For the past few years, gaming supplier AGS has worked to broaden its product portfolio in all its divisions—slots, table games and interactive. On the slot side, the aim has been to offer every popular game style and game mechanic.
Last year, the company rolled out first-ever offerings including high-denomination three-reel games, first launching Mega Diamond and Gold Inferno and introducing two others, Platinum 8X8X8X and 8X Crystal Bells, at the Global Gaming Expo. The company also launched the new Spectra cabinet series with the Spectra UR43 portrait cabinet, as an addition to the Orion family of hardware.
This year, the Spectra UR43 will be joined by several other Spectra iterations, including the upright Spectra UR49 Curve, the Spectra UR43 Premium, and the Spectra UR43 with digital signage in multiple premium configurations. Next year, AGS will launch the jumbo Spectra UR75, with a massive 75-inch curved portrait monitor, and the Spectra SL49 Premium—the Spectra 49 on a slant base with premium digital merchandising.
To fill out those and the still-high-performing Orion cabinet series, AGS game developers have intensified their efforts, resulting in a parade of new titles to be launched this year and into 2024. The company has increased its number of game design studios to six, with several in the U.S. and game design operations in far-flung global locations including Israel, India and Australia.
“This G2E is really the culmination of three years of planning and strategy for what we’re calling the next era in slots for AGS,” says Mark DeDeaux, AGS general manager and senior vice president, slots. “We debuted the Spectra 43 last year, and this year we’re going to be showing more of the full complement of Spectra cabinets that we have coming.
“And then we’ve also been really working on the game development team and all of the studios that we brought on board. Since our display at G2E last year, we’ve had a full year of execution from all studios, so this is what we consider the beginning of the new era in slots. The Spectra is the launch of that era for AGS.”
“We’re going to have a lot of new games,” adds Steve Walther, AGS vice president of game development. “We’ve been put to a big task here in our game development group to have compelling and exciting themes that will run on all of these various different platforms at the high level of performance that we’ve seen as we’ve launched the Spectra 43.
“We’re showing some considerable momentum in the quality of the games that we have been producing. We’ve been hard at work strategically to get to this next level of AGS slots and make sure that we have compelling games to work on each of those cabinets.”
“We are launching more games in the second half of this year than we launched all year last year,” says DeDeaux. “That’s a testament to the work that Steve and his team have done.”
“We talked last year about coordinating all of the development,” says Walther. “We showed a number of themes on the Spectra last year, and so far the reception for those themes has been really strong. That puts the onus upon us in our research and development departments to continue that momentum.”
The Full Spectra
That momentum will continue “using brand favorites in the AGS portfolio, and some recognized market-trend mechanics with a bit of a twist, as well as new and innovative elements,” Walther says.
All of those elements are present in one of the G2E launch games on the new Spectra UR43, Monkey Blast. “This game looks like a social game, but it plays like a casino game,” comments Walther.
Monkey Blast is part of the new Clustercade game family, distinguished by a unique six-by-eight reel array with cascading symbols—in this jungle-themed game, fruit symbols. When there’s a fruit win, those symbols disappear and new symbols cascade down to replace them, for possible multiple wins on a single wager.
The ways-to-win game pays for adjacent symbols. When five or more matching symbols align horizontally or vertically, a special “Cluster Pay” is awarded. When a coin symbol lands on the reels, the cartoon monkey character will toss a coconut at the reel window to open up a three-by-three grid containing a mystery symbol. The symbol transforms into a paying symbol, clustered on nine reel spots. The grid grows with each consecutive coin that appears, up to a six-by-six grid.
In the free games, a coin lands on every spin. Free games are triggered by bananas that accumulate in a pot-style feature.
On the Spectra 49 Curve is the hilarious Moo Moo Madness, a game themed around alien spacecraft descending on a farm and its bemused cartoon cows. Much like the chicken character in last year’s Cluck Cluck Cash, coin symbols make the cow on the screen grow fatter, until bursting to trigger a bonus event.
One of the bonuses is a “Hold and Win” bonus, a unique hold-and-re-spin event in which 2X and 10X squares land along with instant-win cash-on-reels symbols. A special “Grab” symbol consolidates all cash-on-reels symbols on one square bearing the accumulated amount, opening up the rest of the grid for additional cash. There are five spins, but each cash-on-reels symbol that lands adds a spin to extend the bonus.
The other main bonus is the very funny “Cash Bonus.” The alien spaceships begin beaming cows up to their vessels, and the player touches as many on the screen as possible, transforming them into credit awards with each touch.
The 49 Curve also hosts the new Asian-style game family Money Charge Ying Da. This series, with inaugural games Ying Da Ruby and Ying Da Jade, features a pot-style perceived-persistence feature, in this case with pagodas in the top box doubling as pots. Blue, red and green coins landing on the reels grow each corresponding pagoda to trigger different enhancements to a classic hold-and-re-spin bonus.
The blue pagoda will increase the number of games players begin the feature with, awarding them four spins as a reset, versus the standard three spins typically found in a hold-and-spin bonus. The green pagoda adds a “Fortune Spot” to the center reel position, with a starting value equal to the sum of all cash-on-reels values. The most potentially lucrative is the red pagoda, which doubles the reel array for the hold-and-re-spin feature—and duplicates all triggering cash-on-reels symbols on the main reels to the new reel array.
Any one of the pagoda-pots can trigger the bonus, and it is possible to trigger two or all three at the same time.
Finally, the 49 Curve hosts a new traditional three-reel video slot, Straight Cash. It is a mid-denomination game (quarter to $5 denominations) with a re-spin feature in the base game in which a symbol will lock on one reel and the other two reels re-spin. There also is a classic wheel bonus in this game.
Rounding out the Spectra lineup are two new games on the Spectra UR43 Premium cabinet, both reinventing popular AGS brands and features.
Fu Nan Fu Nu Prosperity is a brand extension of the popular game family Fu Nan Fu Nu, featuring four jackpots, a free spins bonus with growing reels and jackpot pick bonus. The free spin bonus in his game is unique, with the reels starting at three symbols and a special symbol that lands to expand that reel during an initial eight free spins. The player watches each reel grow higher until at six rows it touches one of the five spots awarding extra free spins or multipliers.
Firecracker symbols trigger a progressive picking bonus, in which the player selects from a 12-spot grid until matching three symbols to win one of four jackpots.
Fu Long Bao Bao is an extension of the Triple Coin Treasures series. Green, red and blue pots are similar to the other games in the series, but this one contains a fourth purple pot. In addition to extra spins, a symbol upgrade bonus and a growing reels bonus, all enhancing a free-spin feature, the purple pot is a Mega Pick bonus.
Players are presented 12 coins that reveal a green, red, or blue pot trigger and boost symbol which enhances the chosen trigger feature. The Mega Pick bonus can be purchased with an instant bonus button on the main screen and button deck.
The growing lineup of games on the Spectra cabinets by no means indicates the death of the Orion line of cabinets. New Orion games will accompany the Spectra games at the AGS booth.
One of the standouts is Mariachi Party, on the Orion Curve. This game takes the pot-style bonus to Mexico, with piñatas serving as the pots. Each piñata can trigger a hold-and-re-spin round with a special enhancement—the pig adds extra spins, the eagle collects all cash-on-reels symbols into a single symbol, and the donkey expands the reels.
Another launch on the Orion Curve is Gold Choice Jackpots, a brand extension of the Ultimate Choice Jackpots family. This game features a pot bonus that turns entire reels wild for two free spins. Another pot can trigger a progressive picking bonus that is a true picking event, with the potential to land the top jackpot.
DeDeaux says the “new era” for AGS will continue to reveal surprises after G2E is over. One, he says, will be the introduction next year of the company’s first mechanical stepper cabinet, which will provide another outlet for the growing collection of AGS traditional three-reel offerings.
“We’re really excited about what we’re going to be showing,” DeDeaux says. “We’ve had great success with the Spectra 43—it’s been the top performer on Eilers as a cabinet for nine months running now. And, we’re as excited about the other cabinets that we’re going to be showing at G2E as we were about the 43.
“And we are really excited about the team that we have that’s going to be building those games.”
In addition to alerting customers to the coming stepper cabinet, AGS will educate them on the coming Spectra UR75, slated to be released in the next six to nine months.
“Each of our studios is producing top-quality games right now,” says Walther. “That’s why you’ve seen our share of the top new games continuing to rise, month after month. All these studios are coming into their own with really great hits covering multiple different segments.”
Repeats DeDeaux, “This is the beginning of the new era.”