It’s over 15 years since Microgaming released the world’s first officially-licensed branded casino slot, Tomb Raider Slots. Using the iconic Lara Croft video game series as a mechanism for crossover appeal to gamers was a masterstroke by the software developer. The slot still holds up today, but, more importantly, it opened up the floodgates for developers to creatively explore ways of bringing the world of movies, video games, music, and television to the online casino.
Indeed, many of the most popular slots of the last 15 years have been branded games. Most experienced players will remember Microgaming’s successes with Game of Thrones and Jurassic Park slots, both of which are regarded as classics. The movie-themed Gladiator slots from Playtech are also hugely popular, especially for players who dream big by playing the jackpot versions. NetEnt has also got in on the action, and it should be especially commended for its rock-themed games like Motorhead, Guns N’ Roses, and Jimi Hendrix slots.
Playtech has vast library of branded games
Of all the developers out there, Playtech is arguably the most notable for its efforts in bringing branded games to online casinos. Early success with Marvel slots (Disney did not renew the license for the games when it bought the comic book giant) paved the way for Playtech’s rise to becoming the world’s biggest casino software company. Today, its library of branded games is massive, including a full range of DC Comics games (a direct replacement for Marvel slots), Top Gun, The Matrix, King Kong, Grease, Ace Ventura, Rocky, Britain’s Got Talent and many more besides.
However, what developers like Playtech have really got right is not branding the games simply for the sake of it. If you take, for example, the Gladiator games mentioned earlier. The branding is more than just a question of style and design. Elements of the Oscar-winning movie are woven into the fabric of the gameplay, including the special bonus features.
Over the last couple of years, developers have taken this idea of infusing the brand into the casino game a little further. Two of Blueprint Gaming’s signature slots, Ted and The Goonies, both use the characters from those movies to great effect, driving the gameplay and the entertainment for the players. None of this would be possible without licensing agreements with the movie studios, and the developers have made the most of the opportunity to use the content.
If we want to look at how branded games have developed, it’s best to go back to the start with Tomb Raider Slots. Microgaming released its first sequel to the game, Tomb Raider: Secret of the Sword in 2008. While you can argue if it was “better” than the original, it certainly offered more sophisticated gameplay options, not to mention bigger prizes. Just last year the third Tomb Raider game, Lara Croft: Temples and Tombs, hit online casinos. The decade-long gap between the releases really showed, with console-like graphics and gameplay options that would not have been possible ten years previously.
As for the future, we see more games like NetEnt’s Street Fighter 2 slot. Not only is this title faithful to the concept of the classic arcade game, but it’s also almost impossible to discern the difference between the two in terms of graphics, designs, and elements of the gameplay. It was a bold move by NetEnt, but it further blurs the lines between casino games and video games. The casino industry is hugely competitive at the developer level, so expect NetEnt’s rivals to try to trump this exciting new release in the future. For players, that ensures we are living in a golden era of branded games.