Stay until the last minute of the last day at any Global Gaming Expo (G2E) and you will witness something truly amazing—the staff of the Sands Expo & Convention Center stripping down the show floor. Booths that took months to plan, weeks to prepare and days to set up are broken down and shipped away in a matter of hours as the facility makes way for the next trade event or consumer show. In the seeming blink of an eye, the three-day center of the legal wagering universe is no more, and for better or worse starts to fade from memory.
Never fear, Slot Manager is here to help, at least when it comes to jogging memories momentarily addled by mornings of educational sessions, afternoons of booth visits and nights of parties and social events. Below you will find some of the slot game trends we noticed on the 2015 G2E trade show floor. Hopefully they’ll spark a memory… and a call to the supplier to get in on the next big slot phenomenon.
LARGER & LOUDER
Slot machine manufacturers once again focused on verticality and size, creating large-scale cabinets and specially adapted games designed to draw consumer eyes on crowded and competitive slot floors. Last year, Aristocrat Technologies caused a stir when it unveiled its Behemoth line of slot cabinets, which featured an 84-inch monitor, surround sound and a dual player bench. Operator response to this concept has been such that the company had made available a version of its popular The Big Bang Theory game franchise for the cabinet, and plans more such adaptions going forward. At this year’s G2E, Aristocrat test marketed an even bigger cabinet and game concept—the Mammoth, which features two, 84-inch screens to create an 11.5-foot vertical game, but designed in such a way that the footprint for the machine is relatively narrow. “Obviously the scale of it requires a certain scale of casino…but we were actually surprised by the amount of interest there has been in that product,” said Maureen Sweeny, chief commercial officer for Aristocrat. “We will continue to play with the concept.”
Aristocrat was not the only company with a bigger may be better concept for its slot machines. Aruze Gaming America test marketed its height-enhanced cabinet concept—Cube-X Vertical—at G2E. The cabinet includes two 42-inch screens and an enhanced graphics and sound package to add further pop to the presentation. Konami Gaming showcased new game content for its tall-top Podium Monument line, including a new custom series called Glittering Stacks, with two debut themes for players to enjoy: Glittering Stacks: Wild Stack Fever and Glittering Stacks: Great Wilds Spinnin’. Both carry a classic Vegas luxury theme, complete with neon lights and pink Cadillacs. For the game’s Xtra Reward feature, wild Glittering Stacks symbols expand to fill the entire reel anytime they appear. Meanwhile, American Gaming Systems (AGS) continued to showcase its Big Red cabinet featuring the popular title Colossal Diamonds, which recently made its debut on The Strip at Caesars Palace and Paris Las Vegas, according to company literature.
Another prevalent trend at last year’s G2E that gained traction at this year’s event was the re-imaging of the mechanical stepper slot machine. International Game Technology (IGT) continued to lead in this area, introducing its upgraded S3000 Stepper cabinet last year and backing that introduction up by unveiling 30 new games for the line at G2E 2015. Among these new titles are Mucho Dinero and the Hot Hit Game Series. “I think we have the best mechanical reel product on the floor today, but that does not mean we should be complacent,” said Victor Duarte, global chief product officer, gaming for IGT. “We are really investing in content to consolidate that leadership position. There are no free rides… it is a very competitive environment.”
Proving this point were a number of new stepper slot introductions at G2E, including Aristocrat Technologies’ initial foray into this mechanical slot machine submarket. The Aristocrat stepper slot was developed with the aid of its Video Game Technology division, which has had a long and successful history with reel slot devices in the Class II marketplace. “We’re trying to capitalize on the trend and attract both the old school stepper player and the younger customer who likes to play retro games,” said Nick DeMarco, vice president strategy portfolio and planning for Aristocrat.
Also making a splash in the reel realm was Aruze Gaming, which continues to add new games to its Cube-X Innovator, Cube-X Ultimate and Innovator stepper slot lines. New Cube-X Innovator content included Howling Wolf and Aztec Sol Burning Hot Jackpots, five-reel, 30-line stepper slots that feature the company’s Radiant Reel technology. For Cube-X Ultimate, Aruze’s latest stepper line that features a large mechanical wheel topper, LED lights that react to spin speed, high-resolution monitor and 3D graphics, the company showcased 999.9 Gold Wheel games Bags of Cash and The Gold Legend.
GANG’S ALL HERE
It’s no secret that casino floors throughout the U.S. would like to foster a more social environment in hope of attracting greater play from younger clientele who are looking for a gaming experience beyond a one-on-one interaction with a slot machine. Slot tournaments are one way to broach this issue, and a number of vendors showcased systems designed to better create and manage machine contests. For example, Everi displayed the latest iteration of its industry leading TournEvent slot tournament solution. According to company press materials, TournEvent version 4.3 features updated graphics, new audio-visual effects and out of revenue titles, themed bonus targets and, most importantly, Money Man 2.0. New game and system features available through TournEvent 4.3 include cumulative solo scoring, same round buy back, previous round revert and session player assignment reporting.
Everi also used G2E as a backdrop to announce a new TournEvent placement with Ledyard, Conn.-based Foxwoods Casino Resort, touting the fact the system can be found in more than 300 casinos. “Everi has been providing Foxwoods with strategic payments solutions for years and we’re pleased to have the opportunity to enhance our relationship by supplying them with our popular TournEvent gaming machines,” said Ram V. Chary, president and CFO for Everi.
The company also held the national finals for its yearly TournEvent of Champions event in Las Vegas to coincide with the G2E trade show (see story on page 6).
Other companies emphasizing tournament technology included IGT, which introduced Spin Ferno, a tournament solution for its S3000 cabinet, making it the world’s first automated tournament technology system for a spinning reel cabinet. Fueled by IGT’s Tournament Manager 5.0, the Spin Ferno product enables operators to host single or multi-site slot tournaments on the mechanical reel slot cabinets. Konami Gaming offered player on-demand multi-game tournaments as the newest enhancement to its SYNKROS True-Time Tournaments solution. According to company literature, when redeeming an on-demand tournament entry at any enabled video slot machine, carded players have the option to choose from an array of game themes to help keep tournament promotions fresh and unique. Players are given a menu of game theme options when claiming their tournament entries, empowering them with an additional element of control and excitement when they achieve targeted sales and marketing rewards at the property.
Other companies are attempting to create a social gaming atmosphere through the slot machines themselves with shared game play. One such example at G2E was KOOZA, a wide-area gaming experience created by Scientific Games in partnership with world renowned Cirque du Soleil. According to press materials, the experience is an eye-catching, bonus-rich slot game that combines Scientific Games’ Pro Wave 360 slot configuration with the acrobatic adrenaline rush of Cirque du Soleil’s popular KOOZA show. Featuring a four-level jackpot along with engaging bonus events, a U-Spin wheel bonus feature, two free games features, a mystery stack feature and an instant win, the Cirque du Soleil gaming experience featuring KOOZA delivers unparalleled entertainment experience that thrills players like they are part of the show’s live audience. The main attraction on the 360-degree wheel is a shared player experience wheel bonus that awards credits, jackpots, the Trickster free games, and the exciting Wheel of Death free games. “The artistic and imaginative entertainment of Cirque du Soleil combined with our engaging gameplay in our beautifully rendered Pro Wave 360 package truly delivers an experience unlike any other,” said Derik Mooberry, group chief executive, gaming for Scientific Games.
MAD ARCADE SKILLS
Recent regulatory changes in New Jersey and Nevada have cleared the way to finally incorporate some skill-based gaming elements in slot machine play, and manufacturers responded at G2E with some prototypes on how this marriage of skill and chance may work in traditional slot formats.
Konami’s nod toward the arcade skill set was the debut of the industry’s first Frogger themed video slots, showcased on company’s Podium Monument cabinet. The launch of Frogger signifies a landmark IP release from Konami Digital Entertainment’s iconic arcade legacy to its casino gambling sector, according to press materials. Two debut game themes were shown, each with a four-level standalone progressive and classic Konami game mechanics such as Action Stacked Symbols and Xtra Reward. Great City Wilds features a random Frogger Bonus where arcade-animated tractors push away the reels, revealing a classic Frogger crossing course. Three “lives” are awarded and the player has a chance to watch the frog character hop its way to increasing bonus awards across the lower screen and up into the tall top box. Similar to Great City Wilds, Woodland Wilds also includes a classic Frogger rendition during the bonus game, but its primary character is a bedazzled girl frog. “Frogger is a modern slot adaption of a classic arcade game, it is simple and fun to play and features 1980s look and play,” said Steve Walther, director, product management-games for Konami, who added that the current Frogger prototypes did not have skill-based play, but could easily be adapted to that technology as the market evolves.
Other slot vendors also displayed arcade-like skill slot concepts including Scientific Games, which offered the Space Invaders Evolution video slot where players could chose to play an actual game of Space Invaders for points in bonus rounds. “This is our first product, but it gives our customers an idea of what we’re looking to do with this type of slot machine design,” Greg Colella, senior director of product management for Scientific Games, Told the Las Vegas Review-Journal. Meanwhile, IGT showed Texas Tea Pinball, which offers patrons a pinball machine experience in bonus rounds.
WEST MEETS EAST
Slot providers with inroads into Asia-based casinos had no problem displaying merchandise designed for that market to American gaming operators, many of whom were on the lookout for games that would appeal to Asian players visiting their properties. Ainsworth Game Technology showcased Asian Immortals for its A560 cabinet. These high-denomination games feature simulated dice and wheel spins and offer five levels of bonus prizes. Titles include Actions 8s, 8 Immortals and Lucky Ye Ha Hai. “These games are in English and Mandarin and have been brought over from the Asian market and will be marketed toward the Asian areas of casinos,” said Cody Herrick, product marketing manager for Ainsworth Game Technology.
AGS and its Cadillac Jack subsidiary also showed Asian-themed games. Golden Wins is the first game offered on the company’s Da Ji Da Li Multi Linked Progressive and features the PowerXStream play mechanic—a key feature of the combined companies’ very successful and high performing titles. Golden Wins tests the limits of volatility and is targeted at players who aren’t afraid to bet big to win big, according to company literature. Konami Gaming also offered a line of Asian games for its popular Podium platform that included the titles Eyes of Riches, Opera Beauty and Lion’s Reward, a local area progressive that features a Chinese lion dance character. Aristocrat Technologies brought over its highly successful Lightning Link player-selectable denomination linked progressive from Australia.
LICENSED PRODUCT ROUNDUP
As per usual for G2E, new licensed slot machine games were found in abundance on the trade show floors. Here are some general themes we noticed among all the popular culture-inspired content:
Dark Times—Whatever happened to the light and airy slot content of the past? At G2E this year, there were a number of new licensed slot games based on what can only be described as very dark, disturbing and cynical television series…and the crowds visiting the booths were eating it up. Aristocrat Technologies seemed to be a leader in this area, showcasing new and established games based on the shows Sons of Anarchy, The Walking Dead and Game of Thrones. IGT displayed slots themed on the seriesBreaking Bad andHouse of Cards.
Girl Power—Continuing a trend from last year, strong female personalities fronted a lot of new slot machines. Scientific Games launched the CHER Live video slot on its Pro Series V22/32 platform with a Pro Sound Chair. A Concert Wheel Bonus awards credits and five free game bonuses based on popular Cher songs. IGT offered a game based on Orange is the New Black, a hit television series based on line in a woman’s prison. The company also offered a new game for its slot series based on The Ellen DeGeneres Show.
Make ‘em Laugh—Comedy content was also a consistent theme in a lot of new licensed slot content. Aristocrat slots that showcased this theme included Big Bang Theory, TED and Dumb & Dumber. Scientific Games offered The Simpsons, CADDYSHACK and ROCKY HORROR PICTURE SHOW. IGT displayed a slot based on the irreverent TV show TMZ. Although not a licensed product, Everi offered Her Majesty, a game in which a semi-deranged, Monty Python-esque British Queen chops of heads and catapults sheep at an invading armada.
Music Makers—Some new slots at G2E centered on music or musical acts. Scientific Games’ MARGARITAVILLE featured the music of Jimmy Buffett on the Blade Stepper with a 42-inch curved LCD top box. This three-reel low denomination game includes six bonuses and plenty of tunes. The company also offered a Playboy-themed slot featuring the music and lifestyle of global music star Pitbull. Ainsworth Game Technology displayed Cinderella, a game based onthe classic Rogers and Hammerstein musical of the same name.
Looking Back—As always, nostalgia-laced themes made their way into new slot content. One prominent example was a new Aristocrat slot based on Downton Abbey, the hit PBS series set in a an early 20th Century English manor. The company also offered a game based on A Christmas Story, the iconic holiday movie set in 1940s America.
- Incredible Technologies (IT) continued its climb up the slot machine ladder with the debut of Infinity Skybox and Infinity Link, the follow-up to its Infinity U23 cabinet introduction last year. To showcase the new cabinet, the company also unveiled Crazy Money Deluxe, the latest game in its successful Crazy Money franchise. Crazy Money Deluxe features a 55-inch screen and proven base math, in addition to wheel and linked progressive option. “It’s a very simple approach,” said Dan Schrementi, vice president of gaming sales and marketing for IT. “Pre-orders for this product were at least double what we expected them to be.”
- IGT once again expanded on its industry-leading TRUE 3D game franchise. The series now consists of three distinct product lines with new titles that include Wheel of Fortune Double Diamond 3D game, The Plants vs. Zombies 3D Ancient Egypt, Cash Fever 3D, Reef of Riches 3D, Grit, Guns and Gold 3D and Return of the Sphinx 3D. Some of these games feature technology that track player eye movements, creating an even more realistic 3D experience.
- Alternative Gaming Solutions (Alto Gaming) and Casino Technology displayed a slot machine in a hot rod cabinet combination that turned a lot of heads at the show.