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Movies that inspired online slot games

Data used in this study


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Sergey Mastitsky

3 years ago | 7 min read

“Movies are now no longer freestanding IP; they are one piece in a marketing assault” (Alpert & Jacobs 2004)

Popular among players, slots dominate the game content of any real-money online casino. It is common for online casino operators to offer their players hundreds and even thousands of slot titles to choose from.

This diversity, however, makes it increasingly more difficult for casinos to differentiate themselves on the crowded market. One way to tackle this problem is to offer games that possess unique yet recognisable themes, such as games based on popular movies.

Film-to-game adaptations are ubiquitous in the traditional video game industry and there exists a large body of research related to this phenomenon (e.g., Aarseth 2006; Hall 2011; Knight 2018, and references therein).

However, little attention has been paid to such adaptations in slot games, despite the importance of the latter as a revenue driver in the multi-billion iGaming industry. This article is an attempt to partly address this knowledge gap by providing a descriptive analysis of a representative sample of movie-themed online slot games, with focus on the following questions:

  • what are the main genres of films that get adapted into slot games?
  • are there any over-represented directors and top-billed actors of such films?
  • what are the MPAA ratings of adapted films?

This study has been inspired by the work of Alexis Blanchet (2011), a researcher from University Sorbonne Nouvelle, who conducted an in-depth analysis of films adapted into traditional (i.e., non-casino) video games. Results obtained by A. Blanchet serve as an excellent benchmark for comparative analysis of the movie-based traditional video games and online slot games.

Data used in this study

This study is based on a sample of 88 movie-themed online slot games, the list of which was compiled from a variety of publicly available online resources, such as casino game databases, affiliate websites, game developer websites, etc. Although several recently released slot games are based on popular TV shows (e.g., Game of Thrones, Vikings, 24, etc.), to simplify the analysis this study only includes film-based games.

Most of the analysed slot games had the same names as the films they were based on, and matching games to the corresponding films was a rather straightforward exercise.

However, in some cases, when a film had one or more remakes with identical titles (e.g., King Kong, Clash of the Titans), it could be slightly more difficult to match the game to the correct remake. These ambiguous cases were resolved by comparing the remake’s cast and/or recognisable artefacts (e.g., logos and other objects) with the game’s artwork. In total, there were 82 unique film titles associated with 88 games.

Each game’s record was enriched with a number of characteristics related to the corresponding film, including release date, genre keywords, name of the director, top-billed actors (up to 5), MPAA ratings, etc. All of these characteristics were collected programmatically via the API provided by The Movie Database. The resultant dataset, as well as the code used to collect the data and perform all the quantitative analyses presented below, can be found at GitHub.

What exactly is being adapted?

Adapting a movie into a game represents obvious financial and marketing benefits for the game developer, especially if the movie has already seen significant commercial success and created pre-awareness among the potential players (Jenkins 2003; Aarseth 2006; Blanchet 2011).

In this sense, online slots are not any different from traditional video games and one can find several all-time highest-grossing titles among the films that were made into slot games, e.g. Jurassic Park, Jurassic World, Titanic, The Dark Knight, The Dark Knight Rises, and The Jungle Book.

However, in contrast to the traditional video games, slots have very simple core game mechanics (Turner & Horbay 2004; Schüll 2014), which considerably narrows the range of movie attributes that could potentially be transferred into a slot game.

Alpert & Jacobs (2004) distinguish three types of movie attributes that can be translated into a video game:

  • iconic characters with high recognition value;
  • an interesting universe;
  • a “high concept” that would translate into a gameplay mechanic.

Most of the analysed slot games were found to “borrow” attributes of the first type, whereby the film’s main characters and recognisable artefacts were used as symbols on the game’s reels (Figure 1).

Figure 1. Examples of highly recognisable movie characters and artefacts used as symbols on the reels of online slot games

In addition, parts of the film’s “universe” are often used to stylise the overall look (a.k.a. “theme”) of the game (Figure 2).

Figure 2. Both the iconic characters and parts of the film’s universe are used to stylise the look of the slot game “The Matrix” (by Playtech)

Genres of the adapted films

Each film in The Movie Database is described by 1 to 5 genre tags (e.g., “adventure”, “science fiction”, “comedy”, etc.), which were used as features in hierarchical cluster analysis. This analysis identified 7 major genre groups (Figure 3). The largest group was “Action | Adventure | Fantasy” (20.7% from the total number of examined films), followed by:

  • “Comedy | Romance | Crime” (18.3%)
  • “Action | Thriller | Drama” (17.1%)
  • “Sci Fi | Adventure | Action” (15.9%)
  • “Comedy | Fantasy | Family” (12.2%)
  • “Horror | Thriller | Mystery” (8.5%)
  • “Drama | Romance” (7.3%)

Figure 3. Result of the hierarchical cluster analysis of 82 films based on their genre tags. Each of the identified 7 groups (colour-coded) is labelled by up to 3 most prevalent within-group tags (shown on the right)

The result shown in Figure 3 is in close agreement with Blanchet (2011), who reported adventure, action, comedy, fantasy and thriller as dominant genres of the movies adapted into traditional video games. Other popular genres reported by the author include science fiction, drama and horror.

Directors and top-billed actors

The examined 82 films were created by 74 directors, meaning that the vast majority of directors (88%) authored a single adapted film only. However, the 9 over-represented directors (12%) authored 2–3 such films (Table 1).

Director, Film
Christopher Nolan, Batman Begins
, The Dark Knight
, The Dark Knight Rises
James Cameron, Aliens
, Terminator 2
, Titanic
Zack Snyder, Batman v Superman: Dawn of Justice
, Justice League
, Man of Steel
Joe Dante, Gremlins
, Matinee
Paul Verhoeven, Basic Instinct
, RoboCop
Peter Jackson, King Kong
, The Lord of the Rings: The Fellowship of the Ring
Richard Donner, Superman
, The Goonies
Sylvester Stallone, Rambo
, The Expendables
Tim Burton, Mars Attacks!
, Planet of the Apes

Table 1. Directors, who created at least 2 films adapted into online slot games

Most of the above-listed directors (except for Christopher Nolan and Zack Snyder) have also been reported as creators of 3 or more movies adapted into traditional video games (Blanchet 2011). No doubt, C. Nolan and Z. Snyder would also make it into the Alexis Blanchet’s list if some of their blockbusters that inspired video games were released before 2011.

A total of 365 actors appeared in the top-5 opening credits of the examined films. Approximately 90% of these top-billed actors featured in a single film adapted into a slot game. The remaining 10% typically featured in 2–3 films and only Sylvester Stallone appeared as a top-billed actor in 4 films (Table 2).

Top-billed actor, Film
Sylvester Stallone, Judge Dredd
, Rambo
, Rocky
, The Expendables
Amy Adams, Justice League
, Man of Steel
, Batman v Superman: Dawn of Justice
Christian Bale, The Dark Knight
, The Dark Knight Rises
, Batman Begins
Gary Oldman, The Dark Knight
, The Dark Knight Rises
, Batman Begins
Henry Cavill, Justice League
, Man of Steel
, Batman v Superman: Dawn of Justice
Jim Carrey, Dumb and Dumber
, Ace Ventura: Pet Detective
, The Mask
Michael Caine, The Dark Knight
, The Dark Knight Rises
, Batman Begins

Table 2. Actors, who appeared in the opening credits of least 3 films adapted into online slot games

Table 2 is similar to the results by Blanchet (2011), who found Sylvester Stallone to be by far the most over-represented top-billed actor in the movies adapted into traditional video games. Our study also confirms that, well in line with the Hollywood tradition, male star actors dominate the opening credits.

MPAA ratings

Nine of the 82 examined films (11%) did not have an MPAA record in The Movie Database. A breakdown of the other 73 films by their MPAA ratings is shown in Figure 4, along with a similar breakdown reported in Blanchet (2011).

Figure 4. MPAA ratings of the films adapted into traditional video games (Blanchet 2011) and online slot games (this study)

Figure 4 shows that the films adapted into online slot games are considerably more often rated as potentially inappropriate for pre-teenagers (PG-13, “parents strongly cautioned”) and teenagers under 17 (R, “restricted”). In total, 74% of these films were rated as PG-13 or R. In contrast, films made into traditional video games are more children- and teenager-friendly, with only 46% classified as PG-13 or R.

This finding could be related to how developers of the movie-themed slot games deal with the age of their target players. On the one hand, developers might purposefully choose films that are intended for adult audiences, so that the respective slot games become attractive to wealthier non-minors.

On the other hand, developers have to respect the minimum age limit for gambling and the satellite rules around it. In most jurisdictions, people under 18 are typically not legally allowed to gamble, and in several European countries casino operators are not allowed to publicly advertise games that contain artwork elements and other features that could potentially appeal to minors (ASA 2018; EGBA 2020).

These requirements would also have to be factored in by any low-compliant developer of a new movie-themed slot game.

Conclusions

Movie-themed online slot games were found to share many characteristics with the movie-based traditional video games (i.e. in terms of the movie titles, prevalent genres, names of the over-represented directors, and the dominance of male star actors in the films’ opening credits).

This finding is not surprising, considering the financial and marketing benefits of adapting a popular movie into a game. However, slot games were more often based on movies intended for adult audiences, a finding that could be related to how developers of slot games account for the age of their target audience (including legal considerations).

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Sergey Mastitsky

Data Science consultant with multiple years of experience across academic and industrial sectors. Author of several books on data analysis and visualisation.


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