A partnership which Domenico Pastia, senior vice-president of global product for IGT, identifies as “unprecedented in gaming licensing” will continue for at least another 10 years with the recent announcement that IGT and Sony Pictures Television have agreed to a contract extension that will give IGT exclusive gaming and lottery rights to the Wheel of Fortune brand through 2034.
This comes as exciting news for generations of Wheel of Fortune fans who have been loyal “wheel watchers” of the TV game show for going on 42 years, as well as legions of gaming enthusiasts around the world who have been captivated by IGT’s portfolio of nearly 300 Wheel of Fortune themed slot machines that have been developed over the past 27 years.
“The statistics are truly incredible,” Pastia said. “IGT’s Wheel of Fortune -hemed slots have made over 1,000 players millionaires, which comes down to one new millionaire every 14 days. More than $3.5-billion in jackpot prizes have been awarded through our wide area progressives. The frequency of the winners makes it so special. There is no other theme quite like it.
“There are players on casino floors who savor the true experience of getting into the ‘wheel bonus’ and a chance to become a millionaire. This excitement is consistently provided through all of our Wheel of Fortune games. Our intent is to make certain this game feature will continue through the years and ensure Wheel of Fortune slots is synonymous with big jackpots.”
IGT’s Jennifer Fales, vice-president of global licensing and social casino, is equally as optimistic. She predicts that the next few years are going to be great for the franchise, citing “the TV show is at an all-time high in popularity.”
“We look forward to our continued collaboration with Sony,” Fales said. “IGT has had incredible success with the Wheel of Fortune brand. As the TV show moves forward and continues to evolve, we are committed to doing the same as we make observations from our study of the casino gaming industry landscape.”
What IGT has been able to accomplish with the Wheel of Fortune slot franchise is truly remarkable. Such success is not possible, however, without a powerful product to work with and a powerful partnership united towards a commitment to excellence.
Pastia observed that it is the very “nature of the game” that makes for an abundance of product development and promotional opportunities with the Wheel of Fortune brand, saying “the creative minds at IGT have been able to partner with Sony to create a unique gaming experience for the players each and every time.”
“This franchise really appeals to a wide audience,” he continued. “It allows us to stay relevant over time. Games are developed in collaboration with the Wheel of Fortune team. Innovation is inspired by commitment, in the sense that this is the only franchise that has dedicated hardware. We design around Wheel of Fortune, which is a big commitment on the IGT product development side.”
Pastia explained that the commitment between IGT and Sony has led to innovation and success that is unmatched in the licensed casino game space.
“More than 100 individuals have been involved in the development of Wheel of Fortune games,” he revealed. “This provides variety, opportunity, and a culture to somehow create experiences across different channels and different segments. I believe this is very special.”
IGT’s 10-year contract extension with Sony provides the company with exclusive Wheel of Fortune licensing rights for gaming, lottery, iGaming, and iLottery. This enables a cross-platform content strategy that will strengthen the brand and create expansion and growth opportunities that are already being realized.
IGT PlayDigital has strategically leveraged the Wheel of Fortune brand across its iGaming portfolio. IGT’s first omnichannel wide area progressive jackpot link, Powerbucks link, which includes Wheel of Fortune games was launched in Canada in 2016.
Earlier this year, IGT and BetMGM unveiled Wheel of Fortune Online Casino in New Jersey, the first brand-led online casino in North America. Later in 2023, IGT launched Wheel of Fortune Triple Gold Gold Spin slots in New Jersey, the first omnichannel wide-area progressive jackpot in the United States.
Looking forward, Pastia believes that the licensing rights for Wheel of Fortune with Sony “create the opportunity for blending them for omnichannel growth”.
“It is something we are already experimenting with and have seen it drive solid results,” he added. “Our solution in Canada is Powerbucks. Wheel of Fortune has been the backbone of the development of this product, driving incredible value for the customer and for the player. We are the only provider able to do that, and we deliberately chose Wheel of Fortune because of the appeal it has to the player.
“I think omnichannel is the key word for us. We are probably the only one in the market that can provide this in a true manner, which means that there is no more well-known jackpot than the Wheel of Fortune jackpot. It’s a natural marriage.”
Fales is of the same conviction, stating “omnichannel is definitely the key,” adding “Wheel of Fortune is perfect for this omnichannel growth curve for IGT.”
“I think there is an opportunity to bridge the two lottery and gaming categories together,” she continued. “A lot of the Wheel of Fortune slot DNA is about jackpots and making millionaire makers. I think the Wheel of Fortune DNA and brand is just perfect for omnichannel growth as we connect channels and pool liquidity for jackpots. As it becomes more popular, I believe that Wheel of Fortune is well-positioned.”
Pastia believes that expansion of omnichannel in the United States will take place, but said that the timeframe will be determined by regulation.
“The response of the players in New Jersey has been excellent, as has been our partnership with our customers. When players realized they could play through omnichannel in New Jersey they immediately participated in the game.
“The land-based participation actually grew too, which is a testament to the Wheel of Fortune brand and the loyalty of its fan base. Even in the digital space we are seeing more participation. New Jersey is a great test for us.”
Fales, in summing up the unique relationship, recalled the impactful celebration IGT coordinated with Sony for the 25th anniversary of the partnership.
“We brought in a few of our partners, MGM and Carnival Cruise Line, and did a full ‘Big Money Week’ integration,” she said. “It was fantastic. We will continue to look at those opportunities. Having something to celebrate, wrapping it around an anniversary or a milestone, has made a lot of sense for us in the past.
“We have been very successful with our dedication and commitment. The TV show itself has been a major component of this longevity and success. I don’t think anybody would have guessed in 1996 that we would be where we are today.”