It’s no secret that the tradeshow floor of Global Gaming Expo (G2E) has tended to be a slot machine-centric affair, where large and small device suppliers showcase a new crop of games and cabinet concepts for casino executives each year. But visitors to slot vendor booths at G2E 2017 may have come away a little perplexed, perhaps thinking they slipped into an arcade or video games event instead of a casino equipment show.
Indeed, not only were nascent companies such as Gamblit and GameCo showcasing “gamblified” versions of popular video game concepts and themes, so too were slot machine giants such as International Game Technology (IGT) and Konami Gaming, which devoted substantial portions of their showfloor real estate to slot machines with arcade-like play mechanics and video game-related features. The undoubted goal of these slot/arcade/skill/video game hybrid products—meeting operator demand to offer types of gaming that will hopefully attract younger generations to the casino floor.
The introduction of increasingly interactive devices was only one of many slot machine trends evident on the G2E tradeshow floor. Once again, manufacturers introduced a blizzard of new slot cabinets, many featuring taller and wider screen displays to be better noticed in busy slot areas. New licensed games were also the order of the day, encompassing popular television, movie and music acts such as James Bond 007, Madonna and even the recent HBO smash Westworld. What follows is a recap of these and other trends the editors of Slot Management & Marketing noticed at G2E.
Several slot companies showcased new cabinet concepts at G2E, many of which continued to stretch the boundaries of height and dimension. One such company was Everi, which debuted a number of new large-format hardware offerings including the Empire 5527 premium lease cabinet that features a portrait-oriented 55-inch upper display and landscape-oriented 27-inch lower display. The Empire 5527 cabinet leverages proven technology from Everi’s Empire MPX to deliver an exciting new player experience with visuals never before seen on an Everi gaming device, according to company press materials. Also new for Everi was the Renegade 3600, a sign package that delivers three 43-inch convex curved monitors which combine to create a unique visual bonus experience. The product also has a sign-based speaker package that supplements the sound capabilities of the individual gaming cabinets to offer a unique floor-wide celebration environment.
Everi also introduced the Empire MPX cabinet (E43), a for-sale offering. Thanks to its unique cabinet shape that allows for optimized bank configurations, the E43 cabinet allows operators to place more units in a dedicated space and save up to 25 percent casino floor space compared to traditional bank configurations. The E43 also features a 43-inch full HD display, game-controlled lighting with backlight feature, and a new ergonomic LCD button deck with USB charging docks.
Konami Gaming went large at G2E 2017 with the introduction of its Concerto Opus cabinet. The latest addition to Konami’s proven Concerto Collection of video slots, Concerto Opus boasts an extra-large 65-inch HD cinematic display—a super-sized format that makes every win an exciting celebration for players. Each machine features a custom-lighted TouchDash button deck with dual spin buttons and cup holders, 4K capabilities and an optional USB charger.
Concerto Opus can carry most any popular Concerto KP3+ platform game, but also offers new custom portrait-oriented games such as Riches Drop Plop Plop Peach and Solstice Celebration Triple Sparkle, both of which were on display at G2E.
IGT reached for new heights at G2E with its MEGATOWER cabinet, which stands at more than 11 feet tall. This cabinet housed a number of Wheel of Fortune themes such as Wheel of Fortune Gold Spin Triple Gold and Wheel of Fortune Triple Double Diamond. Continuing the large-format evolution and building on the success of its S3000 cabinet, the IGT S3000 XL cabinet featured popular mechanical reel themes such as IGT’s Pinball, Triple Gold and Red Hot 21 Double Diamond games at G2E. IGT also brought large-format benefits to its video poker line with the introduction of the Video Poker XL cabinet. The upright hardware melds design elements from IGT’s S3000 XL cabinet with the time-tested IGT video poker player panel, according to a press release.
Scientific Games contributed to the height race with its towering TwinStar V75, which featured a 75-inch curved Ultra HD monitor, emotive lighting with holographic LEDs, dual re-spin bet buttons, an oversized 24-inch iDeck and a patent-pending simple assembly design. The cabinet debuted with MONOPOLY Hot Shot, which combines the iconic MONOPOLY brand with player-favorite Hot Shot game-in features. Scientific Games also introduced the TwinStar J43 cabinet, which has a 43-inch curved display, industry-leading hardware and thrilling multimedia lighting and sound. At G2E, the J43 housed the next generation Zeus Unleashed game and the iconic WONDER WOMAN games based on the 1970s live-action TV show. Meanwhile, the TwinStar J43 with iReels—an integration of the traditional stepper cabinet, contemporary HD display and an engaging transmissive LCD panel—was showcased with new games including JAMES BOND GOLDFINGER and THE LORD OF THE RINGS RULE THEM ALL.
Aristocrat Technologies went big with its new RELM XL reel spinner cabinet. Building on the success of the RELM cabinet, RELM XL features a dynamic topper wheel, a range of denominations to cover the floor, and player-favorite games such as the Buffalo and Britney. Another new item for G2E was Aristocrat’s elegant and sleek flame55 cabinet which offers a single-screen double-curved 55-inch 4K monitor, stereo “symphonic” audio, virtual button deck and advanced ergonomics. Games specifically designed for flame55 include new version of Game of Thrones and Tim McGraw. New licensed games Mariah Carey and WESTWORLD also debuted on flame55.
Fresh of the success of its Infinity U23 cabinet, Infinity Skybox and Infinity Super Skybox displays, Incredible Technologies (IT) continued to look up with its latest product introduction, the Infinity V55. This new Infinity core form factor utilizes a fully touchscreen 4K vertical 55-inch monitor on an Infinity U23 base—creating an immersive gaming experience on the largest screen on a core cabinet in the industry. While the impression is huge, the footprint is not. Like all of IT’s products, Infinity V55 was designed with the operator in mind and can be installed on a standard 28-inch base.
Aruze Gaming America also showcased two rather tall cabinets—Thor and Cube-X Innovator Deluxe. Thor is Aruze’s newest video cabinet that features a curved 55-inch HD monitor with an LCD touchscreen panel. Multiple titles will be available for Thor, including skill-based games as well as electronic table games. The recently launched Cube-X Innovator Deluxe is a premium Radiant Reel stepper cabinet on the high-performing Cube-X platform. This eye-catching cabinet features a large video wheel display on a 42-inch HD monitor, with a 23-inch LCD topper option, and a lightning speed processor board and operating system. Among the new titles shown on Cube-X Innovator Deluxe were two high-volatility games, Moonshine Jackpot and Sunfire Jackpot.
NOVOMATIC tossed its hat into the large format slot marketplace with its NOVOSTAR V.I.P. Royal that features a 65-inch upright full HD LED screen. At G2E, the cabinet housed a selection of feature games including Asian Fortunes and Treasures of Tut—two player-favorites in the U.S., according to press materials.
Other slot cabinet highlights from the G2E showfloor:
- AGS debuted its Alora cabinet and a library of new games exclusively designed for it. The company also showcased a new cabinet for its Orion line and Colossal Stars, a new game for its Big Red cabinet.
- Eclipse Gaming showcased Saros, a new cabinet with dual 27-inch 1080p full HD monitors showcasing innovative game content that appears to float in front of the cabinet and adds to the impact. According to a press release, every aspect of the ergonomic cabinet envelops the player in comfort. The seamlessly integrated, 15-inch LCD touchscreen button deck and the enhanced player interface brings everything within easy reach for the player. Saros was developed with flexibility and scalability in mind—its patent-pending modular design allows Saros to have multiple configurations including a standalone slant version and an upright version.
- Canada-based Bluberi unveiled its Novus Series of customizable and modular casino gaming products at G2E 2017. According to press materials, the design of the Novus Series cabinet accommodates six new interchangeable display modules that will be rolled-out over the next two years. In addition to the Novus Series cabinets, the b.POD by Bluberi is an innovative upgrade feature that may be added to existing Bluberi cabinets or the new cabinet line. The b.POD presents a vertical theater effect on the casino floor that extends player excitement from two screens to three.
- GameCo’s new Bartop VGM is the first gaming device to bring skill-based video games into the casino in a bar-ready form factor. The Bartop VGM bridges the gap between the casual games players have come to enjoy and a gambling experience in a relaxed and social atmosphere.
- Evostar is the latest addition to Merkur Gaming’s cabinet portfolio. Evostar has a shared innovation heritage with both the already successful Avantgarde, Avantgarde Trio and Merkurstar models, and is a unique hybrid, service-friendly upright with the added player comfort factor of a slant top player position. As an added player attraction, Evostar features a built-in USB port that allows guests to conveniently charge their mobile devices as they play, free of charge.
ARCADE & VIDEO SKILL
Companies across the gaming machine spectrum continued to use G2E as a platform to introduce hybrid concepts that incorporate arcade, skill and video game features and play mechanics into slot wagering formats. One company leading the charge in this area is Gamblit Gaming, a leading publisher for real-money and skill-based gaming for land based casinos. At G2E 2017, Gamblit announced a strategic partnership with Japan based BANDAI NAMCO Entertainment Inc., the developer behind the iconic arcade game PAC-MAN, to launch a one-of-a-kind casino experience with PAC-MAN Battle Casino. According to press materials, this game features cutting-edge real-money gaming mechanics as two to four players battle each other for a cash prize, while retaining the fun and retro maze gameplay that has made PAC-MAN a fan-favorite around the world. The original Japanese development team behind PAC-MAN Battle Royale is teaming up with Gamblit Gaming on a co-development project to bring PAC-MAN Battle Casino to life on casino floors in early 2018 on Gamblit’s Model G interactive game tables. They are also planning to develop an all new single player PAC-MAN experience for Gamblit’s TriStation hardware. At G2E, PAC-MAN Battle Casino was fully playable on Gamblit’s Model G multi-player platform as well as on a large format arcade experience system, were attendees went head-to-head for prizes.
Another Gamblit game making its debut on the G2E showfloor was Deal or No Deal Poker Special, a “gamblified” version of the classic television game show Deal or No Deal, offered on the company’s Model G interactive multiplayer game table and single-player TriStation hardware.
GameCo is another skill games pioneer that was extremely active at G2E. Fresh off its deal with Caesars Entertainment that has led to its skill-based Video Game Gambling Machines (VGMs) being installed at Caesars casinos in North Carolina, California, New Jersey and, pending approval, Nevada, GameCo showcased its “Casino of the Future, Now” concept at its G2E booth. According to press materials, as part of the casino of the future, GameCo envisions a seamless experience between gaming and non-gaming, which includes a greater degree of technology deployment. Casinos will offer products that appeal to gamers, provide diversified experiences and continue to evolve a top-tier hospitality experience. This convergence of new activations like eSports, dedicated gamer VIP lounges and a new generation of skill-based video games were on display at G2E.
GameCo’s G2E exhibit included the premieres of its “Gen 2” VGM game titles, including Steve Aoki’s Neon Dream, an infinite runner game featuring Grammy Award-nominated DJ/Producer Steve Aoki; and Terminator 2: Judgment Day, a first-person action game based on the iconic science fiction film. Other games debuting at G2E were the matching game Cosmic Candy Heist, bubble shooter Poseidon’s Deep Sea Saga, and hidden object game Twisted Worlds. GameCo also showed a prototype of its Multiplayer Challenge Mode, its player vs player system which allows two to eight people to compete against one another. Through its Multiplayer Challenge Mode, GameCo hopes to bring the arena phenomenon of eSports directly to the casino floor in an easy to implement system for operators.
Next Gaming showcased its skill-based games at G2E 2017. The company has IP licenses with the video game company Taito for Bust-a-Move and Arkanoid and with Atari for Asteroids. These were among the four skill-based games at the show, along with the company’s video reel games.
The skill games are noteworthy for being purely skill-based. Mike Darley, chief executive officer said, “People say, ’Is this the bonus round?’ I say, ‘No. Why would I torture you?’ Players want to play the game; I don’t want to torture them with a video reel experience when they’re trying to get to the main game. Put your money in and have fun.”
Darley expressed confidence that the familiarity of video games that consumers have been playing for decades will make them a good fit with traditional slot players. “Many of the operators have told us we might need to incentivize people with some free play and I think we’ll need some of that. But when people start looking at these games, they’ll say, ‘I’ve played that game joystick.’”
Next Gaming brought its skill products to the G2E to fine-tune them and get feedback, and demand at the show was very high, according to Darley. In terms of the approvals process, the company has already been in discussions with the Nevada Gaming Control Board. “We’ve talked about our approach to these games; they don’t have any concerns. We’ll be out and ready to implement in the first quarter of 2018.”
A number of traditional slot suppliers came to G2E with unique skill/slot hybrids as well. Konami Gaming was one of the standout companies in this area, thanks to its skill-based Beat Square game, which now offers a tournament mode. Leveraging the company’s expertise in popular consumer arcade and video games, Beat Square challenges gamers to play, compete and prove their skill in a game of rhythmic coordination across a lighted touch pad dashboard, packed with new and recognizable tunes, according to press materials. Based on technology developed through iconic Konami creations like Dance Dance Revolution, Beat Square is the casino industry’s first musical rhythmic dexterity skill-game. It combines video game and arcade entertainment with original for-wager mathematics in order to provide casino players with a skill-based gaming experience that appropriately awards top players and new players alike. When the player selects a song and the game begins, different squares illuminate in rhythmic patterns, which the player taps in tempo to achieve higher points and random credit awards. Players can try their skill against the high scores leaderboard during single player mode, or compete with up to eight people during a Beat Square Tournament.
Other Konami skill-game options on display included the latest addition to its Frogger franchise, Frogger: Get Hoppin’. Also showcased at G2E was Crystal Cyclone on the company’s Titan 360 multi-station machine—a colorful, high-energy mechanical bonus game that can connect players to a center roulette-style progressive feature for big wins and excitement. Each player has an individual video slot station with proven base game themes, further enhanced by this one-of-a-kind community-style jackpot experience. Crystal Cyclone is comprised of eight slant top games that trigger one of three different mystery bonus events in the center ring. During the game’s most anticipated event, the player is awarded a random amount of prize balls, which flood the center ring ten at a time, each awarding a random credit amount or one of the progressive jackpots for the prize slots they land.
IGT showed its commitment to the “alternative” slot space by devoting a sizeable portion of its G2E booth real estate to skill-based, virtual reality (VR) and arcade-based game concepts. For example, IGT VR game content—SiegeVR and Tournament Archery—were offered in tournament and arcade modes in the booth’s Virtual Zone attraction. This space also showcased IGT’s latest advancements in skill-based gaming with a diverse portfolio of skill/chance hybrid content, omni-channel games and arcade-inspired concepts. G2E attendees tested their skill on IGT’s Cleopatra Pinball, Fuzzy Fortune and Little Fish Big Fish Video Reel Edge games, each of which is housed on IGT’s CrystalCore cabinet and gives players the option to engage in a free games or skill-based bonus where a player’s pinball skill influences the reward. IGT also displayed Lucky’s Quest, a for-wager, casual-style game that features a map-based progression narrative starring a dragon named Lucky. A player’s progress within the game can be transferred from a mobile device to a gaming machine and back, allowing for a seamless player experience across devices and channels. For arcade enthusiasts, the Race Ace Arcade game was offered, equipped with a sophisticated motion chair that immerses players with the full motion of virtual cars and three gameplay monitors that encompass players. The chair twists, turns, rumbles, vibrates and emits sound, giving players the sensation of participating in a real-life auto race.
At G2E, IGT announced it has inked a multi-year distribution agreement with Chill Gaming whereby IGT is the sole distributor of Chill Gaming products worldwide outside of Australia and New Zealand. Chill Gaming focuses on producing a range of innovative casino experiences aimed at creating value, entertainment and engaging a broad demographic of players, according to a press release. Two of these hybrid slot games were on display at the IGT booth—Bloomtopia and Fortunes of the Brave. The Bloomtopia game is a five-reel game that enables players to play for monetary and non-monetary rewards, giving players the opportunity to grow and nurture a virtual garden throughout gameplay, by awarding virtual resources such as water, sunlight and seeds. The Fortunes of the Brave game offers players a unique casino experience that melds skill and chance. Fortunes of the Brave game players will have the opportunity to create an in-game character that they can customize throughout gameplay by earning and applying virtual currencies to purchase new game content.
IGT also showed a number of video game-like attractions and play mechanics for traditional slot games, exemplified by its improved CrystalCurve TRUE 4D cabinet which offers innovative technologies such as mid-air haptics to casino gaming. Ghostbusters 4D was one of the featured games on this cabinet, a five-level, WAP-eligible progressive leverages TRUE 3D, gesture recognition and mid-air haptic technologies with a curved 50-inch, ultra-HD upper display and a curved, 32-inch, ultra-HD lower display. The interactive features of this game include the opportunity to wave their hands to shoot an energy beam at the Slimer character and the ability to draw mid-air symbols to unlock game features.
Another video game-like cutting edge piece of technology featured at the IGT booth was PowerSight, which enables a player to stare at on-screen objects to unlock them in pick bonuses and other player-selectable components of gameplay. This innovation was demonstrated on the CrystalCurve ULTRA cabinet in the all-new Sex and the City Video Slots game.
LICENSE TO THRILL
Licensed game products once again abounded at G2E, with slot manufacturers displaying games based on television shows, movies, music acts and other pop culture content both new and old. Scientific Games made one of the biggest splashes in this segment with its immersive JAMES BOND Experience, made possible through an exclusive agreement with EON Productions Limited, Danjaq and MGM Interactive, a subsidiary of Metro-Goldwyn-Mayer Inc., which gave Scientific Games the rights to leverage all past and future iconic JAMES BOND films, as well as the film’s talent portraying JAMES BOND, according to press materials. Scientific Games unveiled JAMES BOND CASINO ROYALE on the new Gamefield 2.0 platform, JAMES BOND GOLDFINGER on the TwinStar J43with iReels platform and JAMES BOND DIAMONDS ARE FOREVER on the Blade with Wheel cabinet.
Aristocrat was also an all-star in the licensed content space, announcing a partnership with Warner Bros. Consumer Products that led to the creation of a slot game based on the smash HBO series Westworld. The WESTWORLD Slot Game will take players on a thrilling journey through the series, which features fan-favorite characters, attractive imagery, high-definition footage of the most memorable scenes and the show’s distinctive music, according to a press release. WESTWORLD Slot Game debuted on Aristocrat’s new and sleek flame55 cabinet.
In addition to WESTWORLD, Aristocrat also announced a new licensing arrangement with the Madonna brand for a new multi-game slot deal. Each Madonna Slot Game will be themed with its own unique game play, inspired by and including Madonna’s popular hit songs from her most memorable eras. Since arriving on the Hot 100 with “Holiday” in 1983, Grammy Award-winning, Rock and Roll Hall of Fame inductee Madonna has earned a total of 57 chart hits, including a record 38 Top 10 singles. Madonna also holds the title of the highest-grossing solo touring female artist in Billboard Boxscore history.
Everi continued its push into the licensed product arena with new games inspired by cult television shows The Brady Bunch, Knight Rider and Buffy The Vampire Slayer, the classic movie musical Singin’ in the Rain, country music legend Willie Nelson and cable TV’s Discovery Channel Shark Week. The Brady Bunch, displayed on Everi’s new Empire 5527 cabinet, featured the show’s beloved characters along with a variety of bonus games that include video clips and sound from the show’s most memorable moments. Knight Rider, the NBC television series starring David Hasselhoff as Michael Knight and his AI-equipped car KITT, came to life on both the Core HDX and Player HD cabinets in a new five-reel, 30-line video game. The new Buffy The Vampire Slayer for the Empire MPX cabinet is a five-reel, 1024-ways video game that showcases Buffy Summers, Sarah Michelle Gellar’s popular “Slayer” character. Singin’ in the Rain, based on the classic American romantic-comedy movie musical which ranks in the top ten on the American Film Institute’s 100 Greatest American Movies of All Time list, is a new three-reel, five-line mechanical game making its debut on the Skyline cabinet. The legendary country music of Willie Nelson will debut on slot floors with two new games for Everi’s Player Classic mechanical reel cabinet—Willie Nelson’s Shotgun Willie and Willie Nelson’s Whiskey River. A new key content introduction for Everi’s Empire Arena is Discovery Channel’s Shark Week bank-wide bonus game. Shark Week brings undersea adventure to life in a new way as the capabilities of Nitro drive bank-wide bonus offerings and big win celebrations for a banked array of six gaming devices.
NOVOMATIC officially entered the licensed game fray with the Miramax film From Dusk Till Dawn, a game that resurrects the Quentin Tarantino and Robert Rodriguez classic on the casino floor as the cult film celebrates its 20-year anniversary. Presented on the NOVOSTAR V.I.P. III and V.I.P. Lounge cabinets, the game has all the elements to inspire players with its fiery gameplay, Dusk and Dawn jackpots and exciting features and bonuses, according to press materials. Staying true to the cult classic, the From Dusk Till Dawn slot game delivers an explosive adventure for slot enthusiasts and fans of the film alike. Starring George Clooney and Quentin Tarantino as the Gecko brothers, Salma Hayek as Santanico Pandemonium, as well as Harvey Keitel, Juliette Lewis and Danny Trejo in footage from the film, players are taken on a journey to Mexico from the comfort of a V.I.P. chair on cabinets that control the action and provide gripping surround sound.
As usual, IGT came to G2E armed with a number of new licensed slot products. The company’s CrystalCurve ULTRA cabinet housed the new Blake Shelton Video Slots game. The WAP-eligible progressive gives players a front row seat to play through Shelton’s chart-topping country music hits. The game leverages a built-in player camera and Dynamic Attract technology, and introduces an in-game giveaway feature that gives players the opportunity to receive a guitar signed by Blake Shelton. IGT also showcased The Voice Video Slots and The GOONIES Video Slots on the CrystalCurve ULTRA cabinet. G2E attendees were also transported to Pandora with the launch of the James Cameron’s AVATAR 3D game, and experienced raptors while playing the Jurassic World 3D game on the AXXIS 3D cabinet. In addition, the most successful game theme of all time will come to life in a new way with the Wheel of Fortune 3D Wild Sapphires game, a new TRUE 3D Reels game.
Konami Gaming showcased the next chapter in Castlevania themed video slots at G2E 2017 with two new themes for guests to explore. Based on the iconic video game first popularized in the 1980s, Castlevania: Labyrinth of Love and Castlevania: Ring of the Heavens explore new territories, beasts and monsters across the 43-inch canvas of Konami’s Concerto Crescent curved screen cabinet. Authentic art, animation and music from the series are found throughout, with multi-mystery bonus adventures that bring the legend of Castlevania to life.
Scientific Games Interactive looks to upgrade online gaming experience with Lock it Link
Lock it Link from Scientific Games Interactive is an original theme that represents the power of a combined company operating across many game-delivery channels.
Lock it Link Night Life captures a high-class, suit-and-tie aesthetic on real money gaming platforms in regulated jurisdictions and in the land-based space. Lock it Link Diamonds reflects the glitz and glamor of a luxurious superstar on the SG Universe Play4Fun Network social casino.
The Lock it Link title showcases the eponymous feature, a free spins bonus where adjacent special symbols on the reels, each with its own credit value, link together and lock in place. Throughout the free spins, each special symbol landed remains on the reels while upgrading the credit value on each linked symbol until all special symbols can be linked together, or until the feature ends. The total value of credits on the linked and locked symbols is then awarded. When an innovative and memorable feature is tied to a title available on many platforms, it’s a formidable combination.