Interview with John Connelly of Interblock
Interblock USA was among the many companies at G2E that showcased new product its plans to circulate in North America, as well as feature at the upcoming ICE Totally Gaming trade show and exposition this February in London. Interblock CEO John Connelly recently took some time to meet with Casino JournalEditor Paul Doocey and discuss Interblock’s new Pulse Arena stadium gaming concept along with other new multiplayer gaming machines. Below are some excerpts from that conversation:
During a visit to your booth at G2E, I saw your Pulse Arena concept and was impressed. Please describe it and how it came about.
Connelly: When we were formulating our strategy for G2E in Las Vegas, we really felt we needed to release a product that was more conducive to an ETG [electronic table games] survey we had conducted in North America several months earlier. We spent a lot of time researching who are ETG players and what they were looking for. The results we uncovered were surprising—not only to me, but to the people who had been at Interblock for decades. What it showed was that we were getting a high propensity of slot players coming over to try the ETGs in addition to the younger demographic—the Millennials—that have always been attracted to the format.
Based on that, we felt it was time to try and create an environment around an ETG. Rather than creating new features and functionality which is fairly traditional in the gaming sector—adding a bonus screen, perhaps changing a piece of hardware on a slot machine and so on—we decided to create an environment by which people would feel more apt to socialize, such as the Milliennials, but also make that environment dynamic where we could have a demographic of keno players also be interested in entering the Pulse Arena. What you saw was the culmination of that research, some best-in-class products and features we had to offer at Interblock and the ability now, to implement environments on casino floors where during the day you can have a high propensity of keno players, with a certain demographic room setting, sound, music and visual effects, to a Friday night experience that will be much more geared to the Millennials.
Please go a little deeper into how Pulse Arena works…it is an interesting combination of live and computer-generated items…
Connelly: Since G2E, we have been working with several very large groups around the world, understanding their casino environment and demographics…that is the first step. Who are the players? What are their objectives? Where in the casino do they envision putting the Pulse Arena? Once we have the framework, we then began working on a strategic outline of what products we think would perform best in that location and the different demographics we want to apply.
For example, in many locations, keno and bingo are drivers for afternoon play of older demographics within their environments. So during the day, we will put an environment together in the Pulse Arena which has a certain sound—part of the aspects we offer are sound functionality, music, lights, lighting moods and a very large video screen system; an AV system that directly depicts what is going on to the players. If you have a keno ball drawing system, it depicts the keno balls being drawn up on the screen. But it also gives the host of the Pulse Arena the ability to interact. One of the key success factors is the ability to connect all those AV components—moods, lights, sounds—to the electronic table game itself and interact with that player personally. It can be done in a variety of ways which we demonstrated at G2E. One example would be to post a leaderboard up on the screens if someone wins. That same concept I just described for an afternoon keno session… you can quickly depict how you would do that for a Thursday, Friday or Saturday night with a Millennial demographic…you just shift everything more toward their preferences.
What are your plans for rolling out the Pulse Arena?
Connelly: For the first location, we have been working closely with Casino Quebec and it will be in Montreal. We are very excited about that, we signed a five-year deal with them for over 170 stations where we will be working with Casino Quebec, who historically launched The Zone and which I would say is a great example of what the Pulse Arena can be. The Zone has been very successful and we have taken our best-in-class and best practices combined those with what they are offering in Montreal and are very excited for that to be a showcase for North America.
We are also in discussions with over 17 other groups around the world.
Interblock also recently introduced Diamond StarBar, a multigame concept. How did this product come about and what role do you see it playing in the casino?
Connelly: That product is still in beta stage. We are in the final weeks of getting technical approval to launch it in Nevada. We will be placing the StarBar multigame concept in a series of locations to evaluate its performance. Based on that, we have a business plan in 2016 to expand that product line and deploy it throughout North America and then eventually internationally.
The product is primarily a bartop-type device which has a multiple suite of table games and has the ability to offer slot content, keno and other traditional casino games within a bar environment or within a casino. It is an area a couple of competitors have dominated within the gaming sector historically and we feel, in conjunction with some of the customers we’re working with, that we can offer an alternative that can be successful.
So the product is for route operators?
Connelly: The initial intent and strategy has been focused on the route environment with bars. However, we have been receiving a lot of interest from traditional casinos who in their existing lounges or bars would love to place a StarBar for incremental revenue. But the initial intent will be on the Nevada route business in bars.
Interblock showcased some new twists on its line of electronic table games at G2E. Could you touch on some of these products?
Connelly: Absolutely. 2015 was really a foundation-building year for Interblock. A lot of the emphasis was focused on establishing processes, procedures, metrics and really rounding out the core portfolio—which in our case is roulette, baccarat, blackjack and craps ETGs. By the end of December 2015, we are very confident we will have the majority of those initiatives complete…which allows us in 2016 to spend much more of our time to take the ETG segment to the next level; whether that be features and functionalities on existing products or completely new concepts such as the Pulse Arena.