One big thingBy Buddy Frank, CDC Gaming ReportsOctober 5, 2017 at 5:18 pmThursday is the day. If you only have one day at G2E, make it Thursday. By now, the sales folks give only short demos, talk just about true hits and, most importantly, discuss what was number one. That distinction is variable. It could be a game, a system feature, a new technology, whatever. Two years ago it was skill-based Gaming. Last year it was IGT’s “Voice.”On Monday, I predicted that branding would be big. By Thursday, it’s been proven that branding is indeed bigger than ever. Everi alone has Knight Rider, Casper, Underdog, Discovery, Buffy the Vampire Slayer, Brady Bunch, Penn & Teller, Willie Nelson, Singing in the Rain and a new Casablanca. And Everi’s not even considered a major player yet.It’s the two or three biggies that generally get the attention: IGT, Scientific Games and Aristocrat. Here’s a guide, but don’t fault me if I overlook one or two.IGT: Wheel of Fortune, The Voice, Blake Shelton, Jurassic Park, Ellen, Ghostbusters, Baywatch, Batman Dark Knight, Sex And The City, Zuma, Zombies, Alfred Hitchcock, Goonies and Avatar.Sci Games: Wonder Woman, Seinfeld, Star Trek, Monopoly, Cirque de Soleil, Iron Man, Lord of the Rings, Simpsons, Willie Wonka, Anchorman and Michael Jackson.Aristocrat: Game of Thrones, Tarzan, Westworld, The Walking Dead, Madonna, Britney Spears and Tim McGrath.That’s a lot of brand money being spent when you consider that in recent years non-brands, such as China Shores, Fortune 88s, Lightning Links and Buffalo, were huge. Historically, I feel that only two or three brands were really massive hits. The champion of all time is Wheel of Fortune. It is still going strong after 30 years, with at least a half-dozen new models. Number two, but still strong, is Monopoly. It, too, has nine lives, with several new versions and variations this year. And third is Sex And The City that is back again this year, for another season.Back to the question of the number one product, or the one with the most buzz, at this year’s G2E.The winner is Bond. James Bond. 007.It was a close contest, but the entire Bond movie brand was the most-sought after franchise ever. Sci Games’ Gaming CEO Derik Mooberry said they’d been pursuing the deal for over a decade. I can’t blame him. The character spans multiple demographics in both age and gender. Who doesn’t have a favorite Bond movie or moment?There is a urban myth going around that Daniel Craig’s appearance in the upcoming movie is partially because this branding deal helped the producers raise enough cash to talk him out of retiring. I wouldn’t doubt the truth of that.Dallas Orchard, the product chief at IGT, says that brands can’t be taken lightly anymore. He says working with a top theme today “requires a great deal of discipline in research, game design and passion.” He said it is critical that the game mechanics’ side of the equation has to be right. He added, “We find a game design team who has a strong idea and a love of the title and marry them together. It’s a bottom up process, and that works much better than what we did years ago.”Mooberry agrees. “Our designers have to be super passionate about the brand and the game mechanics.” He also echoes Orchard’s discipline theme, saying all brands get extensive pre-testing in focus groups to “determine both brand awareness and likeability.”While casino operators have a love/hate relationship with all revenue share games, we’re all secretly hoping for another Wheel of Fortune. Bond seems like a worthy successor to Pat Sajak.