In this economy, belts have been tightened all around our industry. Staffs have been cut, promotion scaled back, capital expenditures slashed. For slot manufacturers, the unprecedented economic crisis has meant flat sales or worse, as casinos around the world try to stretch the life cycles of games as long as they can.
But none of that will be visible at the Global Gaming Expo’s debut show at the Sands Expo Center. In fact, looking at what promises to be one of the most remarkable displays of slot machine technology in the show’s decade-long history, it will be hard to remember we’re in the worst economy in decades.
That’s because slot manufacturers view their business in the long term.
The major slot-makers of the world have operated throughout the recession on the principle that the manufacturer who is not ready with state-of-the-art technology when casinos are ready to buy will be left out of any recovery that does happen. So, to a company, slot manufacturers have sacrificed nothing when it comes to research and development.
As always, that R&D arrives at center stage for the annual trade show. From a variety of creative community-play setups to networked slot systems that offer players interactivity that the slot floor has never seen; from new ideas to revive the reel-spinning slot machine—an under-served market that has never really weakened—to high-definition video that blurs the lines between home video games and video slots, the slot sector has never been more creative, more dynamic or more intriguing.
What makes things more intriguing than ever is the growing competitive atmosphere in the slot sector. Where once, analysts followed perhaps three companies closely, the competition among slot manufacturers these days is keeping them all very busy.
The traditional “Big Four”—IGT, Bally, WMS Gaming and Aristocrat—is just as often these days called the Big Five, thanks to the meteoric recent rise of Konami Gaming. Meanwhile, companies like Aruze, Multimedia Games, Ainsworth and others have been coming on fast. Don’t forget AC Slots—the former AC Coin & Slot, which launches its first proprietary slot platform this year; or Spielo International, the result of the complete merger of technology between former companies Atronic and Spielo; or Cadillac Jack, Casino Technology and several other manufacturers which continue to make inroads in markets around the world.
Most analysts expect 2012 to remain a flat year for replacement sales, as cap-ex budgets remain tight. A ray of hope for new sales for the slot-makers, though, is in new markets and new casinos—Ohio, Pennsylvania, Maryland, Florida, Kansas and elsewhere in the U.S.; surging VLT markets in Italy, Greece and elsewhere in Europe; the still-reliable growth patterns in Southeast Asia and South America.
Whatever happens, the slot manufacturers are ready. They have all kept innovation at the top of the agenda, and that’s something that will be obvious at G2E 2011.
It will also be obvious as you flip through the following pages, where you’ll find the best of what the slot sector has to offer for the coming year.