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As four of the industry’s leading slot developers release sports-themed games this month, Gambling News looks into the development of these new titles and the opportunities that this genre brings to operators.

What was the reasoning behind developing your new sports-themed game?

Jo Purvis, Blueprint Gaming: The launch of our new sports-themed game PDC World Darts Championship allows us to expand the range of game themes available in our portfolio, as well as present an opportunity to engage with another type of player. Using the PDC licence and incorporating the world’s leading darts players makes this game highly appealing to the sport’s fan base and those looking for sports-themed content.

Darts is full of instantly recognisable characters, such as ‘Snakebite’ Peter Wright, ‘Mighty Mike’ Michael van Gerwen and newly-crowned world champion, ‘The Iceman’ Gerwyn Price, who all feature within our new game, along with the rest of the world’s top 10 Order of Merit players. Operators are constantly looking at ways in which they can improve the cross-sell of players from sportsbook to casino. Through the use of a well-known brand and a proven casino gameplay format, we have created a slot that will significantly sharpen cross-sell practices for operators.

Given the strong association of betting with darts and many tier one operators sponsoring the main events, the cross-sell from those platforms and the marketing opportunities afforded is arguably bigger than any standard slot.

The quality of sports-themed slots have often been questioned within the slots community. How do you ensure the gameplay is strong while also making it appealing to casino and sportsbook players?

JP: Blueprint Gaming’s reputation for delivering highly-successful slot games across multiple European markets will ensure this PDC branded game will be of high quality. In fact, our status as a leading developer of branded content is the reason why the licence holder approached us to develop this particular title. Traditionally it’s true that certain sports themes games have struggled to capture the imagination of players. Football and horse racing themes have always been a ‘no-go’ area in terms of theme, but the player demographic is changing.

Mistakes have perhaps been made in the past by developers of trying to emulate the sport into a slot, but the approach we’ve taken with PDC World Darts Championship is to incorporate a solid slot format with a sports theme. We know the gameplay is strong from previous experience and haven’t overdone the sports theme either, giving a balance which will resonate with a wide audience.

How important are the cross-sell opportunities for these types of games. Are they most effective when released alongside a major sporting event, such as the Euros or Cheltenham?

JP: Cross-sell is definitely a big factor for sports-themed slot games. Data proves that during major sporting events, participation levels increase significantly but a slot release alongside a competition doesn’t necessarily need to happen. Marketing of existing content during these events can have the same impact on engagement rates.

Darts for instance is a year round sport, with multiple tournaments taking place and ending with the major World Championship during the festive period. Well planned marketing campaigns alongside events can elevate a title back to chart topping status even if the novelty period after the release has faded.