The rise of popular culture-themed online slots
Online slots have entered a world of caped crusaders, big-screen adaptations and progressive jackpots. What happened and what is expected for the future?
If there's one thing online slot developers have looked into over the past few years, it's a big brand to hang their title on.
Look around the online slot games available and you'll find dozens of top titles based on popular TV shows, movies, heroes and heroines. Who, after all, can resist tie-ins based on hit Hollywood blockbusters like Microgaming's Jurassic World or the new Highlander online slot?
But one area where slot players have enjoyed plenty of success is in comic book-themed games trumping over the traditional table games, such as blackjack and roulette.
Over the years, Marvel heroes like Iron Man and Hulk have battled with rivals from DC Comics like Superman and Wonder Woman for supremacy in the casino lobbies.
And just like the stories themselves, heroes have swapped sides, as game developers have snapped up competing brands from under their rivals' noses.
Entering the marvellous Marvel world
Long before Marvel Comics was snapped up by Disney in a multi-billion dollar deal, it was relatively small compared to what it is today. Hollywood was just beginning to develop Marvel titles and give the superhero genre a much-needed power boost.
Interestingly, the world of online slots was following a similar regeneration. By the mid-2000s, casino technology was improving and developers like Cryptologic and Playtech were releasing more titles.
By 2009 and 2010, slot developers had titles based on Iron Man and The Incredible Hulk, both of which had had successful reboots at the cinema. Real imagery was used from the films instead of the classic comic books. The Fantastic Four soon followed, as well as Iron Man 2 - a direct brand tie-in with the 2010 movie.
By 2013, even Microgaming got in on the act - through DC Comics' parent company, Warner Bros. - by producing big-screen tie-ins like The Dark Knight and The Dark Knight Rises. Both are now two of the biggest progressive jackpot titles available.
The future of branded slots
Game developers have long used big-screen names and TV brands for partnerships, and there shows no sign of the appetite for brand tie-ins coming to an end.
Take leading casino software developer, IGT. Their new range of land-based slots take hit brands and gives them a community feel.
Games like Sex and the City - based on the movie spin-off of the hit TV show - rely on a 'community' element to make slot experience more immersive.
Several players can sit at the same machine and take part in multi-player, interactive bonus features like a wheel of fortune.
While many video slots pack in a lot of variety, the tie-in with Sex and the City producers HBO aims to target those that have a connection with the hit show. With faster processors in video slots, games are able to handle much longer video sequences from the spin-off title, adding a different element to traditional online slots.
The brand has also released a land-based slot based on The Dark Knight (though don't confuse it with Microgaming's own online hit game). Although aimed at big-movie fans, the same 'community' element is retained.
Developers like Microgaming have tapped into the world of video games for their Tomb Raider and Hitman slots to great success, while Atari have used slots players' love of nostalgia with their slots based on classic arcade games.
The crossover between apps and slots is also noticeable. Popular mobile gaming apps like Bejeweled have become slots in their own right. The 'cascading' nature of these games has been adopted by major slots developers too. Microgaming's Avalanche Reels feature is now a big hit with players.
As technology improves, we'll likely see slots and casino games featuring a greater skill element, just like you find in an average console game. Slots developers will have no trouble keeping up with the demands of gamblers who want bigger effects, better graphics, and more innovative bonus features in their games - just as long as the brand is right.
Betway's top 3 pop culture-inspired slots by Microgaming
Game of Thrones Slots
One of the biggest TV hits of recent years, George R. R. Martin's Game of Thrones got the slot treatment with 243 ways to win, authentic music from the fantasy drama show and a free spins round for every major family in the programme.
Video games don't always make good films, but they usually make good slots. Hitman was based on the adventures of Agent 47 as he travels the world armed with a blade, syringe, and all manner of work 'tools'. It was the perfect marriage of video game animation and online slots.
Bridesmaids was the 'sleeper' box-office hit based on the adventures of a group of hen do party-goers/bachelorettes. A massive land-based hit a few years ago, Microgaming adapted the film for the online casino market. The original bonus features tap into one of the funniest gross-out comedies for years.