It was hard to miss the Aristocrat Technologies booth at this year’s Global Gaming Expo (G2E) in Las Vegas, thanks in large part to a surrounding overhead presentation the emulated the verticality and curved nature of its popular Double Arc slot cabinet.
As in recent years, the Aristocrat booth was home to a number of cutting edge innovations in both the hardware and game sides, demoing a new stepper slot cabinet in addition to the Mammoth, a massive new slot machine features to 84-inch screens that create an 11-foot vertical presentation; as well as new licensed slot games such as A Christmas Story and Downton Abbey in addition to new concepts for established game themes like Game of Thrones, The Walking Dead and Big Bang Theory.
Maureen Sweeny, who was recently appointed to the new position of chief commercial office for Aristocrat after a 30-year career with IBM, took some time at G2E to speak with Slot ManagerEditor Paul Doocey. Here are some excerpts from that conversation:
What does your role as chief commercial officer entail? What experience do you bring to the position?
Sweeny: I joined Aristocrat one year ago in a new role as chief commercial officer, and I am responsible for our Class III business globally. I have Australia, New Zealand, Asia Pacific, Europe, South Africa and all of the Americas reporting to me.
What I bring to the job is an understanding of how technology can actually help grow businesses. That said, it’s really less about technology for technology sake than what you do with it. What you see here out on the floor is innovation in terms of our games—both the features and the functions and also how they are displayed and the enhancements in the new cabinets and how we are now able to engage the player in a real immersive experience.
This view also applies to our systems side. It is often an overlooked part of our business, but we are coming out with some really creative applications to enable casinos to really reach out to their players, strengthen that loyalty and give them promotions along the way.
Aristocrat has impressed year after year at G2E thanks in large part to your cabinet development and licensing choices. How does the licensing process work for Aristocrat? How do you go about choosing your game themes?
Sweeny: We have our proprietary brands… folks in the U.S. would clearly know Buffalo and there are several new versions of Buffalo out on the show floor right now which are getting very positive response. We also have another proprietary product called Lightning Link coming out of Australia where it is absolutely just blowing the numbers thanks to its innovation.
We also look to be relevant to the market today. We look for titles that are both nostalgic and forward looking, such as Big Bang Theory, Britney Spears Slot Game,
Game of Thrones…
Your cabinet work has also evolved through the years—you’re using the Double Arc on a lot of the new games in six pod configurations, and the Behemoth cabinet continues to draw attention. Now you have the Mammoth cabinet which features two 84-inch screens for an 11.5 foot high vertical presentation…
Sweeny: Yes, it is kind of a how big can you go sort of test. We are calling it our ‘concept car,’ essentially putting it out there to see if there is interest from customers and would they buy one for their slot floor before we make the big investment to build it out. We have gotten some very positive feedback. 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. We will continue to play with the concept.
Do you envision it as a show stopper piece? One per slot floor to draw in the customer…
Sweeny: Yes, and it also kind of gets into the social space. You can easily put two to three people on the bench in front of this game playing side-by-side in almost a movie theatre kind of atmosphere. I see all smiles around this machine. It is just really building on the Behemoth, which is doing very well and has generated much more interest than we originally expected.
In our teams, we have great game designers in the studios, but we also have an engineering and hardware design team. Everyone collaborates. We have a specialty around the hardware design, and are also willing to work with some external firms for the human aspects of the cabinets and to make sure we have gotten the designs right.
This spirit of collaboration seems to have applied to recently acquired VGT as well. Aristocrat helped VGT develop a progressive product, and VGT helped Aristocrat with a new stepper slot cabinet…
Sweeny: You’re absolutely right. The wide-area progressive has always been in VGT’s game plan, but they did not have the talent to create it. So we helped them get that up and running and it has been a fabulous launch for them and us. Similarly, we are leveraging the stepper talent that exists at VGT to come out with a stepper for Aristocrat. It is not available today… similar to the Mammoth, we have it here at G2E to get feedback from our clients. We will hopefully have it out some time next year, given all the positive feedback we have had about it.
Aristocrat’s stated strategy going forward is to grow through its clients. How do you see that working going forward?
Sweeny: We have grown over the years by hiring great creative talent that have created great products. But at the end of the day, it is all about the value we deliver to our clients; how we help them growth their business. We are now engaging with our clients in a much more strategic conversation about the challenges they have, where Aristocrat is going, and where these synergies align. We like to say we are growing by enabling our clients to grow.
With this in mind, what is Aristocrat’s research and development commitment like?
Sweeny: We invest where we see the return, and we are certainly seeing that in the products we have on the floor today. We have a commitment to continue to invest in new product and frankly thinking on new types of product as well. Right now, skill-based gaming is on top of everyone’s mind and we are trying to figure that out. We haven’t yet…. but we will collaborate with our clients and develop something that makes sense.