Ahead of the launch of John Daly Spin It And Win It on February 3, managing director of Spearhead Studios Mathias Larsson reveals why he believes the title will break the mould and prove that a sports-themed slot can resonate with operators, particularly in the US.
CasinoBeats: Why do you believe branded games will be so important for engaging with players across the US?
Mathias Larsson: Data we have seen from game providers in the US online market shows us that branded games perform better there than in any other region worldwide.
The closest equivalent in Europe would be the UK, where these sorts of titles typically do well. In the US, the casino experience is seen as a mainstream channel of entertainment whereas in Sweden, where I am from, players are selective and want to play games that offer a different sort of niche excitement.
In this particular case with John Daly Spin It And Win It, it’s also about bridging the gap between sportsbook and casino.
CB: Given licensing costs, how important (and how difficult) is it to select a brand that truly resonates with an audience?
ML: The most challenging aspect of creating a branded game is building in that global appeal. In the case of a sports theme, there are very few such slots on the market. That’s perhaps for good reason, given that there have been one or two high-profile examples in the past that have failed badly, incurring huge costs.
However, I believe that if you get it right with a sports-themed slot, then there is the potential to get sports bettors moving across into casino. Particularly in the US, where sports betting is huge at the moment in comparison to online casino, then this pathway is one that operators will be very keen to explore.
Ultimately, while the brand you select is very important, success is only ever going to be possible if you are releasing a high-quality product. This is the proposition we believe we have created to put before operators with our John Daly game.
CB: What was the appeal of using a cartoon version of John Daly in particular?
ML: John Daly is a larger-than-life character and whether you are a sports fan living in Japan or his home state of California, you will have heard of a player whose popularity transcends the sport of golf.
His personal brand combines on-course achievement with off-course renown and from the start, we were intent on making this a game about John Daly – not an out-and-out golf title. This meant we decided very early on during the conceptual stages that a photo-realistic approach would not provide the visual impression that we wanted.
It had to be visually striking and full of personality, and the cartoon theme tied in with a vibrant, feature-rich and super-volatile game based around an unmistakable protagonist.
CB: How did the development process play out with this game? Did the game idea come first and John Daly was introduced later, or were the game’s mechanics designed around the character of the golfer?
ML: As a game design team, the usual run of things is that the features and functionality will define the game but in this case, it was the other way around. We had to consider John Daly’s character and get completely familiar with his personality, public image, achievement and interests, which led the design process.
A game featuring Daly had to be fun-packed, engaging, volatile and in your face and straight-talking – just like the man himself. There are three different base game features, three bonus features, buy options and lots of other action going on.
Daly is most famous for his stellar golfing career, but we were very clear that we did not want to build a sports game for only those sports fans who cheered him on to two majors. We sought to reach players who are going to be engaged by a slot in which a lot of wild and diverse things can happen.
CB: How does this release fit in with the rest of the Spearhead Studios roadmap for 2022?
ML: If you will excuse the pun, it’s spearheading it. This is our biggest, boldest, loudest and most complex game to date. It has already driven a lot of conversations with operators and has opened doors for us merely by being interesting and outside-the-norm. The goal was to create a buzz at the start of 2022 and to that extent, we have seen some success even ahead of its launch.
Original interview was published on CasinoBeats under the title “Mathias Larsson: successful branding with character”.