As I write this column the Major League Baseball season has just begun and general managers are running the latest iterations of their teams onto the field; all hoping the long winter of preparation and planning translates into winning.
These days, there seems to be two dominant schools of thought when it comes to constructing such a winning team. Some believe the quickest path to success is to spend for a handful of select superstars, players so special they make up for an otherwise mediocre talent and propel a team to prosperity. Others, however, espouse a more systems-oriented approach, drafting and developing players internally instead of spending for star talent on the open market; and winning by having solid performers at every position instead of an all-star at two or three.
In some ways, the slot machine industry mirrors this star versus system dynamic. Each year, manufacturers introduce a plethora of new slot machines, with the goal that a few of them catch on with consumers to become the next lucrative superstar on the gaming floor. This approach appears to garner most of the gaming industry’s attention, time and money. Meanwhile, slot systems providers continue to plug away behind the scenes, adding new capabilities and technologies that make the overall product more indispensable than ever for gaming operators.
Lately it appears the slow-but-steady systems development stratagem is gaining on the always flashy new product approach; not surprising given the stagnant state of the slot machine replacement market in the United States and throughout the world. Simply stated, operators are holding on the current slots longer, and are turning to systems improvements to drive more play and profit from them.
The recent NIGA convention and trade show in San Diego, Calif., was evidence of this shift in thinking, and a number of slot manufacturers emphasized both new game and systems improvements equally. For example, Konami Gaming showcased its latest advances to its SYNKROS casino management system which included the introduction of SYNKiosk, which, according to company press materials, challenges standing perceptions of kiosks and slot machines by delivering a wealth of patron account services and benefits to a spectrum of connected devices for greater customer convenience.
Aristocrat Technologies also played up its systems improvements for its Oasis 360 casino management solution at NIGA. According to company literature, these upgrades included ONE LINK, a module that provides total media management, indoors and outdoors, in gaming and non-gaming areas, and even brings a branded interactive experience to wayfinder and kiosks.
Bally Technologies and International Game Technology (IGT) also displayed various system improvements and added functionalities.
And until the slot replacement cycle revives, expect a lot more emphasis on system development from slot suppliers. While not as splashy as belting a new product home run, the game can still be won hitting a series of systems singles.