If I was going to chose one word to describe the yearly Global Gaming Expo (G2E) trade show and exposition, which recently took place at the Sands Convention and Expo Center in Las Vegas, it would be “volume.” I’m not talking about loud noise here, although the trade show floor was far from silent with thousands of people shouting to be heard above ringing slots, confetti cannons, et al. No, what I’m touching on is the sheer amount of new and exciting gaming products showcased by some of the industry’s largest and most-innovative suppliers.
Indeed, according to the organizers of G2E, the 2013 version of the event attracted a total of 455 companies from all sectors of the gaming industry. Of this number, more than 125 exhibitors from 32 countries, including Australia, Canada, China, Germany, Japan, Korea, Mexico, South Africa, Taiwan, the United Kingdom and the United States, made their debut at G2E.
“This year, the G2E show floor will be nearly 10 percent larger than last year’s and the largest showcase since the 2008,” said Courtney Muller, senior vice president at Reed Exhibitions, co-host of G2E along with the American Gaming Association. “It will provide gaming professionals with access to cutting-edge products and services that will shape the industry for years to come.”
Naturally, many of these leading concepts involved slot machines, which are still the lifeblood of most North American gaming operations. Showcased was everything from innovative licensed games with unique play mechanics to cutting edge 3D technology and skill-like bonus features. Below you will find a brief review of those slot technology and game trends that resonated among the editorial staff of Slot Manager.
The runaway success of Bally Technologies’ Michael Jackson King of Pop franchise showed there was consumer demand for slots centered on musical acts and personalities. Bally’s follow up to the Michael Jackson series is ZZ Top, a blues-rock band that hit it big in the 1980s and 1990s. ZZ Top Live from Texas offers three distinct bonuses, play mechanics and progressives. The game awards Just Got Paid mystery credit prizes or wheel spins to win credits or one of three free-games bonuses—Live from Texas, Sharp Dressed Man, or Cheap Sunglasses. Players also get to sample some of the band’s greatest hits, including “Just Got Paid,” “Legs,” and “Gimme All Your Lovin’” as well as footage from a recent concert in Texas.
“ZZ Top also has the surround sound chair and high-def screen we pioneered with the Michael Jackson slot,” said Mike Trask, corporate communications manager for, Bally Technologies. “It has three levels of play where the customer can choose volatility and a great play mechanic. Everything works well together.”
Aristocrat Technologiesalso mined the rock and roll vein with its Rolling Stones-themed slot concept. It too features music and live concert clips from the iconic band, and uses the band’s unique lips and tongue logo in inventive ways to signify bonus rounds and other game action. The slot also sounds the opening riff to the Stones’ song “Start Me Up” when something good is about to happen.
“The game actually started as a stepper slot but we soon realized it needed to become a full video slot to capitalize on all the ideas and play concepts we had,” said Matt Wilson, vice president of marketing for Aristocrat.“
Slot suppliers once again scoured television and movie realms in their ongoing search for licensed product that will add excitement and distinction to slot floors. This year, it appeared many companies opted for only the most popular and successful movies and shows to convert into slot concepts.
International Game Technology (IGT) undoubtedly garnered the most attention in this segment of slot development with its new line of slots based on AVATAR, the high-grossing movie of all time. Partnering with Twentieth Century Fox Consumer Products, IGT unveiled James Cameron’s AVATAR Video Slots and James Cameron’s AVATAR Treasures of Pandoraat G2E.
Housed on IGT’s Center Stage platform, James Cameron’s AVATAR Video Slots puts players are put right in the middle of the struggles between humans and the Na’vi. With unlocked content, customizable options and never before seen bonuses, players can soar with the banshees high above the glowing, luminescent rainforest of Pandora all while seeking Banshee Wilds, and pursuing an Arrow Boost payout multiplier. This is also the first IGT game that enables players to track their progress and achieve additional game content as they advance to new player levels.
James Cameron’s AVATAR Treasures of Pandora debuts on IGT’s new Crystal Core cabinet and features stunning 3D visuals on a 42-inch vertical screen. Envisioned as a follow-up release to AVATAR Video Slots, this wide-area progressive video slot features two vertically stacked base games that players can enjoy using the dynamic player button panel, a new game function that offers a more hands-on player experience.
“Response to AVATAR has been great,” said Joe Sigrist, vice president of product management for IGT. “It’s a very international brand.”
Not to be outdone, Aristocrat Technologies delved into cable television for inspiration and came away with a slot game based on AMC’s The Walking Dead, one of the most-watched cable TV dramas. The Walking Dead Slot Game is housed on the company’s VERVE cabinet, where video clips and images from the show will come to life with HD video and sound, combined with the total experience of Aristocrat’s surround sound iChair. The Walking Dead Slot Game builds on successful Aristocrat game mechanics and introduces a Monster Wheel with exploding segments and a Wild Walker Mode; six-reel expanded Reel Power; Splatter Wilds; dynamic Split Symbols; guaranteed Horde wins; frequent progressives with X-tra Cash Bonuses; and a life-changing top award starting at $500,000.
WMS Gaminghas also entered the blockbuster fray with slots based on the very successful Iron Man movie franchise. Iron Man will take place on the company’s Gamefield xD cabinet, which is already enjoying success on slot floors and quickly proving to be one of the industry’s strongest performing platforms. The cabinet’s dual vertical 32-inch super-high-definition screens are seamlessly constructed to create a visual playground. This unrivaled field of view allows game-play to stretch onwards and upwards while creating unprecedented player interaction.
Bally Technologies went big as well and decided to showcase new iterations to its line of slots based on the movie TITANIC. Bally’s TITANICvideo slots deliver a fully interactive and cinematic experience centered on the iconic star-crossed lovers. Featuring scenes and music from the film, TITANIC integrates many of Bally’s proven play mechanics, three mystery features, and a wide-area progressive top award. The main attraction U-Spin Bonus Wheel, resembling a ship’s helm, awards credits as well as one guaranteed feature—Heart of the Ocean Free Games, Make It Count Free Games, or The Safe Bonus. “The average slot player is a 40-60 year old female and TITANIC is the perfect brand to attract them,” Trask said. “They are familiar with Jack and Rose.”
Casinos seeking to add some visual flair to their slot floors have turned to large-scale, centerpiece-style slot concepts. Slot suppliers are aware of this trend, and most major manufactuerers displayed at least one “floorstopper” concept.
Konami Gaming actually showcased a number of large-format games, starting with its Rapid Revolvermachine. The game presents two distinct gaming concepts fused into one cabinet. The Rapid Revolver boasts a combination of a video reel primary game experience with six spinning reels, stacked and vertically-mounted in an oversized top box and surrounded by synchronized high-impact sound and lighting. The combination of innovative spinning reels in the top box and powerful 3D graphics in the base game were designed to stand out on a casino floor and grab the attention of casino guest. The company also showed its Titan 360, which debuted at Harrah’s Resort Atlantic City this past summer. This limited edition, special release product was designed to highlight Konami’s ability to leverage its robust amusement and arcade heritage. The company’s latest addition to its Podium Goliath line was Gigantic Wheel of Winning, a mystery progressive product is so big. When the mystery event is triggered, players spin the Gigantic Wheel and are awarded the corresponding prize for where the wheel stops.
“Konami is a Japanese company with a $3.5 billion video games business,” said Matt Reback, vice president of marketing for Konami. “We understand how to integrate arcade and mechanical amusement technology into slot machines.”
Bally Technologiesalso made a splash in the big machine realm with the latest introduction to its Pro Series line—the Pro V55 Jumbo platform, a nine-foot machine featuring an industry-leading 55-inch vertical touchscreen display.
Multimedia Games continued to unveil new titles for its High Rise Game series. Moby Dick brings the classic tale of Ahab and Ishmael’s search for the legendary white whale to life, using vintage graphics on the vertically-oriented 37-inch LCD top-screen.
Lots of slot companies featured 3D technology in their latest games, primarily to enhance graphics and visual appeal of the machine. However some companies delved deeper into 3D technology to actually make it an integral part of the play mechanic. For example, IGT’s use of 3D in its AVATAR game is truly stunning, especially during sequences involving dragon flight.
But there was one developer that brought 3D graphics and play to a whole new level: GTECH, with its Sphinx 3D gameproduced by its SPIELO International subsidiary.
Sphinx 3D immerses the player in ancient Egypt where pyramids, sphinxes, and scarabs seem to jump off the screen or stretch into infinity in high resolution 3D. Housed in an AXXIS cabinet, Sphinx 3D offers innovative and immersive content along with an advanced button panel and a multimedia chair. This 3D experience, which uses a glasses-free 3D display designed exclusively for GTECH for the gaming industry by SeeFront, is achieved by a unique autostereoscopic technology with integrated eye-tracking. The image is processed and displayed so that the ideal 3D picture self-adjusts to match the players’ precise line of sight even when they move their heads—all without the need for special glasses.
GTECH also tinkered with the play mechanic to make sure operator’s get plenty of bang for the buck with the 3D technology. “There are many different bonus round journeys into the Sphinx, each with its own special 3D effects,” said Michael Brennan, product marketing manager North America for GTECH/SPIELO. “This should drive up the average bet—the more you bet, the better chance you have to experience these bonus rounds.”
Skill and skill-like slot game mechanics continued to draw crowds at G2E. IGTdisplayed its Atari Centipede slot, a three reel, 20 line spinning reel game. The device offers a base game that uses IGT’s popular Super Times Pay math model and functions like a standard slot machine. That said, the game comes with a Reel Edge skill-based bonus round with retro music and arcade symbols that allows players to use the original Atari Centipede play mechanics. During the bonus game, players use the joystick to move through three levels where they dodge spiders, fleas and the Centipede while attempting to generate large wins. Reel Edge is the only regulatory-approved, skill-based gaming system in the market, according to IGT literature.
“Centipede is aimed at the arcade game players and offers play options to test their skills,” said Boris Hallenbach, senior manager of MegaJackpots for IGT. “However, the skill components of this game are not forced on people—the bonuses can be played with the joystick or with free spins.
Aruze Gaming America also emphasized skill-like play for bonus events. For example, the company’s Sinbadslot is a side-by-side, G-Link title that features head-to-head competition in the Versus Events. As two or more competing players move through the board-like game screen, they can chose to compete directly against each other in fights and adventures; but the skill involved in these contests is solely an entertainment and does not impact the outcome of bonus or the game.
The year’s G2E show floor showed a lot of love for the stepper slot format, updating the tried-and-true play mechanic with improved designs, graphic packages and bonus rounds. Here are some of the highlights:
• WMS Gamingoffered a three-reel mechanical game for its cutting-edge Blade cabinets. The games featured a retro-feel with a simple pull handle and game mechanic, but encased in a modern-looking cabinet with a clean design and bright LCD lighting.
•IGT’s Reel Edge line of games also offered mechanical reel slot concepts.
• Aruze Gaming Americadisplayed Golden Frontier, a four-reel stepper slot machine that features the extra fifth reel. An addition to the Innovator product series, reel five is utilized as a multi-action Extra Reel with creative lighting technology to morph the reel display to and from various awards and bonuses. The Extra Reel utilizes Aruze’s latest distinctive and innovative play mechanics and lighting effects, interacting directly with the top monitor’s graphic theme.
A number of slot systems providers offered technology to make the organization and marketing of gaming machine tournaments easier and more efficient. Multimedia Games made the biggest splash in this segment of the casino business, primarily be coinciding the final contest of its year-long TournEvent of Championscontest with G2E in Las Vegas. Launched in March 2013 and encompassing 77 casinos in 17 states, as well as those participating in the TournEvent Ace App competition, 88 finalists—whittled down from nearly 200,000 initial entrants—battled it out for the crown and a share of over $250,000 in prizes at Lagasse’s Stadium at The Palazzo.
In addition to the contest, Multimedia did unveil some upgrades to its TournEvent system. These new enhancements include updates to an easy-to-use interface that makes tournament administration faster and more efficient, a new branded sign with the famous The Money Man featured prominently, holiday-themed (Valentine’s Day, Spring, Halloween, Thanksgiving and Christmas) out-of-revenue games, wireless tablet capabilities and the ability for casinos to display results from multi-day tournaments, as well as from multi-property events.
Konami Gamingunveiled a new synchronized start version of its True-Time Tournament product, called SynkStart. This enhancement will provide additional flexibility for casino operators who appreciate the value offered by group start player invite slot tournaments.
Bally Technologyadded to its Elite Bonusing Suite with Bonus Tournaments. This pioneering DM Tournaments feature enables casinos to run floor-wide tournaments in which both the base game and the tournament game can be played at the same time, ensuring that there is no interruption in player-wagering activity.
IGT introduced Tournament Manager 3.0, its first gaming technology that allows operators to facilitate automated video poker tournaments any time on any IGT AVP terminal.
Some companies with a successful slot concept came to G2E with new iterations and add-on to turn the single slot into a product line. For example, Cadillac Jack expanded its Goddess Treasures theme to run across its multiple product lines via a Goddess Treasures multi-level progressive link. The Goddess line of slots includes Goddess of the Deep, Goddess of the Hunt and Phoenix Goddess.
Incredible Technologies followed a similar path with its King of Bing machines, coming out with King of Bling Iced Out for this year’s G2E. “King of Bling Iced Out is an extension that introduces some new patented features such as reel beats, because it’s a music-based game,” said Dan Schrementi, vice president of gaming marketing and new media at Incredible Technologies. “We time the whole game experience based on the tempo and the speed of the music. Symbols bounce to the bass beast and reels spin to the speed of the song. It’s designed to get you into the groove of the game.”
Zitro, a leader in the manufacturing and marketing of video bingo games, showcased its Blackwave cabinet and the D2Fenix platform to American operators for the first time at this year’s G2E. The company has big plans for the North American marketplace, and announced at the show that multiple game titles have been certified for systems interoperability by BMM Testlabs for Oklahoma, Florida and California commercial and tribal gaming markets.
“This is truly an exciting achievement for Zitro,” said Sam Basile, CEO of Zitro USA. “The system certifications issued for our games represent approximately 90 percent of the casino management system install base in the U.S.”
Ortiz Gaming also displayed its groundbreaking video bingo products at G2E highlighted by introduction of OFuture, a sleek, new gaming cabinet the company will offer to North American customers going forward. The company also unveiled a number of new video bingo games including Locomodin, Bingolé and Fiesta Bingo.