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Tentpole Games: The Goonies

By - 10 March 2021

As part of G3’s series of features on the greatest games the industry has ever created, Matt Cole, Managing Director of Blueprint Gaming, explains the significance of The Goonies in forging a reputation as one of the leading suppliers of slot games.

Prior to delving into the creation and influence of The Goonies, Matt takes us back to the launch of Wish Upon a Jackpot in 2013, the company’s first standout performer which set Blueprint on its path to online success.

What made Wish Upon A Jackpot one of the standout games from Blueprint’s early online gaming days?

Wish Upon a Jackpot was one of our first original creations that really set the standard for our games going forward. The title created a whole new genre which Blueprint fans far and wide are familiar with today.

Multiple modifiers, features and layers to the gameplay offered players a gaming journey as much as an entertaining slot. This new game format was accepted by many operators as an industry-first concept and continues to be enjoyed by players across multiple markets.

With five reel modifiers, including Gingerbread Man Wild Reels and Fairy Win Spins, as well as four bonus games such as Three Little Pigs Free Spins and Rapunzel Free Spins, players had multiple ways of engaging with the game. Very quickly players appreciated how the game was different with each session, which resulted in entertainment levels remaining high.

Creating layers of the gameplay that were only accessible within features, such as the Golden Goose Big Money bonus, which can only be triggered by reaching the top of the beanstalk in Jack’s bonus, gave players the opportunity to play for more in the same game, rather than just playing out the feature to the end with no real entertainment value.

Many new start-up developers position themselves as storytellers in gaming and offering the player something more than a spin. Wish Upon a Jackpot was at the forefront for this type of game and a format which we perfected and have continued to offer over many years. The slot remains hugely popular and has created something of a cult following, which for a game in today’s market is extremely hard to produce and maintain.

How influential was Wish Upon a Jackpot in setting Blueprint on the path to delivering more games of this type to the online market?

Wish Upon a Jackpot was hugely influential. We knew from our land-based background that players, especially in the UK, demand value for money and longevity from their gaming sessions. The game set the bar in the online world and created a massive cross-over opportunity for online casinos to attract players from the retail sector.

Mechanical retail games, although less interactive in the presentation than online counterparts, always gave players great value with every spin. Chasing around the lapper board, climbing the feature or cash ladder for the chance of a better prize – these characteristics do not change when moving online.

Packing a game with features, having a softer profile and allowing the player to immerse themselves in the experience was a concept that was new compared to the European style casino slots on offer in the online world.

We’ve continued to build on the success of Wish Upon a Jackpot and taken the format further, adding even more modifiers and features into games and creating greater levels for players to achieve. The Goonies is a prime example of a Blueprint game that’s been inspired by Wish Upon a Jackpot, with multiple features that ensures the game is still popular today.

At what point did you look at the online medium and realise its potential to add to retail games? When did the training wheels come off and you begin to tinker more with your online titles?

Online gaming has its roots in retail, so the switch to the online channel wasn’t such a big jump for us. Many of the features that you see in today’s online games actually derive from land-based content. The digital environment has simply allowed developers like Blueprint to elevate these features, since we have greater scope to bring in new mechanics on a bigger scale.

From the very start of our online journey we were fixated on experimenting with new game features and mechanics. The channel provided our designers greater freedom to explore new reel and feature games, bonuses and modifiers, but the overall experience is still similar to the land-based environment we’ve been enjoying success in for many years now.

What attracted Blueprint to The Goonies licence?

The Goonies is a cult classic and we’re all big fans of the movie at Blueprint. Today the brand is still as popular as when it was first released back in 1985. Crucially from a product development perspective, the brand also fitted our strategy of developing engaging games that provide players with a fun and entertaining experience.

Our relationship with Warner Bros. Consumer Products ensured we were given first refusal on many IPs due to our track record of developing quality branded titles. When it came to our attention that The Goonies licence was available, we were very keen to acquire the rights. That decision has since been vindicated, with our creation going on to become one of the top-performing games within our portfolio.

How complex was attaining The Goonies licence from Warner Bros?

It was a relatively simple process in the grand scheme of things, largely due to our solid standing in creating branded games in the online casino community. Our well established relationship with Warner Bros. Consumer Products afforded us the opportunity to take The Goonies licence.

The licence holders were keen for Blueprint to take the iconic film into the slot world having previously proven our skills in adapting their brands into successful games. We worked closely with them to keep the essence of the brand true to their beliefs and requirements, while also delivering top-notch gameplay that would resonate with a wide audience.

The Goonies marked a significant step change from Blueprint’s recent launch of ted – a slot based on the contemporary film about a foul-mouthed teddy bear. Were you looking to appeal to The Goonies 30+ year old fanbase or to bring the cult movie to a new generation of player?

The decision to acquire The Goonies licence was driven more by our belief we could transition the brand into a successful online slot. In a lot of ways, ted and The Goonies bear a lot of similarities and we have seen players cross-over between the titles.

With branded titles, they already attract a wide audience and the fact that The Goonies was released many years ago simply allowed us to broaden the appeal to a far greater demographic.

From a design perspective, how did you approach translating an iconic Hollywood classic into a slot title?

Whenever we develop a licensed game, it has to stay true to the brand and provide a gaming experience that fans would expect to see from the property in question. With The Goonies, the iconic characters were fundamental to the gameplay and without them included with the IP licence, the brand wouldn’t have been so attractive to us.

Even for those who haven’t seen The Goonies, they will know the characters involved in some way given how the film has become part of popular culture. Chunk’s truffle shuffle and Sloth’s cry of “Hey you guys!” are referenced in many different ways, which certainly helped us in transforming the film and characters into a slot.

Our designers were able to pick out these famous elements and concentrate them into the game’s features and bonuses. Fans weren’t disappointed with the end product and the game’s proved to be really popular with fans of The Goonies, as well as seasoned slot players.

What were the key elements in transporting players back to the 1980s? How important was instilling a sense of nostalgia?

This was hugely important to us within the development stage. If we attempted to update the film it would have lost the essence of what The Goonies is about and ended up with an inferior product. Warner Bros. Consumer Products were very clear in their desire to honour the film and the characters in this new slot.

Creating an atmosphere within a game is a real art. This ensures players are engaged, increases the retention factor and keeps them coming back for more. Not just for the gameplay, but also for the experience and memories it creates.

Did you feel any extra pressure reproducing Spielberg’s adventure film for the slot medium?

Any pressure was very quickly dispelled by the brand owner’s acceptance and approval of our design and development team’s work. Our vision with all licensed games is to keep the brand at the heart of the slot.

Other developers will try and fit the brand around a pre-existing format and simply force it into a reskin of an old game. That approach doesn’t work and only results in a poor end product. The success of The Goonies is as much to do with the brand and its fans as it is to do with the game underneath the artwork and sound.

With twelve main game and bonus features, Chunk’s Truffle Shuffle and Inferno Free Spins proved particularly popular amongst players. Was it simply a case of throwing in as many features as possible and seeing what stuck?

Absolutely not and our decision to incorporate multiple bonus rounds and modifiers was very much influenced by creating a game that would resonate with our target audience. The Goonies is a strong brand in the UK and we knew it would be the market that game would launch into first and have the most impact.

Our knowledge of the UK player base and their desire for entertainment made it an easy strategic decision to pack the game with multiple features.

Whereas European players arguably prefer the harder profile game type, UK players are very much drawn to games which offer a journey within the gameplay. Entering features and being awarded modifiers is just as enjoyable as winning in this market. It’s important to them that they feel some sort of value from each spin as well as receiving big wins.

How successful was The Goonies? How quickly did it impact the market?

The Goonies had an instant impact upon its launch, as you generally expect to see from a big brand game release, but the key difference with its success is the longevity. The initial results of a branded release over the first few weeks can often gloss over the quality of the game, with operators committing to campaigns and the brand attracting a wide range of players.

Crucially with The Goonies, its impact didn’t fade after that period. It was a record breaker in many respects for Blueprint and the game still remains hugely popular to this day.

How did the success of The Goonies shape your subsequent roadmap of titles?

The success of The Goonies certainly made us more eager to take on new brands and explore how we could transition them into the online casino world, but we still select them carefully to fit our philosophy and keep the fun factor. We’re offered a lot of IPs on a regular basis and work with some of the industry’s best licensing operators, but we probably reject more brands than we take.

These rejections are often the result of the brand not fitting our style, or believing the IP will struggle to have longevity. We’re very selective when choosing brands and anything we do take has to resonate with our design team and get them excited. If the brand doesn’t click with the team or get them passionate, ultimately that will show in the end product.

How much license do you take iterating upon The Goonies formula?

The game hasn’t evolved as it’s still the same game we released on the day of the launch, but how it’s progressed in the players’ minds is the significant factor. For a game to have such longevity in today’s market of massive release roadmaps and saturated casino sites really shows the quality of The Goonies.

The staying power demonstrates the solid gameplay, math and storyline within the slot. We hit all the right notes with the presentation and are really proud at what we created.

One way in which we have taken the game forward was by introducing The Goonies to our famous Jackpot King progressive system in 2019. While the product is exactly the same, it has opened up the game to a new audience. Not only can players now enjoy the hugely popular gameplay, there’s also the added excitement of scooping the main Jackpot King pot.

Recent third-party collaborations such as Fishin’ Frenzy and Eye of Horus are now amongst Blueprint’s most successful games. In gaming terms, are third party collaborations or Hollywood-style games more successful?

That’s not always the case. In-house concepts can be just as successful, but it’s unrealistic to expect a design team to create a winner on every occasion. By collaborating with third parties, especially those from the same group of companies such as Merkur Gaming and Reel Time Gaming, we can incorporate exciting new ideas and expertise from other markets into our slots.

With Fishin’ Frenzy and Eye of Horus, their retail success across Europe had been unmatched and continued into the UK retail market. For us, it was an obvious choice to take the opportunity and transform them into online variants. As hoped, the success translated online as well as the development did.

What is the legacy of The Goonies for Blueprint and the wider industry?

The Goonies demonstrated how successful branded games can be in the online casino market and showed this genre doesn’t necessarily have to feature a current Hollywood blockbuster name to enjoy strong results. Developers don’t need to take on big budget licenses to create a buzz around the game. As long as they perfect the gameplay and utilise the IP correctly, the game will engage with players on every level.

For the wider industry, The Goonies showed that what is essentially a traditional UK game, which is full of features and modifiers, can actually work and attract new players in many other markets. The game broke ground in jurisdictions where the casino style spin and win game was king, providing entertainment that those players had not experienced before.

What is the future for The Goonies?

The exciting news that we can share with you is that we’ll be revealing a sequel to The Goonies later this year. The team have worked really hard at the game to make sure it has the same appeal as the original version but with a few extras that we feel will elevate the brand in the igaming world even further.

It’s important for us to stress that the sequel is receiving the same creative dedication as the original release. We have a responsibility to the licence holder, brand and fans to deliver a slot that is just as good as our first title. We have high hopes for the next instalment and are looking forward to sharing more details on the gameplay in the coming months.

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