BREAKING GROUND WITH INNOVATIVE LICENSES
Jo Puvis, Director of Marketing and Relationships here at Blueprint contributed to a recent Q&A held by intergamingi, here’s what she had to say.
INTERGAMINGi: What are the specific elements when it comes to working with a consumer-facing brand to create a game?
Branded slots play a big part in our game roadmap, complementing our range of in-house developed titles perfectly. The use of a popular brand is effective in not only reaching a wide audience to play the licensed game, but also sparking interest in the Blueprint brand itself.
When looking at new brands and licenses, we select each one very carefully. They have to reflect our core values in keeping the gaming experience light-hearted and fun, while also resonating with our loyal player base. Blueprint now has a strong reputation for delivering high quality games which utilise the license effectively. We’re now in the situation where brand owners approach us to develop slot games based on their available IP, as they entrust our team to follow their strict guidelines and create a polished product which keeps their brand authentic.
Whenever we develop a licensed game, we make sure it remains on-brand to meet the expectations of the licence holder, as well as the fanbase of the brand itself. Every aspect from the game’s artwork to the promotional material needs to stay true to the brand’s identity. An inferior product can be harmful to a brand’s reputation, which is why we have to be thorough within the design and development process. It’s a fine balancing act between bringing the brand’s characters and storyline to life, while also making sure the gameplay has the time-honoured Blueprint stamp of quality.
What edge does your company and brands have when it comes to working with operators?
Our strong heritage of working with the biggest operators globally means they are fully aware of the quality they receive when taking a Blueprint game onto their platform. Branded games have an instant familiarity factor to players, which no in-house developed game could ever match.
Standing out from the crowd in a packed casino lobby is a must for any game wanting to succeed in today’s compacted marketplace. Licences which are on-trend or bring a nostalgic sentiment will have an initial impact before players have even delved into the gameplay. If the licence is followed up with a sound gameplay, then the slot is assured to be a winner.
How have expectations from both operators and gamers altered in recent years?
Given the competitive marketplace, operators need games that can hit the ground running and maximise the content’s effectiveness in a short time. The majority of games these days have a very short life span in terms of positioning and being marketed by operators. For a game to survive in today’s igaming environment it must resonate with the player and provide a positive gaming experience from day one.
The days of games ‘growing’ on players over time are long gone, so they need to be impactful and an instant hit. If they provide this and climb over the novelty period finish line, then they have the opportunity to become an established game, even after they have been pushed down the marketing pecking order.
Licensed games are popular with operators as they’re proven to drive traffic, with its content appealing to a wide range of players. They’re also great in keeping players engaged for the long term. Blueprint branded games including ted™ and Top Cat™ are still ranked highly today, as loyal players keep coming back for more.
What are the major hurdles involved when creating a licensed game for specific clients?
Branded games are primarily aimed at the global marketplace. On the whole, the business model surrounding licences essentially means the game must be pushed to the entire operator sector for it to make business sense.
Creating a licensed slot for a specific client can be difficult as brand owners expect their IP to be distributed to the widest audience possible in order to maximise its exposure, marketing potential and brand awareness.
Licensed mechanics such as Megaways™ provide an opportunity where a brand can be used for direct client relationships, as proven by our operator specific Megaways™ titles for Leo Vegas and PokerStars.
How can companies maximise the potential of licensed game across a range of operators, without seeing repetition?
Every licensed game has to be built from scratch. Slot players are too savvy to know when a game is reskinned and adding the branding to an existing title doesn’t work. Fans of a given licence will also have a list of expectations before playing the game, such as the inclusion of characters which symbolise the brand, plus memorable scenes from a film or TV brand. Ensuring these brand markers are included means the loyal fanbase will not be disappointed and the game’s potential can be maximised.
Brand owners themselves are also looking for something different from suppliers when utilising their licences. They’re keen for the brand to be used in a new slot concept, rather than using their licence simply to try and boost an average slot game.
Acquiring the rights of a particular brand is just the beginning of a long process, as we have to make sure that the final product stays true to the brand. Once the game is ready to go live, we work with operators to ensure that the marketing stays on-message and targets the right demographic of their player base.
What is your biggest issue when dealing with operators when having to localise content?
Not all brands are globally recognised, so it’s taking the time to work with the brand owners and operators to understand the core focus and execute the game accordingly.
Top Cat™, which is one of our most successful branded titles, is very UK-centric, so releasing this game across Europe would have been a fruitless exercise. Identifying a brand’s demographic and its main jurisdiction focus means a game can be built around the brand which will appeal to its core audience.
Bigger and more globally recognised brands, such as The Goonies™ and ted™, open up more flexibility in terms of game design and the audience reach.
How much of the creative process is done with the help of license holders?
They’re involved throughout the whole process, from the initial game specification to signing off the final release build of the game. They will tell us directly whether an aspect of the game needs addressing or if certain elements are not portraying the brand, or anything associated with the brand in the correct light. For them, the fans of the TV show or film must be respected, so what we do comes under scrutiny not only from the license holder in the first instance, but then from the brand’s fanbase after release.
Brand owners will provide strict guidelines for us to follow through a range of brand-centric and trend-oriented design elements. It’s a different approach to how we would develop an in-house title as ultimately the licence holder has to make sure the final product fits the brand in question.
Which do you think are the best recent licensed games currently on the market, aside from your own creations?
Megaways™ games have taken the industry by storm, so it would be wrong to ignore how they have changed the current playing trend. However, most game providers are using it in a very standard way, essentially adding the mechanic as it’s been provided.
Blueprint has moved the concept forward, adding a variety of extra features on top of the standard system, including varying the number of pay lines available, implementing free spins rounds which guarantee a set number of Megaways™ and offering gambles to increase the chances of achieving the maximum Megaways™. From a licence point of view, Blueprint has also added popular brands to Megaways™ with the likes of Deal or No Deal™, helping expand the appeal of Megaways™ even further.
How does your company deal with the ever-changing sea of tightening regulations in different jurisdictions?
We retain a close relationship with the UKGC and other regulation authorities. Regulations are there to protect, so we are constantly in conversation with our operating partners to ensure that we develop games without crossing any lines.
It’s as much about regulators, developers and operators working together as trying to find loopholes in the laws set for each jurisdiction. If as a developer, we can design games which operators can confidently launch and market across their sites, and regulators are satisfied we have considered all the angles, then those that need protecting will be protected from developer to operator to user.