Casino Developer IGT Eyes 'Broad Appeal' Slots, Celebrities

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Famous people have built up a significant presence in gaming recently. Back in August, the pop culture website CBR described the phenomenon as “nothing new” but something that’s rapidly increasing in scale.

Death Stranding

Kit Harington played a role in the shark-jumping Call of Duty: Infinite Warfare, Keanu Reeves lent his voice and face to Cyberpunk 2077, and both Norman Reedus and Conan O'Brien starred in Hideo Kojima’s Death Stranding.

In every case, they appeared as full-body ‘actors’ - just as they would in any Hollywood movie. Reeves also performed the motion-capture scenes for his character Johnny Silverhand.

This represented a dramatic shift away from celebrity voiceovers (think Ron Perlman in the Fallout franchise) towards a full celebrity takeover. The idea of promoting a title with a famous person is no longer just the realm of EA’s sports franchises.

Again, though, this is nothing new. It’s just a different shade of an older thing. Those of us with the dubious honor of being around in the eighties will remember that games didn’t just feature celebrities, they were based upon them.

Jimi Hendrix

Six Bruce Lee games appeared on shelves between 1984 and 2008, for instance. Mike Tyson's Punch-Out!!, Daley Thompson's Decathlon, the maligned Shaq-Fu, and the Tony Hawk's series of skateboarding games joined them.

The idea of celebrities in an adjacent industry, casino gaming, isn’t all that unusual but creators have opted for a gentler approach rather than scanning actors' faces. In other words, there are plenty of slots out there dedicated to famous people.

The New Jersey casino Playstar has a Jimi Hendrix-themed slot, complete with allusions to the Summer of Love (1967 - three years before the virtuoso guitarist passed away), along with a game about Gordon Ramsey’s Hell Kitchen.

Developer IGT seems to be banking on the celebrity connection to win new fans over. The company, which is also responsible for the Cash Eruption slot on the Playstar site, plans to bring the late Whitney Houston into the casino world.

Pop Culture Heroes

The Whitney Houston slot is made in partnership with the singer’s estate and family, meaning that it should be one of the more authentic tributes out there. It will reportedly include Houston’s songs too, as well as things she enjoyed, such as butterflies.

Global Licensing chief Jennifer Fales described IGT’s current direction as favoring “things that have broad appeal”. Unfortunately, in the same conversation, Fale hinted that such large undertakings may come at the expense of more niche ideas.

What this means is up for debate but it’s possible - even probable - that IGT has burned itself on an original but unpopular idea in the past. Still, large, expensive projects aren’t necessarily a sensible way to undo a previous misstep.

The good news is that games themed around pop culture heroes are still rare on casino websites, meaning that this creative direction still provides opportunities for developers, albeit on the condition that they can afford it.

Overall, despite an overabundance of fruit, there's still plenty of space for a familiar face or two on casino sites.

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