The former Multimedia Games was known for the creativity that poured out of its Austin headquarters, from unique, funny video slots to its highly regarded mechanical stepper line.
That is still true for that particular Austin location, now an R&D headquarters for Everi Holdings. But ever since Multimedia was acquired by the former Global Cash Access to create the public company that is Everi Holdings, Austin has been known as the hub of a rapidly growing game and hardware development staff.
Everi’s output has soared over the past two years, thanks to a growing network that now counts three game development studios in Austin, one in Reno, one in Chicago and the newest in Las Vegas.
“We’re putting out over 80 games a year,” says Dean Ehrlich, executive vice president and games business leader for Everi. “We continue to focus on enhancing our standard video content. Our standard mechanical product line is on a great run; there’s no reason to stop continuing to perpetuate that. Premium video, if you’re looking year over year, has knocked the cover off the ball. And our premium mechanical is steady and we continue to innovate here as well.”
The cabinets on which the games reside are as varied and innovative as the games themselves. “We’re committed to releasing one new cabinet per year,” says Ehrlich. “This year, we’ve got Empire DCX coming out and we are excited to share our plans for 2020 at the show. ”
The Empire DCX, introduced at last year’s G2E, is a premium form factor featuring dual curved 43-inch landscape-style LCD monitors. Also introduced last year was the Empire Arena, a banked product that features Everi’s E5527 cabinet, referring to its huge 55-inch top monitor and 27-inch main game screen.
“We believe our results speak for themselves for a company our size when we have a new form factor introduced once a year,” says Ehrlich. “We have had good cadence over the last couple of years with definitely more to come.”
Ehrlich says what distinguishes Everi’s G2E display this year is that all those games are fully developed and slated for approval and release shortly after the show.
“The reason we are excited about this G2E versus years past is that everything is relatively current,” he says. “There is very little we’re showing that will be released after summer. Typically, at a G2E, companies demonstrate products that are much further out in the future.”
Ehrlich says the past year has seen the fruits of the company’s R&D expansion. “We couldn’t be more pleased with the efforts and results this company continues to make,” he says. “It’s a whole new ballgame from years past. I’ll be the latest person to quote an Eilers report; if you take a look at the number of times our products are mentioned today compared to a year ago, it’s significant. We believe the industry’s starting to recognize our level of success.”
That of course, is in addition to “doing extremely well” in premium video.
“We believe we can attain our set goal of a 10 percent ship share with a couple of product deployments going our direction,” he says.
“If we look at the last few years of this growth story,” adds Loren
Rosenberg, vice president, product and market strategy, “and Everi’s emergence into a big Class III player since Dean got here, we are all focused on our approach in attaining that 10 percent goal.
“In 2018, we had good content and good mechanics, but it wasn’t buttoned up to be cohesive. In 2019, you start seeing us implement these ideas into a more consistent plan, roadmapping how we’re going to do the second iterations, and keep taking swings. Our Nitro technology came out in 2018, but in 2019, you see Shark Week utilizing that seamless integration.
“We believe 2020 is about the optimization of all these things— focusing on our back-end technologies,” he says, “and to have a plan that’s scalable so we can take advantage of our successes and be nimble enough to respond to where the market is.”
Games and More Games
While Everi’s hardware continues to evolve, in the end, it’s about the games. “The mantra walking in here every day,” says Ehrlich, “first and foremost, is that you’ve got to make great games, and offer ease of customer acquisition. And lastly, deliver with excellence. Get product approved when we say we’re going to do it, and get it to the customer the way they expect to receive it. If we do these things, we will hit our targets.”
He adds that originality is paramount. “We average over 70 percent original content—defined as new math and/or new play mechanics,” he says.
According to Allison Pope, senior vice president of game development at Everi, a big trend in all video categories this year is the so-called persistent-state game mechanic—slots that give players incentives to stay in the game by chasing or collecting bonuses, multipliers or other awards.
“We see persistent-state games as so popular in the industry right now,” Pope says. “Fu Stacks is going to be our first in the market.”
The game series, with inaugural games Fu Stacks Crimson and Fu Stacks Jade, centers on a feature in which the player collects gold boxes on each spin, with full stacks awarding a coin above the reel. “After you collect three coins, that reel will turn into a stacked symbol for the next three spins,” Pope explains. “So if you can get multiple reels that are going to be the stacked symbols, it can build for some pretty large wins.”
Gift of the Nile and Dragon Flame, on the Empire MPX cabinet, feature a persistent wild-symbol feature. “The eye and the flame out of the dragon’s mouth come down and mysteriously pop up these 3D wilds, and then every spin, they forward-progress one spot,” says Pope, “so the player’s not going to want to get out of their seat if they see these wilds inching forward, coming down onto the reels in front of them.”
Also on the Empire MPX are launch themes to one of last year’s most unique entries, Crush. That’s the game with no spinning reels, but a sculpted Aztec head that the player sends flying down to crush boulders that roll underneath. Each crush yields a credit score.
This year, the company will debut Crush Conquest and Crush Dynasty. The new versions include a “Rampage Feature,” a mystery event which sends the stone icon crushing multiple borders that roll down chutes on either side of the scene for large bonus awards.
Also in the for-sale video category is a wealth of new content for the Core HDX dual-screen cabinet. Games like Jackpot Alert Series feature quick-hitting progressives on three base themes: China, Vegas and Anubis.
Pope says Everi also has had a lot of success bringing popular high-denomination games from its mechanical series over to the Core HDX dual-screen video format. Games like Triple Jackpot Gems and Triple Wild Dragon bring a volatile three-reel, nine-line program with classic symbols and multiplying wilds over to the dual-screen video.
Heading up Everi’s premium video lineup are licensed titles including The Karate Kid and The Mask. Both are launch titles for the new Empire DCX premium cabinet. Both feature multiple interactive bonuses, based on the iconic karate movie and the quirky 1994 comedy featuring Jim Carrey’s hilarious zoot-suited character. Previewed at last year’s G2E, the DCX cabinet uses dual landscape-oriented curved monitors to create a wrap-around effect.
On the Empire Arena, introduced with the hit game Shark Week, will be a new interactive game called The Vault. The upper 55-inch monitor on this game is the scene of a colorful 4K chamber of gold coins. Features include Vault Respins, a lock-and-respin feature; free-spin and picking bonuses; and Diamond Heist, a community-style event in which all players on the bank compete for diamonds to add to their vaults. Each player gets a chance to “steal” diamonds from other players on the bank, creating a competitive environment.
Other branded games in the premium video space are games based on Smokin’ Hot Stuff Jackpots but with a new “mini-reel” mechanic; Snoop Dog Presents The Joker’s Wild; and Press Your Luck, all on the Renegade 3600.
Finally, a teaser from Ehrlich, who says there will be a new licensed game revealed at the show—no other details until then, he says.
No discussion of Everi can leave out the mechanical stepper products, both for-sale and premium. “We are proud of the fact our high-denom mechanical games have been on top of the industry charts,” says Rosenberg, “and we’re going to continue to do our bread and butter—the five-line and nine-line mechanics, as well as taking swings with different innovative mechanics, like you saw with Cash Machine.”
Cash Machine, one of the highlights of last year’s show, is a simple three-reel stepper on Everi’s Player Classic 26 cabinet with all reel symbols as cash-style numbers. Some are double numbers. What you see on the reels is what you get.
“On mechanical, we’re going to continue our math-first focus,” Rosenberg says. “We believe that’s a differentiator, and part of our special sauce. At the same time, we’re concentrating on mechanical successes, link extensions, and extensions of some of our hit games you see on industry charts.”
Two of those extensions recently certified by Gaming Laboratories International are Liberty Jackpots and Double Wild Gems. Both are based on the math of the hit game Patriot, which is typically around the top of industry surveys. “It is a five-line, five-coin game, mostly at $1 in the field,” says Pope. “It features classic art, a classic-looking feel and play that is easy to understand.”
Other new steppers add popular play mechanics to the traditional-style game. Diamond Lock Ruby and Diamond Lock Sapphire both feature a lock-and-respin feature triggered on the reels and then played on the top screen. It’s one of the first play-until-you-lose features included on a stepper slot.
Both games have player-selectable denominations that scale the lower two jackpots on the five-level progressive. The top three are linked jackpots and all jackpots can be won at any bet level.
New on the tall Skyline stepper cabinet is Tut’s Reign, a nine-line, nine-coin game using a popular bet structure. “This game is striking because of the way our game studio utilized the already-existing LED frame around the top monitor to emulate a pharaoh’s head,” comments Pope.
Everi is using G2E to launch new games and new capabilities for its groundbreaking TournEvent tournament system, the footprint for which keeps growing across North America.
Casinos that use TournEvent, of course, participate in Everi’s annual TournEvent of Champions, with satellite tournaments at their properties qualifying players for the finals at Wynn Las Vegas during G2E week.
“We’ve got 5,000 server-based EGMs out in the field, at 400 casinos and counting,” says Everi Creative Director Michael Conway, who emcees the $1 million TournEvent of Champions final event every year. “A lot of competitors are following us now in this area, and spending a lot of time on it. One of our advantages is that we’ve been doing it a long time, since 2006, but also because we have the TournEvent of Champions, which has put us in the field with the promotions groups and with the slot operators, every May through October.
“We understand who our players are in this. We know the simplicity, the functionality, and how to bring the party to the game. People who work on these games are actually in the field watching the players run through. We learn what’s going on, we come back, we work on it. We’re not just doing things in a vacuum.”
In 2016, TournEvent achieved a Guinness World Record of 3,173 players in a contest at Muckleshoot in northern Washington.
“TournEvent’s always been a party, but this is going to take it to the next level,” says Conway.
This year, Everi will release its TournEvent Now sit-and-go feature, an upgrade for existing Core HDX TournEvent banks, as part of the next iteration of the TournEvent system. TournEvent 6.0 features two new exclusive in-revenue banked games that build off the company’s successful Super Jackpot Series with quick-hitting progressives as well as an exciting new bank dedicated to championship-round play called the Winner’s Circle.
This brings TournEvent to the Empire MPX portrait cabinet for the first time, incorporating a multimedia show that uses the company’s Nitro technology to sync lighting, sound and screen graphics across the bank. The new out-of-revenue game for the Winner’s Circle is called Star Struck. It features pumping background music from C+C Music Factory’s disco hit “Gonna Make You Sweat (Everybody Dance Now).”
Everi’s G2E booth also will feature the latest from the company’s Interactive Division, headed by David Lucchese, executive vice president, digital and interactive business leader. Everi has two major interactive businesses, a B2C division with two social sites—Super Jackpot Slots and High Rollin’ Vegas Slots—and a real-money division with a proprietary remote game server that ports Everi titles to real-money sites—including New Jersey, and soon, Pennsylvania and elsewhere.
On the B2B side, Everi is in the gaming ops business. “We’re taking our land-based content and leveraging that,” Lucchese says. “We developed our own remote game server, launched it in September 2018, and placed the first games for real money in New Jersey in April. We’re one of the very few remote game servers built on modern technology. A lot of them have been out there seven, eight years; ours came out in 2018. We built it very efficiently, so we can efficiently move it over.”
According to Marshall Adair, vice president and executive producer, digital and interactive, the social sites often serve as test grounds for new land-based games, in an environment where they can be placed quickly to get player feedback during the development process—as well as quick cross-promotion for Everi games in casinos. “We can port very quickly into that space,” Adair says, “so, as soon as we see or sniff out a hit such as Cash Machine, we bring it over to the social space.”
“Super Jackpot Slots is now past its two-year birthday,” Lucchese says. “We’re pleased with both of those products.
“The third leg of the stool is content. In 2019, we will have 50 games in our library. We now have 30 of those games in a playable mode.”
It’s all in a day’s work for Everi. “Our commitments going forward to our customers are No. 1,” says Ehrlich, “increasing performance in every swim lane.”