Our annual review of the best in the slot sector

Welcome to Global Games, our annual review of the games, cabinets and new brands the world’s slot manufacturers are bringing to the Global Gaming Expo, and will be launching over the coming year.

Last year’s G2E was dominated by a variety of new cabinets and game styles from all the manufacturers. This year’s crop of new offerings fills all those and more new form factors with a flood of innovative content, typically mind-boggling in variety.

This year’s array of new slot games offers both groundbreaking new technology and a return to and modernization of some of the classic game styles that originally made the slot machine the most popular offering in the casino.

Groundbreaking new technology, of course, is a mainstay of G2E. This year, attendees are likely to flock to IGT’s booth to view mid-air haptic and gesture-control technology in the Sphinx 4D game. They are likely to go to Scientific Games’ booth to view new formats like J43 and TwinStar 3RM, a new stepper series, or Aristocrat’s booth to see the new EdgeX cabinet and the latest version of The Walking Dead.

The buzz at the Konami booth will be new entries into the Concerto family of cabinets. For Everi, it will be a growing library of games in all styles. AGS will fill out the library of its innovative ICON and Orion cabinets, while Aruze, Incredible Technologies and others launch new form factors and new ways to play.

Our Global Games section this year also includes the startups introducing new skill-based and video-game formats to the slot floor, Gamblit and GameCo, as well as new innovations from European leaders such as Merkur and Novomatic.

New technologies abound this year, from mobile and cardless play to virtual reality products. But this year’s G2E will also showcase a renaissance of the traditional spinning-reel stepper product, as most of the major manufacturers produce new content in what has been something of an underserved market.

The displays of the world’s slot manufacturers offer a peek into the evolution not only of the games themselves, but of the slot floor in general. On the following pages, in alphabetical order by manufacturer, are the new games that will define the future of the slot segment.


AGS

Gearing Up
AGS shifts into high gear as a full-service gaming supplier, including a deep library of new slot games and super-charged new progressive solutions.

When it comes to AGS, Andrew Burke has seen it all. And, over the past three years, that’s been a lot.

Burke, who is senior vice president of slot products for AGS, joined the company in 2008. The company he joined, a primarily Class II supplier known then as American Gaming Systems, bore no resemblance to what it is now: one of the fastest-growing slot manufacturers in the business. During Burke’s early years with the company, he witnessed its breakthrough into Class III markets.

Spearheading that breakthrough was the addition of David Lopez as CEO at the end of 2013. Lopez would help initiate a total transformation of AGS as a supplier, not the least of which included putting Burke in charge of slot products through two key acquisitions—Colossal Gaming and Cadillac Jack.

The former would bring Colossal Diamonds, the giant-format three-reel slot machine on the distinctive “Big Red” cabinet, with a program math that continues to attract players today. The high-performing Big Red opened operators’ doors to AGS as a Class III supplier, and soon after that, the company’s acquisition of Georgia-based Cadillac Jack brought with it Sigmund Lee, as chief technology officer—along with a team of obsessed game and hardware designers—and the Atlas core video slot platform, giving the company a high-powered basis for future R&D.

Lopez, of course, was leading AGS’ reinvention at the same time, into what is now, three years later, a full-service gaming supplier with a successful table-games division and a new interactive arm that is producing successful free-to-play mobile games along with a white-label social casino solution.

At the same time, Burke oversaw the evolution of slot products with the help of talented game development teams in Las Vegas, Georgia and Austin, Texas. These teams, combined with Lee’s vision and expertise, helped launch the company’s new core platform, Atlas, and expanded the company’s product library, not only with new games, but with a parade of new form factors.

The AGS of 2017 is using what is perhaps the strongest of those form factors—the new Orion cabinet, officially launched in May—along with ICON, the high-performing first core cabinet of the newly merged company, to capitalize on the best of what the freshly augmented R&D staff creates.

Burke says Orion has exceeded expectations since the launch of its first units last spring. The marquee-style cabinet, with a 42-inch vertical monitor surrounded by 498 game-controlled LED lights, has scored big hits with inaugural titles Fu Nan Fu Nu and River Dragons, each with beautiful Asian-themed imagery that is enhanced by the Orion display, particularly when games are banked together.

“This continues to be a record year for AGS, in particular in the slot business in every category,” Burke says. “That’s attributed to some really strong performance from our games. We launched Orion in May, and we have more than 700 units installed now, with a very large pipeline of product.”

Building the Library

Burke says this year’s G2E lineup for AGS is, first, about building depth in the company’s library of games. “We have expansive game libraries in every one of our product categories now, with dozens of games performing well above house average,” he says. “On our ICON cabinet, Golden Wins, Longhorn Jackpots and Buffalo Jackpots are loved by players, and now we’ve added a whole host of other titles that mirror the same game play and math.”

One way AGS is linking the best of the new core games is through new progressive products. One is called Money Charge Jackpots, a multi-link progressive series designed to create more frequent jackpot wins at larger amounts, accented by dynamic sign packages. New ICON games, like Wild Surprize, will link to another new progressive line and feature core-gambler-style math and frequent bonuses.

Money Charge will share the stage with the progressive product Burke says will be one of the highlights of the company’s G2E lineup, Xtreme Jackpots. It’s the first AGS multi-linked progressive ecosystem connecting across both the core ICON and premium Orion cabinets—linking more games for more frequent awards and higher jackpots. New base games Buffalo Jackpots XJP and Longhorn Jackpots XJP, based on the player-favorite originals, will have four jackpot levels and two bonus rounds. Burke says the Xtreme Jackpots series will be “a highlight” for the slot division.

The Xtreme Jackpots base games feature Jackpot Pick and Free Spins Bonus events. When a full stack of wild symbols lands on any of the middle reels during the base game, players have a chance to hit the Jackpot Pick Bonus and are guaranteed to win one of the four Xtreme Jackpots levels. Each game in the series also features a unique scatter-initiated Free Spins Bonus in the base game. The Grand Jackpot reseeds at $10,000 and climbs rapidly from there.

“Progressives are something we do well,” Burke says, “which has led to great success for our games. We wanted to offer something that would connect across multiple cabinets, across multiple titles and themes. We’ll be officially launching our Xtreme Jackpots games at G2E ready for sale and installation.

“These new games can be linked across both Orion and ICON, with gorgeous new sign packages that highlight the Xtreme Jackpots brand and the running progressive totals. Players will know instantly that the same jackpot on the ICON games is also on the Orion games.”

He adds that one of the most promising aspects of the link is the jackpot frequency inherent with the sheer number of connected games. “When you have lots of games on one link in a facility, you can really drive the frequency of that jackpot,” Burke says. “That creates achievability for players. They start asking each other if they’ve ever hit that $10,000 jackpot, and the more games you have on one link, the more people you will have who have had that experience.

“We’re excited to launch something that links everything together and allows us to leverage the volume of our titles.”

Encore Performance

Another highlight for G2E will be the next generation of the product that broke AGS into the Class III market. Aptly named Big Red 2, this new version features brighter colors and animations, powered by the Atlas platform, and the new game Colossal Stars.

According to Brett Vela, associate product manager for AGS, the new game uses similar math to the popular original Colossal Diamonds. “The math and simple game play is what players love about the original, and we’ve followed that same format with Colossal Stars,” Vela says.

Burke adds that in June, AGS launched several new high-denomination video slots for the ICON cabinet based on Colossal Diamonds’ math model, showing them to customers at its GameON customer conference. “We’ve seen some really big numbers in early performance,” he says, adding that high-denomination games have represented an underserved market for some time. Burke cites French Quarter 7s and Premier Diamonds as great early performers in the series.

Finally, the slot division will preview another new cabinet series at G2E. “It’s important for customers to know we have a real hardware roadmap,” Burke says. “It’s not ICON and Orion and done. We’re looking out five years into the future and saying, here’s the categories we want to be in, and here’s our timeline for doing it. We’re committed to that.

“Last year, we showed Orion before it was commercially available. Fast-forward to now, and we’re going to have 700 installed, with a big product pipeline. We’re going to show this new product at G2E with an official launch sometime next year. You’ll have to stop by our booth to see it.”

Burke says the company is extending the design and feel of Orion for the new cabinet. “The design line of Orion is very cool and innovative, and we’re going to definitely use that on other things going forward,” he says, adding that among the improvements on the newest cabinets is an LCD button deck, already on some Orion units in the field. “We’ll also have an LCD topper on display for Orion that will really give you a full picture of that product,” Burke says.

The LCD topper is one of a new group of custom-designed digital sign packages AGS is adding to its linked progressive products. Attract messages and celebrations burst across the screens to showcase jackpot totals, game play and bonus rounds.

Among other game highlights for G2E are new Orion titles including Olympus Strikes, featuring math from the mega-hit Fu Nan Fu Nu. “We expect that same kind of success with a new art package on Orion,” says Burke.

AGS will, naturally, showcase all the latest from all of the company’s divisions at G2E. The table-game business, which already has nearly 2,000 table game products installed worldwide, is launching a follow-up to its award-winning Bonus Spin table-game progressive system. Bonus Spin Roulette will add the progressive side bet to the roulette game. Additionally, the company will display new specialty games including Premium Hold’em, which offers an action boost over traditional hold’em-style games.

On the utilities side, AGS will display its Dex S single-deck, commercial-grade shuffler on proprietary game Chase the Flush with Bonus Spin, a derivative of the game in which players compete with the dealer for the longest flush.

On the interactive side, six new partners this year engaged Social WLC, AGS’ white-label casino solution. It is a turn-key, customized social casino solution based on proven, player-favorite, land-based content, including the newest additions Jade Wins, Shadow Fox Dreamcatcher and Rumble in the Jungle.

Meanwhile, the slot division arrives at G2E with its largest display ever. “We’ve started connecting with more corporate customers who may not have been familiar with the AGS story and are now really starting to understand that AGS products are something they need on their floors,” Burke says.

“The timing of G2E is great for us this year. We’ve had so many positive things happening for us as a company, and we’re excited to share those stories and build new ones as we move into 2018.”


Ainsworth Game Technology

Ahead of the Pac
A new Pac-Man slot game centers a huge collection of Class III and Class II innovation from Ainsworth, including new progressive links and a patented Class II progressive feature

The G2E display of slot manufacturer Ainsworth Game Technology will be unlike any former booth of the Australian slot-maker founded by industry legend Len Ainsworth. In addition to being larger than any former Ainsworth booth, it will be the centerpiece of the expansive G2E display of its new majority owner, Austria’s Novomatic Gaming Industries GmbH.

But while the combined booth is representative of the fact that the integration of the two former companies is expected to be complete by the show, it has been clear that the Austrian firm has no intention of changing the course or slowing the momentum of Ainsworth in the U.S., where it opened a new 300,000-square-foot manufacturing, R&D and sales facility in Las Vegas two years ago.

While Novomatic is marketing Ainsworth games and hardware in its home base of Europe—in August, Novomatic’s global sales division assumed management of Ainsworth European sales efforts—Ainsworth has been busy building up its Las Vegas game development studio, which now takes the lead in designing slot games for the Americas.

In January 2016, a third design studio joined the Las Vegas facility and the parent company’s Sydney studio, when Ainsworth acquired Nova Technologies, a Class II slot supplier based in Greenville, South Carolina. The company’s Class II R&D remains centered in the Greenville studio, which also works with the slot-maker’s other design teams on many games.

Meanwhile, Ainsworth has geared up its expansion efforts in U.S. markets, including the July 2016 hiring of longtime slot executive Kelcey Allison, former CEO of Aruze Gaming America, as Ainsworth’s senior vice president of sales, marketing and service for North America.

“Taking over the sales, marketing and service aspect has been absolutely rewarding for me here at Ainsworth,” Allison comments. “It’s been an absolutely great opportunity. We see a lot of market growth here in the next six to eight months.”

Most recently, Ainsworth secured licensing in Colorado and British Columbia, and will soon be licensed in Washington state.

“It’s important that we’re going into Washington state, the fourth largest gaming market in the country,” says Mike Dreitzer, president, North America for Ainsworth Game Technology. “We are looking to get our field trial under way there probably early in Q4.”

He adds that Ainsworth developers were able to modify the company’s platform technology to create a full library of games for Washington’s central-determination gaming system.

Meanwhile, the company’s Class II business is booming, with route operations growing and performance on the rise. “We’ve made some massive leaps in Class II,” says Mike Trask, Ainsworth’s director of marketing. “Oklahoma, Poarch Creek in Alabama, California, Alabama Coushatta in Texas—massive strides.

“We’ll be introducing a product called AnyBet into Class II markets which we believe is the first Class II progressive to be available at any bet, any game, any line count. It has been submitted for patent.”

Trask says the Class II team in South Carolina has been augmented since the acquisition. “In addition to the Nova team, we’ve staffed up significantly from a Class II development standpoint, as we have from a Class III standpoint.”

The Class II innovations will be part of an Ainsworth G2E display totaling more than 130 games, including titles for Class III and Class II, new linked progressive brands and premium branded slot games, along with new sign package options.

“We’re very excited about this year,” says Dreitzer. “We’ve got a whole host of new products, and it’s all about the content of the games—we really have redoubled our focus on the games going forward.”

Pac-Man Fever

For this year’s G2E show, Ainsworth will showcase the capabilities of the groundbreaking cabinets the company has launched in the past two years. Ainsworth’s Class III game library now tops 250 unique titles spread across its range of cabinets, the A600, A640 and A600 Slant Top.

The A640 has been gaining steam since its introduction less than two years ago. “I like to call the A640 the iPhone of the gaming industry,” says

Allison, “because it is slick, with a minimalized look, frameless… It’s very flexible.”

The centerpiece of the entire Ainsworth display this year will be the latest entry for the A640 premium cabinet—Pac-Man Dynamic Edition, a sequel to last year’s hit Pac-Man Wild Edition. For this game, the A640 cabinet was modified to look exactly like a classic Pac-Man arcade machine from 1982.

“We were very successful with the initial launch of Pac-Man, and now the sequel, the Dynamic Edition, will follow on with more popular play,” says Mate Delich, Ainsworth’s product manager for the Americas. “We’re really excited about continuing to build the Pac-Man library.”

“We’re expanding our partnership with (Pac-Man licensor) Bandai Namco,” says Trask. “The next level of Pac-Man will feature even more interaction, with a tremendous wheel feature, and will continue the success you’ve seen with Pac-Man Wild Edition.”

In addition to the wheel bonus, Pac-Man makes appearances offering players wilds and other bonuses at random throughout play in the new game.

Pac-Man heads a full lineup of new games on the A640 platform, including new games Desert Dawn/Desert Dusk, Rumble Rumble Eagle and Nostradamus.

Desert Dawn and Desert Dusk both feature colorful graphics and a free-spin feature in which the player touches a lamp for “wishes” that add additional spins and expand the reels, taking full advantage of the 42-inch A640 monitor to a maximum of 12 rows and 200 paylines.

Rumble Rumble Eagle is a sequel to last year’s Rumble Rumble Bear, featuring a two-level curved bonus reel above the main array that awards wild reels and other bonuses. It features a two-level, “must-hit-by” mystery progressive jackpot.

Nostradamus is a four-level progressive carrying a clever theme and some innovative features. One of the four progressives hits every 85 games, on average, through a picking bonus in which the player selects objects from the sky to match a prize. Throughout, Nostradamus’ face moves while he makes wisecracks on the top monitor. “It’s got high entertainment value combined with strong math,” says Delich.

The A640 collection also will include several games just recently released to the market, such as Kong of Skull Island, the sequel to last year’s popular King Kong game, also on the A640.

Progressive Power

Progressives are a fast-growing game style for Ainsworth, in the A600 format as well as A640. “The A600 will have a whole host of new titles at this show,” says Trask, “in particular Haoyun Dao, an Asian-themed linked progressive that we’re really excited about.”

Haoyun Dao (it means “good luck to you”) is a two-game link developed by Ainsworth’s Las Vegas studio. “The games both have really unique features,” says Delich. “During the free games, you can get a Power Feature—on one game, that can win multipliers up to 64X, and on the other, it expands the reels from 243 ways to win to 2,000 ways.”

During the free spins, the lower-paying poker symbols disappear from the reel array, leaving only the top of the pay table, with 3X wild symbols appearing randomly on reel 2 and 5X wilds on reel 4.

Another special feature is called Power Spot. When the Power Spot logo appears, it awards the credit prize appearing next to the symbol. The three mystery progressives are won through a pick-and-match bonus in which a wild symbol travels from the reels to a dragon that encircles the five-by-three reel array. The player then matches four gold discs to win one of the progressives. The mystery progressive frequency rises proportionately with higher bets—10 times the wager means 10 times more frequent progressive bonus rounds.

Another new progressive on the A600 is FirePower, a four-game link with another package of unique features. “Between Haoyun Dao and FirePower, we have very strong linked progressives for the next year,” says Trask. “A third link, Oriental Gold, will be released soon.

“We’re really going in on the linked progressive area. We’ve seen the success these have had across the industry, and we have high hopes for our offerings.”

Other A600 titles include Big Hit Bonanza, Twice the Diamonds, Cash Cave, Mustang Fortune, Light ‘Em Up and others. All of them continue the trend of new play mechanics and improved takes on sound and art. “The presentation of these games is really terrific,” says Delich, “to the point where they will take A600 to a whole new level.”

“We have now a full-fledged studio in Las Vegas,” adds Trask. “Many of the G2E games are coming from Las Vegas.” He says the Las Vegas studio is set to produce around 12 to 15 games a year. “Our focus this year is not so much on quantity as it is on quality,” he says. “Over the next 12 to 15 months, you’re going to see 12 to 15 really strong games out of the U.S. studio.”

Many of those games will be high-denomination selections, an area which has become one of Ainsworth’s specialties. “We don’t have a stepper product, but our successful high-denom games are our bread and butter,” Trask says. “If you ask operators around the country what Ainsworth is good at, they will tell you high-denom games. They are our top performers. We’ve done them as three-by-fives, and will continue, using variations on our very successful high-denom math.”

“We don’t have any high-denom games doing less than house average, unless they’ve only been out a couple of months,” adds Delich. “Kyoto Warrior, for example, came out last year and was near the bottom for nine months. Then, people realized that in addition to a 2X multiplier, there’s an 8X. It got a huge following on YouTube, and in four months was our No. 1 high-denom game. Since then, it’s consistently two times house average.”

Kyoto Warrior, a dollar game in which the payoff for combinations including the Warrior symbol change on every spin, is one of the high-denomination highlights, along with Dragon Drum, in which an animated dragon swoops on the reels to award multipliers and wild symbols; and Mustang Fury, which features “sticky wild” symbols in the free games.

Finally, the Ainsworth booth will feature a display of high-performing Class II games placed on the A600 cabinet. Titles shown on the A600 will include Twice the Diamonds, Cash Cave, Mustang Fortune, Light ‘Em Up and other games proven to perform on U.S. casino floors.

And of course, the Class II highlight will be the unveiling of the AnyBet feature allowing players to win progressives on any bet.

“The Nova Technologies acquisition, and bringing that company on board with Ainsworth, has fostered tremendous growth for Ainsworth in Class II,” says Allison. “We’ve had some major, significant installs recently, including the Alabama Coushatta Entertainment Center in Texas, where we supplied 190 units out of 700—a 28 percent floor share. We’ve seen spectacular growth on the Class II side.”

Forward Focus

Dreitzer and Allison agree that Ainsworth’s focus for the near future is going to be placed solely on the player. “We’re taking the approach that this is gaming, this is entertainment, and we want players to be entertained and have a lot of time on device,” says Allison. “That’s really been our focus over the last year, while incorporating the new Las Vegas studio and the Greenville studio. We’re really focused on keeping players playing, and having a good time.”

Dreitzer says the company will explore new game formats as the need arises—skill-based games, for example, “as an incremental evolution.”

He agrees that properties like Pac-Man and other possible titles in the partnership with Bandai Namco lend themselves to skill, but Ainsworth is approaching the new genre in a slow and methodical manner. “We’re justified in saying that skill-based is not quite there yet, from a market acceptance standpoint,” Dreitzer says. “If you look at some of the installs around the country, it’s not quite there yet. But that doesn’t mean we’re going to stick our heads in the sand. Skill is something we’ll continue to pursue on an evolutionary basis.”

“You’ve seen these skill-based games where you’ve gone from zero to 100—from no skill at all to, ‘Here’s a skill game,’” adds Trask. “Now I have to figure out how to do all this, and it’s not an enjoyable player experience. We’ll take it in tiny steps, which will allow the player to understand how the skill-based play works.”

Aside from that, Ainsworth will continue to marshal its multiple studios to produce games designed to keep players entertained. “We have a new head of R&D, Kieran Power, who came to us from Aristocrat,” Dreitzer says. “He’s got a really good philosophy around opening up the development process, and broadening it so we don’t have games that all look alike—there’s a lot of diversity in our content.”

He adds that Ainsworth will work very closely with its Austrian parent going forward. “We’re a separate company maintaining a U.S. presence, but certainly, having them as a partner globally can do nothing but help us,” he says. “We’re always looking for ways to expand our addressable market, and the relationship with Novomatic will bear fruit in that regard.”

Trask says the Ainsworth G2E lineup will include several Novomatic games on Ainsworth hardware.

“We’re super excited for this G2E,” says

Allison. “It’s going to be our largest display ever in the history of Ainsworth, in combination with Novomatic. We’re doing some powerful branding at G2E to really step up and make a statement that Ainsworth will be in the top four (slot manufacturers) in the next 12 to 18 months—and that is our goal. To keep that focus, not to throw a bunch of boxes out there and see what sticks on the wall. We have proven performance in the current lineup we have, and we’re going to move forward with that.”

“Right now, we continue to focus on Class III and Class II video, and we’re looking at some other special opportunities around the country where we can leverage our technology,” says

Dreitzer. “It’s really about the core player, providing entertainment and time on device—providing value for the core player.

“Again, it’s about the game. Focus on the game. We are making great games. That’s what we do.”


Aristocrat Technologies

Riding the Momentum
Aristocrat uses the strength of its top brands to generate momentum with new cabinets, game styles and unique progressives

Every year, it seems Aristocrat Technologies adds a cabinet, a form factor, a progressive or a slot brand that sets it apart from the pack, and inches the company closer to the top of the slot market. And every year, it seems the company adds to the completeness of its library of games.

This year is no different. Curved-monitor innovations like the Arc and Arc Double are joined by the unique flame55 cabinet, RELM—the company’ first stepper format—and RELM XL, the first improvement to that reel-spinning hardware. Progressives like Lightning Link and Fast Cash are joined by Dragon Link, Liberty Link and Mighty Cash.

And through it all, Aristocrat introduces all the new hardware, new progressives and new game styles by loading them up with some of the strongest brands—both proprietary and licensed—in the business.

“It’s about hardware, systems solutions, artistry—it’s all those elements coming together in a strong design philosophy,” says Matt Wilson, Aristocrat’s managing director of the Americas. “That has been at the center of what we bring to our customers, and that is how we have helped them succeed. Now, at G2E, we will present a deep and broad portfolio of products that gives our customers an integrated experience and allows them to speak to every type of player.”

“We’ve been focusing on new innovation in hardware and content,” says Nathan Drane, Aristocrat’s vice president of commercial strategy, games. “We will continue that this year.”

John Hanlin, vice president of commercial strategy for gaming operations, says the company’s lineup for this year’s G2E will capitalize on the momentum still being generated in three main categories—new hardware, proprietary progressive links and continued support of established hardware successes with both new content and new versions of the company’s most successful brands.

It’s a recipe for success that is proven each year when the company’s big G2E introductions hit the market. Hanlin says last year’s G2E launches are no exception. “One of our biggest debuts has been Fast Cash,” he says. “It has been received widely as an innovative and interesting product, and a great jackpot experience.”

Fast Cash is an example of Aristocrat’s surging business in progressives. Its main draw has been frequency of jackpots—the top multi-site jackpot is designed to hit every two or three days at an average level of $40,000 with the highest bet. Jackpots are more frequent with higher wagers.

Other hits from last year include two games on the imposing Arc Double cabinet—Tim McGraw, featuring the music and performances of the country star; and My Cousin Vinny, based on the 1992 comedy film starring Joe Pesci and Marisa Tomei. “The Tim McGraw game lives up to the fanfare it received last year, and My Cousin Vinny continues to do well in the market,” Hanlin says.

Also well-received have been Aristocrat’s first stepper cabinet, called RELM; Helix+, an improved version of the Helix video cabinet with a larger, 27-inch infinity-edge frameless display; and Dragon Link, an improvement on the award-winning and wildly popular Lightning Link multiple-progressive product.

This year will see improvements on all those products and more. “We’re taking some of the new hardware we had as prototypes last year and commercializing them,” says Hanlin.

Coin of the RELM

New cabinet products are driving many of Aristocrat’s new-game entries this year. In June, Aristocrat launched the RELM series of reel-spinning slots. It is Aristocrat’s new stepper series, created through collaboration between Aristocrat engineers and those of Tennessee-based Video Game Technologies (VGT), which Aristocrat acquired in 2014. While Aristocrat never had a stepper slot product, VGT specialized in reel-spinners for the Class II market.

The RELM series was created to capitalize on what the company’s executives saw as an underserved market, the traditional stepper player. The RELM cabinet features protruding, oversized reels, backlit with colors and surrounded by a display employing in the neighborhood of 400 LEDs, which the game designers use as enhancements displayed in sync with game events. In June, the company launched the series with eight inaugural games—7 Salute, 7 Paradise, Triple 7 Wildfire Double, Golden Flower, Crazy 7s, Ancient Pearl, Red Odyssey, Double Gold Spin, Double Hot Fire, and 3x 7 2x Lotus.

The games all follow the math model of the traditional high-denomination steppers. The top monitor is used for attract or displays of multiple progressives. (Inaugural game 7 Salute includes a seven-level progressive jackpot.) There is a handle. Every win is reinforced with the powerful sound of a real mechanical bell, enhancing every winning spin on the 23-inch high-definition monitor.

The June introduction kicked off a launch of a 24 expected titles over the next two years.

This year, Aristocrat is doubling down on the reel-spinning genre with RELM XL. Set for a launch at G2E, RELM XL places a 43-inch curved monitor above the spinning reels, with a bonus wheel as a topper. Inaugural games for the cabinet tap two of Aristocrat’s most successful current game franchises—the first games are Britney One More Time, Buffalo Inferno and Buffalo Thundering 7s.

All have a wide-area progressive option, and according to Hanlin, the games will each be available in three price categories. Buffalo Inferno and Buffalo Thundering 7s employ high-denomination stepper math (dollar and up), with the Britney game a mid-denomination stepper (nickels through quarters in a buy-a-pay setup).

Another new cabinet, called “flame55,” was previewed at G2E last year, and is ready for launch this year with four inaugural titles. The distinguishing factor of this cabinet is a dual curve—a 55-inch vertical monitor curves in two places, forming the shape of an “S,” with the bottom and top areas of the monitor tilted toward the player. “It’s a very sexy cabinet, with lots of curves, and signage to match,” says Hanlin. “This year, we’ll introduce a full commercial package to launch in early 2018, and we’re excited to release product in our premium video space on the flame55.”

As with the RELM XL, Aristocrat is tapping its most popular game franchises for the launch of the flame55 cabinet. The first two games will be a new Mariah Carey title and Game of Thrones: Fire and Blood. A new version of Tim McGraw will follow.

Another new cabinet is the Helix XT, which transforms the original Helix cabinet with a curved, 4K screen that bends at the top toward the player, and a new virtual button deck. It is launching with Gold Stacks, a popular game in the manufacturer’s J*Series (for “jackpots”) featuring a unique wagering configuration that offers players an innovative Gold Reel “Buy-Up” mechanic. Buying the gold reels gives the player stacks of major symbols where the gold appears on the reels. Gold Stacks also features a four-level single-area progressive and a “choose-your-volatility” free-games feature.

Other games to be displayed on the Helix XT are More More Chilli and More More Hearts—new versions of popular Aristocrat video slots. The originals had four reel sets in the feature. The new versions have up to 24 games in one in the feature.

Finally, one more new cabinet making its debut at G2E is the innovative dual-player-style EdgeX. The EdgeX cabinet has a completely new, eye-catching design featuring dual 43-inch landscaped-curved LCDs that provide personal panoramic game views with maximum horizons. The LCDs are ultra HD and 4K-ready. The dual monitors create a double-wide gaming feel in a standard footprint.

Adding to the social component is a new dual-player virtual button deck for two-play operation. Further, the virtual button deck allows for virtually unlimited messaging opportunities, while providing maintenance-free operation. The cabinet includes extras like a USB port for smartphone charging.

“The sensory experience extends to EdgeX’s stereo audio plus ported subwoofer along with individually controlled LED edge lights,” says Drane. “What’s more, its ergonomically designed sound bench invites single or dual play, appealing to individual-style or social-style players.”

The cabinet is launching with The Walking Dead 3 single-site progressive game, based on the TV show’s seasons 6 and 7. The new game takes full advantage of EdgeX’s design.

Hanlin says yet another new cabinet will be previewed at the show, with a new “mega-license”—a slot game featuring Madonna, with footage and music highlighting the star’s long career.

Brands and Themes

Aristocrat’s G2E lineup will include its share of new licensed slot games, as well as new versions of themes that are already proven hits.

Among the new themes will be Westworld, based on the HBO series now entering its second season. Westworld is based on the 1973 film of the same name, depicting an amusement park replicating a town in the Old West, complete with saloon shootouts in which guests face down android desperados—until a glitch in the android technology results in them actually killing guests with real guns. The TV show was HBO’s highest-rated program last year. Aristocrat is using the Arc Double format to bring the show to the slot floor.

Other new themes for the Arc Double include The Big Lebowski, based on the 1998 comedy starring Jeff Bridges as Jeffrey “The Dude” Lebowski, an aging L.A. hippie and avid bowler who gets into trouble after he is mistaken for a brash millionaire who shares his name. All the funniest scenes of the film are represented in bonuses and reel-spinning—and even in the carousels, which carry the theme of the bowling alley where all the film’s characters meet.

The G2E Arc Double lineup will round out with new entries in the Grand series—Timberwolf Grand is the game—and the fifth game in the popular Tarzan series, as well as a new game based on The X-Files, the popular sci-fi series about government efforts to conceal evidence of extra-terrestrial life.

One more Arc Double game, which Aristocrat is keeping under wraps until the show, will involve what the company calls a “rocking party-licensed title.”

Meanwhile, the Arc Single cabinet will feature new titles including Elvira, Ted, Pan Am and Zorro.

The Helix cabinet will showcase game titles including the award-winning Lightning Link, and the Wonder Wheels cabinet will feature the Candyland game theme and the Wonder Wheels Cashman game theme.

Additionally, Aristocrat will show Dragon Link, the follow-up to its Lightning Link progressive product that was launched late this summer. Lightning Link was the company’s first progressive link available in multi-denominational setup, and Dragon Link, previewed at last year’s G2E, adds a dollar denomination to the penny, 2-cent, 5-cent and 10-cent denominations, in a carousel of Arc Single cabinets topped by a 360-degree sign.

A new progressive link, Liberty Link, will be launched at the show as part of the same family of progressives. The five-reel progressive and Dragon Link both follow the simple jackpot feature of the original Lightning Link, in which pearls land to award progressives and credits and remain in place while the remaining reels re-spin—several lower-level progressives can be won in a single bonus event, and collecting all the pearls returns the top Grand jackpot.

“It’s the simplicity of the jackpot chase and mechanics that players enjoy,” says Hanlin. “We believe the hold-and-spin mechanic is the best jackpot-delivery system in the market.”

Hanlin calls Dragon Link “Lightning Link on steroids.”

In addition to these new links, the company is launching a follow-up to the popular Fast Cash link in a product dubbed Mighty Cash, available on several different cabinets.

Finally, Aristocrat and VGT will showcase a complete lineup of new Class II games, headed by games such as Extra Bonus, which target Class II first. VGT also will showcase its $uper Hit$ Jackpot$ wide-area progressive titles including Mr. Money Bags $uper Hit$ Jackpot$ and new three-reel mechanical titles including the Mr. Money Bags Sparkling Wilds game.

Rich Schneider, Aristocrat’s chief product officer, comments that Aristocrat’s approach to Class II is different than other major manufacturers, in that the VGT engineers design games specifically for Class II operation, rather than adapting proven Class III games for the bingo mechanic.

“A lot of people have tried to pour Class III content into Class II, but we feel bingo math can be used to enhance the gaming experience,” Schneider says. “We feel we’ve landed in the Class II space with games that play stronger than their Class III counterparts.

“There is more flexibility with bingo math, and our games do as well as or sometimes better than Class III. That’s exciting, because for those casinos that only operate Class II or tribes that want to maintain a Class II footprint, this gives them a great alternative.”

Aristocrat’s award-winning Oasis casino management system will be on display at the company’s G2E booth as well, with new features such as Oasis Loyalty, winner of the platinum award at the 2017 GameChangers Marketing Awards at the Casino Marketing & Technology Conference.

But as always, visitors to Aristocrat’s booth at G2E will find a mind-boggling array of games, in a wealth of new cabinet styles and form factors.


Aruze Gaming America

Into the Future
With new leadership and an emphasis on improved technology, Aruze Gaming Americas looks to the future

The next phase of growth for Las Vegas-based Aruze Gaming America actually began a year ago, just before G2E 2016. That’s when the company hired Fred Nunez, a veteran of both casino operations and supply, as the company’s new director of product management.

Nunez, former slot director of California’s Soboba Casino and director of game operations for Class II supplier Rocket Gaming Systems, brought a new perspective to growing a product base that already had big hits and lots of variety.

Then in March, Aruze announced that Eric Persson, a veteran operator whose resume included stints as senior vice president of Las Vegas Sands Corporation and senior positions for Harrah’s Entertainment, Coast Resorts, Delaware North and American Racing and Entertainment, joined the company as general manager of Aruze Gaming America.

Among Persson’s first acts as Aruze GM was to institute an industry-topping two-year performance guarantee on all products using the APX video platform and any new video platforms going forward. Announced at April’s National Indian Gaming Association trade show, the performance guarantee, Persson said at the time, was in recognition that “Aruze has some of the best game designers in the industry, and is proud to stand behind our products.

“When you purchase hardware from us, we see it as the beginning of a relationship, and we want our customers to be 100 percent happy. We believe it’s the right thing to do.”

Meanwhile, Nunez was busy expanding the reach of many of Aruze’s core products based on the APX platform, including recent successes such as the Cube-X video and Cube-X Innovator reel platforms; the Cube-X Vertical, with its tall footprint used for expanding reels and multiple progressives; and the G-Station series of multi-player electronic table games.

“In the past, Aruze was focused on core products,” Nunez says. “You’re going to see us become more than simply a core gaming company. We’re definitely expanding out to other segments.”

One area of focus in Aruze’s G2E display this year will be the G-Station ETG segment. “We’ve put more focus on the ETG section this year,” he says. “Shoot to Win Craps has been really successful for us. We really hadn’t done updates on our line of ETGs, so now we’re going to go through and branch out.”

Aruze has a strong ETG base from which to grow. Its Shoot to Win Craps product has been a mainstay at the Venetian and other Las Vegas locations, as well as Lucky Big Wheel and several others. The company’s ETG lineup also includes Lucky Sic Bo, Dealer’s Angels Baccarat, Dealer’s Angels Blackjack and Virtual Roulette.

One of the improvements Nunez says the company is working on is bringing all ETGs onto the APX platform. “The newer processor opens up more functionality as far as what we’re able to do with the games,” he says. “We’re taking that core ETG and enhancing it.”

Building on Strength

For single-player slot games, Aruze has focused on building upon some of the best form factors launched over the past few years. “For our core products, we’ve shifted focus from very basic games to develop different bonuses, different ways to set the games apart,” Nunez says. “We’re utilizing the top boxes we have, but trying to animate them a little more.”

The content on those boxes is being developed with U.S. markets in mind, he adds. “Right now, we’re really focused on developing content specifically for the U.S. market,” he says. “Since the last G2E, we’ve shifted some of our resources from Japan to the U.S. That’s one of the reasons they brought me in—to help bridge the gap between our Japanese roots and development and the U.S. influence. We’ve been bringing some team members over from Japan and integrating them into the U.S. and our style of gambling.”

The result is a collection of new game series on all of the various form factors. For instance, two new game families are being added to the Cube-X Vertical, launched last year with Tower Stack Dragon and Tower Stack Lion, games that used the extra-long 42-inch top LCD monitor to display three individual four-by-five reel sets.

An ante wager called “Plus Factor” adds a selectable play area and turns all symbols on the fifth reel wild. While Nunez says both games have done well, he says the company is creating new game families for the cabinet that require less than the $2 cost-to-cover when employing the Plus Factor. “We have seen that our average bet on those games is over $2, which is great, but it also misses a big segment of the market,” he says. “If you’re not willing to wager over $2, you’re really limited on the game play.”

With six titles in the Tower Stack family, Aruze has introduced two new game families for the Cube-X Vertical, which will be displayed at G2E. The Expander Reel Series of games includes a signature feature that grows the reel array from three rows to nine. Inaugural games include Crazy Coin and Dream Money.

Both games use a three-by-five base game in a cash theme. The Expander Reels feature occurs randomly, growing the reels as high as nine rows and adding wild symbols at the same time.

The other new game family is the Ancient Wheel series. Each game employs a base slot in the Ultra Stack series with a large virtual bonus wheel on the 42-inch vertical top monitor.

The inaugural game, Ancient Wheel Big 5, awards random numbers of free spins along with the Ancient Wheel Bonus, which uses two different wheels to determine the bonus prize or one of four progressives. The outer wheel spins to either a credit award or a jackpot slice, which, if hit, triggers the inner wheel to determine which progressive is won.

The Cube-X Innovator, Innovator Deluxe and Cube-X Ultimate cabinets also will be well-represented at G2E. Among the games on the Innovator, which features Aruze’s colorful “Radiant Reels” in the base games under a standard-sized video monitor, are Fire and Thunder and the Infinite 7 series.

The Innovator Deluxe, which features spinning reels under a 42-inch vertical monitor, includes the Burning Wheel series, with base titles Afterburner and Nitro Inferno. Also known as iDeluxe, the cabinet “allows us to create different bonusing options,” says Nunez. “We’re able to utilize a wheel with additional wheel wedges and multipliers for the game.”

The Cube-X Ultimate cabinet, which adds s physical wheel to the Innovator Deluxe format, was launched last year in the 999.9 Gold series. According to Nunez, the Ultimate will add a new video game this year, launching the first game at G2E.

Then, of course there is the Vertical 80. This is an attention-grabbing platform that basically doubles down on the normal 42-inch presentation of the Cube-X Vertical. The Vertical 80 stacks two 40-inch LCD monitors to create an 80-inch vertical presentation.

The game on the platform to be launched at G2E is called Extreme Thunderstorm. The monitors display a three-by-five reel array under a vertical bonus wheel, which is under a multi-level progressive display, which is under a horizontal bonus wheel on top. “It definitely is an impressive display,” says Nunez.

Extreme Thunderstorm extends the Thunderstorm brand that has been popular on the standard Cube-X Vertical platform.

“With all of our product lines, we’re trying to find ways to drive the average bet up,” comments Nunez. “On the core products, we’re focusing on branching out the Cube-X Vertical 40 product line as well as some merchandising on our core Cube-X video platform. We’re going to enhance a lot of what we’re doing.”

Finally, there will be new technology displayed at the G2E show that Aruze is keeping under wraps until show time. But there’s no secret that Aruze will focus on the ETG segment more than previous shows. He says the company even will display proprietary live table games.

“ETGs are surging in general, and we’ve had really good success from Shoot to Win, and we’re going to take that success and put it into some other products,” Nunez says. “We’re definitely making a run at it.”

In more ways than one.


Casino Technology

Blurring the Lines
Casino Technology supplies games, systems and the means to link them together

In gaming as elsewhere, the intersection between digital and land-based applications has become increasingly blurred.

Looking to the future, casino operators want games for the real world and the virtual world, the casino space and cyberspace, along with the technologies and platforms to seamlessly support them. Bulgaria-based Casino Technology is delivering on both fronts.

Casino Technology provides a full set of system solutions that erase the borders between land-based and online gaming for an entertainment experience that satisfies in both environments. The company’s unique, patented Big 5 solution combines five sophisticated systems, each named for an icon of the animal kingdom: the Rhino casino management system; the Buffalo universal jackpot system; the Elephant remote game server; the Leopard online gaming platform; and king of them all, the Lion money management system.

Casino Technology upgrades system functionalities on a regular basis in keeping with evolving market requirements and customer preferences. The updated Leopard online platform, for instance, has earned rave reviews as a complete solution for online gaming operators. Through the platform, every betting option is available: sports, live betting, virtual sports, casino, live casino streaming, slots, bingo—the works. The backbone of the system, the Rhino casino management system, has also been upgraded with new, improved modules.

This year, in addition, the Elephant launched more than 100 HTML5 gaming titles with a convenient mobile user interface. The interactive portfolio of products includes a social gaming portfolio with HTML5 games.

“The Big 5 suite makes it possible to have one account and access in a bundled package, delivering everything at one click,” says Casino Technology spokeswoman Silviya Petrova. “It allows triggering the same rewards, bonuses and opportunities to win no matter the place, time or way of playing. The Big 5 enables not only land-based operation but a common jackpot accumulation with an online operation in an omni-channel environment, where accumulations are generated from both land-based and online games. Thus, the players have the chance on tiered and group criteria to win jackpots.

“The suite provides the tools all casinos need for both traditional and online businesses,” she says.

True to its driving principle—to stay one step ahead of the latest trends—Casino Technology will offer a new experience in the Virtual Reality gaming room at Booth 2050 at G2E.

That’s not all. Casino Technology is also preparing the debut of its luxurious Arch Titan cabinet, with two 43-inch curved monitors. The one-of-a-kind slot machine is impressively sized and exceptionally designed. As the natural successor to Casino Technology’s premium Arch slot machine, the Arch Titan delivers the same immersive experience thanks to its 43-inch vertical curved top box. The slot machine is offered with the latest multi-level progressive game of Casino Technology, Five Blessings Deluxe.

“Arch is a first in the industry,” says Petrova. “It has been upgraded and will be offered with 43-inch horizontal curved LED display, covering the natural vision range. The simplified flush mount 24-inch iDeck, the built-in dynamic RGB lightning and the high-quality sound system only add to the exceptional gaming experience this machine offers.”

Yet another product, the new hybrid slot machine, EZ Modulo, will also be launched for the North American market at G2E. The cabinet has already made “a spectacular debut” in the European and Latin American markets, with hundreds of installations, says Petrova.

“Fully compliant with customers’ needs and market demand, the contemporary EZ Modulo was developed after profound market research on operator requirements and player preferences, for a convenient game that will bring more excitement,” says Petrova. “With modern design, advanced ergonomics and a built-in, specially designed slot stand, EZ Modulo is a great solution for every casino floor. The cabinet has optional adjustable height and modular design that allows for easy conversion.”

The first release is introduced with two 27-inch HD monitors and optional 24-inch or 27-inch HD video topper. EZ Modulo is presented with the latest series of the company’s bestseller Gamopolis Speed King, a new multi-game pack with 60 unique HD games, now ready for release in the North American market.

A bundle of games designed just for North American customers will be presented jointly by Casino Technology and its affiliate, Alternative Gaming Solutions/Alto Games. Among them is the unique Hot Rod concept, driven by the exclusive Arch cabinet and wrapped up in the iconic, custom-crafted 1932 Ford Roadster. Other games in the North American bundle include Wild Sunrise, Jungle Fortune and Magic Pearl.

Casino Technology has a worldwide presence with installations in more than 50 jurisdictions, offices and distributors in more than 15 countries, and a team of more than 1,500 professionals. While continuing to increase its presence in the company’s core market, it’s also expanding its positions and market share in Asia and Latin America, specifically markets such as Panama and Colombia.

“The tides are shifting in the gaming sector,” notes Petrova. “Millennials have their preferences when it comes to gaming. They are excited by more futuristic methods of playing, putting an emphasis on online and mobile gaming. Casino Technology has a rich portfolio, covering all ranges of gaming experience.”


Everi

Building the Empire
Everi branches out to new game areas and builds on its core strengths to evolve as a slot manufacturer Everi Holdings, Inc. has been evolving for its entire existence.

Two years ago, standout Austin, Texas-based slot supplier Multimedia Games joined with top ATM and payment system supplier Global Cash Access to form Everi Holdings, Inc. Multimedia had several hit games in the market at the time, as well as the product that redefined the nature of the slot tournament, TournEvent.

Multimedia had built its reputation on solid slot game math, clever slot themes and a strong R&D team at its Austin headquarters, which provided a steady stream of engineering talent, thanks to the local University of Texas. By 2014, it was generally considered one of the most prime acquisition targets for the big slot-makers.

But it was Global Cash Access that made the surprise acquisition, and before long, the solid financial footprint provided by the new company would lead to more growth, and more expansion for the company christened Everi Holdings at a New York Stock Exchange ceremony in summer of 2015.

Along with the new corporate identity came leadership changes. In February 2016, Michael D. Rumbolz took over as interim president and CEO for Everi, a post made permanent by the company’s board a few months later. Rumbolz had been an independent consultant to Everi and had previously been the CEO of Cash Systems Inc., an Everi competitor that was acquired by the company in 2008. He previously served as chairman of Casino Data Systems and CEO of 1990s star slot supplier Anchor Gaming. Rumbolz also is a former chairman of the Nevada Gaming Control Board.

Other changes followed, each a step in Everi’s evolution. First, Rumbolz brought in veteran slot supply executive Dean Erhlich, formerly a top executive at WMS and Scientific Games, to advance the company’s game development efforts. Under Ehrlich, Everi has expanded new R&D studios in Chicago and Reno, both of which work closely with the team in Austin.

To move all that content forward, Ehrlich was brought in as executive vice president and games business leader effective January 1.

Ehrlich has had a distinguished career in the slot manufacturing sector. He was senior vice president of global gaming operations for WMS Industries prior to its acquisition by Scientific Games late in 2013. He had also served as executive director of product management and strategy at WMS, where he led the development of that company’s wide-area progressive business. Like Rumbolz, Ehrlich also was an executive at Anchor Gaming, where he led the proprietary games division through that company’s acquisition by IGT.

At the end of 2016, Rumbolz called on the technology expertise of another industry veteran, David Lucchese, to create a new business unit for Everi, covering the interactive sector. Lucchese was appointed to a new position within the company, executive vice president, digital and interactive business leader.

As head of the new Everi Interactive Division, Lucchese—formerly a top executive at Bally Technologies and another alum of CDS—is charged with moving Everi’s content to digital platforms, which the company has done by porting Everi games to real-money and social sites through a third party, and ultimately, through its own proprietary social casino.

If the creation of an interactive division provides a good clue to Rumbolz’s overall roadmap for Everi—the top suppliers in the business all have moved into the interactive space—the company’s lineup of products for G2E 2017 provides an excellent clue to the path forward for the Games Division. Ehrlich’s team is poised to enter every area of the game space it did not previously occupy, while building on the company’s current innovations.

Ehrlich says the company has spent 2017 developing an “overall forward-looking product strategy” that improves current products and introduces an entire new generation of Everi game styles. “We want customers to know why we’re doing what we’re doing,” he says. “Our mission is to make great games, make it easier for customers to get them, and deliver them flawlessly.”

He adds that G2E will show that the company is “growing up” as a slot supplier. “The company has to evolve a bit to compete with the bigger folks,” he says, citing that its $40 million in annual R&D translates into “a lot of horsepower, a lot of titles, a lot of creative hardware.”

The result, he says, is a three-pronged product strategy—“develop new form factors, create original content and implement a broad portfolio of themes.”

Empire Arrives

The form-factor effort comes of age this year, with the completion of a hardware evolution that started with the Core HDX, Platinum HDX and Texan HDX cabinets, alongside premium presentations like the High Rise and Tower 370 cabinets.

The next generation of Everi hardware began last year with the Empire MPX cabinet, a radically different form factor designed specifically for Everi’s first big licensed brand, Casablanca. This year, the company has used that cabinet and its 43-inch, infinity-style vertical monitor to open up new possibilities for banked games.

Everi is using the Empire MPX, a for-sale cabinet, to launch a new group of video slots, with themes to be shared with the Platinum MPX cabinet that was launched in 2014. Six Empire MPX themes will be launched at G2E, with 11 additional themes to be introduced in 2018. Eventually, all the highest-performing themes on the Core HDX cabinet will be made available for Empire MPX.

Highlighting the first group of themes on Empire MPX will be High Voltage Firestorm, a follow-up to the popular High Voltage Blackout, one of the top games from last year’s G2E lineup.

‘Here’s a Story…’

The Empire MPX, in fact, has spawned an entirely new form factor, the Empire 5527. Those numbers indicate the size of the displays—a 27-inch flat-screen LCD topped by a 55-inch portrait-style LCD.

The Empire 5527 will be the eventual replacement for Everi’s High Rise cabinet, although the company will continue to support that cabinet for now.

The cabinet’s large, flat screen presents a wide range of possibilities for game features, high-definition graphics and multiple progressives. Each theme will be delivered to casinos with a customized merchandising package.

Everi is launching the Empire 5527 with what is the first of a remarkable group of licensed brands the company is bringing to G2E: The Brady Bunch.

The Brady Bunch, produced by Paramount for ABC from 1969 through 1974—and in syndication ever since—has been woven into American popular culture for four decades. Since securing the license from Paramount to produce a Brady slot, Everi has been mining the five seasons of the series for all the most memorable scenes and situations, and has woven all the best Brady moments into an impressive collection of themed bonus events, complete with footage and audio from the show. (Yes, there’s a “Marcia Marcia Marcia!” bonus.)

The slot game also presents a dazzling first look at how the new format will be merchandised to grab attention on the casino floor. Images on the tall monitor are sectioned off to appear much like the stylized graphics during the TV show’s theme song and opening credits, and an extra video topper above the monitor shows the familiar tic-tac-toe portraits of the family from the opening. The games will be placed in pods with dividers showing a collage of images from the show.

Meanwhile, Everi also will show the Empire 5527 in an striking pod presentation it calls Empire Arena. It is a six-game pod with the 55-inch monitors touching each other to form one continuous attract display. It will be launched with Discovery Channel’s Shark Week, themed on television’s longest-running program featuring shark-based stories, research and unique insights.

In the Empire Arena setup, the underwater theme appears like a bright, animated 3-D aquarium in the middle of the slot floor.

“This is a very realistic approach to a shark-themed game, and it’s a lot of fun,” says Ehrlich. “It’s one of our first big executions of a 3-D project, and it leverages the fact that our cabinet can be the tightest pod on the floor.” He notes that while the combination of monitors creates a display that can be seen across the floor, it takes up basically the same footprint as any six-cabinet pod.

This setup also will demonstrate the capabilities of Everi’s Nitro system product. Nitro is a server in the center of a bank or pod of games that sends bonus animation, game features, attract images or any other communication across all the adjacent monitors in the group of games. In the Arena setup, the 55-inch monitors, placed edge to edge, combine to form a seamless 360-degree continuous display.

“I don’t know how anyone is going to miss this on the floor,” says

Allison Pope, senior vice president of game development in Austin. “Between the realistic aquarium look and the size of the 55-inch monitors, this is going to be a big eye-catcher.”

“With this Nitro technology, we can take our best for-sale games and put them in the base games for this larger product,” says Jim Palermo, Everi’s senior vice president of game strategy and product management. “High Voltage Blackout, one of our best games from last year, is going to be one of the base games for Shark Week. Nitro allows us to plug and play really good base games with this bonusing concept.”

According to Ehrlich, after release of The Brady Bunch, the plan is to release one theme per quarter on the Empire 5527 going forward. The Empire Arena will be available with three themes on launch in 2018, with follow-up games to be added in 2019.

Theme Bonanza

Back in the Multimedia Games days, the company did very few licensed themes—the company distinguished itself with proprietary brands featuring clever characters and story lines.

However, last year’s G2E marked the beginning of a major effort to penetrate the gaming operations market with slot machines licensed with themes from entertainment and pop culture. The Casablanca game, with the next-generation cabinet designed for it, was the company’s first major foray into the licensed entertainment theme. It is being followed shortly by another themed video slot, Penn & Teller.

Around the same time that game was announced, Everi announced a new licensing agreement with Dreamworks Classics.

The Dreamworks license resulted in one of this year’s big hits for Everi—and a game that is now spawning an entirely new game group in the high-denomination stepper category—Casper the Friendly Ghost.

The Casper game, on the tall Skyline top box, was released in both Class III and Class II versions earlier this year. It is a high-denomination stepper game featuring local-area and wide-area progressives, the WAP in the Class II version resetting at $100,000.

“Casper is doing as well as or better than our competition’s high-denomination stepper cabinets,” Ehrlich says. “We know we can put out a high-denomination, licensed product with the math we have done in the past, and have a lot of success with it.”

“We’re familiar with the numbers some of our competitors have put out in this category of high-denomination, leased product,” adds Palermo, “and Casper on Skyline is neck-and-neck with the best we’ve seen.”

“There is a spot for a classic, elegant licensed product in the stepper category, which I don’t think a lot of people are spending a heck of a lot of time on,” Ehrlich says. “With approved math models we’ve had, and the success we’ve had in stepper and high-denomination, it would be crazy for us to not go out there as quickly as we can with a great brand and use the very successful play mechanics that are already out in the field.”

A companion game to Casper is another high-denomination, multi-progressive stepper based on a Dreamworks property, the 1960s comic book character Hot Stuff the Little Devil. (Both Casper and Hot Stuff were featured in the 1960s by Harvey Comics, and appeared together in a 2009 comic-book miniseries.)

The Smokin’ Hot Stuff game features symbol multipliers and up to six tiers of progressives. Landing three matching Hot Stuff characters on the reels awards the top jackpot. Smokin’ Hot Stuff is also available on the Skyline top box.

Everi is featuring other major new stepper products in both branded games and non-branded games. On the branded side is Singin’ in the Rain, a multiple progressive based on the legendary MGM musical. Designed by Top Shelf Studio, the three-reel stepper with multiplying wild symbols and a free-spin bonus is another game to utilize Everi’s tall Skyline cabinet.

Finally, a new Class III wide-area progressive link will utilize Everi’s stepper math and the company’s new Player Classic 3.0 stepper platform in another major licensed theme, this one from deep in the heart of the company’s Texas backyard—Willie Nelson.

The music, images and performance videos of the legendary Texas country music entertainer are wrapped around two inaugural high-denomination, three-reel stepper titles, Shotgun Willie and Whiskey River. Nelson’s familiar songs play while the reels spin, and the attract monitor features both concert video and original video shot at Nelson’s Spicewood, Texas ranch (as it happens, around an hour east of Austin).

“Our competitors could never have used this license as well as we could,” says Palermo. “There was a lot of enthusiasm among our staff to build this theme. We’re in Austin, after all, and this theme hits our customer base, which includes a lot of players in Oklahoma.”

The game features a top wide-area progressive jackpot resetting at $100,000 for Class III tribal casinos. There is a local-area progressive available for commercial casinos, ahead of a commercial wide-area link in Nevada and New Jersey late in 2018.

Everi’s branding bonanza this year does not stop with the stepper games, as the company is launching several major brands in its core video game groups. The $100,000 progressive link on which the Willie Nelson game sits also will host the video slot Buffy the Vampire Slayer on the Empire MPX cabinet. The game utilizes the tall screen of the Empire MPX for an expanding reel feature, with visuals and sounds of the supernatural TV series starring Sarah Michelle Gellar as a young woman called to fight vampires and demons.

Rounding out branded video offerings are Smokin’ Hot Stuff Wicked Wheel, on the Tower 370, featuring Hot Stuff the Little Devil interacting with the game and wheel bonuses; Felix the Cat, on the High Rise, featuring a wheel bonus and based on the legendary cartoon character that first appeared in 1919; and Knight Rider, based on the 1980s action show starring David Hasselhoff and a “smart” Pontiac Firebird Trans Am named KITT, which was self-aware through artificial intelligence and got the crime-fighting Michael Knight out of jams.

The Knight Rider slot machine, presented in a cabinet styled to look like the KITT car, features a three-by-five video slot with voice-over of KITT, who appears on the screen to activate various wild symbols and bonus features.

Homegrown Brands

Everi, of course, arrives at G2E with a complete lineup of its own in-house brands in reels and video, employing the kinds of clever themes and solid program math for which the company has been known since it was Multimedia Games.

The new Player Classic 3.0 stepper format hosts Lightning Diamonds, a linked multiple-progressive three-reel slot in high denominations that utilizes game-controlled “Apex N” topper that allows for pay table and progressive messaging on separate monitors. The new cabinet configuration Player Classic Boost will feature four titles at launch in the first quarter of 2018, in both Class III and Class II versions.

Everi also will launch a new progressive stepper series called Jackpot Lockdown, with a classic base game called White Hot Diamonds. Also in the stepper lineup is Double Bullseye Jackpot, a five-line reel-spinner with a re-spin feature whenever a bullseye lands in the center of the reels. Reels will re-spin as long as winning combinations keep appearing.

In the Core HDX video cabinet, the company will launch Smokin’ Hot Stuff Diamond Blaze, which features the Renegade 3600 sign package represented by three 43-inch curved monitors with game-controlled lighting and sound. Bonus games are played out on giant reels formed by the monitors.

On the Empire MPX, new titles include the Dynasty Queen Asian-themed progressive, and on Core HDX, Long Nian, a nine-reel video slot designed for Asian players, which the company says is the first ever to utilize an Asian theme in a nine-reel format.

Some of the biggest highlights in Everi video will draw on the company’s popular TournEvent tournament system.

The base games on TournEvent have been wildly popular with the product’s fan base, so Everi has adapted the most popular features into in-revenue games. Pop’N Win is a premium linked progressive game with Apex N technology that mimics the main score-boosting feature of TournEvent—touching floating balloons to register credits—in a faux-skill bonus. The bonus re-creates the experience of the TournEvent contest, with the player bashing the spin button and watching for floating balloons. Scores are then translated into bonus awards.

“We really wanted to figure out how to take the fun, the energy, the spectacle that is TournEvent, which we do so well, and bring it to an in-revenue player, who is going to have different expectations and different comfort levels,” says Ehrlich. “It’s a single-machine mystery trigger event—one player at a time enters, so they’re not competing against each other. It’s a single player competing against the clock. They spin the reels and pop balloons for points.”

The company’s engineers have added one more twist—the bonus takes place to the soundtrack of “Le Freak,” the 1970s disco song by Le Chic. “One of the challenges in bringing TournEvent in-revenue is you don’t have quite as much adrenaline as you have on a full bank-wide group of players,” says Pope. “So we licensed ‘Le Freak’ to get players excited and to build the spectacle for the casino. Once people hear that, they can’t help but watch and see what’s going on.”

Another nod to TournEvent is the Money Man Jackpot Wheel multi-wheel video slot on the dual-screen Core HDX cabinet. It is the company’s first bolt-on bonus featuring a mystery Nitro bonus event. The bonus and features are hosted by the Money Man, the familiar TournEvent mascot.

The link leverages existing TournEvent 5.0 hardware, and can be placed on TournEvent banks to improve in-revenue operations.

One other TournEvent-related game to be shown this year is an out-of-revenue version of Fruit Ninja, the game offered as a pure skill game on TournEvent, with the fruit-slashing bonus presented as simulated skill.

Other game highlights include Animal Spirit and Celestial Maidens, both of which feature the company’s Everi Bet 2.0 technology. The groundbreaking technology allows for a different return-to-player (RTP) percentage with different wagers—players who bet more get a higher return.

Finally, Everi will display new games for its Texan giant-format cabinet that include Zap, which shoots lightning bolts at the reels to “zap” bonus awards; and Smokin’ Wild Jackpots, a nine-reel video slot with classic “7” symbols.

New Specialties

All of the new games will, of course, accompany TournEvent 5.0, the newest generation of the company’s popular automated tournament system, which is fueling contests in new markets like British Columbia in Canada; and demonstrations of the first products from the company’s new interactive division.

“We formally established Everi Interactive at the beginning of this year,” explains Lucchese, “with two primary goals. One goal is to expose all the great land-based content of Everi into the interactive channel to our land-based and online customers. To that end, we have been porting games through a third party and making them available through this channel. The Everi games are currently available in social/free-to-play sites worldwide, and also in real-money sites in New Jersey and Europe with more to follow.

“We’re pleased with how that’s been going, because we’re now able to respond favorably to a lot of customers doing social casinos or real-money casinos, who call us all the time and ask for Everi content for their interactive needs,” Lucchese says. “Now, we’re able to say yes, and we have a stream of content going to support their interactive needs.”

The second goal was to create Everi’s own branded social casino site for pre-testing online content prior to being deployed for land-based, and also to evolve TournEvent and TournEvent of Champions slot tournament products. The site’s name is Super Jackpot Slots.

“We’re in our initial launch phase of the social casino site right now,” Lucchese says. “Super Jackpot Slots is available for download from the Apple iOS App Store and Google for Android, and can be played on Facebook as well.” The site launched on July 19.

In all, there will be more than 90 Everi themes on display at G2E, 70 percent of which will be non-cloned math programs. “We’ve got a much larger variety of content this year than ever before,” says Pope. “We’ve got a nice mix of new innovation and re-use of successful features, as well as games custom-designed for our core and premium cabinets.”

“We think this will be our best G2E ever, from either Everi or legacy Multimedia Games,” says Ehrlich. “We’re very excited.”

See Part II where we profile more great Global Games!

Frank Legato

Author: Frank Legato

Frank Legato is editor of Casino Connection and also 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 recently published book on gaming, How To Win Millions Playing Slot Machines... Or Lose Trying.