Aruze Gaming is a global entertainment company that designs, develops and manufactures slot machines and gaming devices for the global casino market. The company currently has global business units operating in the Americas, Japan, Australia, Macau, Africa and Europe. Aruze’s North American division, Las Vegas-based Aruze Gaming America, is a rapidly growing supplier of distinctive video and stepper slots, communal gaming products and multi-terminal stations.
According to the company’s website, Aruze Gaming’s principles are to create fun and entertaining experiences, to build trust and maintain global relationships to foster a strong gaming culture, to provide quality products and content for all customers while offering exceptional customer service, to be socially responsible by supporting and encouraging responsible gaming initiatives and to dream and challenge conventional wisdom by thinking out-of-the-box with no compromises that transcends not only on different industries and domain, but also on generation and gender. Delivering excitement and enjoyment is the ultimate objective of product development at Aruze.
Helping to make these goals a reality for Aruze Gaming American is an experienced product and sales team that includes Brandon Knowles, executive director of table games; Fred Nunez, director of product management; Laura Sims, product manager andJosh Collins, director of sales. All took some time around last month’s Global Gaming Expo (G2E) to field questions from Casino Journal Executive Editor Charles Anderer and Editor Paul Doocey. What follows are some excerpts from their answers.
It seems like Aruze has changed a lot as a company in the last two years. Can you speak to these changes and how they came about?
NUNEZ: When I first got here, the product management organization had just barely been re-instituted, so that wasn’t heavily embraced yet. One of our greatest assets is our Japanese roots and development, but it also creates additional challenges when trying to keep a pulse in the jurisdictions we are in. We’ve made great strides, particularly in this last year, improving communication across global R&D, sales and product management.
That was the first step, but the next thing was to add diversity to the products and game content. We’ve had great leadership that has reignited the passion in our R&D team and brought us back to our roots of industry—challenging games and hardware. The most obvious example of this is the award-winning Muso Triple-27. No one else had thought to add LED lighting to the back of the cabinet, or to put a wireless charging port on the button deck. But we did both, and added an artistic pattern to the LEDs. The reception of the cabinet has been fantastic and our R&D team is more energized than ever.
Is R&D for Aruze Gaming exclusively in Japan?
NUNEZ: Not exactly. Our core development is in Tokyo, but we do have a sizeable team in the Philippines. We also have four teams that lead game design out of Las Vegas, most of them transfers from our team in Japan. They’re living in Las Vegas, can visit the casinos more frequently, and interact with the sales and product management teams on a daily basis. Having some of our best game designers here helps them carry that invaluable market research back to the rest of the team.
One of the things that has helped diversify our game content has been the great communication between the teams in all markets and R&D. Our R&D does a phenomenal job of looking at a market and making content that is suited best for the target market but transfers well to many other jurisdictions. It’s also been really great to see the team take chances and make games that are definitely not their normal style. We’ve heard many times this week that the graphics and sound packages are a big departure from our normal style, and our customers seem to really appreciate the variety.
What are some of the items Aruze is showcasing at its G2E booth this year?
SIMS: In addition to our fantastic ETG lineup, we are very focused on our award-winning Muso Triple-27 Cabinet and the two cabinets that utilize the same base. The Triple-27 cabinet was launched at NIGA, and we began installs in June. We launched the Muso Curve-43 at G2E and showed the Muso Limited, which will be launched later this year. The Triple-27 and the Curve both feature our industry-first wireless charging port and distinctive LED backlighting. As you came up to the booth, I think the LED backlighting on the Triple-27 and Curves all along the front of the booth really stood out and just drew you in.
In addition to sharing the backlighting, the Muso Triple-27 and Muso Curve-43 also both use the same platform and key internal hardware as our Cube-X series. This allows us to launch games on both sets of cabinets. We even showed one of our newest game families, the multi-denom series Legend City, on both our Cube-X Vertical 40 and the new Curve.
Our other new cabinet, the Muso Limited, has a 55-inch flat LCD on top, and our launch title will be the much-loved Paradise Fishing. The Muso Limited does not have the wireless charging, because we felt it was key to use to keep the reel controller that players loved from Paradise Fishing. Watching a row of people frantically reeling in fish during one of the bonuses is so fun and something we just couldn’t do without on this title.
Why doesn’t Aruze pursue licensed game content?
SIMS: A big reason is the restrictions a license can bring. It’s important to us to have the flexibility to sell outright, rather than have products that are exclusively lease. There are some licensors that are sensitive to that concern, but we haven’t yet found the right partner.
What sort of U.S. market share does Aruze hope to capture?
COLLINS: We believe that with the combination of our new MUSO cabinet, which by the way took the Gold Medal at G2E for “Best Slot Product,” and our electronic table games [ETGs], we can comfortably cover 6 percent of the U.S. market if not more. We are definitely not there yet but with the launch of our new products we believe this is a conservative number.
Are your products equally distributed across all the market segments… tribal, commercial, etc.?
COLLINS: We have a pretty even distribution throughout the various segments of the market, however not being licensed in all jurisdictions does make some of the commercial corporate customers a little hesitant to work corporate deals with us because we are not licensed in all their markets. We have put a lot of focus towards getting additional licenses in other jurisdictions and we are excited to be making progress rather quickly now. We have a lot customers on a regular basis continually ask us “when are you getting licensed” here, well now we can finally say we are coming!
The introduction of our new cabinets and our really fantastic ETGs has caused even more of those inquiries lately. With the product lineup we have now, it’s a fantastic time to be adding totally new customers.
How does Aruze view the ETG market and what is new for the company in this marketplace?
KNOWLES: There has been increased focus on ETGs in many markets and there is a general sense the market has been underserved and has lacked innovation. Over the past five or six years we have seen some progress, but the appetite for more innovation exists. We intend to innovate as evidenced by our booth.
We are launching multiple ETGs at this G2E. Probably the most unique product is Roll to Win Craps. We showed an early prototype at G2E last year and this year, it is market ready. The game combines one live dealer, standard physical dice, electronic terminals, and a craps layout completely made up of LED paneled lighting. Different from a standard craps table, there are no physical chips, there is only one dealer, and all bets are managed electronically, removing security risks and enabling an exciting pace of play. We have sought and received a lot of input from casino operators and are confident we have developed something special.
Roulette ETG is another area where we have focused some innovative energy. Previously, Aruze didn’t have an approved automated roulette product in the U.S. But we now have a newer version of roulette that combines a physical wheel, physical ball, with projection technology that enables unique side bets using a separate RNG. The projection imaging provides for increased graphical capabilities and we can show historical trends on the face of the wheel and depict a meteor-like tail on the traveling roulette ball.
Additionally, we will be launching Super Big Wheel before the end of 2018. Super Big Wheel has some unique features that our prior Lucky Big Wheel did not have, including a progressive sidebet, a two-sided LCD signage package, and a projector that graphically represents the bet countdown and anticipatory excitement. We have also added 1 terminal on each end to provide a magnificent looking install.
The ETG market is becoming increasingly competitive. What sets Aruze products apart?
KNOWLES: There is a reason the ETG market is becoming more competitive—the customers are demanding it. We and others are seeing growth in the space. Our products continue to lead the way in multiple ETG categories. Our Shoot to Win craps boasts the largest global install of any craps ETG and our Lucky Sic Bo and Dragon Sic Bo are second to none in Asia. We complement these successes with a full library of core ETG products: big wheel, baccarat, roulette and blackjack. Our game successes can be attributed to a focus on recreating the live experience with the added twists of exciting side bets, progressives and physical interaction that includes an arm pull on Super Big Wheel or a bash button on Shoot to Win Craps.
This focus on enhancing and not just mimicking the best part of live table games is what really sets us apart. For example, the physical interaction and social aspect of craps is what makes Roll to Win Craps such a fun and entertaining experience for players. Removing the chips while keeping that allowed us to create an entirely new product that both players and our customers are anxious to see on the casino floor.