Another Global Gaming Expo (G2E) has recently ended, and now begins the arduous task of sifting through the new and featured products showcased in vendor booths on the event’s sprawling tradeshow floor in an attempt to determine which bear further research and, perhaps, a spot somewhere in the casino resort facility.

For the editors of Casino Journal, the process of reading G2E’s product tea leaves began in this month’s Slot Management & Marketing, which was mailed with this issue and in which trends in slot machine displays, cabinets, skill games and licensed theme games were highlighted and described. In this article, additional slot machine observations regarding game mechanics, reel machines and management systems will be explored. Finally, December Casino Journal will contain an extensive feature delving into non-slot news involving table games, digital gaming, analytics systems, seating and much more.

PROGRESSIVE PERSISTENCE

When it came to game mechanics, slot vendors continued to emphasize both progressive and persistent play technology in both new concepts and upgraded iterations of established player favorites.

“Our best success in the persistence gaming has come with our ‘waterfall’ segment, which involves putting something sticky into the game that draws the players’ attention during game play and wants them to continue to play for that next reward or jackpot,” said Dallas Orchard, chief product officer gaming for International Game Technology PLC (IGT). “We have been experimenting with those types of mechanics for the past 10 years and have recently found success with Ocean Magic, Mistress of Egypt and Scarab.”

IGT added to its waterfall line of games with Hexbreaker 3, which it displayed at G2E. “Hexbreaker is a ‘ways’ game instead of a ‘lines’ game,” Orchard explained. “As the players spin and win horseshoes during the course of the game, they start to stack on expanded reels and climb up the screen to jackpot amounts the player can win one or more of. It’s a gaming experience that resonates with them.”

Everi also tackled persistent state gaming at G2E with its Empire Flex, an industry-popular mechanic that gives players incentives to keep playing as they chase and/or collect bonuses, multipliers and other awards, according to press materials. Building on the popularity of Crush, which was introduced at last year’s G2E, Crush Dynasty and Crush Conquest contain no reels, lines or pay tables, and instead include a sculpted Aztec head that crushes boulders to yield credits. Crush Dynasty and Crush Conquest include the new Rampage feature—a mystery event where the stone Aztec head icon crushes multiple boulders that roll down chutes on either side of the screen to award large bonuses. Both titles will also be available on the company’s Empire MPX cabinet.

Meanwhile, the Vault debuted on Everi’s Empire Arena with three base games that feature Vault Respins, a lock-and-respin game play mechanic, free spins and pick bonuses, and the bank-wide bonus Diamond Rush. The attention-grabbing alert prepares players for a fast rate of competitive, community style play where all players compete to deplete the vault and “steal” diamonds from other players on the bank. Another Empire Arena introduction was Dragon Kingdom, which featured two base games with wilds that accumulate to trigger the Dragon Wheel, which awards bonuses, progressives, and credit prizes.

Konami Gaming also provided its spin on persistence game mechanics with Treasure Lounge, which was featured on its Opus cabinet. According to press materials, Treasure Lounge is a 4K UHD integrated jackpot game with a novel play mechanic that doesn’t involve traditional spinning reels. When the player hits spin, various Tiki symbols slide onto the screen in five columns of random height. Any columns which are tall enough to reach the blue credit prize symbols displayed in the upper part of the screen then claim those rewards. If a bonus reel appears in the upper half of the screen, players win either the Tiki Drop Feature, Tiki Rise Feature, or both combined. In the Tiki Drop feature, additional Tiki symbols are randomly dropped across the reel frame, and in the Tiki Rise Feature, stacks of Tiki symbols rise to the height of the tallest Tiki for added win potential.

Konami also displayed new progressive game concepts. Once such game was Ocean Spin, an original linked progressive series, available exclusively on the company’s Horizon 49J cabinet. It showcases synchronized animation effects, spanning into the topper and across multiple game cabinets. Throughout primary play, bubbles of potential bonus opportunities float seamlessly across game screens of every connected machine. During attract mode, all cabinets become enveloped in an underwater seascape of fluorescent coral reefs, Butterfly Fish, and even a mermaid. Throughout primary play, clam symbols appear across the reels. Whenever any three or more clams are collected, the Ocean Spin Feature is awarded, and the player is invited to spin the bonus prize bubbles that appear across all screens. Once the player swipes the screen to spin, prize bubbles whiz across all screens until the spinner lands on a potential bonus award or instant progressive jackpot.

Merkur Gaming also emphasized progressive jackpots and other bonus types of play at its G2E booth. The company’s Linked Progressive Jackpot Treasure Link involves five new game titles—African Glory, Dragon Marbles, Golden Silk, Joker Buffalo and Temple of the Nile—whose base games include a free games bonus feature, called Cash Games, which is the player’s entry to discover Treasure Link’s high-value Mini, Midi, Maxi and Mega progressive jackpots, according to a press release.

Also making its first G2E appearance was Rapid Thunder, an inbuilt high prize value jackpot feature that gives players the opportunity to play for big prizes. Rapid Thunder is a bonus feature innovation that has been included as an in-built add-on to the already successful and familiar games such as Taco Tuesday, Land of Charms, Immortal Emperor, Immortal Princess, Baozang and Amulet of the Pharaoh.

Novomatic Americas displayed linked progressive solutions as well. The company’s MONEY PARTY Link featured titles Fruity Fruity and Juicy Juicy as well as the THUNDER CASH Link. Novomatic’s PAY DAY Progressives series was extended with a fourth title, PAY DAY Plus, which premiered at the show, adding a classic, straightforward version with thrilling multiplier bonus features to the set.

Ainsworth Game Technology showcased its twist on progressive mechanics with several new QuickSpin titles that offer innovative uses of the giant wheel on the company’s A640 portrait screen cabinet. According to press materials, Turbo Charged 7s offers four unique linked progressive jackpots with QuickSpin game play. The multi-denom configurable titles give penny players the chance to chase top awards starting at $2,500, with even bigger jackpots for larger denoms up to a huge $25,000 jackpot for 10-cent players.

REEL IDEAS

The ongoing popularity of mechanical-reel slot machines among certain subsets of casino players was reflected by the ongoing evolution of reel game products showcased in vendor booths across the G2E tradeshow floor.

Scientific Games was one of many companies with new reel products on display. Its new TwinStar 5 Reel Mechanical (RM) cabinet is a combination of a five-reel mechanical platform with a video reel component. The game debuted with a version of the company’s player popular Dancing Drums game. “We have not had a new fiver-reel mechanical product in over seven years, so we wanted to launch it with Dancing Drums, one of our most successful games,” said Catheryn Lai, senior vice president products and marketing for Scientific Games. “We tweaked some of the elements of the game to work with the mechanical wheel format, but managed to keep features like pick your own volatility. We think a Dancing Drum video player would be more than willing to try their favorite game on a mechanical platform.”

Everi also generated some stepper slot news at G2E with its three-reel mechanical Player Classic cabinet, which had more than 20 new games debuting at G2E 2019, all building on the success Everi continues to have in the high-denomination mechanical space, according to press materials. Wild Rainbow Luck and Fortune Time along with Liberty Jackpots and Double Wild Gems were featured on the Player Classic 26 with the Apex U topper, which adds additional merchandising on the larger 26-inch top box and video topper that displays game content and updates as players increase bets and earn prizes

Everi also displayed the enormous Zoltar 5X Pay and Zoltar Triple Jackpot premium mechanical bank, which is based on the all-knowing animatronic fortune-telling machine from Characters Unlimited, Inc., and features the iconic and recognizable voice of Zoltar, the great gypsy himself. Zoltar has made several appearances in television commercials and been seen in hundreds of locations around the world and in the homes of many collectors. Both games feature a free spin bonus where Zoltar predicts a multiplier between 2X-10X with each free spin on the next reel stop.

IGT also made a splash on the mechanical reel front with new multi-level progressive titles such as Red Hot Tamales Jackpots and Dragon of Fortune.

PART OF THE SYSTEM

Slot management systems providers were not lacking in new technology and capabilities to show booth visitors.

Konami Gaming, with its SYNKROS platform, showcased several new systems features at its G2E stand. One such adjunct was SYNK Vision, a biometric player tracking solution that uses facial recognition to identify, rate, and reward all players, regardless whether they are members of the established player loyalty program. It tracks players automatically based on their unique facial characteristics rather than requiring them to manually sign up or use a player’s tracking card.

Konami’s new SYNK31 is a comprehensive Title 31 Anti-Money Laundering (AML) system that allows permissioned SYNKROS administrators to gather, track, review, and complete all AML requirements, including multiple transaction log (MTL), negotiable instrument log (NIL), suspicious activity reporting (SAR), currency transaction reporting (CTR), know your customer (KYC) and more. In addition, SYNK 31 provides true case management, empowering administrators to compile all reporting, time stamped notes, files documents, screenshots, photos, videos and e-mails associated with particular patron or incident in one spot.

SynkConnect is a “cardless” player tracking convenience. This touchless, multi-channel solution empowers casino players with a variety of secure methods to augment or replace a traditional player loyalty card at the EGM, including their personal mobile device, fobs, a room key and more.

Konami also displayed SynkConnect Mobile, a robust mobile application to give players all the benefits of touchless authentication. This cardless player tracking convenience empowers players to log in to any equipped EGM through the app and enjoy all the tools to view and manage their loyalty account from anywhere. Properties can customize the SynkConnect app options to mirror the property brand or link it with an existing app. 

IGT was no slouch on the systems front as well, focusing on its IGT ADVANTAGE and Player Experience Product Suite of mobile solutions including Cardless Connect, Resort Wallet and Intelligent Offers. When leveraged together, this product ecosystem enables casino patrons to effortlessly interact with gaming devices via their mobile phones, whilealso driving operational efficiencies for the casino, according to press materials. 

Scientific Games systems technology focused mainly on cashless solutions, engagement tools and data capabilities that can revolutionize the casino gaming floor. These solutions included:

  • SG Cardless and SG Unified Wallet;
  • Rewards Quest, which enables customized player engagement through achievements, badges, and reward;
  • Player Boutique, which automates gift programs to enhance the player experience and improve operating efficiency;
  • Praxis Analytics, which leverages big data to improve ROI on marketing expenditures;
  • SG Vision technology, which  enables new systems products for patron identification and chip tracking to revolutionize player loyalty programs and table operations; and
  • SG Connect, which provides insights into machine health and player preferences to allow better content to be created while reducing operating costs for casino operators.

Sticking with the systems side, Aristocrat Technologies introduced two breakthrough solutions: Mobile nCompass and Branded Bonus, according to a press release. Mobile nCompass is a revolutionary and digital way to think about cardless play, where the player sees and interacts with key features within their mobile device. Branded Bonus is a new bonus program based on the player-favorite Buffalo game, deployed on Oasis 360, and offers two system-driven bonus models.