by Buddy Frank
CDC Gaming Report June 2022:
If you’re wondering which new toy to buy for a young child, you’d be smart to watch videos from Ryan Kaji. He’s a “toy influencer” and has 16 million followers. Forbes estimates his net worth in 2022 at $100 million (not bad for a 10-year-old).
If you were selling makeup, Kim Kardashian with 206 million Instagram followers would be a good choice for promotion. But Portuguese athlete Cristiano Ronaldo has more followers than anyone at over 315 million. When the soccer star suggested that his followers stop drinking sugary Coca-Cola, the soda’s stock dropped $4 billion in a single day.
If you love video games, your go-to source is Sweden’s Felix Arvid Ulf Kjellberg. He’s the Number One (non-celebrity) internet influencer. On social media he’s known as “PewDiePie.” He has 111 million subscribers.
Hopefully, you have become aware that “influencers” are also having a profound impact on our casino world. They’ve gone from unknown to indispensable almost overnight (actually about five years). A positive review from one of these opinion leaders can turn an average slot game into a top performer.
These reality stars produce videos of their own slot play using real money (often live and unedited), showing the highs and lows of various machines. There are about a dozen popular personalities in the “slot influencer” space. But no one comes close to Brian Christopher. He has 1.3 million subscribers worldwide, a popular web site (https://www.bcslots.com ) and his viewers have watched his videos 700 million times.
Casinos now hire Christopher to play on their floors. Tradeshows seek his appearances. Carnival is working with him to host ocean voyages (“Brian Christopher Slot Cruises”). His new videos are posted daily, and you just aren’t au courant unless you own a “Rude” t-shirt (explanation below).
During the pandemic, when most casinos were closed, several slot machine manufacturers invited Christopher into their shuttered showrooms to hear his opinion of their new, un-released games. The obvious question becomes: instead of just evaluating existing products, why doesn’t someone ask Christopher to help them create a new slot machine?
That’s what veteran slot designer Jean Venneman, Chief Operating Officer at Gaming Arts, couldn’t help but wonder. They had invited Christopher to their Las Vegas office to thank him for some unsolicited positive reviews he’d produced on GA’s “Hamster Libre” and “Pop ‘N Pays” games. During their meeting, they mentioned that they were launching a new “VertX Grand 49” cabinet and were looking for game ideas.
It became a perfect match. Gaming Arts was small and nimble enough to put Christopher’s suggestions quickly into reality. “It came together naturally and made so much sense,” Venneman said. She had spent years developing games with IGT and Scientific Games. “We just decided to add Brian to our newest version of our already popular ‘Pop ‘N Pays’ on the new cabinet.”
While it is a safe bet that Britney Spears and other celebrities didn’t have much input on the game mechanics or bonus features of their “signature” products, that’s not the case with Christopher. Venneman gave him high credit when she gushed, “He knows his stuff and knows what makes a good game.”
Christopher had equal praise for the pairing. “Gaming Arts has been the perfect partner. They put a lot of trust in us, and they worked with us right down to the wire where I made a couple of tweaks to the game in the last week or two. They’ve been quick to act, and it’s been a great partnership.”
“We got Brian’s voice clips and imagery throughout the game,” Venneman added. “Our normal popping balloon bonuses have been replaced by Brian’s head popping out the prizes with Brian’s voice calling out the amounts.”
The VertX Grand cabinet features a 49” ultra hi-def 4k portrait screen with a 27” video topper (it’s just under 8 ½ ft tall). The sound is also top notch, with 2.1 channel audio and a powerful subwoofer. The new game is classified as “premium” but will be available in a variety of lease or purchase formats.
The theme is officially called “Brian Christopher’s Pop ‘N Pays MORE”. The game launch begins with a live streaming event from downtown Las Vegas’ Plaza Hotel & Casino at 5p.m. on July 6. That will be followed by a launch party open to the public on Friday evening, July 8, also at the Plaza (tickets are available at Christopher’s web site). That will mark the start of a multi-state release tour where Christopher will appear at several individual casinos as they introduce the game to their customers. Venneman called that an industry first.
Christopher was quick to say that his work with Gaming Arts would not influence or diminish his reviews of other competitors in the industry. He said he works with all the suppliers and offers honest reviews (good or bad; win or lose) from his actual game play (which is generally live and unedited).
Christopher lives in Palm Springs, CA, but the Las Vegas Plaza has become his second home. There, they dedicated an 80-game section of their floor to slots that Christopher personally selected: the “Brian Christopher Slots” area.
Just two weeks ago, the Plaza announced a major renovation which includes an expanded 2,500 sq. ft. non-smoking section (encompassing the BC Slots area) with new entrances, bar offerings and a Pinkbox Doughnuts shop.
Gaming Arts has been around since 2009, when they started as a leading supplier of bingo and keno products. In 2018, they hired now-CEO Mike Dreitzer as president (ex-Ainsworth). He quickly brought in Venneman and game developer Keith Kruczynski (ex-IGT & Bally). The company’s first slot hit was Pop ‘N Pays, released in 2019. Unfortunately, it arrived just as COVID shut down the industry. Regardless, in the latest May 2022 Game Performance Report from Eilers & Krejcik, Gaming Arts recorded seven of their new titles in the Top 25 of “New Games-Emerging Suppliers.” Two of the original Pop ‘N Pays variants remain on today’s Top Indexing Emerging Suppliers list three years after their release.
Chances are good that with Christopher’s input and influence, their latest game could end up on top of all those lists.