The reviews are in and, if our sampling of slot managers is any indication, a lot of manufacturers can assure themselves that all the time and energy they put into last month’s Global Gaming Expo (G2E) was well worth it.

We went back to the slot managers who were kind enough to give us their pre-show expectations and, without exception, they all had positive things to say about the quality of new product on hand. Before you dive into their comments, please join me in thanking them for sharing their views with us. And, with no further ado:

 

Robert Allen, slot performance specialist

A few thoughts on slot product highlights from this show (which was truly an outstanding one):

• WMS delivered in a big way and makes good on its content development commitment to operators. Fourteen new game families—each with its own array of unique play mechanics and features. These 14 game segments, and the related titles that are tied to each one, will fuel top performance on the Blade video slot in 2014. This was the most meaningful showing of new video slot content at G2E 2013 in my view.

• Aristocrat Technologies: One of the most aggressive showings of increasingly diverse video slot game content ever. There were some great new core Australian-style video titles, plus some additional titles that are slightly more entertainment-based; and games that were developed by third-party game designers (with a meaningful track record of success.) There were also quite a few Games Ops titles—unusual to see this from Aristocrat.

• Bally’s new Pro Wave slant and V55 Jumbo machines are both typical of slot hardware that you would expect from Bally; nicely designed and beautifully produced. Perhaps the only concern with the Wave is its overall height (the same as most upright slots—so no sightline advantage with it as most operators seek via the purchase of a slant.) The V55 Jumbo is must-have slot product; every slot floor should have at least one.

• Konami’s “Rapid Revolver” slot had a fantastic presentation. This is attractive product that will excite players and drive premium revenues.

• I was very impressed with Ainsworth’s new A560 ST slant and A560 SL upright machines. It was great to see this commitment to new hardware, particularly from a somewhat smaller player. Their Quad Shots and Wheel Winner content looked great and should be strong performers.

• Super-high energy radiated from the Multimedia Games booth, all three days of the show. The new MPX (lease-only cabinet) was impressive. It was great to see another manufacturer feature an LCD button panel on a new slot cabinet.

• The IGT Crystal Core prototype cabinet was particularly noteworthy. It will be interesting to see a production version of this machine; which will likely be a summer 2014 (participation only) release.

Warren Davidson, slot director, Coushatta Casino Resort, Kenner, La.

I knew this year’s show would have too much for me to cover alone, so the strategy this year for the Coushatta Slot Team was “divide and conquer.” I sent several people who focus on slot service to multiple booths to look at new products that might give us an edge in service. They were impressed with all the offerings and the takeaway here is that mobile technology that will help us serve our guests better is finally starting to become a reality.

On the technical side, our representative reported back from a number of vendors who supply parts and technical services.  It is clear that competition among the parts suppliers has been a great thing for the casino operator.

My slot analyst and I split our time between slot analytical software vendors and game manufacturers. We were impressed with the slot analysis demonstrations.  As these products continue to evolve, they are becoming both more powerful and more user friendly, which is great for the operator. On the game side, we saw many new big name brands on display as well as companies leveraging older popular brands by introducing new versions. I enjoyed seeing many new cabinet styles which will provide differentiation on the casino floor. Technology continues to push our industry forward and on the newest games we saw amazing 3D graphics, larger displays and new display shapes. It was a truly a memorable show. 

Joe Farruggio, senior vice president of gaming operations, Hard Rock Hotel & Casino Biloxi, Miss.

We feel that this year was one of the most productive years, as far as slot core product, that we have experienced at G2E. Bally Technologies’ Wave cabinet was very attractive and comfortable and it is available in Bally’s most successful game themes. Aruze has continued to expand their Innovator platform library and they have added an additional line of video product that should add to the player experience. IGT and WMS have many new themes added to their core products in both video and reel products. The reel product should revitalize the nearly stagnant offerings that the industry has had to choose from during the past five years. Cadillac Jack had an impressive product with crisp video graphics at a reasonable price.

As far as Wide Area Progressives and lease games are concerned, there were many new games being offered and leading the way was IGT and Bally. IGT’s Avatar and Bally’s re-worked Grease Pink Ladies looked attractive. Multimedia Games has added holiday themes to its already robust TournEvent system.

SPIELO’s 3D Sphinx Game offered a great visual effect; only time will tell if it will translate into a lasting player favorite. We continue to evaluate the potential return on investment of server-based gaming after meeting with the manufacturers. We also viewed predictive player behavior products; we are currently evaluating the ROI at this time.

 

Bill Fishman, director of slot operations, Palace Casino Resort, Biloxi, Miss.

Wow!  This year’s G2E was a very impressive show.  It appeared that all the major slot manufacturers have “stepped up their game” with better graphics and play mechanics.  Additionally there are quite a few smaller manufacturers like Multimedia Games, GTECH/SPIELO, Cadillac Jack/Amaya, AGS and Lightning Games, to name a few, that presented some very compelling games.  In my opinion, some of the show’s standouts were SPIELO’s Sphinx 3D, Bally Technologies’ new Wave cabinet and ZZ Top slot, IGT’s Avatar and Centipede games, and WMS’s Beetlejuice and the new three-reel mechanical Blade cabinets. 

I was so busy checking out the new games, I found very little time to visit the iGaming booths.

From an operator’s perspective, it is making it increasingly difficult to pick and choose what products to purchase and/or lease… determining what games will be most popular and profitable for our floors from the abundance of new games.    

 

Larry Flynn, senior vice president, gaming, Ontario Lottery & Gaming Corporation, Toronto

Many vendors are developing games that allow players to interact, thereby enhancing their experience. These concepts range from letting players determine volatility levels to skill games; all of which allows our players to be more engaged with product on our floors.

For locations that don’t have live tables, eTables are a way of bringing in the younger crowd, giving them the look and feel of a casino. Numerous slot vendors are providing very realistic options to our patrons.

It’s nice to see vendors have been listening; games now have celebration features and are configurable with bonus rounds that are achievable—all things that will surely make our players’ experience that much more enjoyable.

 

Frank Leeper, gaming consultant

Overall I felt G2E 2013 was well represented by all the major slot manufacturers with each appearing to go after their own niche in the gaming market.  Overall I thought Bally Technologies was the most well-rounded in both game platforms and systems releases.  I particularly liked the innovative look of their new Pro Series Wave box with libraries of content for this new platform as well.  I also liked Bally’s system enhancements with their Super Slotline technology with the iView DM and Elite Bonusing Suite. I also like the low cost of $100 per game to employ. The only hang-up with the technology appears to be the requirement for a floor to run on a high-speed network, which many of the casinos I’ve consulted for do not have. 

In a time when casinos are cutting back on their floor allotment percentage of WAP games, it seems there was a major push with the launching of more content as must-haves for the slot floor. While this new content was impressive I didn’t see it represented well enough to sway those current business models. I think ultimately casino operators are placing these WAP games on the floor for shorter periods of time; wanting a hit on the first day and then pulling them from the floor the moment they have a bad month. I feel this is due largely to the pricing methods those slot manufacturers have deployed. (I use the NFL analogy here, where in past years you nurtured a rookie quarterback along over time before putting them in the starting role where nowadays that rookie quarterback is expected to start your season on day one and win.) 

So ultimately the success of this year’s licensed products will derive from their release dates and how they perform under a short life cycle.

 

Michael Palmieiri, director of slot operations, Empire City Casino at Yonkers Raceway, Yonkers, N.Y.

It was a busy, but productive week for our team. As indicated, we were particularly interested in seeing the new premium slot content and new electronic table game product. We were impressed with the emphasis on premium themes including IGT’s Avatar, along with Aristocrat’s efforts on the Rolling Stones game and others (Batman), as well as Bally’s new King of Pop and their other new offerings (Titanic). GTECH/SPIELO’s Sphinx 3D game may have been the most innovative and impressive slot game. In addition, IGT’s skilled-based bonus Centipede game was very appealing to the video game generation. Konami, WMS and Multimedia also had a strong showing in slot content.

 On the ETG side, Interblock continues to surprise and impress with their mini version Hologram tables and SHFL entertainment was also quite strong with their I-tables. All in all, a lot of exciting new products!