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GLOBAL GAMES 2010 Part 5: Aruze Gaming

Spreading the Word-Aruze continues efforts to become licensed around the world while expanding its product line

GLOBAL GAMES 2010 Part 5: Aruze Gaming

When it comes to slots, Aruze Gaming has a pedigree of entertainment on two fronts: The company is a descendent of Universal, the company that nearly replaced Bally as the king of the slot floor before IGT’s rise to dominance in the 1990s. And, in its home base of Japan, parent Aruze Corporation is one of the leaders of the pachislo market, where entertainment is the name of the game.

Three years ago, Aruze Gaming America was formed in Las Vegas to mine both of these pedigrees to re-enter the commercial casino market. By last year, the company had begun to build a new reputation, thanks to the addition by company owner Kazuo Okada of a few key executives with a wealth of slot experience.

Perhaps the most important move was the naming of Kent Young, the longtime marketing VP of slot manufacturer Aristocrat Technologies, as general manager of the Las Vegas-based company.

Young largely took it from there, bringing in former Aristocrat slot design ace Scott Olive, former Aristocrat system product manager Steve Walther—now VP of marketing for Aruze—and, this year, Sean Evans, the former Aristocrat sales VP who along with Young was responsible for much of that company’s early-2000s success, as chief operating officer.

Young initiated Aruze’s move into the mainstream casino market, concentrating not only on the Americas but on Australia, where the company has achieved a significant market presence; South Africa, perhaps the company’s strongest market; Asian markets including Macau and the Philippines; and various points in Europe.

The company has been on a licensing blitz, particularly in North America, where more than a dozen licenses had been collected as of press time. Meanwhile, the slot-maker’s game designers have been busy building on the innovations launched at last year’s trade show—and the sales staff has been spreading the word about games designed to maximize average wagers while dishing out entertainment value to all comers.

“We’ve got a very aggressive licensing plan,” says Young. “We’re doing really well in the Americas, but also in Australia, which is growing by leaps and bounds, as we are in the Philippines, South Africa and Europe, where we’re putting product in France.”

At last year’s G2E, Aruze launched its “G-Deluxe” range of stand-alone games and its “G-Link” series of linked or networked products. This year, the manufacturer expands those series and adds a new one, called “G-Station,” which will feature multi-player units.

“This year, we’re showing a lot of multiple-bonus products—high-end, premium multiple-bonus games with lots of interaction in the top box,” Young says. “Our new games feature bonuses within the bonuses, and features that allow the player to move up within the top-box bonus.”

Additionally, Aruze’s G-Deluxe and G-Link games include features to maximize average bets, such as the “High-Power Button”—a simple max-bet button that jacks the game’s return from 95 percent up to 98.6 percent, a fact that is communicated in plain terms to the players. “Higher bets lead not only to more return for the player, but higher turnover,” Young says. “Mr. Okada’s philosophy is to give more back to the players, which in turn brings in more revenue by raising the average bet and game occupancy.”

The High-Power Button also speeds up the game, increasing the speed of the spin by a few seconds—another way for the games to generate more revenue.

Telling A Story
Aruze’s new G-Deluxe games use the top box as an integral part of the game—none more than “Chinese Queen,” a game based on a true story from Chinese history, that of Yang Guifei, one of the “Four Beauties of Ancient China,” who was the consort of Emperor Zuanzong of Tang, who reigned during the 8th century.

The base game is a normal video slot, but once the bonus is triggered, the top box takes over with the story of Yang’s life, with different levels of award reflecting her rise from humble beginnings to the pinnacle of power. The player selects buttons at each level to gain either a credit award or a symbol to advance to the next level. Tiles that end the bonus are not included until the second level. At the top, the emperor professes his love for Yang and makes her queen—for the highest bonus award.

Also along the bonus path are “Gift Bonus” tiles and others, such as the “Lute Bonus,” that launch the game into an entirely different second-screen sequence, returning to the main bonus after the end of a simple secondary event. “Our games have features within features within features,” says Walther of the oversized top box in G-Deluxe games like Chinese Queen. “It gives the games more entertainment, and makes them more engaging. They tell a story rather than just offering a gambling experience, allowing players to explore the game on a grander scale.”

Walther adds that Aruze’s games feature a higher bonus frequency than most standard video slots, which means players are assured to engage in the game’s “story.”

Another good example of top-box use can be found in “Raging Eruption,” which uses a second-screen bonus event to trigger one of five progressive jackpot levels—depicted as a top-box volcano. As picks are made, secondary events such as animals evacuating the flowing lava trigger extra picks or bonus awards.

Aruze’s take on the wheel bonus can be found in the elaborate top box of “Wheel of Pharaoh.” The bonus wheel actually spins in two directions—the inner circle for the award, and an outer circle for a multiplier. 

Station to Station
The new multi-player G-Station series of electronic and electro-mechanical, automated table games debuts at G2E with “Dealer’s Angels Blackjack,” “Angels Roulette,” “Lucky Sic Bo,” “Shoot to Win Craps” and a unique game that represents a first in multi-player table games: “Lucky Big Wheel.”

Lucky Big Wheel is an automated big-six wheel, which can link to as many as 50 player terminals—although the initial version is a six-player unit.

The wheel itself is an RNG-driven electro-mechanical fortune wheel. According to Young, it uses magnetic technology to add a level of anticipation to the end of each spin. “You don’t know exactly where the wheel is going to land until right at the end,” he says. The wheel simulates the odds of the live game (another plus for the casino), but provides more outcomes per hour because of the automated bets and payoffs.

Each terminal has a handle on the side—the player who bets the most gets to pull the handle to spin the wheel.

All Together
One of Aruze’s distinguishing capabilities has been realized in community-style games like “Jackpot Royal,” which has a sculpted display with giant moving hands jutting from the game. This year, a new community experience can be had in “Title Match,” which uses Xbox-quality graphics to depict a prize fight in which each player picks a boxer and gets points each time the fighter punches his adversary.

The bonus event in Title Match happens at random at the end of any base-game spin, and the player’s accumulated points from the community title match are added to award one of four progressive jackpots. Typically, the more players bet, the higher the bonus award is likely to be.

At G2E, a new community game will be launched that Young considers Aruze’s show-stopper. Called “Paradise Fishing,” the game utilizes a new technology called “Reel Feel” for a community fishing event played out on three adjacent giant LCD screens.

The fishing game itself is similar to others, in that the larger the fish you catch, the higher the bonus award. However, the “Reel Feel” feature lends an interactive element to the game that makes it unique: Each player in the bank uses a joy stick embedded on the button panel to “fish.” When the player gets a “bite,” there is resistance, relating to how big the fish is, and thus, the bonus.

“It simulates an actual fishing event,” Young says. “It feels as if you’re pulling the fish, whether its a great white shark, a minnow… or a boot.”

“We love the fact that the game involves so many components, sights and sounds,” adds Walther. “When slots lost the handle, they lost that tactile touch element that was exciting for players. We feel players will respond well to having that touch element back. Each base game has its own features associated with it, and there are five bonuses that incorporate the Reel Feel technology. We feel it will add a new experience to the casino floor.

“Beyond that, the packaging for the game is phenomenal—three 60-inch, high-definition LCD monitors sitting on top of six Paradise Fishing-themed base games, each corresponding to a fisherman in the bonus game. We think this technology and these bonus games will be the talk of the show for Aruze.”

These marquee games will be accompanied by new titles in all of Aruze’s game categories at G2E, from a new five-reel stepper product—“LEDs behind the reels, the ability of reels to spin forward or backward, wider reels, and the ability to spin faster than any other stepper in its class,” says Young—to new stand-alone games like the 100-line “100 Saber Tooth,” high-volatility games like “Best Fortune,” and a mainstream video poker product to round out the portfolio.

“This year, we are slowly but surely moving from market to market and gaining recognition for Aruze as an up-and-coming brand,” Walther says. “We’re gaining a lot of good feedback along the way, in Oklahoma, the Native American community, and in Asia—at G2E Asia, we had the stellar stand of the show.”

“G2E is going to showcase a range of products that will take us to the next level within the American market,” adds Young. “We’ve now got a broad portfolio of high-level bonusing products, a broad stand-alone range, a range of linked community products, and some of the most innovative multi-terminal products the industry has seen. We think this show is going to provide the platform for us to achieve a high level of growth throughout 2011, in all categories.”

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.  

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