling Stones, it seems that there continue to be dozens and dozens with a harder, heavier rock music theme.
Whole lotta love for the men of metal
Certain developers are known for certain types and genres of games and when it comes to rock-themed slots, those that currently top the charts are Play’n GO, NetEnt, WMS, Leander and iSoftBet. The artistes that these guys have worked with include Bon Jovi, Alice Cooper, Def Leppard, Guns ‘N Roses, Kiss, Metallica, Motörhead, Ozzy Osbourne, Saxon, Twisted Sister and ZZ Top. And these are just the ‘gentler’ types, as they have also developed slots themed around the likes of Annihilator, Black Mamba, Demon, Megadeth, Sabaton and Testament…. No, me neither.
Most of this explosion into the rock arena has taken place within the past decade, but some of us are old enough to remember the original ‘Kiss-Destroyer’ machine from way back when. The guys who gave us ‘Crazy, Crazy Nights’ are of course the undisputed kings of brand licensing within the music world. With an act that probably owes more to the visual than the musical, Gene Simmons and crew have been milking their own fat black and white cow for almost half a century. Today, players the world over enjoy slot games that feature band logos and imagery, and clips of celebrated tracks during gameplay.
In the online arena, NetEnt were probably the highest profile pioneers, releasing their Guns N’ Roses game just before the band’s eagerly anticipated 2016 reunion, and their Motörhead game in tribute to the late Lemmy Kilminster, himself a known player of slots. All of this begs the question, why? Why do developers find rock music themes so attractive, and why are the artistes themselves so happy to go for a spin?
Brand licensing is proven to work
Leading developers now release 20 or more titles per year, as player demand grows, and product life cycles shorten. The need to differentiate and stand out from the crowd becomes greater and greater, and the securing of powerful licences is a trend that will also only accelerate. From the perspective of the bands, this is not only an uncomplicated way to make money but also pushes their profile out to a compatible audience. This is, as the well-worn saying goes, a ‘win-win’ situation for both parties.
Developers know their audience
Whilst it is true that marketers will lecture on the importance of hitting the spot with ‘Generation-Z’ and ‘millennials’, the reality is that the core target audience for gambling companies, and the richest source of returns, is not 18-25 but 30-plus. Those in their 30s or approaching middle age tend to both earn more and have greater disposable income. Amongst males in particular, this group also overlaps smoothly with the fanbases of the rock and classic rock artistes. This audience will spend more freely, whether that be on tickets for expensive arena shows, memorabilia or gaming options that connect them with the bands they rocked out to in their respective heydays!
Games that design themselves
The software teams may not like to hear this, but game design formats do not change all that often. What tends to happen is that a developer will come up with a mechanic that is very successful and then they – and everybody else – will recycle that core format many times over. These formats can last for months and, in exceptional cases, even years. The variety between games then becomes about the ‘extras’, i.e. prize structures, bonuses, etc, and presentation. The beauty of licensing a powerful and successful music brand is that so many of the visual and audio elements are already in place – and when you are wrapping this ‘packaging’ around an existing slot game mechanic, design becomes a quicker and simpler process.
Everyone’s a winner
The best casino slots, be they offline or online, are fun and exciting to play. The best licensed games are engaging and generate affection and loyalty. And the best music-themed games do all of this whilst also connecting players to a concept for which they enjoy genuine affection. Movies and TV shows can be transient elements in life but our favourites musicians and bands, like our favourite football teams, remain ingrained within our personal psyche forever.
And from an industry perspective, as mentioned earlier, the opportunity exists for everyone to be a winner.
Developers can enjoy working with iconic themes, operators can deliver games with obvious impact and appeal and artistes can get paid handsomely for enjoying huge additional exposure. Finally, as for the greatest one that hasn’t been done yet, well we’ll all have our own personal favourite. I know what mine is and trust me, it would be brilliant.