In order to keep pace with Class III slot machines, Class II devices have gone through significant improvements in technology, evolving into high-performing, entertainment-filled product lines which are now comparable and able to compete with Class III concepts.
Enhanced software and hardware platforms have allowed slot manufacturers to deliver new configurations that support advanced game content with innovative features; meanwhile, Class II game cabinets also continue to evolve in this market with larger screens and 4K capabilities.
“Newer technology has allowed us to provide a better customer experience through improved game quality, as well as to increase the play of our Class II products to the extent that, in most cases, it is difficult for the player to notice any difference between a Class II and Class III game,” said Chad Dickie, vice president of sales and business development at Eclipse Gaming.
“I also believe that the overall improved performance of back-end server technology combined with the latest hardware’s ability to support richer media has been a game changer,” added Ryan Reddy, vice president VLT Class II and systems product marketing at IGT.
With the increased quality of Class II products, the gap performance between Class II and Class III gaming is shrinking. “That diminishing performance gap, coupled with the tax benefits of operating Class II games, often creates a compelling financial case for tribal operators to add more Class II products to their floor,” said Andrew Burke, senior vice president-slot products for AGS. “And that is fine with us, because we know having a mix of both Class II and Class III games gives our tribal operator-partners more flexibility and the ability to generate more revenue, which means that they, in turn, reinvest in their gaming floors.”
Indeed, the continued evolution of Class II games and equipment is partially fueled by ongoing tribal operator desire to maintain economic independence and to meet the needs of markets that do not have Class III slot machine compacts; which has led to recent Class II-only facilities opening in Indiana, Alabama and Texas.
“Overall, we believe operators will continue to seek out both Class II and Class III games,” said Jesse DeBruin, senior vice president, gaming operations at Everi. “Although tribes continue to renegotiate their compacts to effectively remove caps on Class III games, we believe the industry overall is increasing its footprint of Class II games despite the fact growth isn’t necessarily evident in markets that include both Class II and Class III.”
Looking at Class II devices from the customer standpoint, the quality and availability of Class II products has increased to the point where, in many cases, it is difficult for most slot players to even notice a difference in the game play experience between the Class II and Class III versions of a particular game theme. Many manufacturers have the ability to deliver games as both Class II and Class III options.
“Today, it is difficult to distinguish a Class II game from a Class III game,” said Burke. “Players get the same bonus features, play mechanics, and multi-level progressives that they can experience in a Class III game. On mixed gaming floors where operators offer both Class II and Class III, we are finding that the performance gap between Class II and Class III games is shrinking quickly because of technological advances in game play, game speed and play mechanics.”
Class II gaming manufactures have come a long way with the advancements incorporated into their games. Below is a list of some of the Class II suppliers and their latest developments and game offerings in this market.
AGS has deep roots in the Class II market, having started in the early 2000s as primarily as a provider of Class II slot products to the tribal gaming market in Oklahoma. The company still has a very strong presence in the Class II market across the U.S., offering nearly its entire library of slot cabinets and game content for both Class II and Class III jurisdictions.
AGS offers everything in its Class II games that is present in its Class III games—linked multi-level progressives, progressive pick features, free-game bonuses and even the company’s Xstream Evaluation technology that maximizes the number of ways to win by evaluating awards based on the number of symbols in any position.
“What is interesting is our Xtreme Jackpots, which is a concept that worked really well for us in Class II and we’ve expanded to Class III,” said Burke. “This is a frequently hitting linked jackpot feature that creates high levels of achievability for players. The jackpot starts at $10,000, but typically hits in the $30,000-$40,000 range and has even gotten as high as $100,000. Xtreme Jackpots links the progressive prize among different AGS games, and works on nearly all of our cabinets. It’s been a very effective and exciting concept for AGS.”
AGS launches a steady stream of new Class II game content into the market each month. Recent game titles include Tiger Magic, Orbs of Fortune, the Kingdom Cash series (Wolf, Water, Plains, Fire and Earth), Chinatown Luck Xtreme Jackpots, Golden Skulls, Fu Pig and Wolf Queen Xtreme Jackpots.
AGS was again the top-ranked supplier overall in the EILERS-FANTINI February 2019 Monthly Game Performance Report, with overall performance of 1.48x index vs. zone.
The company will be exhibiting at NIGA in Booth 1651. “NIGA is a very important show for us… it gives us a chance, in a smaller and more intimate environment than G2E, to spend good, quality time showcasing our newest products to our tribal customers,” said Burke.
This year AGS is showcasing new Class II content for its Orion Portrait and Orion Slant cabinets. A key highlight will be the game Rakin’ Bacon!, which was also shown for Class III at G2E. “Since its Class III launch late in 2018, Rakin’ Bacon!’s performance has been outstanding, and we feel it will become a top Class II performer on our Orion Portrait platform,” said Burke.
The company is also displaying its Kingdom Cash Series for Class II—Kingdom Cash Earth, Kingdom Cash Plains and Kingdom Cash Water. This series features a free games bonus, two linked progressives and two static jackpots that scale with bet based on the bet multiplier, for better rewards with higher bets on more frequent-hitting jackpots.
At NIGA AGS also plans to showcase its new Orion Upright platform, which is scheduled to launch in the second half of 2019. This future-ready, core cabinet is launching with exclusive new titles and AGS ICON greatest hits such as Golden Wins and Jade Wins. It has many of the same features as other Orion cabinets, including the distinctive starwall lighting design. The Orion Upright also features a 21.5-inch LCD topper, LCD button deck, high-bright accented bash buttons and a USB charger.
Eclipse Gaming’s core focus is in tribal gaming. With a strong commitment to creating a variety of entertaining gaming experiences for the player and delivering results for its casino partners, Eclipse has emerged as a strong contender in the Class II gaming market. The company recently built upon this momentum with its expansion into Louisiana, California, Washington and Michigan, as well as by growing its footprint within many of the company’s core markets.
Eclipse is continually investing in technology and recently introduced its new Fusion gaming platform. This platform is reportedly allowing the company to further expand and diversify its product line and to provide the player with new levels of entertainment.
“Our products include stunning graphics with fun animations, enticing interactive bonus games which engage the player, persistence features which build excitement and anticipation, and rewarding new math models such as our patented Anyline Progressive series,” said Dickie. “One of our top priorities has always been to work closely with our customers to deliver unique, entertaining solutions for their patrons and to ensure the right product mix that provides optimal value for their operations.
“To that end, our 10X Wild Multiplier series has continued to be a top performer in the market. The series includes a variety of three-reel, one-line games with rich math and volatility for the gambler, but in an easy-to-play game that also appeals to the casual player.”
New games in this family that are scheduled to be shown at NIGA include Super Slots of Cash—Bull Booster and Super Slots of Cash—Respin. Each adds a unique re-spin feature to the base game—without requiring an additional wager—that retriggers the third reel following a close call for a second chance to win or win bigger.
Eclipse will showcase an exciting lineup of new products at NIGA 2019. Following a sneak-peek at G2E, Eclipse’s new Anyline Progressive series is anticipated to be one of the major highlights in the booth. “The feedback from operators is that they love this new way to play for progressives, which allows the player to hit any of the nine progressive levels while playing at any bet level—even the minimum bet,” said Dickie. To further spice up the game, each of the nine progressive levels is tied to one of the nine lines in the game, so a player can possibly hit any line at any bet to win one of the progressives, creating a thrilling and rewarding gaming experience.
Eclipse also plans to release Dragon Fire Fortune and Roaring Tiger Fortune from its Great 88 series at NIGA. Both themes offer 243 ways to win, plus an interactive Lucky Coin Pick Game which may trigger one of the four progressive jackpots. The company also plans to showcase a variety of new concepts and innovations on its Saros and Vega cabinets.
Everi is the casino gaming industry’s single source provider of gaming products and financial technology solutions. The company’s Class II offerings include exciting game content and innovative cabinets that engage players at higher levels as well as integrated financial technology solutions that help operators maximize funds to their floor while providing a premium experience for their guests. Everi began as a Class II supplier, a point of pride with the company.
“Everi is deeply committed to its tribal casino partners and continues to make significant investments to address their needs particularly in terms of new game content, hardware platforms, player engagement features and banked solutions,” said DeBruin. “We continue to introduce new cabinet styles as well as take swings on different play mechanics such as Lightning Zap and Lightning Zap Jackpots. In addition, we recently began placing our Empire Arena product on Class II gaming floors with great initial success.”
Launched earlier this year, Everi’s Empire Arena hardware platform continues to make inroads into casinos, supported by the newly licensed Discovery Shark Week bonus game and four Everi base games. Empire Arena enhances the already proven form factor Empire 5527 and expands it to create a fully-featured banked product with multiple unit configurations. The dual-screen base games feature a touch-capable 27-inch landscape oriented lower LCD screen and a 55-inch portrait format non-touch upper screen with integrated content seamlessly flowing between the EGMs.
The popular Smokin’ Hot Stuff brand is featured in two other high-performing themes including Smokin’ Hot Stuff Wicked Wheel on Everi’s Empire 5527 cabinet and Diamond Blaze on the larger-than-life sign package, Renegade 3600. Renegade 3600 features three 43-inch convex curved monitors to create a stunning visual and floor-wide bonus experience with individually controlled LED lighting around each monitor.
Everi will be exhibiting at NIGA again this year in Booth 1431. The company plans to feature new hardware platforms and gaming content at NIGA that can engage players at higher levels and help enable operators to generate higher returns on their investments in its products. Discovery Channel’s Shark Week on Everi’s new fully featured banked product Empire Arena will be on display in addition to Cash Machine, the only stepper game of its kind, on Everi’s Player Classic 26 cabinet, which adds a 26-inch top box to the platform, and on the more than eight-foot tall The Texan HDX cabinet. A number of new original games series will be featured on the Empire MPX for-sale cabinet which are all banked themes including the MoneyBall Series and Lazer Lock.
As a global leader in gaming, IGT has been creating engaging Class II games since 2005. Since then, the company’s Class II portfolio has evolved to include proven Class III titles adapted specifically for Class II. Many of these titles are graduates of IGT’s test bank program which has earned them “Proven Performer” status.
IGT’s Class II content is backed by a versatile hardware portfolio including the CrystalDual 27, the CrystalCurve and large format cabinets such as the S3000 XL. These cabinets stand out on casino floors with titles such as Jackpot Polly and Red Hot Tamales!.
“With IGT’s Ascent game development platform, we can seamlessly migrate widely successful Class III titles such as Ocean Magic and Scarab—both of which are significantly outperforming house and zone averages for our customers,” said Reddy. “In addition, we are in the process of implementing our 3D technology with player-favorite titles such as Sphinx 3D, enabling our customers to give their players a unique Class II gaming experience.”
While IGT does not specifically disclose Class II performance data, it was confirmed that it is continuing to gain momentum in the Class II segment. “Being able to offer our customers Class II versions of our top-performing titles such as Dancing Reels Salsa and Elephant King on the latest hardware can help differentiate their casino floors and provide their players with a unique gaming experience,” said Reddy.
IGT plans to present a diverse set of solutions to its tribal gaming customers at NIGA 2019. “I am most excited about the debut of the S3000 XL cabinet with Class II content,” said Reddy. “This large-format cabinet stands out on casino floors and gives players a compelling gaming experience with its enlarged display and extended touch screen.”
The company will also be presenting Class II versions of Proven Performer Class III titles such as Wild Fury Jackpots and Fortune Coin on the CrystalCurve gaming machine. NIGA 2019 will be the first time IGT has presented Class II content on the widely placed CrystalCurve gaming machine and the company is reportedly looking forward to extending the success of this cabinet to its Class II customers.