Jo Purvis, Director of Marketing and Relationships at Blueprint Gaming comments:
What are the key ingredients when it comes to working with a brand/licence to build a game around?
Blueprint Gaming has a strong portfolio of successful branded games and we have worked alongside numerous globally recognised licence holders, including the likes of Warner Bros. Consumer Products, Paramount Pictures and Endemol Shine. We’ve developed great working relationships with all the brand owners and have a reputation for delivering exciting and engaging games inspired by popular films and TV shows.
The key ingredient that makes these games work is that through the whole process of development, we work closely with the licence holders to ensure the game remains on-brand. From the early stages of design to the promotional material, it’s imperative that a licensed game resonates and stays true to the brand for the existing fan base.
Is there a ‘magic formula’ when it comes to the sort of licensed content that will prove popular with players?
Without wanting to give away all the secrets to our successful approach to branded games development, the most important design consideration for these types of games is that they are built from scratch. With ready-made characters and storylines, the easy option would be to simply reskin an existing game mechanic. However, this approach simply won’t suffice.
If you don’t take the appropriate steps to ensure that every aspect of the game remains on-brand, existing fans of the movie or TV show will quickly discover the game’s faults. We want players to relive some of the joy and excitement felt when they first experienced the brand in question, which means development teams must delve under the hood and understand what the brand truly means in order to maximise the potential of the licence.
How have expectations evolved for both operators and players around licensed games?
Producing entertaining games with high quality graphics and an engaging storyline should always be a high priority for slot developers, regardless of whether it is a branded release or an original title. Whenever we create a licensed game, we always look to make sure that it includes the unique qualities to help players identify it as a Blueprint release, while ensuring that the branding capture the imagination of the film or TV shows core fans.
The Goonies is a perfect example of this. Released last year, the slot game inspired by the 1980s pop-cult classic has become one of our top-performing games. It combines a compelling theme, story and a game structure that fits, utilising the key scenes and characters from the film in a number of bonus features and rounds that you would usually expect from a Blueprint release.
What particular challenges are involved when developing a licensed game as opposed to an original title?
Producing branded games presents a different challenge as we have to stick to the licence holder’s sometimes strict style guide, which obviously isn’t something we face when developing an in-house title. This can influence the game’s design in terms of character and audio usage, it’s about finding the right balance to ensure that the final product complies with their guidelines, while also keeping it in line with our approach to slot provision.
To some degree there’s also a weight of expectation from loyal fans of a particular brand that you have to be aware of. The last thing you want to do is dampen the brand with an inferior gameplay that fails to echo with the end user.
Again, it’s very much a case of working closely with licence holders throughout the development process to avoid such a scenario. We’ve developed great relationships with these companies, where they now entrust us to develop a game because of our track record within this segment of the slots market.
How much input in creating games do licence holders typically have?
Licence holders are involved with and approve every aspect of the game’s development process, from initial concept design to the accompanying soundtrack. If something’s not right with the game, they’ll instruct us to make edits to ensure the game fits the brand and does not contravene any legal guidelines placed on the brand, by either themselves or the image rights of any associated actors or actresses.
They will provide us with a style guide that includes detailed notes on every aspect of the brand, which aims to bring the film or TV show to life through a range of brand-centric and trend-oriented design elements.
Aside from your own company’s products, which examples of licences within igaming have impressed you?
The Deal or No Deal fruit machine is a proven revenue driver within the land-based sector in the UK, with the popular game inspired by the Channel 4 TV show generating in excess of £150 million GGR per annum. The success of this licensed game in the land-based environment prompted us to convert it into an online slot through our ties with Endemol Shine. The success of the brand transferred to the online world seamlessly and Deal or No Deal is now an integral part of our Pub Fruit Series, with three different variations utilising the licence soon to be available for players to enjoy.
Aside from branded games, Big Time Gaming’s Megaways mechanic has been a huge success within the online gaming industry and we have licensed the tool across many of our releases in the previous 12 months. The random reel modifier system allows any given spin to produce a different number of symbols across the reels. The mechanic has been incorporated across many of our games and has proved very popular with operators and players alike.