Like the belle of the ball, slot games are usually the casino products that garner the most attention at any Global Gaming Expo (G2E).
This year was no different, and the thousands of attendees that packed into the Sands Expo Center in Las Vegas last month dutifully filed past the myriad of new games offered by slot manufacturers large and small. It was truly an astonishing display of creativity, with new slot concepts based on themes as diverse as talk shows (The Ellen DeGeneres Show), hit cable TV series (Mad Men, Sons of Anarchy, Duck Dynasty), movies (Ted, The Sound of Music), comics (Wonder Woman), classic cartoons (The Flintstones), game shows (Deal or No Deal, Money Drop, Wheel of Fortune, Family Feud), board games (Monopoly, Clue), musicians (Britney Spears, Elvis, Elton John)… the list goes on and on and on.
But as we all know, G2E is more than just a slot games show. Each year, a plethora of new slot machine support products, peripherals, table games, cash processing systems, online and social games and systems, just to name a few, are showcased by eager vendors for gaming operators seeking to attract customers while streamlining business functionalities and save costs wherever possible. Below you will find brief descriptions of some of the non-slot game products, trends and news that caused the editors of Casino Journal to stop in their tracks and say “wow!”
Long-time gaming observers will tell you that a slot game, no matter how new or innovative, is only as successful as the cabinet that houses it. Machine vendors seem to have taken this observation to heart at this year’s G2E, and a number of new or improved standard-sized slot cabinets were showcased at the event. One such company was Incredible Technologies (IT), which introduced Infinity, its new gaming technology platform, as well as the Infinity U23 cabinet, which features radical lighting effects, powerful system capabilities and a sleek new shape.
According to company literature, the cornerstone of Infinity’s innovation is a patent-pending technology known as Intelligent Bank Lighting, which features both synchronized and sequential light shows using the Infinity LED technology. The Intelligent Banked Lighting triggers clever attraction lighting based on the position of players—or lack thereof—within a game bank. As players activate game sessions, the light show’s behavior changes and includes game specific shows for in-game events in addition to additional synced bank displays.
On the technical front, Infinity U23 features high-performance upgrades including two 23-inch 1080p HD monitors with increased graphics capacity, a 15-inch LCD Dynamic Display Deck touchscreen button panel and a premium three-point sound system.
Incredible Technologies also showcased a new bank signage solution for its various product lines. The Simple Sign Display Kit contains easy-to-install brackets securely supported by IT’s Breeze Upright and Slant-75HD cabinets. Fifty-five-inch overhead LCDs display dynamic HD game content customized to properties and provided at no additional charge.
“We decided that the sign business is antiquated and expensive and that, at the end of the day, all you really want is a nice looking LCD,” said Dan Schrementi, vice president of gaming sales & marketing for Incredible Technologies. “Our sign kit is a super-low investment. We patented the idea that the two games themselves are the sign support and we sell you the brackets. You don’t need a sign jack or a sign company to put them up. So we give you the brackets, the customer purchases the sign display and it’s an easy way to get signs over all your games. You’re able to do eight-packs, fours and triangles all without a sign jack.”
Novomatic also showcased new cabinets, debuting its NOVOSTAR VIP product to the North American marketplace. The cabinet is a slant-top with a 26-inch main TFT touch screen and a 46-inch TFT screen positioned ergonomically for the best game play, and a foot-activated flip-screen feature that brings the games into a compelling panorama format. The games are enhanced by an integrated sound system and start button in the arm rest. At G2E, the NOVOSTAR VIP cabinets were displayed in a bank of six backed by a video wall with 55-inch LCD screens.
“It is a product that is best installed in multiples; you don’t put one of these in,” said David Orrick, director of communications and business development for Novomatic. At Aspers Casino in Westfield, London, a bank of six VIPs has, “consistently and unfailingly done double floor average,” since its install in August, said Orrick, who added that the Aspers has recently installed another video wall at its property in Milton Keynes.
Novomatic also emphasized its Action-Gaminator cabinet for the Illinois video market, with its popular themes such as Book of Ra and Dolphins Pearl. Action-Gamintor has been configured to offer maximum impact for a route market with $500 maximum payouts. A single unit can offer up to 28 different games and the opportunity to win additional spins via the accumulation of action stars has proven to be a hit with players, who have quickly grasped the product offer.
“Illinois, even though it is a new video gaming market, is a mature market; players know what they’re doing,” Orrick said.
Electronic bingo machine supplier Ortiz Gaming also used G2E as a backdrop for a new cabinet introduction. At an event the company labeled an “Amazing Unveiling,” Ortiz introduced its O-Circle cabinet. According to company literature, the O-Circle features a 42-inch evolutionary curved display, reaching toward the sky and wrapping around the player for full immersion into the game. Using surround sound and a larger-than-life curved screen to create a new gaming experience, O-Circle was also designed with player comfort and experience at its core.
The O-Circle has already received rave reviews, with attendees stating, “it really was something amazing,” according to Ortiz executives. A prototype of the O-Circle cabinet will be available for testing during the first quarter of 2015.
WMS Gaming also showcased multiple new cabinet concepts at G2E. The company’s Blade Stepper cabinet was specifically designed with the mechanical player in mind, and brings the classic mechanical experience to the contemporary slot floor, according to company literature. A special Monopoly-themed game—MONOPOLY Luxury Diamonds—was displayed on this cabinet at G2E.
WMS also introduced its Blade xD 23 cabinet, a next-generation slant cabinet that brings together dual 23-inch HD displays. The versatile processor at the heart of the Blade xD 23 cabinet enables intensely fast boot times, superior graphic capabilities and advanced hybrid lighting packages with game-specific effects. Innovative design and fresh aesthetics leverage WMS’ distinct “halo effect” lighting to fully immerse players in the game for an engaging and exciting new cabinet experience.
Other slot cabinet highlights at G2E included:
• Building upon the popularity of its original Genesis Chrome cabinet, the new Genesis Halo from Cadillac Jack integrates a sophisticated game controlled lighting package to the base Genesis cabinet. Genesis Halo is loaded with features that enhance player experience, including brilliant effects and attract modes which draw players to the game while the game driven lighting keeps the player engaged.
• Ainsworth Game Technology introduced an all new A560SL, a one-screen cabinet. The A560SL features a 32-inch high-definition display, 19-inch LCD topper option for jackpot promotion, a lighting package stylized to the game, premium surround sound technology, sky-high stacks and the latest in animations.
• Aruze Gaming took the wraps off CUBE-X, a new multi-use, standalone cabinet. The cabinet has a 24-inch, high-def LCD monitor, additional touch screen, LED button deck and an LED topper with the ability to run promotional video. “It’s easy to install the video and the software that manages the process is easy to use,” said Rich Martinez, senior product specialist for Aruze.
• The Pro Series V27/27 slant-top dual-screen cabinet from Bally Technologies supports the company’s extensive library of dual-screen video content in a sleek exterior that features a lower profile and provides expansive sightlines across your casino floor, according to company literature. Cabinet highlights include optimal viewing, comfortable seating, increased interaction, an ergonomic deck with soft-touch coating, and even an integrated purse hook.
• Konami Gaming’s new REELEVEN series was featured on the company’s Goliath’s extra-large 32-inch dual display with a grand total of 11 independent spinning reels: nine within a 3x3 middle grid, framed by a standard reel on either side. Inari Riches joins Exotic Princess and Gorgeous Cat in showcasing REELEVEN’s pioneering game mechanic at G2E.
• Video Gaming Technologies (VGT) showcased its recently introduced XSpin platform at G2E. According to company press materials, the XSpin platform raises the bar with more game variety and wow factor compared to other Class II games, delivering on VGT’s promise to add competitive Class II video to its market-leading mechanical-reel product lineup. In addition to the world-class, film-quality animation, the new game titles bring a level of edginess to gaming for players looking for something unique.
Casino and slot system providers also put their best feet forward at G2E, introducing new modules that add operator-desired functionalities. For example, Multimedia Games added a wireless tablet option to its popular TournEvent slot tournament system. The company also demoed Cash Boom Bang, its latest revenue game for TournEvent that features 4 Reel Frenzy, which will take slot tournaments to the next level, as tournament screens will explode into four sets of reels once a bomb appears. Multimedia Games also showcased a pod configuration for TournEvent, specially designed for facilities that can’t afford to dedicate an entire bank of machines to a slot tournament.
Bally Technologies also tackled slot tournament management with Tournaments Express, a standalone tournament system designed to offer exciting slot tournaments on more than 100 different cabinet types from various manufacturers, easily and quickly converting revenue-producing games to tournament games and back.
In other Bally systems news, the company introduced three new applications for its Elite Bonusing Suite(EBS) including Power Progressive Strike and Power Paytable Progressive, two new progressive jackpot applications. Also displayed was Casino Lotto, a powerful floor-wide technology that will allow guests to wager on secondary games without leaving their machines and Social Link, a pioneering new EBS feature that enables casinos to integrate the suite’s bonusing events with their social media—live and in real time.
Bally also showcased an enhanced version of its CoolSignVideo Wall technology. The CoolSign 8K Video Wall Controller enables a 4x4 video wall with multiple regions of content playback using any 1080p monitor, increasing efficiency and decreasing cost for casino operators because an intermediary device is no longer needed.
Also on display at the Bally booth were the Servizio suite of mobile service solutions, a new and improved version of the company’s proven Service Tracking Manager; version 13 of Bally’s core systems products including ACSC, SDS, CMP, and Business Intelligence; Bally VIP, a comprehensive CRM tool targeted for casino use; the new InSite site controller for operators with multiple locations featuring a user-friendly interface; and Bally Express, a scalable casino system offering with all the Bally SDS and CMP features packaged to fit the needs of smaller casino properties.
Konami Gaming unveiled new enhancements for its SYNKROS True-Time Tournaments package, a system-delivered community gaming application that uses True-Time Windowing to bring unique tournament games to any video-based EGM on the floor. Adding to the play-on-demand functionality will be the new SynkStart feature that allows groups of players to all play at the same time, according to company literature. Both versions of True-Time Tournaments are available through an integrated module for full back-end management and leaderboard functionality.
Other SYNKROS systems improvements included SynKiosk, which delivers real-time, comprehensive loyalty program updates and benefits directly to enabled slot machines and customer smartphones. SYNKdot brings business analytics to a greater level of on-the-go mobility and visualization through expectation-based mobile dashboards. SYNKdot is an online application designed to give its users a simple visual interface to view real-time data on how the casino is performing based on customizable operational parameters for the property as a whole and broken down into differing specialties or areas. InfoSYNK allows users to monitor all components of the SYNKROS application, based on custom-defined performance indices. These components include, but are not limited to: middleware components used to manage SYNKROS’ Synk Box in-machine hardware, the database, and the SYNKROS system itself.
Aristocrat Technologies also upgraded its Oasis 360 slot management system. Available to Oasis 360 customers as well as to casinos using other systems, Aristocrat’s new Oasis HALO suite extends a casino’s marketing reach with advanced loyalty-building software. According to company literature, Oasis HALO is an advanced enterprise-class loyalty management solution that integrates with other systems used throughout the resort to create a comprehensive single-card loyalty solution across the entire enterprise. Oasis HALO has strong, promotions-driven content that entertains and rewards players. Oasis HALO’ self-service kiosk supports the most commonly used features of a staffed players’ club, including lost card replacement, card reprints, PIN changes, contact information updates and balance and offer searches. Additionally, Oasis HALO Promotions provides access to exciting promotional games, events and virtual drawings through the kiosk.
Aristocrat also displayed the new Oasis ONELINK enterprise media management system available for deployment across multiple CMS providers. Oasis ONELINK has the power to support an unlimited number of slot machines. Oasis ONELINK can integrate directly with slots and tables software modules to display real-time jackpot and bonusing odometers on digital or LED signage. Oasis ONELINK’s innovative progressive slot and table bonusing allows operators to successfully reach carded and un-carded patrons.
On the bonusing front, Aristocrat showed two enhanced systems products. Episodic Bonusing leverages the power of web and mobile technologies with a land-based casino experience to drive return visits and revenue while keeping player engagement active beyond the traditional walls of the casino. The technology adds an additional layer of fun and excitement across the gaming floor by creating friendly competition among players through interactive game themes such as Snakes and Ladders. Meanwhile, the floor-wide Elimination Bonusing module allows players to use the nCompass to compete through multiple levels of a “Rock, Paper, Scissors” game in an attempt to be the last player standing and win first prize.
Other slot systems highlights included:
• GTECH displayed a comprehensive range of GALAXIS modules for all areas of casino management. In addition, the casino systems team demonstrated JP2go, a standalone, turnkey jackpot system developed to boost machine play, and SYSTEM2go, the all-inclusive, packaged slot system with accounting, remote monitoring, a jackpot system and advanced cashless and player tracking features.
• Win Systems showcased its fully integrated casino management system WIGOS, which provides a complete slots and table game management solution to optimize floor operations, real-time monitoring, player tracking and loyalty marketing programs under a single software operating platform. WIGOS currently operates in over 160 casinos worldwide with nearly 50,000 gaming machines connected, according to company literature.
Electronic bingo machine providers also brought their latest ware to G2E, as the popular gaming devices start to gain traction in U.S. gaming facilities.
Zitrounveiled its “Zitro Revolution 2014” line of bingo machine products and games at this year’s G2E. These games included an enhanced version of Air Cash, which features four different prize levels. According to company literature, with these four prizes, players’ chances of winning are considerably increased. The new Air Cash also includes an innovative on-screen presentation that is more flexible, more dynamic and more interactive, bringing greater excitement and entertainment to the player and to the casino floor.
Zitro also displayed Treasure Box, a new pirate-themed community bonus game. When Treasure Box is activated, a three-reel video slot game appears automatically onscreen and starts spinning to offer one of the three possible winning combinations. Treasure Box provides players with up to three active prize lines that can increase their chances of winning a bonus prize. Meanwhile, Splash is Zitro’s most team-oriented game. When a player achieves the splash bonus, it is automatically “splashed” to all his or her neighbors who are then also able to play the community bonus. This community bonus offers many and varied winning combinations, which will allow all the lucky participants in Splash to accumulate numerous prizes.
Zitro also has dabbled with 3D game development in some of its latest-generation games. The game Jack & The Beans incorporates this 3D engine: an investment in the future which brings spectacular graphics, sounds, three-dimensional characters and the interactivity of the latest-generation devices to the world of video bingo. “It’s a game for players that love high volatility in addition to 3D graphics,” said Jeff Baldi, vice president of products and strategy for Zitro.
In addition to unveiling its O-Circle cabinet, Ortiz Gaming showcased its Ortiz Standard concept at G2E. By using a complex combination of proprietary unbendable math and hold models, an often-imitated game configuration, denomination control, a series of time-in-chair methodologies, and a revenue-expanding buy-a-pay extra bonus ball feature, the Ortiz Standard not only increases win-per-unit, but redefines the expectation of your floor average performance, according to a company white paper. Different from simply adding new machines to a property’s product mix and comparing floor or location averages, the introduction of Ortiz Gaming machines represents not just an increase in win per unit, but an evolution in the thinking about revenue models. Proven in 14 countries, the Ortiz Standard redefines the expectation of game average performance. The new standard sets a new mark for slot floor metrics, just as the move from steppers to video slots was a huge change in expectations and business models, the Ortiz Standard is that next evolutionary step of slot floors.
This revelation is made possible by a shift in mathematical models which is possible only in Ortiz Gaming machines. The Ortiz Standard delivers complex math models in fun and engaging bonuses for customers, creating the ultimate combination of revenue generation with customer focus. Much of the Ortiz Gaming library is made up of bingo-themed games. These games allow players to play up to four bingo cards at once, as well as make bets on each card from 1 to 20 credits, meaning the initial max bet can be up to 80 credits on a game. Unlike slot reel games, which have multiple games at once, the bingo cards do not cause players to focus on multiple confusing games at once, since the cards are being marked from one ball drop, similar to playing multiple games in person.
Casino Technology has also entered the bingo machine fray with its BINGOGATOR cabinet, which houses four games and a jackpot, and is based on established bingo concepts, according to company press materials.
Table games have been going through a revival as of late on casino floors, and renewed interest in tables was evident at G2E, with vendors displaying both traditional and electronic formats of craps, blackjack, roulette and other game types.
Fresh off its integration of the SHFL entertainment product line, Bally Technologies displayed both new table and peripheral products. Free Bet Blackjack headed a lineup of 12 proprietary table games including Fortune 7 Baccarat, Blazing 7s Blackjack Progressive, and DJ Wild Poker Progressive. Free Bet Blackjack, which lets players split and double down without risking additional money, is now being played throughout the United States and England. Bally also introduced Fortune Asia Poker, a version of Chinese Poker where players make three poker hands and compete against the dealer, and Match ‘em Hi Lo, where players try to guess whether their three-card hand will be lower or higher than the dealer’s hand.
Bally’s Utilities segment was highlighted by Safe Bacc, a revolutionary new product that combines a shuffler and card reading shoe into one device to increase game speed and improve security on baccarat tables. Also on exhibit was i-Deal Plus, the next generation i-Deal with improved card reading and reliability, and Shuffle Flex, a groundbreaking “pay-by-the-shuffle” concept targeting part-time tables that is now available on the MD3.
Bally was also active on the electronic table games front, showcasing innovative solutions such as Fusion Hybrid, TableMaster Fusion, and Fusion Virtual Multigame. According to company press materials, the cutting-edge Fusion Hybrid features connections with up to four live-dealer games and user-friendly, 22-inch widescreen electronic betting terminals. For a dynamic gaming experience, players may switch between and concurrently play baccarat, roulette, and sic bo from the same terminal with the convenient touch of a button. TableMaster Fusion features a high-definition, 72-inch LCD display with attractive virtual dealers as well as 22-inch widescreen player terminals with touchscreen betting, enhanced graphics, and multiple side bets. Similar to Fusion Hybrid but fully electronic, Fusion Virtual Multigame allows players to switch between roulette, sic bo, and baccarat from the same terminal, increasing play with four different game options in one seat.
Other table game highlights include:
• Fresh off its recent purchase of War Blackjack, American Gaming Systems (AGS) displayed its signature game, War Blackjack, along with War Baccarat. “Over the past few months, AGS has acquired five table games, of which War Blackjack was the first,” said Andrew Burke, vice president of slot products for AGS. “Both War Blackjack and War Baccarat are very exciting side bets for very classic table games.”
• Aruze Gaming featured some large-scale electronic table game hybrids for its G-Station product line. Lucky Big Wheel is an innovative electronic version of the popular table game where the spinning of the wheel is put into the hands of the player, impressing them with heightened levels of interaction. The large-format Shoot to Win Craps was also on display.
• Novomatic featured a fully automated NOVO Multi-Roulette wheel with a group of NOVOSTAR SL slant tops, each with the entire Flying (fully animated) multiplayer multi-game selection as well as Novo Multi-Roulette and the latest NOVO LINE Novo Unity II video slots multi-game mix. Also shown was the LOTUS Roulette, an automated six-player island configuration consisting of individual player stations and one automatic roulette wheel.
• Gaming Partners International (GPI) showcased a wide variety of table game support products, including the B&G V?Series, a line of injection molded chips produced with a new chip material formula that is more durable and also includes ChipShield, an antimicrobial that helps keep chips cleaner longer.
• TCSJOHN HUXLEY launched its Gaming Floor Live systems at this year’s G2E. Gaming Floor Live is a complete network platform and gaming table management system. This open platform allows a wide range of data gathered from each table to be analyzed in real-time enabling active and pro-active management of gaming floors. “Gaming Floor Live provides a ground-breaking solution for operators and their table games. For the first time it is possible to provide the same levels of real-time data collection that operators currently enjoy from their slot systems,” said Cath Burns, group CEO for TCSJOHNHUXLEY.
• Galaxy Gaming introduced seven new premium casino table games at G2E: Three Card Prime, Four Card Prime, Dueling for Dollars, Cajun Stud, Four Card Stud, Take It or Leave It and Four Card Frenzy. The company also unveiled SpectrumVision, a new electronic security device designed to detect illegally marked cards and other fraudulent schemes.
• Interblock USA showcased their G5 Product line. The G5 MiniStar Roulette with Player Information Display is the smallest and best performing five-seat product available on the market, and is available with a single- or double-zero roulette wheel.
Editor’s Note: Part 2 of the Outside the Games G2E product review, which will cover eGaming products, cash handling, analytics systems and much, much more, will continue in the December issue of Casino Journal.