Right now, there is fashion for pop culture sites, even those not usually affiliated with comic books, to pour out countless articles comparing and contrasting aspects of DC and Marvel comics. Most of this is relatively new, coming off the back of the current wave of popularity DC and Marvel Expanded Universe movies.
Articles, merchandise, YouTube videos, cosplay and everything else has been used to celebrate Marvel and DC’s return to the mainstream, but there is one area where you may not have expected the comic book drama to play: online casinos. Over the last few years DC and Marvel slots have been a staple of online casinos, with operators capitalising on the popularity of cinema releases.
Of course, online slots based on movie themes are nothing new. Jurassic Park slot, for example, was a big hit for Mircrogaming a few years ago. Just like the movie franchise, they also scored a smash with the slot sequel, Jurassic World. The Jumanji reboot, while not the most beloved film out there, has been a massive success in its slot form at casinos too.
DC and Marvel ‘holy grail’ for licensing
But, like the movies currently, Marvel and DC are the big players, with slots as big and brash as their cinematic counterparts. However, the history is a little chequered and, eventually, one iconic brand disappeared from online casinos all together.
To understand this, you’ll have to know how casino games licensing works: You can’t just decide to make a Batman or Wolverine slot. Like any other legitimate branding exercises, slot developers must approach the rights holder to purchase the ‘imagery’, lest they receive some angry letters from lawyers. Of course, the upshot of this is that by doing it above board you get the real deal; some cool looking casino games with officially imagery.
Anyway, around a half dozen years ago, Playtech, one of the world’s top casino game developers, launched a wide range of Marvel casino games. It started off quite timidly, nothing too ground-breaking in terms of graphics etc. However, over time, the slots’ ambition started to reflect that of the MCU. Pretty soon, you could find X-Men, X2, The Avengers, Hulk and the rest at online casinos. The beauty of it was, just like the MCU itself, the slots were interlinked with progressive jackpots.
Disney pulled the plug on Marvel slots
However, Disney, who purchased Marvel in 2009, had signalled they would end the agreement as soon as the contract ran out – March 2017. Disney cited their ‘family-friendly’, anti-gambling, stance as the reason. Players were, of course, disappointed. But Playtech acted decisively and swooped to make a deal with DC. Just over a year later, DC Superheroes slots are available at several online casinos. They also have a series of interconnected jackpots, with the top prize – Grand Jackpot – potentially worth millions.
Playtech’s masterstroke, however, was that they did not just follow the path of releasing games to tie in with movie releases. Sure, you can find a Justice League or Dawn of Justice League slot. But the company also went retro, with titles like Batman and the Joker Jewels (featuring plenty of clips of the late Cesar Romero) and the Penguin Prize. They are completely faithful to the colourful comic book style of the original TV series.
So, in this case, Disney’s sanitisation of its products seems to have led to a DC victory in the merch battles at online casinos. Going by Disney’s track record, that doesn’t look like changing any time soon.