When you were a kid on Christmas morning, chances are the first presents under the tree you greedily ripped open were those that most looked like toys or games. No blame there—at that age, you want to get your hands on the fun stuff as fast as possible; plenty of time later for the boxes of clothes, books, candy and other items that round out the holiday experience.

It’s funny in a way how well this holiday observation applies to the recently held Global Gaming Expo (G2E) in Las Vegas. The first inclination of attendees to the event’s trade show floor is to head to the big slot machine producers, peruse the games and go gaga at the concepts and technologies they hope will mesmerize their future customers. As usual, G2E did not disappoint in this area—the variety and breadth of new game themes and play mechanics at the show was truly astounding. (For a review of new slot games featured at G2E, please see the November/December issue of Slot Managerthat is included with this issue of Casino Journal.)

However, those who managed to peruse the rest of the G2E trade show floor after ogling the slot games likely came away impressed—there was much to see and experience from suppliers of new slot machine support products, peripherals, table games, cash processing systems, online and social games and systems, just to name a few. Below you will find brief descriptions of some of the non-slot game products, trends and news that made the editors of Casino Journal slow down, stop and take notice:  

CABINET POSTS

As modern slot games become more technologically advanced and complex, it is essential the cabinets housing these games evolve to adequately showcase the high-tech presentations and game mechanics. The result—a number of slot companies showcased new cabinet products at G2E.

One such company was Konami Gaming, which launched its Concerto video slot cabinet. Developed with a focus on customer experience and entertainment value, this video upright cabinet combines top-tier technology for operators to deliver next generation gaming content that attracts patrons from every angle, according to company literature. Its signature holographic side lighting serves as one of Concerto’s most striking features. Each game has custom-designed digital elements that visually interact, from the dual 27-inch high-definition touchscreen monitors to the 19.5-inch video topper, and down through the proprietary new DynamicDash button panel—all of which is made possible by Konami’s new KP3+ platform. The cabinet was launched with four debut games: Radiant Queen, Fortune Stacks, Dragon’s Law Twin Fever and Chili Chili Fire. Concerto additionally supports compatibility with KP3 platform proven performers.

“It’s super sleek and designed in such a way that it won’t get lost in a bank of machines,” said Steve Walther, director, product management-games for Konami. “It is meant to stand out.”

Everi’s latest cabinet introduction was the Core HDX, a sleek and sophisticated gaming device featuring dual widescreen 23-inch monitors with 1080p HD capability, integrated touchscreens and a premium three-way sound system. According to press materials, the Core HDX includes game-controlled lighting, ergonomic controls and an integrated LCD button panel for Class II settings that includes a mini bingo touchscreen display. The cabinet is topped by a custom premium LCD top box with game-controlled lighting and can be fitted with Everi’s award-winning Apex V topper which enables the display of synchronized video content across banks of up to 16 cabinets.

Core HDX supports a content library of 86 existing games and also features cabinet-specific titles such as Twin Dragon and Quad Burst Tiger Strike. “G2E offers a chance for Everi to demonstrate our existing excellence in creating great gaming products and engaging with customers as we review with them our product roadmap for the creation of a more robust catalog of games we plan to deliver as we continue to execute on our plan to double our game studio development teams over the coming months,” said Ram V. Chary, president and CEO of Everi in a prepared statement.

Aruze Gaming Americaalso came to G2E armed with a new cabinet… three new cabinets to be exact. The company debuted its Cube-X Video, Cube-X Innovator, and a new premium cabinet, Cube-X Ultimate. According to press materials, the new cabinets feature a LCD button panel, LCD topper,  improved menu control—which include additional language options—achieved through upgrades to the central processing unit, high-definition LCDs and improved sound quality.  Improvements in manufacturing and efficiency have created a more lightweight and streamlined platform. Subsequently, the two row LCD button panel, presented by Suzo Happ, will not only be visually stimulating, but also serve to provide future product support with newly released content. Moreover, the LCD topper enhances the cabinet’s floor presence by displaying game content. With the customer in mind, the overall appearance of the cabinet is now more ergonomically designed, increasing its appeal from previous product.

With its acquisition of Cadillac Jack earlier this year, American Gaming Systems (AGS) was able to introduce the new ICON cabinet. Showcasing the company’s most innovative video content, ICON is the ultimate interpretation of cabinet design that goes beyond function and performance, says company support literature. ICON is revolutionizing the industry and redefining the symbol of style with its immersive sensory experience, seamless integration of light and sound, and stunning visual effects. The cabinet was launched with a couple of new games themes as well—Golden Wins and Tiger! Tiger!

Ainsworth Game Technology’s entry into the new cabinet sweepstakes was the A560SL, a one-screen machine specially designed and custom built for a unique, highly entertaining game range. 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, according to press release materials.

Ainsworth also displayed a prototype of its A600 cabinet, which features a wider footprint, enhanced lighting package and two, 24-inch monitors. “We hope to launch this line in North America by July 2016,” said Cody Herrick, product marketing manager for Ainsworth.

International Game Technology (IGT) also showcased a new cabinet concept at G2E— CrystalWheel Stepper cabinet, which melds the mechanical reels from IGT’s S3000 cabinet with the pristine video presentation of IGT’s CrystalCore cabinet, and is topped with an iconic, physical Wheel of Fortune wheel. The debut game for this cabinet is The Wheel of Fortune Gold Spins Double Diamond.

IGT also displayed SyncSation, a unique tool that enables operators to deploy choreographed light and sound shows across multiple IGT hardware solutions including the S3000 and CrystalDual cabinets, according to press materials. With SyncSation, operators can create attention-grabbing light and sound spectacles in one or multiple locations on their casino floors, ranging from mild to sensational.

At G2E 2015, Aristocrat Technology did not drop any new cabinet designs, instead deciding to augment the content for the Arc and Behemoth cabinet lines it introduced last year. But the company did display a couple of demo cabinets for industry review—The massive Mammoth, which features two 84-inch monitors for an impressive 11.5 foot display, and a mechanical reel cabinet the company created with technology acquired from its purchase of Video Game Technology (VGT).

At the Scientific Games booth, the company proudly displayed its new TwinStar cabinet, which features dual, 24-inch full HD displays in a state-of-the-art platform that combines the best technology from both Bally and WMS, and supports content from both divisions. TwinStar builds on the award-winning iDeck button deck by offering a 40 percent larger area for player interaction. A 22-inch full HD digital topper, chrome details, improved sound and edge lighting will add beauty and excitement to casino floors.

`Infinity Skybox was shown at G2E 2015 with its flagship launch title Crazy Money Deluxe— new twist of the company’s flagship game brand, Crazy Money. “This year we shipped more Infinity units than we have in the entire time we’ve been in gaming,” said Dan Schrementi, vice president of gaming sales and marketing for IT. “In the past year, our footprint has doubled, and next year we expect it to double again.”

The Novamatic Group of Companies used G2E to introduce the North American marketplace to two of its successful European cabinet lines. The Dominator Curve is an extension of the company’s Dominator product with its own unique feature: an upright 40-inch full HD touchscreen that guarantees maximum impact gaming with sophisticated graphics and sound. Meanwhile, the NOVOSTAR V.I.P. slant top offers a Crown V.I.P. chair, huge 50-inch LCD top screen, armrest-located additional start button and the unique FLIPSCREEN feature for gaming in grand style.

CHAIRS TO REMEMBER

If a modern cabinet is the primary hardware need of a slot game, a comfortable chair would be a close second. Provide a secondhand piece of furniture to even the best slot machine, and chances are the customer will walk away no matter how enticing the game is.

Reno, Nev.-basedGary Platt Manufacturing is well known throughout the gaming industry for providing chairs that are innovative, ergonomic and fashion forward. At G2E 2015, the company showcased their new X2-Tended Play Series, bringing the concept to its popular LIDO line of chairs under the moniker LIDO X2. With the additional ergonomic sculpting and plush seat, the X2-Tended Play Series delivers more comfort to LIDO as well as the company’s GX2, SX2, BX2 product lines; which increases player satisfaction and translates into longer playtime.

“Our three top-selling chairs all come from the X2 series,” said Ed Abadie, seating design engineer for Gary Platt. “That is because we focus on the ergonomics. The chairs have specially designed back bars for support and broader seats for greater comfort. Our philosophy to make chairs with unsurpassed comfort and the craftsmanship is there as well; our latest chairs feature new curves and details like double-stitching.”

Indeed, according to company literature, every Gary Platt chair is handcrafted to enhance the casinos interior themes while being engineered for durability and unsurpassed comfort.

“We are introducing new models that have taken comfort and style to the next level,” added Skip Davis, president of Gary Platt. “We have invested in our future by putting the resources behind our research and development efforts to distinguish our products in the market place. This was clearly evident in our first nine months results for 2015. The evolution of the casino chair will continue in 2016 and we couldn’t be more excited about the future.”

This combination of evolving product and tested business approach has the company extremely bullish on its future in the casino marketplace.

“This is a very exciting time in the casino seating industry, and in particular, for Gary Platt Manufacturing,” Davis said. “There is a large amount of activity in the casino expansion and casino remodel market to go along with the new construction.  I see more emphasis being placed on specifying and selecting seating that will help promote a better experience for players. This represents a renewed awareness that play is influenced by chair comfort and ergonomics and that has always been our philosophy and the foundation of our company mission.” 

StylGame is another seating company that emphasizes an ergonomic approach. Its Royal Stool line offers Play in Comfort, a revolutionary patented ergonomic system, the result of scientific research carried out by StylGame on the use of the slot machines in 2008. Play in Comfort incorporates a combination of seat and support base that offers maximum comfort to the player.

EYE ON THE CUSTOMER

As has been the trend over the past few G2Es, companies offering analytics and customer retention services and products were prevalent and extremely active on the trade show floor.

Slotfocus Performance Analytics is a relative newcomer to G2E, but has already made a big splash. Its game performance analytics package for slot machines has been in development since 2011 and has been successfully beta tested on 2,000 machines at San Diego, Calif.-based Barona Casino and at 800 machines at Little Six Casino in Minnesota. Since that time, the company has grown largely through referrals, and its system has gone through a number of upgrades, most recently introducing version 4.0 of the product at last year’s G2E.    

According to the company’s website, the core of the Slotfocus offering are multi-dimensional analytics that allow operators to understand the value of every location on the floor and identifies under/over-performing games, allowing properties to make intelligent decisions that grow slot revenues and satisfy players. These insights and opportunities are delivered via a comprehensive, easy-to-use, dashboard-style user interface that instantly provides drill-downs and graph results that can optimize slot floor performance. Slotfocus is also hands-on with cleaning, appending, quality assurance, and meaningful analysis of data; rather than overwhelm properties with statistical output, the company condenses findings into concise, strategic categorizations.

Slotfocus is available as a subscription service with no hardware/software purchase required; and is generally less expensive than an entry-level FTE.

“We are very low cost because we are a service—we actually do not sell any software,” said William T. Dunn, president of Slotfocus. “We are a full-service analytical resource for casinos and are in about 20 properties right now. We are very robust with the analytics…providing real-time analysis that focuses on slot performance within specific locations on a slot floor.”

Atrient’s primary focus at G2E was its Power Kiosk, an exciting evolution of the traditional kiosk and can be deployed directly onto mobile devices, game screens of video slot machines and traditional standalone kiosks to disseminate promotions to casino customers across a wide variety of touchpoints.

“We have put substantial R&D into all these components to make sure they work together in harmony and are easy to use,” said Sam Attisha, CEO for Atrient.

The backbone of the system in the Power Kiosk, which offers the following functionalities:

Power Kiosk Enroll—Automatic club enrollments can now be done with Power Kiosk Enroll, which makes it easier and more convenient than ever before for new member to join and participate in a loyalty program. A quick driver’s license scan provides the patron management system with all the information required to enroll a new member.

Power Kiosk Mobile—Power Kiosk is all about versatility and ease of use. Players can interact with Power Kiosk through user friendly applications such as the mobile app available on both Android and Apple devices.

Power Kiosk EGM—Power Kiosk seamlessly transitions from one medium to another. Now players can access Power Kiosk directly from the game screen of any video slot machines that is enabled with picture-in-picture technology.

Power Kiosk Promotions—A suite of reporting and analytical tools that ensures marketing programs are within budget and performing as planned.

“We have been in the kiosk space for quite some time and are constantly adding new functions to make promotions easier for our customers,” Attisha said. “With new communications technologies, we’re also trying to put the kiosk in the hands of any casino customer.”

Playersoft Technologies is another company focused on helping casinos better understand and manage customers. The Playersoft suite of solutions includes Mobile Enrollment, which can enroll a casino patron into a players club in under 10 seconds with the swipe of a driver’s license, as well as Group Manager, Promotions Kiosk and Mobile Ticket Redemption. These unique mobile player-tracking platforms for the gaming and hospitality industry are user-friendly, applications on Apple IOS devices that augment the existing casino management and player tracking systems for the casino, with a focus on increasing guest loyalty and revenue, according to company literature.

The latest property to utilize Playersoft products was Michigan-based Firekeepers Casino, which installed the company’s Group Manager device to streamline their group tour operations. With nearly 3,000 slots and a huge gaming floor, FireKeepers is seeing a lot of players coming in via charter bus and they wanted to ensure the new players had a quick and easy way to register for a player’s card and be properly incentivized to participate in their active promotions. The Group Manager system is both a mobile and desktop application providing FireKeepers a complete overview of casino groups and bus tours. It also allows them to create groups immediately upon arrival and issue them pre-defined offer packages, enrollment in their club, track all play associated with the group in real-time and ties it back to specific charters, groups or events.

“Our next step in enrollment is to offer a management piece, which will provide more flexibility for operator by offering some analytics,” said Hunter Hunstock, vice president of technology for Playersoft.

Opticity, a California-based provider of applications that allow casinos to quickly understand and leverage their player data, also had a product placement win to celebrate at G2E. The Tonkawa Tribe, operators of multiple casino properties within Oklahoma, selected Opticity to enable advanced data analysis and automate marketing. With their monthly subscription, the Tonkawa properties now have access to Opticity DATA INTEGRATOR & TRANSFORMER, which combines data from transactional systems, cleans it and summarizes it for easy analysis. Also included were Opticity ANALYSIS for ad‐hoc analysis and data mining, and Opticity DASHBOARD, giving each user a drag‐and‐drop custom dashboard to keep key performance indicators in plain view.

Agilysys, a leading technology company that provides innovative point-of-sale, property management, inventory and procurement, workforce management, analytics, document management and mobile and wireless solutions and services to the hospitality industry, showcased its Lodging Management System (LMS) property management solution, the InfoGenesis Flex mobile point-of-sale system and the rGuest Buy self-service kiosk solution at G2E.

“Our LMS, InfoGenesis Flex and rGuest Buy solutions not only increase efficiency and streamline overall operations, but also offer customers the ability to capitalize on revenue opportunities and enhance guest service,” said  said Jim Walker, vice president of sales and marketing at Agilysys. “Our mission is to provide technology that addresses the entire guest lifecycle so that properties can create lasting connections with guests that engender loyalty and encourage repeat business.”  


Editor’s Note: Part two of the No More Games G2E product review, which will cover slot systems, table games, eGaming products, cash handling and much, much more, will continue in the December issue of Casino Journal.