In Class II gaming, where the slot-style games are electronic bingo translated to a slot machine interface, it’s not just the programming that’s different. The players, primarily locals instead of tourists, are different. So too are the game mechanics they find most appealing.
“A lot of Class II is Native American gaming, they’re for the most part local markets,” said Jared Torres, senior director of game development at Cadillac Jack. “In general, Class II markets are more time on device-oriented markets than Class III. There’s a premium on entertainment value in the slot games. Perceived volatility is important, a balance between time on device and the perception that they can actually get big wins as well. Those are polar opposites in our world, but ideally what the player wants.”
Andrew Burke, director, marketing and development for American Gaming Systems, also hit on the low-volatility theme, “Class II players are more similar to bingo players than they are to traditional slot players in that they play much more frequently for lower stakes,” he said.
So beyond math models that extend time on device, what resonates in Class II markets?
“Players in the Class II market want all the same features they get in the Vegas-style slot games, and it’s our job to creatively find ways to provide them with that,” said Brad Johnson, vice president of marketing and product management at Multimedia Games.
That includes many of the same features that players find appealing on Class III games. Johnson pointed to the multi-level progressive jackpots on Multimedia’s High Rise Games Series, Bally Technologies’ vice president of sales Alex Dungan mentioned the U-Spin technology that gives players the feel of control on wheel spins, and WMS Gaming senior principal manager, central determination business operations Dan Zurcher brought up the comfort level of his company’s Bluebird2e and Bluebird xD cabinets.
Beyond that, said Jim Coleman, senior product manager at International Game Technology (IGT), the bingo format itself resonates with Class II players.
“I think the Class II players have a unique understanding of the marriage between the entertaining displays and the game of bingo,” he said. “What really resonates with players is they understand that the game of bingo is fun and they particularly appreciate a bingo game that is not available to other forms of gaming. Namely, bingo patterns tied to specific progressives, linked bingo prizes and the element of knowing they are competing for prizes with other players.”
FEATURE FOCUSAs in the Class III world, manufacturers each look to put their unique stamp on Class II products. At Cadillac Jack, Torres says one of the major trends in the Class II industry is toward more feature-rich games, something his company had in mind in designing the Peter Pan-themed game Peter and Wendy.
“The reason it’s new for us, and for Class II in general, is that it has six bonuses,” Torres explained. “That’s not very common in Class II. It also has something that we call ‘session-based persistent state.’ It’s a game mechanic that allows you to retain your progress toward your bonuses in the game while you are in a session. This game has five different progress meters represented as clocks, and as the player plays, he achieves progress toward these clocks. It maintains that state as he progresses toward the bonuses throughout the session.”
Another new game at Cadillac Jack is Wicked Sexy Devil, on the wide-area Cadillac Cash progressive link. Torres called it a “pseudo skill game,” in that the player can touch the screen to spin an on-screen representation of the wheel. It’s interactive, realistic (thanks to a physics engine) and it’s the wheel mechanic that triggers the progressive jackpot; but the outcome is predetermined.
All Cadillac Jack’s new games give the operator the option of configuring a “must win by” progressive, and also can be configured for a casino-wide local progressive.
PROGRESSIVE MOVEMENTJohnson notes progressives are an important part of the Multimedia package.
“We’re really focused on bringing more progressives to Class II markets in the future,” Johnson said. “Smokin’ Hot Jackpots is a new premium product series from us that showcases an 11-tier progressive and our patented Progressive Heat Up feature which gives players the idea they can tell when each progressive tier is going to hit based on the size and ‘heat’ of its flames.”
“Players want achievable jackpots and to clearly understand what it takes to win them,” Johnson added. “Our High Rise Games Series has been very successful over the last year, because of its easy-to-understand gambler-style games with multi-level progressives.”
Multimedia has also had a big success with its TournEvent one-slot tournament system, which it continues to update.
WHEEL THINKINGAmerican Gaming Systems (AGS) attempts to create Class II versions of all of its games. To date, Burke said, the only Class III games it hasn’t been able transfer to Class II have been its mechanical pachinko top-box games. AGS continues to work on that, and in the mean- time is rolling out wheel games and branded trivia games to spice up Class II offerings.
“In March, we will be launching our first ever Class II mechanical wheel game called Blackbeard’s Treasure,” Burke said. “The richness and depth of this title is really the likes of which the class II market has never seen.”
“We will also be launching the first ever branded trivia based games in the Class II market in 2013,” Burke added. “In our It Pays to Know series players will be able to answer and help each other answer trivia questions across our Class II network. We will be launching trivia titles from Ripley’s Believe it or Not!, Are You Smarter Than a 5th Grader? and Family Feud into the Class II market this year. It is very rare to see a branded title in the Class II space. We really hope to change that.”
BRAND NEWBally Technologies has made a big push with branded games in Class III, and now is doing the same in Class II. Asked about Class II trends, Dungan said, “For Bally it has been the introduction of some new branded games. Betty Boop’s Love Meter is now on Class II casino floors and is performing great. Coming soon will be the highly anticipated release of Michael Jackson King of Pop and then followed by NASCAR and others.”
The Pro Curve cabinet, with a curved LCD screen to give games the look and feel of traditional reel-stepper games, is also new in Class II from Bally. And on the iDeck, where Bally essentially uses the button panel space as another touch screen, Bingo Card is on the way.
“We are very excited to introduce the Bingo Card in our award-winning iDeck to add a ton of additional interaction with the game,” Dungan said. “Players truly love this increased interaction and, of course, operators appreciate the added excitement to the floor. The iDeck adds to our sophisticated player-centric Class II bingo product.”
INTERFACE TIMEIGT has both licensed brands and its original titles in its Class II blend. CSI is coming in Class II, and so is Candy Bars, a for-sale game in Class III that was successful enough to inspire a sequel game “IGT continues to bring key entertaining titles to the Class II bingo experience,” Coleman said. “Upcoming releases include Candy Bars, CSI, Firehouse Hounds, Midnight Eclipse, Jaguar Princess and Red Hot 7s Re-Spin.”
Coleman noted IGT, “continually strives to find new methods to enhance our products through new user interfaces for the bingo players and provide customers unique player interface terminals with entertaining displays that capture the essence of bingo being a unique gaming alternative to Class III. This includes, but is not limited to, custom progressive pools available only for Class II bingo games.”
ENTERTAINMENT VALUEIn addition, “WMS has recently introduced our Bluebird2e and Bluebird xD cabinets, both powered by our CPU-NXT2 platform, to the Class II markets,” Zurcher said. “Utilizing these cabinets and platform gives us the ability to bring unique theme categories and an array of our most popular and profitable themes to the Class II markets faster and more efficiently.”
“We find that differentiated products, unique math models, and stunning sound and graphic packages are what attract players,” Zurcher added. “They are looking for entertainment and an overall enjoyable experience, which is where WMS has always excelled. Not only is WMS bringing our most popular and proven themes to the Class II market, but we are also creating unique content designed for the Class II markets and players.”
All those tools add up to a trend of freshening product that resonates with Class II players, according to Cadillac Jack’s Torres.
“Players are most keen on those new trends,” Torres said. “I think they gravitate toward licensed products, mostly movies and comic book characters, and classics as well. It’s been prevalent in Class III for a long time, but we’re seeing it more and more in Class II. They like feature-rich content. And then mystery progressives.”
But, noted AGS’ Burke, the main overriding factor remains entertainment value.
“While they’d love a chance to win a big prize,” he said, “their primarily reason for playing is entertainment.”