New slot machines shine at ICE London
The latest edition of ICE London, which took place last month at ExCeL London, is in the books and, by all accounts, the yearly conference lived up to the high standards set by previous versions of the event. Indeed, when the numbers are finally and officially tallied, ICE London 2019—produced by Clarion Gaming and designed to serve the land-based and online segments of the international gaming community—likely surpassed its previous high-water mark of 33,500 overall attendees, a record that was set in 2018.
One record that was set at this year’s version of ICE London involved the event’s tradeshow component, which was the largest ever in terms of overall size (45,500 square meters) and number of companies displaying product (612). This influx of gaming suppliers large and small—coupled with the diverse needs of both brick-and-mortar and online gaming operators—produced a vibrant tradeshow floor brimming with product both new and technologically innovative. What follows in an in-depth look at the featured offerings and general observations from leading slot machine suppliers at the event, organized by company:
Scientific Games’ emphasis at ICE was on products from Europe that differed from those at last October’s Global Gaming Expo (G2E). For instance, GOLDFINGER—part of the company’s JAMES BOND series of slot games—was shown on a TwinStar J43 cabinet as an option for European players. “Jin Ji Bao Xi is probably the product that we’re focused the most on,” Michael Mastropietro, vice president of game design for SG Gaming, told Slot Management & Marketing. “That game was launched in Asia at the end of last year and in the U.S. and Canada the week before ICE.”
The company also showcased new games specifically for the UK marketplace, according to press materials. Super StarTurns offered a spinning wheel feature giving away cash and free spins. Meanwhile, expanding symbols on Lady of Avalon fill the reels for bigger wins and Rainbow Riches Leprechaun’s Gold, the latest edition to the Rainbow Riches brand, was packed full of bonus features. Also making its debut was the highly anticipated MICHAEL JACKSON MegaStar, which featured extensive video and music from the “King of Pop.” This latest community game title includes a “Megastar” feature and incorporates a pot and a tiered free spins bonus round which awards up to 20 free spins.
Mastropietro acknowledged that the casino business in Europe operates a little differently than in the U.S.; Scientific Games does much less leasing and revenue-sharing there than in the States and themed games are less prominent. Europe’s casinos tend to be smaller, too, but larger casinos do play a role. And some themes travel well.
“We have the V75 here,” said Mastropietro. “We’re also showing the TwinStar Phantom. Customers are interested in that, but space is certainly a factor in this market. JAMES BOND is one of those themes that travels well over here. Pink Panther is another one. It was a successful license for Shuffle Master in Australia for many, many years. They made a linked game for that market and we’re bringing it worldwide now.
At ICE, Scientific Games continued to tap into the global popularity of Asian themes and game types. “There are just some great artistic elements with Asian themes that work well with slot machines,” said Mastropietro. “You see these trends come and go. When I started you saw Egyptian themes, for example. Theming is the attractive part of the game but the game has to speak for itself. Some games are more ‘Asian’ than others. Jin Ji Bao Xi was developed specifically for China by one of our best game designers who happens to be a Chinese woman based in Australia.”
Australia has continued to grow in prominence as a game development base for Scientific Games which has some pretty deep roots there, and the product coming out of that market has started to resonate worldwide.
“Many years ago I worked for WMS and Star Games used to put WMS content out in Australia,” said Mastropietro. “Some of those people still work there and we all work together again after all these years. There are games that were developed in Australia for Australia that have become widely popular. Lock it Link is a game that works not only in Australia but all over the world; 88 Fortunes is another example. We’ve taken a group that was focused on one particular market, albeit a big market, and been able to leverage that content globally.”
Scientific Games has game design centers in Chicago, Las Vegas, Sydney and Reno. The company also has a group in Manchester in the UK that develops betting shop games. France is its strongest market in Europe, which goes back to its Bally Europe days. For growth elsewhere on the continent, it is targeting northern and eastern markets, such as Poland, Sweden and Romania.
Scientific Games also showcased its online game offerings at ICE London. According to company literature, Scientific Games’ Open Gaming System (OGS) and Open Platform System (OPS) combine to form a trusted and feature-rich gaming ecosystem. With more than 2,000 available games from the company’s nine in-house game studios and third-party providers, OGS gives operators instant access to a library of award-winning titles. OGS continues to scale at speed and simplify online gaming for Scientific Games’ partners. The OPS gives partners a flexible player account management system and portal, empowering player experiences and insight.
Scientific Games displayed its portfolio of online casino content, including omni-channel titles, current favorites and sneak peeks at upcoming launches. Attendees got early access to upcoming titles such as Gorilla Go Wilder and Jin Ji Bao Xi Endless Treasure.
Games were clearly the emphasis for International Game Technology PLC (IGT) at ICE 2019.
“This is the fourth ICE of the new IGT, and eventually we’ll drop the word, ‘new,’” Walter Bugno, CEO of IGT International told Slot Management & Marketing. “The difference between this one and the other three is we have no new hardware. We had to catch up on hardware the first three years, but with the launch of CrystalCurve and CrystalDual 27 cabinets, which were our last two significant moves, our cabinet range is as good as anything in the market. This year, it’s all about the games.”
Along those lines, IGT had five key pillars at this year’s show:
- Multi-level progressive games: IGT’s portfolio leveraged in-house proprietary brands such as Fort Knox, Fortune Gong, Fortune Link and Star Stax, an Australian-studio developed game inspired by Star Rise.
- Strength of the core portfolio: IGT has added a lot of discipline to its overall product offer through test banking programs and focus groups. The hit video reel core game Scarab, which came out of the company’s Graz, Austria studio, being a prime example.
- Multi-games: These are highly relevant to the international market. USwitch, which was introduced last year, was prominently featured at ICE with an expanded 24-game configuration.
- IGT PlayDigital: Among the features here was the CrystalBetting Terminal, individual multi-media carrels that bring together the full range of IGT’s omni-channel sports betting offer. The product will be released later this year. PlayAI, an artificial intelligence predictive analytics solution, was also featured.
- Electronic table games (ETGs): IGT is a relatively new entry into this segment but the company made a substantial ETG statement at ICE with its new RNG baccarat interface.
Game development has evolved over the last 18 months, with studios being aligned with markets served. “Market attunement and localization are the drivers,” said Bugno. “We develop two kinds of games; a global game, which is the same game with minor regulatory customizations that goes everywhere. We’re finding fewer and fewer of those. You will find the same title in multiple jurisdictions but it’s not necessarily the same game. Star Stax, for instance, is in the U.S. with version one and in Australia with version two. If you stand in front of the game it’s 90 percent identical when you look at it, but it plays completely different in terms of game math, values, denominations and the mechanics of play. What’s important in one market is not important in another.”
Bugno called Australia a “proxy market” for the U.S., for linked progressive games in particular. “If it works in Australia, you’re almost certain it’s going to work in the U.S.,” he said. “On the other hand, we’ve seen product that worked in Australia that doesn’t work in Macau or in Eastern Europe. In the last 12 months, we’ve worked really hard in Australia and you see product such as Star Stax and Hyper Hits that we’ll take to more markets than just Australia.”
At ICE, IGT had its sights focused on many things, including growing its presence in Eastern Europe. “Right now, it’s a market dominated by two key players,” Bugno said. “We think that there is demand for an alternative. A lot of our game development is focused to meet the requirements of that player.”
This year’s ICE London event featured several key highlights from across Konami Gaming’s global games lineup, including a record library of single-screen games, nearly half a dozen dual-screen linked progressives and the ICE premiere of Konami’s first 4K Ultra HD cabinets, according to press materials. In addition to new screen formats and leading SeleXion multi-game compatible cabinets, Konami showcased a variety of top-performing slot content including Star Watch Magma, Agent: Magnifying Jackpots, Lion Carnival and Riches with Daikoku Triple Sparkle.
Konami’s popular SeleXion made its return to ICE 2019, backed by agile and customizable multi-game technology. Konami showcased SeleXion on Concerto upright and Concerto Slant, as well as 43-inch single-screen Concerto Crescent and Concerto Stack, with more than 50 themes. Operators can custom select up a mix of game themes on a single machine, as well as a progressive bonus, according to a press release. SeleXion’s robust processing power gives players fast game change speed and an optimal interface to enjoy a fun mix of their favorite games in one spot.
Lion Carnival is among the latest releases in Konami’s popular Multiple Lines 15 REELS series. Similar to titles like Sparkling Roses, Lion Carnival features a mystery multiplier chance throughout game play. Lion Carnival was featured at ICE 2019 on Concerto SeleXion.
Among the top Crescent game releases showcased at ICE 2019 was Konami’s new Star Watch series. It uses a similar Strike Zone game mechanic to Celestial Sun Riches and Celestial Moon Riches, but instead of activating a central reel section, players increase their bet to activate entire reel strips from left to right, up to the entire frame. Star Watch Magma includes multi-denom options, and is available now across global markets.
Further expanding upon Konami’s popular Strike Zone mechanic, Agent: Magnifying Jackpots is a five-reel multi-denom game with scaling four-level standalone jackpots. Meanwhile, a top 4K-resolution game featured on KX 43 was Riches with Daikoku Triple Sparkle. The legendary Japanese god of wealth and guardian of farmers is larger than life with pin-sharp 4K pop and precision. Riches with Daikoku Triple Sparkle offers multi-denom options and can be configured as a standalone or linked progressive.
At ICE London 2019, NOVOMATIC premiered its new PAY DAY concept—with the first two titles, Prized Panda and Prize of the Nile—both featuring six progressive win levels, evidence that linked progressives continue to be a major topic for the company. The Pay Day series enters the world stage with a range of linked themes that will connect to the NOVOMATIC’s Enchanted Fortunes Linked Jackpot, according to a press release.
Other brand new slot titles included reimagined classics, including Lucky Lady’s Wild Spell, with enhanced gameplay and 4K graphics on the PANTHERA Curve 1.43 and V.I.P. Lounge Curve 1.43. The international launch of MacGyver saw players join Richard Dean Anderson and lead cast on the NOVOSTAR V.I.P. 3.50, the compact V.I.P. Lounge 2.32, and the first of two online themes—MacGyver: Duct Tape & Diamonds—on desktop and mobile devices. Meanwhile Apollo God of the Sun, a highly successful online slot game, was adapted into a land-based game for the NOVOMATIC international game cabinets.
International slot launches won’t stop there. Visitors to ICE 2019 experienced the global launch of titles like Savage Hunt, Valkyrie Star, Princesses of War, Dragon Hits and Asian Dragon hot. Refreshed game mixes on display included NOVO LINE Interactive Edition X1, Jackpot Edition deluxe 1, Superia Premium Mix 2 and The Legend Gaminator T1.
A new cabinet—V.I.P. Eagle III 3.32—made its premiere, showcasing leading games on the NOVO LINE Interactive Edition X and Impera Line HD Edition 6 mixes. Combining upright and slant-top cabinet design, this new cabinet release for selected markets featured two ultra-sharp 32-inch game screens and 27-inch TouchDeck slant, complemented by extra-wide LED
As in recent years, NOVOMATIC shared its ICE booth space with Ainsworth Game Technology, which displayed its A600, A600ST and A640 slot cabinets. These cabinets featured best-in-class slot games for European and international markets such as Quick Spin, Mega Choice Treasures and Mega Choice Quad Shot mixes, in addition to new mixes Mega Choice Classics and Mega Choice Fortune. Link technology was also a focus for Ainsworth, with link themes such as Golden Link, Mad Millions, Raging Roosters reloaded and the PAC-MAN Link series.
ICE London remains a very popular show for operators involved with online games, a fact not lost on slot providers such as AGS, which devoted its tradeshow booth to platforms and game titles for online real-money and social gaming offerings.
Following the company’s June 2018 acquisition of iGaming aggregator and content provider Gameiom Technologies, AGS now offers a robust game aggregation platform, remote gaming server and a library of more than 600 entertaining game titles from a network of third-party suppliers, and soon-to-launch game content from AGS’ own in-house studios, according to press materials. To deliver its high-performing games and provide an exceptional play experience, AGS partners with many of the world’s leading online operators, including 888 Holdings, Betfred, BetVictor, Coral, GVC Holdings, Ladbrokes, Rank Group, and William Hill.
At ICE, AGS provided live demonstrations of its Axsys Games Marketplace game aggregation platform and game titles soon-to-be available from AGS, which include online versions of AGS’ proven land-performers like Golden Wins, Jade Wins and Longhorn Jackpots. AGS also highlighted its large portfolio of game titles from its partner network of third-party suppliers, which include 1x2 gaming, 2 By 2 Gaming, Ainsworth, Asylum Labs, Bulletproof Games, Gaming Realms, High 5 Games, MetaGU, Reflex Gaming, Revolver Gaming, Skillzz Gaming, Storm Gaming Technology, No Limit City and Oryx Gaming.
The company also displayed its Connexsys Social White-Label Casino solution, a turnkey, free-play B2C mobile app solution for land-based casinos that blends the casino brand with AGS’ library of player-favorite games to deliver a mobile gaming experience for players.
Everi also decided to emphasize its interactive gaming capabilities at ICE London 2019.
Following the successful launch of its Remote Game Server (RGS) at the 2018 G2E, Everi demonstrated how operators can leverage the RGS to seamlessly deliver online gaming entertainment uniquely tailored to their brand and player strategies. Everi’s RGS is a platform to develop and distribute new games, allowing operators to launch land-based, online real-money and online social gaming channels with higher visibility and promotion, according to press materials.
The company offered more than 50 game titles on its RGS in 2019 by replicating its premium land-based gaming experience for online players. At ICE London, discussions focused on working with customers and partners to integrate with Everi’s RGS to bring proven, land-based content to interactive and online channels.
NEW & NOTEWORTHY
- APEX Gaming showcased its CLOVER LINK, a jackpot island configuration solution available in three different versions and each with a choice of different Pinnacle slot machines. The BIG ISLAND consists of eight slots in an eclipse design, the ROUND EDITION has four slots in a circular design and the WALL EDITION is the most flexible, as it can be expanded to as many slots as the customer requires.
- Inspired Entertainment introduced a new server-based gaming cabinet at ICE. The Valor cabinet boasts a dual 27-inch ultra-high definition floating screens that deliver a unique and immersive player experience, according to a press release. Built-in screen frame lights offer enhanced front-facing contextual lighting and rear-facing ambient lighting. Valor will not only provide new player experiences for existing markets but will also take Inspired into new jurisdictions with specific content developed for North America and Europe.
- Win Systems displayed two new GameStar slot machines at ICE London 2019: the GameStar ST3, a technologically advanced gaming machine combining the comfort of slant-tops with the latest design trends and playability of upright slot machines, and the GameStar Rhapsody, a slot machine with a compact design specially developed for route operations and small venues.
- Zitro brought a new twist to video bingo with its Power Bingo Link, a linked video bingo LAP with a four-level progressive jackpot and innovative game mechanics that differentiate it from traditional video bingo games, according to press materials. The company also showcased new additions to its video bingo games library including Fireworks, Lucky Children and Maximus.
- Evoplay Entertainment displayed its second fully 3D/VR in-browser enabled slot title at ICE 2019. The game, Sprinkle, takes players on a VR enhanced, 3D-dive into a psychedelic world of luminescent mushrooms, enveloped by an accompanying soundtrack of dreamy music serving to enhance the unique gaming experience.
- Fugaso exhibited a slots portfolio with engaging games such as Mr Toxicus, Power of Asia, Smoking Dogs, Cosa Nostra, Knockout, Book of Tattoo, Grand Sumo, Crazy Bot, Brave Mongoose, NRG Sound, Golden Shot, Mummy 2018: Block Pays and Jewel Sea. The company also launched the immersive Trump It Deluxe, a five-reel 15-payline fun satire on global politicians packed with rich features and engaging characters.
- iSoftBet previewed a trio of its new slot games for 2019, including Pinata Fiesta, Vegas High Roller and Merlin’s Magic Mirror, all containing the game developer’s trademark math models and innovative features.
- Microgaming showcased a number of new online slot games at ICE London, including a disco-tinged trip back to the 1970s in the new Village People online slot, developed exclusively by Fortune Factory Studios; Agent Jane Blonde Returns, the second superspy-themed game from Stormcraft Studios; the chrono-hopping, cyber-punk adventure Shogun of Time by Just For The Win, and a new Lara Croft game developed by Triple Edge Studios.
- NetEnt introduced an exciting new character to its slots lineup after securing the rights to create its own adaptation of Conan. The mythical hero, who has been the subject of numerous films, books, comics and video and board games, will be given a makeover by NetEnt. The sword and sorcery-themed game will boost NetEnt’s portfolio of player-favorite branded titles that include Narcos, Vikings, Jumanji, Planet of the Apes, Guns n’ Roses, Motörhead and Jimi Hendrix.
- Optimove debuted iGaming Pulse, an industry benchmark platform for the gaming sector. iGaming Pulse enables gaming operators to accurately assess their overall performance against industry-wide key performance indicators.
- Pariplay used ICE London as an opportunity to promote the forthcoming launch of its newest online slot, Rumble Rhino.
- Wazdan brought new online slot titles to ICE 2019: Magic Stars 5, Magic Stars 6, Space Gem, Gold Fish, Larry the Leprechaun, Juicy Reels and Lucky Reels.