What can be said of familiarity? In the late 1300s, the great English poet, Geoffery Chaucer, famously once said, “familiarity breeds contempt”. And, whilst that might be true of marriage and relationships, when it comes to marketing (i.e. business, brand awareness, profitability, and IP), it would seem that a more apt saying is, “Awareness is good. Familiarity is better”.
This is certainly the stance of Larry Light, former CEO of McDonald’s and ‘Global Brand Thought Leader’. In his article ‘Be familiar: Why brand familiarity is the key to becoming a powerful brand’, he explores the benefits of brand familiarity, and how when customers are familiar with a brand they are able to “appreciate the value of that brand”.
Given the vast amount of revenue that is spent on marketing each year, it is of little wonder that iGaming sets out to capitalise on familiarity and brand awareness in order to increase profitability. A cynic might say that a proportion of this comes from laziness – that brand IP is simply an easy acquisition when ideas dry up – it is, after all, accepted in the clothing industry that ideas and trends come back around regularly, and that ultimately, fashion is cyclical.
Perhaps, however, it is sometimes more than that? Perhaps brand awareness or association can be about harnessing memories and recreating experiences. And whilst this can be a positive, nostalgic, and comforting experience, you have to wonder if, in the case of board games, it is also somewhat aspirational?
Don’t get us wrong, board games are awesome. They are the cornerstone of any good Saturday family game night. They breed competitiveness, ambition, and drive. They can encourage teamwork, cooperation, and strategy. But they also expose families to relentless ruthlessness and risk taking. And let’s face it, board games can get a little… dark.
But then again, perhaps that is the point. The avalanche of emotions *IS* essentially what keeps board games so relevant and popular. The question for iGaming is whether this is a viable approach to branded content partnerships. Does it translate to conversion? Do online slot game adaptations of board games deliver the same thrills and spills as a physical shake of the dice? In business, does fortune favour the familiar?
Chris Evans of Casinos.win, an affiliate company that puts forward only the best in iGaming, believes “it is in our interest to promote only the crème de la crème that our industry has to offer. We put our confidence in industry trailblazers and leaders – such as Jo Pervis, of Blueprint Gaming, who believes that dedication and passion to IP will result in “across-the-board collaborative success”.
Taking this onboard, let’s look at five board games that have been adapted into online slots.
Monopoly is an iconic game, albeit one that can end up languishing on everyone’s board game shelf. Because, let’s be honest, “should we play Monopoly?” is a question that is invariably met with sighs and groans of horror, and other, less cutthroat, board games are quickly offered up in its place.
But in terms of IP and familiarity, you can’t beat Monopoly. The original iteration of the game is now 120 years old and there are currently over 300 different versions of the board game available worldwide, with Hasbro the current licence owners since 1991.
In terms of board-game-themed online slots, there are plenty to choose from. The year 2023 already promises many versions, including the eagerly awaited Monopoly Money Grab by Light and Wonder, due for release in February 2023. Whilst many of the Monopoly games do manage to capture some of the spirit of the board game, many do not. Monopoly Mega Watch, for example, delivers a staid and rigid game, which by online slot standards is quite simply lacklustre. Released in June 2022, the 5X5 slot stays true to the traditional Monopoly graphics, and promises a 95% RTP. However, whilst bonus retriggers are frequent, regular payouts seem dismally low. This is one instance where the board game triumphs a thousand times over.
Murder mystery classic, Cluedo, is firmly cemented in popular culture. An easy to reference game that has long earned its family familiarity status – with the game embedded in the public psyche since the 1940s. Cluedo has proven so popular that the franchise has spawned films, books and even a musical. The power of brand penetration is so strong with Cluedo that even those who haven’t played the game would likely get the reference, “Colonel Mustard, with a candlestick, in the ballroom”.
One of the first board games to be adapted for iGaming (IGT, 2014), Cluedo has seen a number of iterations over the years. Most recently, Cluedo Cash Slot Mystery, debuted in 2021, produced by WMS. A 5X3 slot with an RTP of 96.5%, the game is packed full of bonus rounds and features that pay homage to the original and add their own special features. Indeed, there are 180 bonus round combinations that can be triggered, with seventeen different scatter symbols split into three categories. The attention to detail, fancy graphics and plethora of scatter/bonus combinations give this online slot enough clout to rival its board game forefather.
Whilst Cluedo and Monopoly were the bedrock of their franchises, the next games on the list came after their respective brands broke into the mainstream in other formats. The Jumani franchise was born in 1981, as a children’s fantasy picture book. The story revolves around an enchanted board game that brings its elements to life, only halting once the game has been played until the end. It was adapted in 1995 into a film starring Robin Williams, and this is when it received cult status. Franchise film reboots and a TV series soon followed, as well as an actual board game.
With dramatic sound effects, suspenseful music and roaring animals, the 2018 NetEnt online casino slot adaptation of the Jumanji game tries to capture the feel of the movie and board game as best as it can. They have certainly captured an element of drama with their 3D graphics, and it is a nice touch when the bookshelf shakes and hoards of rhinos stampede across the screen. The RTP is a handsome 96.3%, bonus features include monkey mayhem and monsoon wilds, and the bonus round features sticky wilds and leaping crocodiles. The online slot game delivers excitement and is pretty ‘rock’ solid.
Wheel of Fortune
With the board game and TV show both launching in 1975, Wheel of Fortune has had decades in which to grow brand familiarity. It has proved itself to be an international hit, with at least thirteen countries still airing a version of the game show to this day. The simple hangman-based format, the glamour and luck of a wheel spin, and the never-ending updatable content have ensured that the brand never loses popularity. The board game manages to capture all the fun of the TV show, albeit without the big money prizes, and remains a staple game night classic.
From casino floors to handheld devices, the Wheel of Fortune IP has proved to be a very lucrative partnership for slot gaming provider, IGT, who have had a long and prosperous relationship with the brand. Their 2016 Wheel of Fortune on Tour game takes players on a rollercoaster ride, complete with snazzy music, and it is jam-packed full of bonuses. A 5×3 layout, 96.6% RTP, Level-up feature, and US road trip all ensure that the game has something to keep players enthralled and eager to continue. It is not the TV show, or the board game, but it is a standalone success in its own right.
Who Wants to Be a Millionaire?
Debuting on TV in 1998, this British game show became an instant classic that went on air in over 160 countries. Spawning parodies, catchphrases and memes, the brand struck gold in terms of market penetration, proliferation and popularity. The board game was also released in 1998, ensuring that everyone could play along at home. The gameplay proved perfectly adaptable to board game format, and quickly became a ‘must have’ for everyone’s collection.
The game mechanics have proved popular with iGaming players. One of the Big Time Gaming versions – Who Wants to Be a Millionaire Megapays Slot – has an 96.38% RTP, and an impressive progressive jackpot that can top £300,000. The gameplay feels familiar, too, and with real money wins and loses at stake, it encapsulates the drama of the TV show in a more realistic way than the board game.
Whilst online casino slots can add an extra element of drama to familiar franchises, it is always worth remembering that real gambling should be approached with caution and always played within safe limitations.