Much of the big news concerning Eclipse Gaming Systems lately has centered on the culture created by CEO Tim Minard, whose “Going Beyond the Game” initiatives are known for helping local and tribal charities, promoting education in technology STEAM disciplines, and generally giving back to the community, from its Duluth, Georgia home base to greater Atlanta, to the entire state of Georgia, and expanding to supporting the tribal communities where Eclipse does business.
Minard, a successful entrepreneur and tireless philanthropist, has been commended by the Georgia state Senate. With Dame Didi Wong, he founded the charitable Minard Wong Foundation, which advocates for human rights and pushes the global fight against human trafficking. This summer, he was knighted by the Principality of Cappadocia in recognition of his entrepreneurial and philanthropic efforts. And just recently, he was selected as a finalist in the Women in Technology Awards for the “Build Her Up” award, which recognizes male executives for championing women in their networks, workplaces and communities.
But as far as the strict business of the gaming industry is concerned, many more accolades are yet to come. Since he took over as CEO of Eclipse, Minard has forged a company culture around the principles of giving back to the community—particularly the company’s Class II customers, the Native American tribes in the South, Midwest, and Washington state—and in the meantime, has continued to expand the Eclipse game footprint behind a veteran team of game designers, engineers, and sales executives.
The footprint of Eclipse on gaming floors grew by 12 percent over 2022 within the first six months of this year, and has continued to grow.“The horizon looks really strong to finish the year,” Minard says. “A big goal of ours has been to get our content in the hands of players who have never seen it before. I think that’s always a good way of diversifying your content and learning, and we’re expanding inside the properties that we’re in as well. So that’s another great sign for us.”
As the footprint expands, Minard says Eclipse has had great success in its newest markets. “We’ve had great success in Texas. We’ve expanded into New Mexico. We’re moving into California, and in some areas that we were in before, like Florida, we’re expanding more rapidly. We’re starting to see our content driving our expansion in some of these markets. Washington state continues to be great. And we continue to expand in the usual markets. In Oklahoma and the Midwest—Indiana, Michigan, Wisconsin—we’re doing well.”
Expanding the Library
Eclipse will arrive at Global Gaming Expo with new games that both capitalize on past success and forge new ground based on what is most appealing in the various markets it serves.
“What we’ve been working on diligently is understanding our players, and our Class II market,” says Bruce Urban, chief product officer for Eclipse. “In the markets we’re in, we have a diverse player base. So as we go through our portfolio, we’re constantly looking at how we appeal to the players in the different markets, and making sure we’re continuously coming out with something that’s serving them.”
At G2E, one of the most prominent Eclipse games will be the next in the company’s popular Cash Arcade Series, which debuted last year with Big Shake Neon and Big Shake Carnival, two games that replicate the coin-pusher machines found in arcades, carnivals and, back in the 1980s, in casinos. They were games with mechanical pusher brooms that the player tried to manipulate to push a pile of quarters over the ledge and into a hopper tray. The Big Shake version uses high-definition video and a virtual engine using “real-time physics” to create a remarkable simulation.
“The Cash Arcade Series continues to excite me,” says Minard. “The Big Shake games did really well, so we’re going to follow along with that. We’ve got some neat modifications, some variants that we’re really excited about.”
“Big Shake Neon and Big Shake Carnival have done very well for us across multiple markets,” adds Urban. “I coined a new phrase with the coin pusher feature of Big Shake. I consider it a ‘feature-forward’ game. You’re presenting the coin pusher constantly for the player. That’s what they’re engaged with, even though there’s a three-reel base game.”
This year’s follow-up to Big Shake in the Cash Arcade Series uses advanced technology to replicate a carnival mainstay, the duck shooting gallery. Duck Dollars is another “feature-forward” game, in that all available awards are visible on the portrait screens of the IMPACT 43 and IMPACT 49 cabinets—it is a classic, multi-level board with rows of ducks bearing credit awards, flanked by targets that reveal mystery bonuses. The targets move across the screen like in a real shooting gallery. Beneath the gallery is a simple three-reel array, with payoffs for bar, 7, and duck symbols.
But the cannon symbols are what to look for on the reels—they activate corresponding cannons above the reels to shoot at the ducks and the targets. A single cannon on the reels awards one shot; two cannons award two. Three cannons on the reels trigger the “Firequackers Frenzy,” awarding six, nine or 12 shots.
The program employs perceived skill as the cannons swivel and the player can time the pressing of the FIRE button.
“Instead of cash-on-reels, this is ‘cash-on-ducks’ you’re aiming at,” says Urban. “Getting multiple shots is the real excitement. There’s a mystery behind one of the targets that can upgrade the values on the ducks, and a ‘Reload’ to shoot again. That can happen multiple times. You also have a ‘Win Multiple Ducks’ bonus.
“As our Cash Arcade Series games roll out, we see the targets becoming the bigger chase for the player. Something good that happens when I hit a duck can be better if I hit a target.”
Other fun features of this game include a button where the player can change the appearance of the rubber ducks and the background music heard during play. There’s a cowboy duck (wearing a Stetson and backed by country music) and a surfer duck, complete with 1960s California surf music, in addition to the normal shooting-gallery kind.
Mermaids, Hogs and Bandits
Other featured G2E launch games include Mermaid Multipliers Splash, Highway Hogs Pig Out, and the third game in what’s known as the Bandits Bounty Series, Bootleggers.
Mermaid Multipliers Splash is a sequel to one of the company’s most popular games in Oklahoma and the Midwest. Mermaid Multipliers is a traditional three-reel game with bar combinations and multiple 7 wins, along with multiplying wild symbols. This new version adds several “Splash” features to the simple three-reel game play.
Splash features include wild multiplier symbols on the first reel that increase payouts between 2X and 10X, a random credit feature in which a treasure chest will open for an instant award apart from any reel combination, and a “Random Upgrade”—on any winning spin, the symbols may automatically upgrade for a larger win.
The Splash features are anticipated by animated waves of water and a “siren song” from the mermaid character on the screen. The water will splash on a single reel or across the whole screen.
“If it splashes across the whole screen, the treasure chest bonus opens up,” Urban says, “and then it will keep opening and closing to change value amounts.”
Those value amounts are either the same or higher every time the treasure chest opens. “One time it might be three times, next time it might be five,” Urban says. “The excitement of it is in knowing it’s going to be higher than the value just displayed.”
Another sequel to be launched at G2E is Highway Hogs Pig Out, the latest game in the fun cartoon-style theme featuring “Hammy Sammy,” with a bonus taking place in “Piggy Sue’s Diner,” in which Sammy “pigs out” on Piggy Sue’s famous pies.
Hammy Sammy can appear at any time during the primary game, riding a motorcycle out of the reels to award an instant credit prize. “As he revs up his motorcycle, the credits rev up and increase,” says Urban.
The main “Pig Out” bonus displays a field of 25 pie slices for a picking bonus. The pie slices reveal credit awards or progressives, and one awards multiple picks of the slices for larger awards.
One more brand extension to be revealed at G2E is the third theme in the Bandits Bounty series, Bandits Bounty Bootleggers. Another fun theme, this one involves nefarious characters, including “Big Daddy,” “Gas Tank Hanna” and “The Wrenchman.” They’re all displayed on wanted posters above the five-reel array.
This game is packed with bonus features. There’s the “Money Bag Getaway Bonus,” a cash-on-reels event with a fun animated sequence in which the Bandido rides across the screen with his bounty. There’s the Free Spins Wheel, which determines a number of spins for the “Bounty Bonus,” during which Bandido symbols are collected for a cumulative award.
“The wheel lets you increase the number of free spins you get, or it increases the bounty on the different bandits that are up there,” says Urban. “So, if you land those bandits during the feature, you win that bounty.”
Finally, the “Bandits Progressive,” triggered by four or five marshal badges, awards one of three progressives, including a Grand resetting at $10,000.
Also highlighted at G2E will be the Ways Series, including Ways of the Sorceress and Ways of Wu. Central to these games are glowing orbs that float around in front of the game character in the “Orbs of Light Bonus.” Orbs displaying credit awards, free spins and three jackpots float around until one is awarded. Free spins include the “Witchcraft Wilds” feature, which transforms several symbols into wild symbols.
Minard says the immediate mission of Eclipse is to continue to spread the company’s footprint while giving back to its Class II customers and the community—and to continually gear up to the company’s inevitable move into Class III slots.
“I feel really good about where we’re at as a company, and I feel really good about the people that we have here and the content that’s coming out,” Minard says. “Class III is the next step, and that will happen by 2025, for sure.”
Meanwhile, Eclipse will continue to go “beyond the game.”