As I write this article, the 2014 Global Gaming Expo (G2E), which took place Sept. 30 to Oct. 2 at the Sands Expo & Convention Center in Las Vegas, is roughly three weeks in the rearview mirror.

As with most major events, and G2E is far and away the largest gathering of gaming operators and manufacturers in North America if not the world, the days, weeks and months leading into it are often fraught and hectic; the period immediately following the occasion is usually quite serene. People take time to decompress, catch up on items they let lag in the lead-up to the show, get their business and social lives back in order. Calmness, I hope, reigned for all.

Eventually, however, there comes a time when notebooks are re-opened, computers are powered up, iPhone photos perused and digital recordings re-examined as people begin processing all the products and services they found interesting at G2E, and how these items can potentially impact their business units and the gaming enterprise as a whole. Slot managers are not immune to this process, and right now many are likely determining which new machine(s) are worth valuable floor space in the upcoming months and year.

Slot Manager magazine would like to help. Below, you will find some of the slot game trends we noticed on this year’s G2E trade show floor. Hopefully they will help to make your post-G2E homework a little less arduous.   

 

BIG DREAMS

A number of slot manufacturers used G2E as a coming out party for their latest large-footprint slot cabinets and games. Aristocrat Technologies led the charge in this area with the unveiling of its massive Arc and Behemoth cabinet systems. The Arc is comprised of two stacked 42-inch curved hi-def touchscreen monitors, complete with a surround sound and intelligent chair system. The screens are synched, so game action takes place flawlessly over the combined space. Arc will initially be available with dedicated content, and is launching with a new Britney Spears-based licensed slot game. Arc versions of Buffalo, Big Bang Theory and Game of Thrones were also showcased at G2E, and will eventually be available to operators. 

The Behemoth stands 10 feet tall and features a single, 84-inch LCD monitor, the largest such screen currently available on a slot, according to Aristocrat officials. This format also features a high-tech sound system and comes with a dual-person seating option. At G2E, Buffalo—The Next Generation game was featured on Behemoth, which showcased the game’s sight and sound potential, especially during the bonus round which features a thunderous, animated buffalo stampede.

“Behemoth reflects our ‘take it to the next level’ approach to G2E this year,” said Matt Wilson, senior vice president of sales and marketing for Aristocrat. “It creates an amazing cabinet space, our biggest to date.”

Bally Technologies also came out with large footprint formats for its popular Pro Wave curved screen cabinets. According to company press materials, the Pro Theatre features twin Pro Wave cabinets topped by a 55-inch horizontal video screen designed to envelop players in the entertainment experience. Meanwhile, the company’s The Pro Wave 360° redefines community-style gaming with its circular display featuring five Pro Wave cabinets, a striking 50-inch curved 360-degree video topper, and 360-degree surround sound. This head-turning configuration featured a new interactive game at G2E, Dragon Spin, in which players share the joys of winning and bonuses.

“[Dragon Spin] offers players a community gaming experience without them actually competing against each other,” explained Mike Trask, senior corporate communications manager for Bally. “As you play you’re waiting for the dragon to come to you, take over your screen and play for bonuses.”

Konami Gaming also featured a number of new games for its large-scale Podium Monument and Podium Goliath cabinets. In addition to the recently introduced Dungeons & Dragons themed slot game, other new titles for the Podium Monument product, which features an oversized top box, complete with a vertically-mounted 32-inch monitor and internally-lit bezel for greater attraction, included Rapid Revolver, Engine Ablaze and Hammer Festival. The Hammer Festival progressive game was particularly noteworthy; featuring a hammer-welding Amazonian monkey who knocks blocks from a colored stack of increasing cash prizes. The slot also offers a familiar video game play twist—the monkey swings his hammer to reach the jackpot while his displayed stamina gauge dwindles accordingly, booted only by specially-placed banana energy bunches.

“Hammer Festival features a rather unique blue-eyed monkey bonus feature where the animated character ‘hammers’ away at coins to reveal bonus,” said Steve Walther, director of product management at Konami. “What also makes this bonus round different is that the jackpot goes down to the player when it gets closer to hitting as opposed to the traditional upward movement usually associated with bonus round point accumulation.”

For Konami’s Podium Goliath line, which features a 32-inch dual high-definition LCD display, circular lighting and advanced sound system, new games included Herds of Wins, which offers an eye-catching stampeding feature as reel symbols lay back and begin charging toward the player in a unique animation sequence akin to a racing herd of animals. The symbols eventually slow and the resulting formations are brought back to a 3-3-3-3-3 symbol layout for traditional line awards.

Multimedia Games also went big with the unveiling of the Texan HDX, an oversized cabinet that can showcase any of the company’s standard video themes. Standing 8 feet tall with two video screens measuring 42 inches, the Texan HDX was on display with perennial favorite games Mega Meltdown, Starry Night HD and Wild Pack. To further set Multimedia Games banks apart on the crowded slot floor, the company also introduced the Apex V Topper system, which is comprised of dual 15-inch video monitors atop each machine capable of running animated video sequences that move from screen to screen. The Apex V was displayed on banks of Star Dragon, El Toro, and Fast Money Must-Hit Jackpot games.

Cadillac Jack also entered the big/tall slot machine fray with new games for its Stratos cabinet line, an 8-foot tall unit with dramatic lighting and sound features. Available as a linked progressive or standalone, Winferno bundles the unique PowerXStream pay mechanic with random progressives to create a volcano-themed experience for Stratos. Turbo Reels with Money Maker is a game with a 10-level progressive jackpot available exclusively on Stratos. Money Maker is a factory-themed game that churns out cash with two rousing bonus games.

American Gaming Systems (AGS) also showcased a large-footprint model from its recent acquisition of Colossal Gaming, a company that specializes in such product. Front and center at the AGS booth was Colossal Diamonds, a super-sized mechanical reel slot facsimile. “We affectionately call it ‘Big Red,’” said Andrew Burke, vice president of slot products for AGS. “Colossal Diamonds is bigger than oversized type product. It’s been the number one performing product in every market that we have put it in thus far. We are really excited about it and what it can do for our business over the next year.”

AGS also showcased the Bang For Your Buck, another jumbo cabinet slot, in this instance shaped like a crate of dynamite that offers players a chance to push a plunger-like device in the bonus rounds.

 

GIRL POWER

Considering women are the primary slot players at most terrestrial and online gaming sites, it should come as little surprise that new games featuring strong women characters dominated the G2E trade show floor. International Game Technology (IGT) used G2E as the backdrop for the introduction of its Ellen DeGeneres-themed games—The Ellen DeGeneres Show Featuring Ellen’s Dance Party Video Slots and The Ellen DeGeneres Show Featuring 12 Days of Giveaways Video Slots. Both are available on IGT’s CrystalCore cabinet and boast exceptional sound and visuals on a 42-inch vertical touchscreen display. From the first spin of the reels, the famously familiar “Ellen” theme song emanates from each game and players are transported to the set of their favorite TV hour. The games include original voiceover work by Ellen DeGeneres and footage from several of the most famous episodes that have propelled the The Ellen DeGeneres Showinto the broadcast viewership record books.

“IGT aspires to create the industry’s most entertaining, globally appealing gaming experiences,” said Joe Sigrist, vice president of game design and global product management for IGT. “By partnering with a brand as legendary as The Ellen DeGeneres Show, we are in a great position to engage with Ellen’s millions of fans and drive play to our customers around the world.”

Bally Technologies offered its own take on a strong female theme with Wonder Woman slots. The for-sale Wonder Woman Wild and Wonder Woman Gold video slots are housed on the company’s Pro Wave cabinet and feature three progressive jackpots available at any bet level, free games and popular play mechanics. These slots also include action scenes and music from the classic 1970s television show starring Lynda Carter, who was on site at the Bally Technologies’ booth to greet fans.

Aristocrat Technologies’ entry in this category is Britney, the aforementioned Britney Spears-themed slot that is now available on its Arc platform. As you would expect, the slot features a wide variety of hit Britney Spears songs and clips from her music videos and performances. “We played with the height of the Arc cabinet and created an immersive game experience that involved as much music as possible,” said Brad Hendricks, designer of the game.

Cadillac Jack continued to add to its game library of strong women characters exemplified by its Goddess Series of multi-level progressives, in which four strong and beautiful Goddesses rule their unique base games but unite to boost profits as part of the Goddess Treasures multilevel progressive link. The newest addition is Warrior Queen, a Celtic-themed slot that is now part of the company’s PowerXStream series.     

 

PRIME TIME

Television continued to provide fertile ground for companies looking to augment licensed product lines, with many popular cable television shows being transformed into innovative slot products. Fresh off the success of its The Walking Dead Slot Game, which received Casino Product of the Year honors at the inaugural Global Gaming Awards at G2E, Aristocrat Technologies introduced Sons of Anarchy Slot Game. Based on the cable TV series of the same name the action-packed Sons of Anarchy Slot Game comes to life in all of its gritty glory with Jax, Gemma, Clay and all of viewers’ favorite characters. The show’s hard-hitting action is captured on Aristocrat’s VERVEhd cabinet, with ultra hi-def graphics, 3D panoramic adjustable sound and an ergonomic design that enhances game play. Sons of Anarchy Slot Game is a multi-site progressive game with a chance to win a $500,000 jackpot and is packed with features that are engaging to dedicated fans as well as to players who are about to become big fans, according to company press materials.

“At Aristocrat, we have been very aggressive and deliberate in seeking out and securing popular, high-profile licensed titles for our customers and their players, and Sons of Anarchy fits perfectly within that strategy,” said Dallas Orchard, vice president of gaming operations for Aristocrat. “Our designers have been working closely with the FX team at Sons of Anarchy, and the creative result is a game that perfectly captures the essence of the show and combines that with Aristocrat’s proven math.”

Aristocrat delved further into the cable TV realm with its Game of Thrones slot game for its new Arc cabinet, where symbols for the Lannister and Stark families fight for dominant positions on gaming reels. “Game of Thronesis currently HBO’s number one show,” Wilson said. “This slot will appeal to fans of the show without alienating those unfamiliar with the series.”

Aristocrat has also developed a slot around Big Bang Theory, one of broadcast television’s top-rated shows.

WMS Gaming has also turned to cable TV for its latest licensed slot offering, MAD MEN. Based on the popular AMC series, MAD MEN features a 42-inch curved LCD top box and 1080p high-definition screens. The 1960s world of advertising comes to life through character-based bonuses and the memorable clips of the hit show in this innovative gaming experience.

Bally Technologies also tapped a popular cable TV show for a new licensed game at this year’s G2E.  The Duck Dynasty video slot game is based on A&E’s top-rated original series and has players hunting for more with a wheel feature jam-packed with six different bonuses awarding free games, credits, or multipliers. The game is presented on the ALPHA 2 Pro Series Theatre, a new cabinet configuration that features twin Pro Wave cabinets topped by a 55-inch horizontal video screen designed to envelop players in the entertainment experience and deliver maximum impact on casino floors.

Vendors looking to develop product that would tug on the nostalgia heartstrings of Baby Boomers also turned toward the TV set. WMS Gaming introduced a slot based on The Flintstonesanimated television series. THE FLINTSTONES slot machine is available on the Gamefield xD cabinet and features a 42-inch horizontal screen over a vertical 32-inch screen with a mechanical wheel. The base game of THE FLINTSONES has the sights, sounds, and favorite characters from the animated series. WMS also displayed a slot based on the movie Gremlins, which has been a popular television rerun for years. Ainsworth Game Technologies also mined the television movie rerun vein with a new slot based on the movie Sound of Music and the latest iteration of its The Magnificent Sevenfranchise, Magnificent 7 Reloaded.

TV game shows also proved popular fodder for new slot games. GTECH unveiled Deal or No Deal Las Vegas, the latest in its line of slots based on the daytime game show Deal or No Deal. Game show-themed products have proven so successful for GTECH that they are even willing to base a game on Money Drop, a show that had a very short television run. “It’s nothing flashy, but it has a very gambler-friendly mechanic and is a very affordable brand,” said Mike Brennan, product marketing manager for GTECH.

IGT also showcased a plethora of new product based on a popular TV game show. The company decided to upgrade its extremely popular and successful Wheel of Fortunefranchise, housing new iterations of the game in its cutting-edge Crystal Wheel cabinet. A new video version of the Wheel of Fortune slot offers a chance to physically spin a virtual video facsimile of the game show’s popular money wheel. Wheel of Fortune Ultra Wheels actually replaces slot reels with four mini video versions of the prize reel, offering a totally new type of gaming mechanic. “We’re calling it ‘all wheels, all the time,’” said Jacob Lanning, director of gaming operations and product management for IGT.

 

QUICK HITS

Other slot trends and new slot-related product introductions of note from the G2E show floor include:

• The ongoing integration of video game play. Konami Gaming unveiled Neo Contra, its first slot game to feature content from the parent company’s successful video game division. “It has the ‘flavor’ of the Neo Contra video game, but is still very much a slot machine experience. It has tremendous brand appeal and will be marketed toward younger players,” Walther said… Aruze Gaming’s Dark Samurai featured a fighting bonus resembling the type of action seen on most martial arts video games… IGT’s Reel Edge video slots featured titles such as Race Ace and Centipede and a counsel that includes an optional joystick play mechanism.

• Asian-influenced slot themes. IGT showcased tokidoki-themed slot machines. For those unfamiliar with the product, tokidoki is a global lifestyle brand that is very popular in Japan and throughout Asia. “The game appeals to everyone but is was designed with the Asian market in mind and we think it will work globally,” Lanning said… Bally Technologies displayed a North American version of 88 Fortunes slot machine with a Duo Fu Duo Cai progressive link…Konami Gaming delved into the world of anime art design for its Sakura slot.

• The ongoing evolution of 3D games. GTECH, originators of the Sphinx 3D that topped many a best product list at last year’s G2E, augmented its 3D line with four additional offerings: Bejeweled 3D, Dreams of Asia, Aladdin’s Fortune and Dragon Temple. The company plans on introducing four new titles every year. “The hook is the 3D, which we are constantly improving. But the games also need to feature solid math models as well,” Brennan said.

 • The revival of mechanical reel slots. With King Reels, IGT has updated its entire line of mechanical reel offerings to the new S3000 Stepper cabinet. It gives traditionally strong reel games such as Double Diamonds and Red, White & Blue a new look and feel with intelligent lighting, touchscreens over the reels, player-adjustable volume and brightness, 30 percent bigger reels, and five button panels. The new cabinets also offer the opportunity to synch lighting and sound, creating floor-wide entertainment experiences. “What we’re looking to do is to make spinning reels cool again,” Lanning said…