At times, it was hard to distinguish the difference between a Hollywood backlot and the trade show floor of this year’s Global Gaming Expo (G2E) in Las Vegas, such were the number of celebrities and costumed characters parading the aisles. Indeed, in addition to the de rigueur Las Vegas showgirls and booth models, G2E visitors had a chance to glimpse cartoon zombies, Oompa Loompas and stilt-walkers. Astute observers may even have caught sight of one of the many television, movie, music or sports icons at the show, a list that included Gene Simmons and Paul Stanley of KISS, the Harrison family of Pawn Stars fame, The Hoff (David Hasselhoff) and boxer Evander Holyfield.
All or most of this cast of characters was at G2E for one primary reason-to promote themed slot machine games. As usual, G2E did not disappoint when it came to showcasing and unveiling the latest games and systems from slot suppliers large and small. Walk the G2E show floor long enough, and product and technology trends between the various slot vendors became evident. Below you will find a brief review of those slot technology and game trends that resonated among the editorial staff of Slot Manager.
SYSTEMS BONUSProviding operators the ability to easily and efficiently host floor-wide bonusing and tournament events appeared to be a core object for many slot systems providers this year. One of the companies leading the charge in this area was Konami Gaming, which unveiled SYNKROS, the next generation of its successful KCMS casino management solution. The more robust system allows gaming operators to connect, capture and control customer interaction throughout a gaming facility, thereby creating more opportunity to target market and improve player worth. Among the slot tools offered by SYNKROS are true-time bonusing through its Super Series of multi-level, multi-themed, floor-wide progressive community games; true-time tournaments; real-time player communication through slot displays and windows; connectivity to operator and patron mobile devices; electronic point redemption; and a host of back-office functions such as security and alerts, cash control management and advanced analytics.
Konami was not the only provider showcasing improved slot management systems and user tools. Spielo International’s GALAXIS management solution featured upgrades for its bonusing, marketing, communications, promotions, cashless and analytics functions. The company also introduced SYSTEM2Go, a complete lower-cost slot floor management solution alternative suited to multi-site club markets and smaller casinos. Bally Technologies licensing deal with NASCAR included the creation of a virtual racing application for the company’s Elite Bonusing Suite. This fast-paced, floor-wide community-bonusing event for iView and iView Display Manager (DM) brings the sights, sounds, and thrill of NASCAR racing to casino floors on any slot game, from any manufacturer, anytime-driving increased coin-in, new-card signups and carded play. International Game Technology’s Advantage, Casinolink and sbX give operators the critical tools for floor-wide management. IGT’s Universal Game Adaptor allows operators a seamless way to deliver the Service Window technology to legacy games. Game Applications and Intelligent Bonusing offer news ways for operators to differentiate themselves. Multimedia Games displayed its TournEvent of Champions, a new adjunct for its TournEvent 4.0 system that allows operators to hold and manage statewide slot tournaments.
CABINET EVOLUTIONManagement systems are not the only slot products being altered by the pace of technological change. Machine cabinets are also in a period of transition, radically morphing to better house increasingly sophisticated types of game play. A large number of vendors used G2E to unwrap these improved cabinets, including WMS Gaming, which debuted Gamefield xD. The Gamefield xD machine features two 32-inch hi-definition screens that create an unique field of view driven by graphics and performance characteristics enabled by the WMS’ new third-generation CPU-NXT3 operating platform. This cabinet is for participation-only games, and will be marketed with new premium participation games from the company’s Monopoly and The Wizard of Oz franchises.
Other companies emphasizing cabinets include ACS, which showed the latest touches to its AXCESS line, such as a new sound system for its 22V line and a 5x5 mechanical stepper that enables game designers to produce video-style games in a traditional mechanical-reel setup for its 32V series. Ainsworth Game Technology unveiled its new A560st Slant Top that provides state-of-the-art technology with its dual widescreen LCD platform, powerful Quadtronic processor, compact storage, premium sound system and an intuitive player interface supporting a 15-button play deck with a programmable button option. The Roadrunner platform from American Gaming Systems features an accelerated video frame refresh rate, producing crystal-clear graphics and superior game play. This platform also allows AGS to develop both Class II and Class III titles that will give players the identical entertainment experience. Incredible Technologies displayed an updated version of its popular Breeze Slant-75HD cabinet at G2E.
TOP BOX TWISTSTechnological innovation has even filtered into the slot machine top box, as more and more manufacturers see this space as the way to further differentiate their machines on the slot floor as well as drive incremental play from customers. Aruze Gaming America even made the top box the focus of attention on its new Innovator Deluxe series. These machines feature elaborate top boxes that include some unique interactive experiences. For example, in Aladdin & the Lamp, players rub an actual “lamp” to call forth the genie during the bonus event. For its High Rise Game Series, Multimedia Games emphasized height in its top box design in the form of a 37-inch LCD screen placed vertically atop the slot with colored LED lights around the bezel. New games in the line that debuted at G2E include High Rollin’ Progressive, High Rise Hotel and MoneyBall. The fanciful Peter & Wendy game from Cadillac Jack is depicted on dual screens with the top screen illustrating special clock animation that represents five of the bonus games: Nursery Bonus, Mermaid Lagoon Bonus, Neverland Bonus, Lost Boys Bonus and Pirate Cove Bonus. Each game reel features special character animation that corresponds to the primary character in the bonus. When a character appears on its respective reel, that particular clock begins rotating. Once the clock hand has made its 360-degree rotation the corresponding bonus is triggered.
STATEMENT PIECESCommunity gaming prototypes were also prevalent on G2E for operators seeking an impressive slot display to draw customers to a specific area of the wagering floor. The IGT Center Stage line of product was headlined by Star Wars Trilogy, which featured slot play and clips from the iconic movies on massive 103-inch and 70-inch platforms that utilized the Center Stage Duo 55-inch screen. Other titles in the Center Stage lineup include Judge Judy and Sex and the City, Out on the Town.
Other attention-getting large scale games included Aristocrat Technologies’ Let’s Make a Deal from Freemantle Media in the new Modular Video Platform. Wayne Brady hosts this incredibly entertaining game as players trade prizes at the risk of receiving a Zonk. Aruze Gaming America continued to showcase its wall-length Paradise Fishing and Amazon Fishing concepts, which include Reel Feel Gaming Technology, as well as a “Choose Your Bait” option that allows players to attract the types of fish they want according to their own play style. Spielo International’s Deal or No Deal community game franchise was augmented with Deal Or No Deal Join’N Play 2, which features a community bonus that occasionally becomes a Super Bonus, where the top briefcases have their values doubled, leading to much larger banker’s offers and wins. Crazy Taxi Fare 4 All from Aristocrat Technologies is a new connected game. Players get more for their fare with four mini features, three time-triggered community bonus features, and five levels of progressive jackpots. Crazy Taxi Fare 4 All draws in players with premium product packaging, LCD buttons, overhead signage and a surround sound chair.