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Aruze Gaming America: Building on Innovation

Aruze builds on the success of its Innovator stepper series with a new game group, while augmenting its proven video slots

Aruze Gaming America: Building on Innovation

Ever since Aruze Gaming America was established in 2007 to re-establish its Tokyo-based parent company—then called Aruze Corporation—as a major U.S. slot manufacturer, the company has been evolving.

Evolution was nothing new for Aruze. The Japanese parent company started life as pachinko manufacturer Universal, which itself evolved into a major U.S. slot supplier in the 1980s. After reverting to mainly pachinko, the newly named Aruze got back into U.S. gaming first as a stakeholder in Wynn Corporation, and finally as what it is known as today, an innovative Las Vegas-based slot manufacturer.

The parent company, which went back to the name Universal Entertainment in 2009, has Aruze subsidiaries in Australia, Macau, the Philippines, South Africa and Japan, and is a major slot supplier in Australasian markets. Meanwhile, Aruze Gaming Americas has continued to evolve.

That evolution has come in the form of a succession of hot slot products in a wealth of different product groups, from simple, classic video slots in the G-Series group to the “Reel Feel” technology of the monster hit Paradise Fishing in the G-Link series, to the G-Station series of multi-player table games.

For each of the past few years, Aruze has cultivated new product groups—first the G-Deluxe series, which adds elaborate, interactive top box bonuses to video slots; then two groups of its groundbreaking stepper series, Innovator with Radiant Reels. The Innovator stepper series features large reels—at 18.1 inches across, which each reel strip measuring 3.54 inches, they are the largest strips for a five-reel format in the business—backed by multi-colored LED lighting and variable reel speeds, with lighting and colors varying according to game conditions. Radiant Reels spin forward and backward at various speeds.

“There are 240 LEDs behind each reel,” notes Paul Omohundro, Aruze’s director of marketing, of the technology behind Innovator with Radiant Reels. “The reels have 10 different movements, as well as speeds ranging from 3 RPM to 200 RPM.”

Last year, Aruze combined the elaborate top boxes of G-Deluxe with its unique steppers to create the Innovator Deluxe series, with breakout games like “Alibaba,” “Aladdin and the Lamp,” and the two games that have become the company’s top earners, “The Gold” and “Platinum.”

Each game group has its own special game mechanics and unique bonus features, and each has its own appeal to players. For G2E 2013, the company is capitalizing on all those factors to inject new themes into all of its game groups, as well as introducing a completely new version of the Innovator stepper format.

The 4+1

That new Innovator series, called Innovator Multi-Action Extra Reel, employs a format called the “4+1 Reel.” It employs a four-reel base game, with a fifth mechanical reel used exclusively for bonusing. Many of those bonuses occur as random mystery events during free spins.

“The format is pretty spectacular,” says Omohundro. “The innovative technology and lighting just on the fifth reel changes between free games and multipliers and random awards.”

Just as in previous Innovator games, the four base Radiant Reels light up and spin at various speeds according to what’s happening in the game. But the fifth reel has a life of its own, speeding up, spinning various directions and coming alive at random times during the primary and bonus games to award multipliers, free games and credits.

The inaugural game for the new Innovator series, “Golden Frontier,” is packed with special features, many of them centered on interaction between the video character on the face of the top screen—a crusty old miner—and the bonus reel itself.

The face of the game is a masterful blend of 3D graphics and the mechanical reels. Above the reels is 3D animation of mountains in the background. Look just below and you get a dimensional look inside the mine. And there, standing right next to the mine, is the miner, who dances around, talks to the player and uses tools to affect what the bonus reel is doing.

For example, during free games, the miner dances to a goofy tune while the reels spin. But at any time, he may grab his pick and swing it to break through the dirt to the bonus reel, sending it spinning wildly to land on a multiplier, or extra free games.

In another random action, the miner will go back and get a hose and flood the bonus reel with water—the more water, the higher the multiplier goes. Or he may do it with dynamite—he grabs dynamite, throws it on the reel and blows the multiplier all the way up to 12X.

It’s all done with comical animation, and it transforms the reel-spinning game into an entertaining experience normally only found with video.

Innovator Parade

Aruze’s G2E booth this year will provide a showcase of new stepper games in the other two Innovator groups, as well as the new 4+1 version. In the Innovator Deluxe series, Aruze’s game developers this year set out to reproduce the great success achieved by The Gold and Crystal.

The two new Innovator Deluxe games follow the recipe of those two top games for the manufacturer. “Diamond Jackpot” and “Platinum” feature beautiful, sculpted top boxes conveying the valuable subject of their themes, featuring dual displays similar to The Gold and Crystal, with a wheel-like display of credit amounts alongside a display of free-spin numbers.

Each bonus symbol in a spin triggering the jackpot awards a special credit prize, and the more bonus symbols—in this case, a diamond or platinum symbol—the higher the number of free spins. The entire effect of the top-box displays merge with the Radiant Reels to offer remarkable visuals.

Aruze is launching an extensive group of new titles in the standard Innovator with Radiant Reels series. Among the standouts is “Sinbad,” which is a two-game community-style game that features both individual bonuses and a head-to-head competition between the two players, known as the “Versus Event.”

It is the follow-up to last year’s “Rich Life,” with the competitive bonuses taking place on a 60-inch common monitor—the actions of one player affecting the results of the other.

The Sinbad game presents an elaborate bonus sequence based on the literary seven adventures of Sinbad the Sailor. Credits rise as reel spins to send Sinbad through a top-box game board trying to defeat the Skeleton Knight, the Snake, the Cyclops and other famous foes from the legendary story. Getting past each obstacle awards credits and free games, or a Versus Event against the other player. All of Sinbad’s “battles” use perceived skill to create a distinct video-game feel.

The new community game is accompanied by a host of stand-alone Innovator titles. There is “Howling Wolf,” with its beautiful artwork, free spins and the “Moon Prize” bonus credit circle. There is “Circus Clown,” with slightly creepy clown characters and a hilarious “Clown Race” bonus that lets you pick a clown, who competes against the others in a bounce across the screen on big rubber balls. (The other bonus is a game board on the top box, with spins on the reels advancing a clown around the board.)

There is “The Great Inca,” with 3D Inca god bonus symbols that appear to jut out of the reels in one of the best examples of 3D technology you’ll find.    

There are three different new “Cherry Chance” games, two of which bathe the entire cabinet and both LCD screens in a design that conveys the animal in the title—“Leopard Seven” or “Zebra Seven”—and the other a dazzling display called “Brilliant Seven.”

And finally, there is “Mountain Lion,” the latest game to feature the “Double My Feature” side bet. A five-credit ante wager doubles the free-spin choices, in which the player chooses a free-spin/multiplier combination according to volatility.

Classic Video

The wealth of Innovator games will be matched by new video slot titles in the G-Series, Aruze’s series of classic video slots with basic free-spin bonus features.

Many of the games feature Aruze’s “Ultra Stack” feature, which randomly stacks groups of symbols—including wilds—for big wins. Others include a progressive feature introduced last year with “Ultra Stack Lion Jackpot”—the jackpots in a multi-progressive display rise with the bet, but even betting the minimum qualifies the player for a progressive.

New titles in the Ultra Stack series include “Ultra Stack Diamond,” “Ultra Stack Diamond Jackpot,” “Ultra Stack Bison” and “Ultra Stack Panda Jackpot.”

One standout G-Series game being launched at the show is “Wolf 500G.” The “500” refers to the total possible number of free games. Each free-game bonus symbol randomly awards from three to 30 free games. The symbols can cover the entire screen, which, with a bonus number of free spins, gives you 500. The player has the option of picking a credit award in a range comparable to the free-spin prize if he wants to dispense with all that spinning.

Other G-series games debuting at G2E include “King Eagle,” “Ramses” and “Monkey Adventure.”

In all, more than 200 games on display will make this year’s G2E the biggest show in the history of Aruze Gaming.

That makes it the next big step in Aruze’s evolution.

Frank Legato is editor of Global Gaming Business magazine. He has been writing on gaming topics since 1984, when he launched and served as editor of Casino Gaming magazine. Legato, a nationally recognized expert on slot machines, has served as editor and reporter for a variety of gaming publications, including Public Gaming, IGWB, Casino Journal, Casino Player, Strictly Slots and Atlantic City Insider. He has an B.A. in journalism and an M.A. in communications from Duquesne University in Pittsburgh, PA. He is the author of the books, How To Win Millions Playing Slot Machines... Or Lose Trying, and Atlantic City: In Living Color.