It’s no secret why Aristocrat has consistently remained at or near the top of the slot market in game performance over the past five years. The company has maintained a surge in game popularity by employing the top talent and game designers in the business.
That fact has certainly not been lost on those in charge of game design for the supplier, which has moved to add even more creative firepower to its arsenal with the addition of new game studios.
The fruits of all that talent will once again be on display at Global Gaming Expo, in the form of new game content across the breadth of Aristocrat’s portfolio.
“This year, what we’re really talking about is the future,” comments Nathan Drane, vice president of commercial strategy, game sales and Class II for Aristocrat. “We’re talking about what’s next. The way we’re encapsulating that is through our people. We believe we have the best talent in the industry on board, and we’re really excited about that.”
The R&D talent may have an extra edge this year, thanks to the opening last December of the company’s $45 million U.S. headquarters and technology campus in the Las Vegas suburb of Summerlin.
“The energy and excitement around this building, and the way it encourages collaboration has definitely led people to come up with better ideas, innovate more, and continue down the road of industry-leading games,” comments Ryan Scott, senior director, product and portfolio strategy, gaming operations.
Scott says one of the benefits of this environment is how close the product management and strategy executives are to the game design studios. “We are able to walk across the breezeway and chat with the studio people,” he says. “It’s much closer. The fun, open environment we have allows for a lot of creativity.”
Creative collaborations don’t end with the game designers centered in Las Vegas, either. Zoom Rooms are located around the facility, where game designers can instantly connect via video conference to colleagues in Austin, Sydney or any other office locations. At any point in the day, you’re likely to see conference rooms with groups of people communicating over video chat regardless of their location as a streamlined way to stay connected.
The results of that collaboration, of course, will be in Aristocrat’s G2E booth this year.
“Our G2E exhibit this year is a vibrant mix of product that will be ready and commercializing this year, and product that will be out on floors within the first half of next year,” says Jon Hanlin, Aristocrat’s vice president of commercial strategy, gaming operations. “Over and above this G2E, we’re strongly focused on innovation and what the next three years look like. So, we believe we have the right balance between the now and the future, so that we are well positioned to help our customers succeed over the long term.”
As in previous years, the first highlight of Aristocrat’s G2E display will be a new premium cabinet, although details—including the name—were pending at press time. No matter, though—this product follows up on another major new cabinet launch only two months ago, when the company unveiled the MarsX.
The MarsX cabinet has dual 27-inch 4K displays and a new platform that drives performance and allows for exciting, fast-paced game play. Inside, a premium virtual button deck is the latest in wireless charging technology, allowing players to charge their phone by simply placing it onto the deck.
The perfect storm has arrived on the MarsX with the all-new Dollar Storm title. From the makers of the legendary Lightning Link and Dragon Link titles, the cabinet will host both lease or for-sale games.
“The serviceability of the MarsX is the best we’ve had from any of our cabinets,” comments Drane. “We’ve taken a lot of customer feedback and built that into our cabinet specifications, and we’re very encouraged by the reception it’s received as a result.”
At G2E, Aristocrat will launch more new content for the MarsX, including Buffalo Gold Revolution, which Drane calls the “next evolution of Buffalo Gold,” along with a full lineup of core video products including Dragon Tower Jackpots on the MarsX Tower.
Drane notes that Aristocrat is assuring customers the introduction of a new cabinet does not mean any reduction of support for legacy cabinets like the Helix XT, itself only 18 months old. “We’ve created an architecture in which we can take games from MarsX back to the Helix and the Helix XT,” he explains. “So, your Helix cabinet that you’ve invested in will continue to perform. We’re building a great base with our customers, and we’re committed to supporting that.”
One reason customers love the MarsX cabinet, says Drane, is a sleek construction that opens up sightlines across the casino floor. “That was very deliberate,” he says. “We had a lot of feedback around the size of cabinets. They’re getting very blocky and getting very tall. What we were able to do with this design was to slim-line the cabinet, the technology and the package as well. It’s easier to service, and it opens up the casino floor in a really exciting way.”
New Cabinets, New Games
While coy about the details, Hanlin says the new cabinet to be launched at G2E follows the same symmetry and shape as Aristocrat’s Arc Double “but delivers a whole new player experience.”
Hanlin notes that the new cabinet doubles down on the iconic vision created by the Arc Double—the giant display using two portrait monitors that has taken off across the industry. “How do we deliver that visage but also really ramp up the technology, player experience, lighting and take it to the next level?” he says. “We’re really excited to launch this cabinet. We think it’s going to be the next evolution of the premium video cabinet, and we can’t wait to share it with customers.”
On the Edge X cabinet, launched at last year’s G2E, Aristocrat will feature a new title in the Game of Thrones franchise, Winter Is Here. It’s based on Season 7 of the smash hit fantasy series, which recently wrapped up its eighth and final season.
Also featured on the Edge X will be Star Trek: The Next Generation, based on the 1990s version of the sci-fi classic starring Patrick Stewart as Enterprise Captain Jean-Luc Picard.
Hanlin says there also will be a new game in The Walking Dead series displayed on the Edge X, which debuted last year with FarmVille and Madonna. “We wanted to get away from the dark themes to do something light with the launch of that cabinet,” Hanlin says. “That’s why we chose FarmVille, which is doing three times house average, according to the July 2019 Eilers-Fantini report.”
Aristocrat’s radical curve cabinet the flame55—launched last year with Big Bang Theory— will also feature new content at G2E. Zorro Wild Ride, a new title from Studio 54, “takes Zorro and brings it into a modern cabinet,” says Hanlin. “We’re really excited about that game and can’t wait to share it with customers.”
Other high-profile gaming operations products at G2E will include Madonna 2 in the video portfolio and Buffalo Rush on the RELM XL stepper cabinet. The latter, a five-reel penny game, “has a lot of legs, and has incredible pedigree with the Buffalo brand,” says Hanlin.
In the for-sale portfolio, Aristocrat will launch new games in the Gold Stacks 88 series for the RELM stepper cabinet. Drane says the technology allows steppers and videos to share a progressive link. “We continue to focus on opportunities where we can link stepper cabinets to Helix XT cabinets and create a strong jackpot zone,” he says. “We will also be offering a new variety of high-denom product, including some hold-and-spin titles, which have been very successful for us on the RELM cabinet.”
Hanlin comments that the hold-and spin feature, first introduced with the mega-hit Lightning Link, is already a popular mechanic in the market, “but we’re adding that to the high-denom stepper portfolio, which we’re really excited about.”
Finally, Aristocrat will be displaying its Winner’s World multi-game bartop product, which was launched this summer and, according to Drane, is off to a fantastic start. He says players are welcoming the opportunity to play games from the Buffalo franchise on a bartop, as well as the familiar poker and keno choices. “This was a huge opportunity for us to give slot players a seat at the bar, and really allowing that Buffalo brand to get into places we know players want to play it,” Drane says.
Hanlin says for Aristocrat, this year’s G2E show is all about providing the operator “confidence in the pipeline and confidence in placement. We want operators to know they’re going to get great value from their partnership with Aristocrat, and great value for their investment with us.
“We’re thinking broadly and long-term, and are continuing to explore how we can leverage our expanding capabilities to offer new and innovative experiences for our casino partners and their players. We are working to really understand what the evolution of the player experience is at a casino. This G2E is a real jumping off point for us in that regard.”