The Gamer’s Game
Gamblit expands its games designed for players who want something different than the traditional slot experience
Global Gaming Expo attendees who ventured near Gamblit Gaming’s booth last year may recall the cacophony of petrifying screams and shrieks echoing from the exhibit as the company showcased Into the Dead, its new zombie shoot-em-up arcade-style game.
But the screeches weren’t just coming from the games themselves. A squadron of Gamblit team members outfitted in full zombie makeup and regalia made it their prerogative to frighten as many unsuspecting bystanders as possible.
While there surely exists an unwritten G2E protocol which states that bringing the undead onto the show floor is in bad taste, Gamblit isn’t the type of company that binds itself to existing gaming industry parameters.
The Glendale, California-based gaming manufacturer has quickly emerged as one of the leading pioneers of a growing sub-genre of the slots universe focused on merging video game themes and integrative concepts with traditional slot play. Gamblit’s goal is to create new and fun wagering experiences on the casino floor for players aged 21 to 45 who may not be enticed by the normal slot machine experience.
Seeking a fun way to make a splash at last year’s show, Darion
Lowenstein, Gamblit’s chief marketing officer, secured two makeup artists from The Walking Dead, the popular post-apocalyptic zombie television series, and then floated the spectral idea past Eric Meyerhofer, the company’s chief executive officer.
“I was in all the way,” says Meyerhofer. “If you’re going to garner the interest of a new target market, you have to go where that interest is, and let’s face it: zombies are in.”
But the zombie theme proved far more than just a clever marketing gimmick; it generated significant buzz and foot traffic to the company’s exhibition and game lineup.
“The response was amazing,” says Lowenstein. “We had more press, attendee attention and social media activity than ever before, and more than any other booth on the floor.
“Aside from the zombies, our games and booth really stood out, and the energy was incredible. People loved the new types of skill games and wagering versions of familiar hits like Catapult King and Into the Dead. Who doesn’t want to shoot zombies with the chance to win money?”
Gamblit’s approach to product design involves licensing content and branding from popular video games, as well as coming up with organic themes. The idea is to give younger players who grew up playing video games on Xbox and Playstation, and eventually mobile devices, a slot offering that has the same level of interactivity, graphics and skill requirements that they grew accustomed to on traditional game consoles.
Connecting these two worlds has become Gamblit’s raison d’etre.
“I’m able to take all of this known content from the video game world and give consumers a gambling experience with known video games,” says Lowenstein, who was a highly successful video game producer and designer before making the jump into the gaming business. “Gambling is kind of a ‘secret sauce’ layer on top of it.”
Leaps and Bounds
Gamblit reached several critical mile markers in 2017 with the pilot launch of its terminals in the properties of several major casino operators.
The company’s bread and butter is the Model G social and interactive gaming table, which features a 42-inch touch screen that can be shared by up to four players. This table houses popular titles such as Gamblit Poker and Cannonbeard’s Treasure, which generated significant interest at last year’s show.
Model G pilots can be found around Las Vegas at places like Planet Hollywood, the Level Up gaming lounge at the MGM Grand, Caesars Palace, the LINQ and Paris Las Vegas, as well as in Harrah’s locations in Lake Tahoe and southern California. The product was expected to earn full approval from the Nevada Gaming Commission in late September.
“The biggest step for us has certainly been launching our Model G multi-player gaming table onto casino floors, from Las Vegas to California to Oklahoma and multiple cruise ships; we’ve launched in a wide variety of markets and have been learning a ton,” explains Lowenstein.
These pilots have not only helped to iron out wrinkles in the products themselves, they have allowed Gamblit to quantify the value proposition its games offer to the industry.
“We’ve been rapidly iterating the software on the ground and improving player retention and monetization,” says Lowenstein. “We’ve found that after more than 6,000 surveys, we are averaging a player 20 years younger than the current slot player, which is a massive win for the casino industry.”
According to the company’s research, 67 percent of its players are younger than 40, while 35 percent are younger than 30.
“Our thesis has stayed pretty much the same: we thought we could move the needle younger. If we’re not doing that then we’re really not of any value to the industry,” Meyerhofer says, noting that the demographic data now gives potentially interested casino operators something more tangible to chew on.
“The fact that we’re actioning it to the degree that we are will provide a lot of anchor for operators to take a look at it and start thinking about how they are going to make the migration on their floor,” he continues.
Not only is Gamblit’s platform lowering the average player age. The company’s research found that its games are generating incremental revenue for operators—meaning they are attracting players who were not engaging in any type of slot play beforehand.
“This is bringing new people into gaming that weren’t going to play at all,” Meyerhofer says.
As a result of the growing momentum behind Gamblit products, the company was able to secure a fresh round of financing in the form of a $25 million investment in early May.
Gamblit also expects to have its TriStation—which features a wide portfolio of games and allows interactive play for as many as three users—onto casino floors soon. It is expected to be approved in October under the Nevada Gaming Control Board’s New Innovation Beta program, which offers a type of fast-track approval process for new forms of gaming devices.
The most notable TriStation title currently is Jetpack Joyride, in which players strap on a virtual bullet-powered jetpack and accomplish missions while avoiding a variety of obstacles. The game boasts more than 350 million downloads since it was first introduced in 2011 for Apple devices, and it currently maintains 14 million monthly active users. Other TriStation titles include Catapult King, Lucky Words, Slice of Cake, Match Evolution, Smoothie Blast and Breakneck.
“We’ve significantly increased and diversified our game lineup, with more well-known brands and popular (intellectual property), and have launched our TriStation, new single-player hardware, and our Gamblit Poker LIVE! felt table,” says Lowenstein, adding that these are all “products unparalleled to anything on the traditional casino floor.”
While Gamblit admittedly set the bar high with its 2016 zombie exhibit, Lowenstein insists that that was just the appetizer.
This time around, his team is fully reloaded with a fresh arsenal of skill-based concepts that feature licensed video game content from popular brands. One of them, revealed just before press time, is based on the international game show Deal or No Deal. In 2018, the company will release Deal or No Deal Poker on its Model G multi-player table game.
“This year we have an incredible lineup that I’m really proud of; there will be over 20 playable skill games in the booth, including some soon-to-be-announced partnerships with massive, worldwide No. 1 brands and smash hit games,” Lowenstein says.
Among the new selections will be a game that has had more than 1 billion mobile downloads, and what Lowenstein describes as an “iconic classic hit arcade game” produced by a Japanese publisher.
“Our entire company has been working extremely hard to deliver this awesome, innovative portfolio,” he says.
These offerings, in combination with the product and publicity momentum the company has built up over the last year, mean that Gamblit’s exhibit will be abuzz with energy and activity once again at this year’s show.
“It seems clear to me that this is the direction the industry is heading, and I’m proud to say that I think Gamblit has the strongest lineup and biggest variety of AAA skill games in the industry,” says Lowenstein. “I think anyone who is interested in this new wave of gaming that brings modern-style video games onto the casino floor should come to our booth.”
And those who may have been frightened away by the zombies last year can rest assured that they will be safe this time around to visit the Gamblit booth, though attendees probably shouldn’t let themselves get too comfortable.
“Don’t worry—we won’t have zombies this year to scare everyone,” Lowenstein emphasizes. “But we’ll have a few other surprises up our sleeves.”—By Aaron Stanley
Back to the Future
GameCo targets the video game enthusiast with skill games
For Blaine Graboyes, it was a lightbulb moment.
The entrepreneur and digital game designer was staging a series of eSports events at casino conference centers. He noticed that attendees—hundreds or thousands of players who clearly loved their games—walked past the slot floor as if it didn’t exist.
The phenomenon, of course, was not unnoticed by casino executives. “They explained to me about the challenges with an aging player demographic and declines in slot revenue,” says Graboyes, whose resume includes entertainment projects for DreamWorks, Mattel, Disney, Nickelodeon, the Guggenheim Museum and Yoko Ono. “The big moment for me was learning that 75 percent to 80 percent of gaming revenue comes from slot machines, from a traditional gambler that’s not going to be refreshed.”
Graboyes had an idea. “Startups are an idea looking for a problem. I immediately felt I had a solution for a massive existing problem that casinos needed to solve.”
He founded GameCo, creator of the first video game gambling product to be approved by regulators in the United States. The company’s VGM gambling platform allows player skill to determine wins and payouts, while maintaining the same economics as slot machines. In short, the New York-based company brings next-gen video-game slots to next-gen players.
The suite of games on the GameCo platform may be part of a solution casinos have been waiting for—a way to attract, entertain and engage younger players and turn them into loyal, frequent customers.
“There’s a tidal wave of gamers coming onto the scene,” says Graboyes, but so far, casinos have struggled to entice them—in part because they haven’t fully understood or appreciated the new audience. One obstacle has been the widespread misperception of gamers as young do-nothings living in their parents’ basements—the consumer equivalent of Beavis and Butthead.
“Gamers are massively underserved as a demographic, and a lot of that has to do with stereotypes,” says Graboyes.
He says the average gamer is someone a lot like him: educated, employed, technically astute, with a better-than-average income and a median age of 35.
“I played video games in my own parents’ basement,” says Graboyes, now 44, “but I still play today. I want a place to play with a level of amenities and hospitality that’s really only found at the casino. Wouldn’t it be cool to go a place that treated me like a VIP?”
In VGMs, he says, casinos have an opportunity to leverage their expertise in hospitality for a whole new demographic, without forfeiting the existing player base.
“Look at what Seth Schorr is doing at the Downtown Grand, bringing eSports into the casino,” says Graboyes. “It didn’t displace traditional slot players, but opened his casino to a new demographic that didn’t have a place to get together otherwise. The pre-existing gamer stereotypes are one of the main things that have slowed down early adoption, but that’s changing now.”
He is quick to add that the games don’t appeal only to young men. “One thing that’s really important to our strategy at GameCo is making games for all gamers.”
There are three classifications of games that appeal to gamers, he says:
- Core games like “Call of Duty” and “Street Fighter,” generally played by a younger male audience.
- Casual games along with lines of “Candy Crush” and “Words with Friends,” typically played by older females.
- Mid-core games that feature sports and racing; they draw male and female adults across a broad age range.
GameCo currently has three GLI-approved games that fit into those categories: Danger Arena, a first-person shooter action game that skews young and male; Pharaoh’s Secret Temple, which attracts mostly women; and the sports game Nothing but Net.
So what are gamers looking for in terms of action, payoff and gamesmanship?
“They want a high degree of interactivity and engagement and very high-quality graphics, sound and performance,” Graboyes says. “Increasingly, we’re bringing well-known video games and entertainment brands to the casino.”
They also want transparency. “The more we share about how the games work, the more the games are embraced by the player,” says Graboyes. “The new games we’re deploying will show the odds for winning on the pay table. In a skill-based game a player is impacting the result, and we want to have as much clarity as possible on exactly how players’ skills are leading to their payout.”
The suite of games is up and running at resorts in Atlantic City, Connecticut, North Carolina, the Caribbean and Chile, says Graboyes. “We have upcoming installations in Florida, Oklahoma, California and cruise lines, and are currently making application in jurisdictions including Canada, Nevada, Ohio and Michigan” and tribal markets like Arizona and New Mexico.
“Internationally we’re working on partnerships in the U.K., the Netherlands … We’re looking forward to making application in Macau and Asia.” GameCo participated in the Australasian Gaming Expo in Sydney in August. Each of these jurisdictions is asking the same question, he says: “How can we ‘future-proof’ the industry so in five, 10 or 20 years we still have a large player base?”
GameCo is now developing VGM games under license from major game developers and entertainment IP companies such as Paramount’s “Mission Impossible” and “Ferris Bueller” brands, and “Terminator 2: Judgment Day” from StudioCanal S.A.S. Also coming this year are games featuring superstar DJ Steve Aoki and a partnership with Namco, creator of “Soulcaliber II,” the popular weapon-based video fighting game.
“This is the same fighting game people are playing on their Xbox and PC,” says Graboyes. “Now they’ll be able to play it inside the casino.”
While GameCo’s VGMs are single-player Class III games, in the future the company plans to release a tournament controller that “networks and synchronizes individual VGMs to allow for competitive multi-player experiences, similar to eSports tournaments.” A prototype of the tournament controller will be on view at G2E.
In the early 2000s, as director of slot operations at Resorts Atlantic City, Chris Downey “saw our database quite literally dying off.” In December 2016, Downey, who is now vice president of casino operations at the Tropicana Casino & Resort, introduced nine GameCeo gaming positions at the Boardwalk property, with three triple-unit carousels of Danger Arena. The games were slow to take off and lost money at first. Over time, they broke even and then started to make a profit.
Downey, like Graboyes, grew up on video games and still plays them. “I kind of understand the mentality of these gamer folks,” he says. “I know they’re not going to play typical slot machines, and there’s still a void in the casino of people in their 20s to mid-30s.
“Large groups of them come to our bars and nightclubs and sit in our smoking areas, but I don’t get any gaming revenue out of them. So for me it was kind of, what can I put in front of them that engages people who are here anyway?”
GameCo VGMs are not premium slots, “and I know I won’t get the same performance I will from a leased game,” says Downey. “For me, it’s more about who’s playing rather than how much revenue I can generate out of them. I’m getting three times the amount of non-rated play on these games than as a traditional slot machine. That says to me, yes, in fact I am getting these folks. And I have some older traditional slot players that are playing them as well.”
On weekends, Downey says, it’s not uncommon to see groups of young adults standing around a GameCo game and taking turns.
“We’re performing relatively well now, which has given me the ability to run experiments like this,” he adds. “You need to be looking at who’s playing: is it somebody you’re capturing now, or somebody new you’re introducing into the mix? That’s what I’ve hung my hat on with these games.”
Downey recently reread an article about the advent of skill-based gaming and the sink-or-swim proposition facing casinos whose bread-and-butter gambler was swiftly graying.
“It said the traditional clients were dying off, and everything needed to change because none of the younger generations were playing traditional slot machines or table games.
“The article was written in 1982,” he says with a laugh. “I’m not saying we don’t have to change how we operate and incorporate these things, but we’re not trying to blow up the entire slot floor either.”
Graboyes agrees. “I don’t think slots and tables going anywhere,” he says, “but I do see casino floors evolving, and some will convert a portion of their floor to appeal to a younger demographic as more products come available. Because of digital technologies in general and the pace of innovation in the consumer sector, we’re seeing operators move more quickly to bring these products to the floor.
“The machines on the floor are performing extremely well and continue to see improvement game over game in terms of win per unit,” he says. “The thing I’m most proud of is that in exit interviews, 84 percent of players said they would recommend our VGMs to their friends.”
—By Marjorie Preston
Incredible Technologies uses proven game development to grow as a slot supplier
Nearly a decade ago, Incredible Technologies, the Chicago-area manufacturer that is the largest U.S. manufacturer of coin-operated amusement games, moved into the business of building casino slot machines.
The owners of the company—producer of the legendary tavern game Golden Tee Golf—said at the time they were going to take it slow, establish a niche and hopefully place a few games in casinos.
In a comparative blink of the eye, that bar has been raised higher than anyone thought in 2012, the first year IT exhibited at Global Gaming Expo.
As IT arrives this year at what is only its fifth G2E, the talk is not about getting a few placements. It’s about slot product that competes with anything from the top suppliers in the industry.
“We’ve taken the company from what basically was a startup on the gaming side to one that can compete with the biggest names in the industry,” says Daniel Schrementi, vice president of gaming sales and marketing for Incredible Technologies. “That’s been our mission.”
By any measure, Incredible Technologies’ rate of maturation as a slot manufacturer has been, well, incredible. From the start, the company’s game developers and engineers—who, after three decades, knew a thing or two about producing entertaining games—took a methodical, results-first approach to their game development. Games were tested and re-tested in the field, and only after they had proven themselves to be earners were they brought before the industry at large trade events like G2E.
Along the way, the company made all the right moves from an R&D perspective, its executives and product managers keeping close track of the types of games, game features and product styles that were resonating with players. Those efforts guided a remarkably fast ramp-up of the company’s slot-development prowess.
Its developers were quick studies, and concentrated on the games that were earning the highest returns for operators, then matching their effective program math to new form factors. In 2014, the company introduced a new, state-of-the-art core cabinet, the Infinity U23. The premium Infinity Skybox followed the next year, and that was closely followed by the Infinity Super Sky Wheel and Super Skybox, with four 55-inch screens, edge to edge, combining for bonus events fed from a controller to what essentially functions as a 123-inch display.
IT has not slowed down this year. “There’s a ton going on,” Schrementi says. “Last year was a record year for the company, and we’re on pace this year to be 100 percent ahead of last year. Growth has been our foremost focus since G2E ended last year. It hasn’t stopped since that day.”
This year has centered on perfecting the next generation of the company’s hardware, the Infinity V55. The new cabinet, set for a G2E launch, is a new core-game, for-sale cabinet, but with premium features making it as versatile as anything out in casinos today.
The heart of the Infinity V55 is its 55-inch, flat 4K vertical full-touch LCD monitor. While Infinity Super Skybox and Super Sky Wheel each feature a 55-inch flat monitor above a base Infinity U23 core video slot, the V55 puts the entire game on the big monitor, making it the industry’s largest screen on a core cabinet.
The cabinet fits on the same base as the Infinity U23—a standard 28-inch base.
“Video slots were founded on dual-screen cabinets,” says Schrementi. “At some point, people put two screens on there to replicate the top glass and a bottom. But now, the newer cabinets are coming out, and to compete with the market, a lot of companies are going to vertical form factors on the base, on a core for-sale cabinet. Some have curved them, some haven’t. Our MO was to say, let’s do what we did with the Skybox—let’s give the biggest window we can, and use the best monitor we can possibly find.
“This size screen on a base game has only been used on a jumbo. So, we think we’re going to send some ripples throughout the industry. We’re saying, there are no rules to what you can do, so we’re going to make the screen as big as we can, but workable.”
“And there doesn’t need to be a gimmick behind it,” adds Caitlin Harte, director of product marketing for Incredible Technologies. “It doesn’t need to curve five different ways. You can show great content on a big, beautiful screen.”
“This is really a core cabinet that has a huge main monitor using all the real estate we possibly can to show game features, to show what we’re really good at, which is creating compelling content,” Schrementi says. “We’re using this huge 4K monitor that’s right there in front of your face—there’s no ‘Look Up!’ to the huge monitor.
“It will knock your socks off when you see it.”
The Infinity V55 makes its debut with four new core games, in two separate game families. The games were operational in three test markets as of August, “so by the time G2E rolls around, we will definitely have proven performance on the four launch titles we have,” Schrementi says.
The launch titles have been developed according to IT’s normal winning formula—repeating the best features of the company’s most popular games in new formats and game styles. “It’s something our owners believe in,” says Schrementi. “Everything we sell has got to be proven and tested. We don’t want to bring anything to the show that could possibly be a bad product.”
“Our strategy all along has been that if a title proves itself on our core cabinet, we upgrade it along the way,” adds Harte. “We had Crazy Money, Crazy Money 2, Crazy Money Deluxe, Crazy Money for Sky Wheel. It’s kind of our bread-and-butter brand. Additionally, we had a lot of success with the game Fired Up when we launched our Infinity U23. We upgraded it to Heat ‘Em Up, on our Skybox cabinet, which is out-performing even Crazy Money Deluxe right now.
“We decided to leverage those two player-favorite brands and upgrade them to new versions with the launch of the V55.”
The inaugural games for the Infinity V55 will not disappoint fans of Incredible Technology games. In the Crazy Money genre—Crazy Money was IT’s first hit slot game, featuring the interactive “Money Catch” bonus—is Crazy Money Gold, part of the “Gold Bank” game family.
The complementary title to this release is called Rays of Egypt. Crazy Money Gold has an expanding reel feature—randomly, the reel set doubles in rows. On Rays of Egypt, huge stacked symbols utilize the full length of the 55-inch monitor.
Heat ‘Em Up Power Wheel is part of the Power Wheel family. It adds a bonus wheel to Heat ‘Em Up, while preserving what made that game popular in the first place—the patented “Sky Reels” feature that provides an additional six-by-four reel array to the display, along with additional pay lines; and the “Power Up” feature, which allows players to advance to four different bonus wheels.
The companion game to Heat ‘Em Up Power Wheel is Fate of the 8, which attaches the Crazy Money bonus game mechanic to an Asian-themed game. “Fate of the 8 capitalizes on the popularity of Asian games with progressives, and the number 8,” says Harte. “Both games have big wheels overhead, and most of the bonus features come from that wheel.”
“Asian games have become so popular in the marketplace that we just said we’ve got to take a crack at this, and showcase our art and our math in this unique way,” says Schrementi.
Fate of the 8 cleverly translates the Money Catch bonus into the “Koi Catch Bonus.” Instead of flying cash for the player to grab, koi fish swim around the monitor. “You’re catching gigantic koi fish on the screen instead of cash,” Schrementi says.
Harte adds that player testing of both Crazy Money Gold and Fate of the 8 has shown the player-entertainment value of the 55-inch touch-screen monitor. “The surface is all touch-screen—the whole screen,” she says. “In the Money Catch or Koi Catch bonus, you can stand up, you can touch the top of the screen if you want, you can play with your friend and have four hands going at once. We’ve seen in the test markets that’s actually more prevalent than we thought—you can play with your friends. People are leaning over to the person next to them during these bonus events.”
In addition to showcasing the new games on the V55, IT will display games in all of its other cabinets and form factors. One highlight will be Celestial Goddesses, which uses the Super Skybox format to masterful effect with the “Solar Jackpots” multiple progressive display, with a giant, flaming wheel extending across four 55-inch monitors to house the bonus event.
The company will display four titles in the Super Sky Wheel format, along with additional titles for the Skybox cabinet.
Additionally, IT will launch new games for its line of high-limit slots. “This has been a nice niche for us,” says Schrementi. “The high-limit room has been an underserved market by the competition, because it is a small market. But we’ve had a nice entrance into it. We offer hand-made math models that are customized and configurations that are customized for the high-limit room. And we now offer it in our U23 core games and in our Skybox.”
Building the Future
The rapid growth of Incredible Technologies will get a boost soon, as the company establishes a new Las Vegas office. The new facility, in the Las Vegas suburb of Summerlin, will house a design studio and support staff.
Schrementi says the Vegas-based studio will “put more fuel in the tank for our products.” It will be a development-only operation. “Our manufacturing headquarters will always be here in the Chicagoland area, but the Vegas studio is more to diversify our product offering in what we’re building, and to leverage additional talent. There is a good talent pool out there.”
Meanwhile, IT continues to expand its markets in North America, with licenses currently in 25 U.S jurisdictions—the latest in Pennsylvania, where approval was imminent at press time. Only Missouri and Washington state will remain on the company’s U.S. radar, and Schrementi says the next frontier will be Ontario and other provinces in Canada.
And the true growth, Schrementi says, remains evident in the increasing popularity of the company’s games with players, and with game performance that measures up to the top slot-makers in the business.
“We’re very proud of the fact that in the recent Eilers surveys and other industry surveys, we’ve been No. 1 or No. 2 in product performance for over 12 months now,” he says. “This tiny little company in the Chicago suburbs is competing against the likes of Aristocrat, IGT, Scientific Games and others in what really matters at the end of the day—product performance.”
High Technology, Big Returns
IGT fills its extensive range of new cabinets and form factors with game features fueled by groundbreaking technology
International Game Technology’s history has been one of groundbreaking innovation, from the invention of video poker to themed slots, bonus games, TITO and more.
Last year, the company had its R&D chops on display at G2E in the form of new cabinets that gave its game developers the horsepower to churn out one groundbreaking game mechanic after another.
CrystalCore. CrystalDual+ Stepper. CrystalCurve. CrystalCurve Ultra. S3000 XL. AXXIS 3D. Now, the CrystalCurve TRUE 4D. The list goes on.
That last cabinet is sure to house one of the highlights of this year’s Global Gaming Expo, the first games in the TRUE 4D series, which features mid-air haptic and gesture recognition technologies. Another mind-blowing new technology is PowerSight, in which players can select objects on a screen by looking at them.
Dallas Orchard, chief product officer, gaming for IGT, says the innovative hardware and new technologies are being put to use to add depth to the company’s entire product library. Orchard says 2017 has been about “building the sustainable depth from a content perspective, into each one of those hardware segments.”
This year, IGT commercialized the CrystalDual+ Stepper cabinet, the CrystalCurve cabinet and the CrystalCurve Ultra cabinet, previewed at last year’s G2E and recently launched at MGM Grand in Las Vegas. The company’s new large-format games, on the S3000 XL and Wheel of Fortune Megatower platforms, are also now out in the market.
“Everything that was displayed at last year’s G2E is now in the market, with the exception of 4D, which will, again, be a large showcase for us at this year’s G2E,” says Orchard. “So, ‘Let’s Play’ (the company’s theme for G2E) is really about demonstrating what we consider to be an exceptionally deep library of great content in each aspect of our new hardware portfolio.”
“Coming out of last year’s G2E, Sphinx 4D was the most-anticipated product,” Orchard says. “That will go to market in November, and the beautiful thing for IGT is we’ll be accepting orders on that product at the trade show, and then rolling them out in the fourth quarter.”
The 4D game group will certainly be a highlight of IGT’s collection at this year’s G2E, but Orchard notes that the company has moved this year to improve and augment content in each of its many game groups, whether for-sale core video, video poker or a renewed emphasis on mechanical steppers both in the core S3000 and new large-format S3000 XL series.
The company has strengthened its expertise in these areas with key management additions. Kurt Larsen, who was creative director at IGT from 2004 through 2012, was brought back to head IGT’s efforts in the premium space as vice president, premium studios, North America gaming and interactive.
In his previous tenure at IGT, he oversaw development and release of titles including Sex and the City, Ghostbusters, The Hangover, Wheel of Fortune Triple Spin and other hits. More recently, he was vice president of game design and studio head at Aristocrat Technologies.
“Having Kurt rejoin our business was a great shot in the arm,” says Orchard. “He was one of the main men at IGT during its heyday, and now he’s back managing all of our premium studios.”
Also this year, the company brought back Anthony Baerlocher as vice president of innovation and mechanical reels. Baerlocher was one of IGT’s top game designers for more than 18 years beginning in 1992, and was part of the most important product developments leading to IGT’s dominance of the slot market. He also spent three and a half years at WMS Gaming as director of advanced game design.
He is now heads a team injecting new life into IGT’s stepper slot lines.
“Getting guys like Kurt Larsen and Anthony Baerlocher back into our business really shows that we’re on the right track,” Orchard says. “IGT has some of the best game designers in the industry, and I think the polish and the attention to detail that Kurt brings to the premium product portfolio is second to none.”
The Ds Have It
If anything has been sure to draw G2E attendees to IGT’s booth the past two years, it has been the TRUE 3D series of slots. First introduced by legacy GTECH in the game Sphinx 3D, the glasses-free 3-D technology provides the most realistic 3-D effect ever used for a slot machine.
Games like Zuma 3D, Plants vs. Zombies 3D and Return of the Sphinx 3D formed one of IGT’s fastest-growing game segments even as the company’s engineers were perfecting the follow-up series, the improved “4D” group.
The CrystalCurve TRUE 4D cabinet features a 50-inch curved portrait ultra-HD top display and 32-inch, landscape, ultra-HD lower display. It includes a digital player panel with dual bash buttons and player-adjustable settings for sound, mid-air haptics, chair rumble and intensity of the game’s TRUE 3D technology.
The first game in the new group, Sphinx 4D, features gesture control and mid-air haptic technology—you gesture or point, and the game reacts—empowering the player to interact with a slot machine in ways never before tried. As the 3-D bonus journey continues through the Sphinx, the player reaches out and, so to speak, touches the game.
Players reach out to drag orbs to the center of the CrystalCurve 4D monitor to trigger progressives, wilds, multipliers and free games. There are Easter eggs like changing the monitor scene from day to night by drawing a circle in the air, or drawing a heart to have it appear on the screen.
“There are lots of Easter eggs in these games,” comments Michael Brennan, IGT’s senior director of product lifecycle & market management. “We want players to always find something they haven’t seen before when they play.”
The second 4D title, to be launched at G2E, explores the technology further in Ghostbusters 4D. Like the first game, it is loaded with special features, in this case bringing to life the most famous scenes of the 1984 comedy starring Bill Murray and Dan Aykroyd.
Perhaps the best is the “Ballroom Buster Bonus,” which re-creates the memorable scene of the Ghostbusters’ first job, clearing a hotel ballroom of the vile “Slimer” ghost. The player points to where he thinks Slimer is hiding, and aims the proton-pack stream to nab him or reveal credit awards.
The new TRUE 4D games don’t mean IGT has slowed development on the popular TRUE 3D series on the AXXIS 3D cabinet. This year, the company expands that series with two new brands—one licensing a film and the other a classic, homegrown IGT brand.
In a natural pick for the technology, IGT is launching James Cameron’s Avatar 3D, a game that re-creates memorable scenes from Cameron’s 2009 blockbuster—not coincidentally, a movie as memorable for its 3-D animation as for the storyline of the fictional planet Pandora.
That planet is meticulously re-created for the slot game, using actual 3-D footage from the film for cut scenes. Mountain banshees fly to the reels to add wild symbols. One bonus offers the perspective of riding a banshee through the air into various Pandora locations.
For all the flash, Brennan stresses that IGT’s developers made sure a strong base game with proven math is at the core of the new Avatar game. “These games satisfy the gambler’s instinct,” he says, noting that the free-game feature offers the player a choice of spin and multiplier combinations offering several levels of volatility.
Another big launch for the TRUE 3D product group is a new version of one of IGT’s most famous classic reel-spinners—Red, White & Blue TRUE 3D Reels, a high-denomination three-reeler offering the option of single-line, three-line or five-line operation.
The base game is the same as the traditional Red, White & Blue, except that high-paying symbols are popping out of the screen and red, white and blue stars appear in the spots between the reels randomly to open a fourth reel, which awards wild symbols, credit awards and a trigger to a second-screen bonus.
In the bonus, the player fires 3-D rockets, which explode to reveal wilds, wilds with multipliers and free spins.
In all, the extra features make the classic stepper-style game come alive, and the base game, according to Brennan, uses the same program math as the classic game, the only difference being that the all-blank win has been removed to pay for the bonus features.
“We received tremendous feedback at last year’s G2E to our 4D technology,” says Rachel Barber, chief technology officer for IGT. “Clearly, the glasses-free 3-D, the gesture recognition and the mid-air haptics, not to mention the 4K ultra-HD screens, present an overall package that’s unprecedented, in terms of the player experience.”
She adds the mid-air haptic technology is “not only new to gaming, but it’s being launched by and large ahead of the consumer electronics space as well.
“So, for players, this is truly something new and different, and I think that it results in a very fun experience that also demonstrates the operator’s commitment to innovation.”
The TRUE 3D and TRUE 4D product groups head what will be a typically remarkable group of premium products that includes new versions of classic proprietary brands, extensions of popular licensed brands and totally new entertainment brands.
The G2E premium lineup spans the new cabinets launched in the past year—the CrystalCurve ULTRA cabinet, launched with the standout titles The Ellen DeGeneres Show: Sharing the Love and soon-to-launch The Voice; the CrystalDual+ Stepper cabinet with titles such as Top Dollar Premium and Megabucks Super Stacks Respin; the S3000 XL cabinet with IGT’s classic Pinball game; and the CrystalCurve cabinet with marquee titles such as Betty White Video Slots and Harvey-Davidson Video Slots.
One of the highlights in the premium group is a new entry in the group of games based on the Sex and the City TV series. The new Sex and the City game employs PowerSight technology, which actually allows the player to trigger various game features by fixing a gaze on one portion of the screen.
“Sex and the City is a legacy brand that is still tremendously successful for IGT,” says Orchard. “So, we’ve gone back to the drawing board to create what we consider to be another great Sex and the City product, using PowerSight technology, which allows the player to interact with the game. You can use your eyes to manipulate activity on the main screen.”
Players will be able to gaze at the screen to select characters and symbols in the main game and to select icons in picking games in the bonus.
Other premium-game highlights include Blake Shelton, a slot based on the career of the country music star. Also on the CrystalCurve ULTRA, the game features music and concert footage of Shelton, plus a random prize pool with a unique top award—at any time, players around the country on the slot can win a mystery award of an acoustic guitar signed by Shelton.
“With all of the technology we’re bringing into 4D, and the CrystalCurve ULTRA, we want to really make sure the games offer value for the player,” says Orchard. “And we believe we’re on the right track there.”
Other new branded games include The Goonies, based on the 1985 adventure comedy film starring Sean Astin and Josh Brolin; and The Voice, the game based on the popular performance show that was previewed last year but perfected and released this fall.
In addition to the big branded licenses, CrystalCurve and CrystalCurve ULTRA will host a complete lineup of proprietary multi-level progressive slots. Cash Climb, from the company’s Australia studio, features an 11-level progressive. They are scaling progressives, with five bet levels—the higher the bet, the higher the progressive award levels. The progressives are won through a free-spin event. Five or more pots of gold start the spins, with three spins at each level of progressive offering chances to collect more pots of gold to trigger higher progressive levels.
The game also features IGT’s SyncStation feature, in which lighting effects are synced across a bank of games.
Other featured multi-level progressive games include Fortune Gong, bringing the Asian theme to the genre; and a new version of the classic IGT video slot Fort Knox.
The reboot of Fort Knox, one of IGT’s strongest titles from the early 2000s, features base games Diamond Vault, Twin Win and Majestic Gorilla. The bonus journey through the gold vault is updated, but with the elements of the classic game preserved.
“In all, you’ll see four proprietary multi-level progressives on our CrystalCurve premium cabinet,” says Orchard, “which have gone through all of our focus-testing and test bank procedures. We believe this lineup will be the most successful multi-level progressives we’ve ever built.”
One other high-level progressive will help launch another new format, the reel-spinning S3000 XL large-format cabinet. Wheel of Fortune Megatower, live now in casinos, places the legendary wheel game in a giant format for the first time.
“We’ll also display our large-format Megabucks product, and we’ll show a deep library of core titles on our S3000 XL,” Orchard says. “We’ve kept a lot of the similarities that players in our focus tests have told us that they love about the S3000 series when we designed the large-format version, to make sure it has that familiar look and feel.”
The mechanical reel-spinning stepper segment has always been an area of dominance for IGT, but this year, the return of Baerlocher coincides with a reel-spinning renaissance of sorts.
In addition to the launch of the large-format Megatower stepper, IGT will release a flood of new titles in its new core stepper platform, the S3000—launched three years ago as a modernized replacement for the former workhorse S2000 platform that cemented IGT’s dominance of the segment.
Since returning last spring, Baerlocher has been working with longtime pro game producers like Dennis Meade—creator of some of the company’s most iconic S2000 titles and a main force in the development of the S3000 series—to further improve the stepper segment.
“Steppers have always been a strength of IGT; they helped build the company back in the ’90s,” says Baerlocher. “Dennis and I worked together back then, when it was pretty much high-denomination, three-reel games. The segment evolved into the lower-denomination titles—four reels, five reels, bonus reels. I left IGT at the end of 2010, and came back this year with the emphasis to focus on steppers and take them to the next level.”
Part of Baerlocher’s mission is to meet increased competition in the stepper segment from all of the other major slot-makers. “We want to maintain our leadership by focusing on what our customers want,” he says, “so you’ll see a big emphasis at G2E on our high-denomination products.
“Most of our competitors focus in one or two areas, whereas we have the ability to reach out into all areas of the stepper segment, as well as going to Class II markets and offering a really unique tournament product.”
“It was really exciting when Anthony came back on board,” comments Meade. “We realized in 2012 that we had a replacement market sitting right there (for the S2000), and we started working on the new cabinet. What’s really exciting about some of Anthony’s new philosophies is that we’re going go back to just really basic good math. Everything doesn’t have to have a feature on it; we can take those great math models and go to different configurations.”
Highlights in the stepper segment this year include new versions of classic three-reelers like Sizzling 7s and Triple Strike, as well as new takes on those classics, like Pinball, with a Double Diamond base game and a skill-style bonus affording baby boomers the opportunity to use those old pinball skills.
There also will be an addition to the lower-denomination stepper line with the Red Hot Cantina series, with base games Red Hot Enchiladas, Red Hot Tamales and Red Hot Chimichangas. It is a penny multi-level progressive with progressives won through a “Sombrero Wheel” with slices awarding credit amounts or one of four progressives—“Fresco,” “Caliente,” “Picante” and the top award, “Hot-Cha-Cha.”
“This is designed to appeal to the casual player, but it will offer a good gamble as well,” says Baerlocher.
Of course, any talk of new steppers includes Top Dollar, the strongest title in the former Barcrest brand, retained when the brand was sold to Scientific Games. The company will display Top Dollar Premium, with a digital version of the classic top-box bonus with awards represented as piles of cash.
The other stepper group that will be emphasized at G2E is a new group of Class II reel-spinners, featuring a new Red Hot Haywire feature. The games include 2X3X4X5X Irish Shamrocks; Duck Bill$, a three-reel, five-line entry; and Wild Bill, a modification of the classic Wild Cherry math.
IGT also will demonstrate its updated Spin Ferno tournament product. The synchronized S3000 tournament product launched a few years ago, and is being offered with traditional top-performing titles. “We’re taking Spin Ferno in a little different direction, but it’s still going to be Spin Ferno, with the fun tournament mechanic,” Meade says.
Core Video, Core Poker
While premium titles and new stepper concepts will certainly turn heads, the IGT display at G2E will reveal a renewed emphasis on improving the company’s core video product groups, both in video slots and the dominant video poker segment.
The core video slot segment this year has been divided into specific segments denoting the appeal of each game—some games fall into more than one category.
Core categories include Pure Core Games, with easy-to-understand features and classic game mechanics; Jackpot Games, which feature prominently displayed progressives; All-Star Evolutions, which are new versions of proven brands; Waterfall Games, which are goal-oriented and offer players the ability to collect icons or objects toward higher prizes; and Innovation Games, which include fresh, new-to-market features or functionalities.
“You’ll see a a big push into different segments inside of our for-sale portfolio, to allow us to innovate with new and exciting propositions,” Orchard says, “but also to mitigate potential risk for both the casinos and IGT, by bringing forward a lot of the ‘All-Star Evolutions.’ This year, our entire for-sale library will be banked by segment, because we believe we have the library, the depth and the proven performance to carry banks of games, to really continue that core video turnaround, which has been IGT’s No. 1 priority in the last 12 months.”
IGT has loaded each game segment with new titles for G2E. “We try to populate the roadmap to provide inventory in each segment,” comments Brennan. “This gives a rationale for sale of additional banks, since the games are designed to work together. For customers, it gives them the confidence to get deeper into our library, as the support is there.”
Pure Core games include titles such as Cleopatra, Mistress of Egypt and King of Macedonia. Highlights among Jackpot games include Golden Gecko, Wild Fury and Star Rise. Innovation games include Game of Arrows, with an entertaining, interactive bonus; and Wheel Shot, which features a display of four bonus wheels viewed from the edge.
Orchard comments that all of IGT’s new form factors will figure prominently in the revival of the Core Games segment. “The CrystalCurve cabinet will be displayed in all its glory inside of our for-sale library,” he says. “What was originally held back for just premium content is now making its way into the for-sale library. We’re in the marketplace with Wild Fury and Star Rise, both graduates of our test bank process, and both performing very well in the market. We’re going to follow that up with a wide array of products and content on the CrystalCurve for-sale box.”
In addition to core video, IGT is moving to maintain its dominance of the video poker market, where the company still maintains more than 90 percent market share. IGT is bringing a group of innovative new video poker games to the show, including many that offer wheel bonuses and extra awards for certain hands.
IGT has solved the pitfall that befalls suppliers when they try to bring new features to video poker enthusiasts who are suspicious of anything different in their favorite games. Instead of “dumbing down” pay schedules to pay for bonus features, the new specialty video poker games offer bonuses fueled by extra wagers—leaving the pay tables as-is.
Double Big Wheel Poker, a new multi-hand game, features concentric virtual wheels on some cards, which trigger spins to add multipliers to all hands. In Stack the Deck, for a seven-credit bet, any dealt three-of-a-kind, four-of-a-kind, full house or four-to-the-royal hand adds up to five additional cards to the deck for the draw. The game also features a 2,000-credit payout for the “Baby Royal,” a 9-K straight flush.
Face Card Frenzy is a Double Double Bonus variation which, for a 10-credit per-hand bet, makes any face card a kicker for the bonus four-of-a-kind hands. Moving Multiplier Poker awards a multiplier for winning hands every 11 hands on average, for an eight-credit per-hand bet. Color Max Royals pays 2,000 credits for royal straights that are the same-colored suit, for a 10-credit wager.
IGT’s booth at the big show will, of course, feature much more than just the traditional games. The company will display the next generation of its virtual reality product, Siege VR, as well as a group of innovative skill-based games, such as the mobile-style Lucky’s Quest and the complete range of games in the Reel Edge series, led by Texas Tea Pinball.
Mobile innovations that enhance the land-based casino environment also will be prevalent, with IGT’s Cardless Connect and PlaySpot mobile wagering solutions already deployed with major casino operators.
But more than anything, G2E for IGT is all about the games.
“We’ve been focusing on evolving our product offerings through technology innovation, across all of our business segments,” says Barber. “We push the envelope not only by offering many different form factors, but by creating innovative solutions designed to wow our players.”
Konami Gaming, Inc.
The Concerto Continues
Konami loads its current form factors with innovative content while launching another new cabinet concept
Konami Gaming began this particular concerto a year ago.
For G2E 2016, the Las Vegas-based slot-maker expanded what is now called the Concerto Collection of slot cabinets and formats with several dramatic new form factors. The Concerto core cabinet, introduced in 2015, was hitting its stride as the follow-up to still other innovative legacy cabinets in the Podium series.
In 2016, the state-of-the-art Concerto became a collection, with the launch of Concerto Crescent, Concerto Stack, Concerto Slant and the multi-game Concerto SeleXion—the fruits of a R&D efforts boosted by the new 200,000-square-foot Las Vegas campus opened a year earlier. The Crescent’s 43-inch curved screen, the 43-inch flat monitor of the Stack and the relaxed-angle dual 27-inch screens of the Slant collectively created a completely new canvas for Konami’s game developers, who have spent the ensuing year building up a content library for all the new form factors.
The cabinet buildup continues this year with yet another new form factor for the Concerto family—a large-format cabinet housing a single, imposing 65-inch high-resolution monitor, called Concerto Opus.
At G2E 2017, Konami presents the mountain of new content it has developed for the innovative new formats. Some of the content is transferable to legacy platforms such as KP3 in the Podium format; other content has been developed specifically for the newer KP3+, or to exploit the benefits of one of the Concerto form factors. Much has been homegrown by the Las Vegas R&D staff; some new game styles draw on the legacy of the slot-maker’s parent company, video-game giant Konami Holdings Corporation of Japan.
In all, Konami arrives at G2E with 97 total themes, including KP3+ and KP3 videos slots, new multi-game mixes for SeleXion, and upwards of 20 different types of progressives.
“We’ve focused on expanding the game library that goes into the Concerto cabinets,” says Steve Walther, senior director of marketing and product management for Konami. “Last year, we premiered Concerto Crescent and Concerto Stack at G2E. Now, those are all on the market with some of our launch titles, and doing extremely well. The past year has been focused on expanding and building the content that will go on the various platforms.”
Walther notes that the new single-screen Concerto Crescent and Stack products present “a very different development environment, a very different display environment than the two-screen environment we had with the Concerto.” He says the company worked to “create a new market” with the new formats. “And with that new palette, we are able to do some new things, be a little bit more adventurous, and create a new identity for Konami Gaming on the gaming floor—familiar, but with a new twist.”
That progress is already under way with standouts from last year’s inaugural group of games for the new formats, now entering the marketplace. One of the most successful has been Sparkling Roses, a 15-reel game with mystery multipliers, free games and the Xtra Reward feature, which returns bonus wild multipliers.
Walther says the 15-reel format allows for a wider range of features. “A standard five-reel slot machine is good; it makes the bread and butter, but every so often you branch out and do something a little bit different,” he says. “One of our success stories is Sparkling Roses. In the 15-reel format, every single space is an independent spinning reel.
“Sparkling Roses captured a little bit of magic because it had the right combination of symbols and multipliers and reel spins that were different enough—but familiar enough—and it also has those multipliers that people love. It’s a big game for us so far this calendar year.”
Another popular game group that stands out on the Concerto upright and Concerto Slant is Cai Lai Si Ji (basic translation: “win through all seasons”), a stand-alone progressive series with three base themes—Wealth of Dynasty, Power of Riches and Winning Animals. The games, in the Ultra Reels Prime series, are colorful Asian themes using a mystery picking bonus in which players choose from blossoms to match one of four progressive jackpots. “It’s our first stand-alone progressive starting at $10,000,” says Walther.
Other new winners include the Fortune Streams series, a KP3+ follow-up to the KP3 progressive series Jackpot Streams; and Smash Smash Festival, a non-traditional progressive link in which the prize pool progresses, instead of the amounts of the jackpots themselves.
The Concerto Stack and Crescent formats were launched with companion games Dragon Fury and Pharaoh’s Fury, which use the tall monitors to display a 7-8-8-8-7 reel array. Available in 80- or 120-line configuration, the games feature a free-spin round in which the higher-paying picture symbols are more prevalent with a higher number of bonus trigger symbols.
Finally, just before G2E, Konami will release the latest game in its Castlevania series of games based on Konami’s vampire-fighting video game series—Castlevania Valiant Guardian. The Castlevania franchise will be one of many to be expanded by Konami this year.
Building the Library
At G2E, this year’s hits will be accompanied by a host of new games, new game styles and new formats. Konami will expand some game groups and launch completely new game styles in an avalanche of new content for its growing collection of innovative hardware.
Multiplier’s Ridge kicks off the Ultra Reels 972 Ways series. The reel array in this format is 3-3-3-6-6. With every five-of-a-kind win, a mountain at the bottom of the screen explodes for a multiplier up to 10X.
Other standouts include Octo-Blast, a follow-up to the game Chili Chili Fire, with a unique mystery feature that appears in several Konami games this year—the “Fade Away Feature.” Randomly in both free games and primary game spins (more frequently on free games), the main Octopus character will squirt ink on the reels and wipe out all the lower-paying poker symbols, leaving only higher-paying symbols for a re-evaluation of the win.
The tall vertical screens of the new formats are bein put to full use in Konami’s new video offerings. The new single-screen formats, including the large-format Concerto cabinet, will be exploited in games like China Shores Great Stacks, which translates the popular Konami theme into an oversized five-by-six reel array—six rows of symbols per reel. “A 30-line game has been doubled to form a 60-line game, placing two game fields together,” Walther explains. “When you trigger the free games you can either get to choose your credit prize range, a large number of free games with awards multiplied by two, a mix of free games and multipliers with extra symbols added, a low number of free games with high multipliers, or a medium amount of free games with only the picture symbols remaining, with multipliers.
“There are a lot of choices there for the players, and we want the player to be able to find the choice that best meets what their desire of game play might be in the feature. This is in the market now, and early numbers are quite promising.”
Also in the China Shores family is China Shores Boosted Riches. “The more you bet, the bigger your prizes will be,” Walther says. “When you trigger the free games, the more yin-yang symbols you get, the higher you climb up the financial ladder at the top, with fixed pays up to 1,000 credits.”
Another brand extension designed for the single-screen formats is Lotus Land Deluxe Wild, which features free games, a wild re-spin feature and a multiplier feature.
A follow-up to the popular Konami brand Treasure Falls is the Riches Drop series, on the vertical-monitor Concerto machines. The base game features a lucky tree that will drop coins and shake prizes from the tree. Games in this series are Riches Drop Plop Plop Peach and Riches Drop Lucky Firecracker, the latter game offering the Fade Away Feature.
“We’re trying to combine all these exciting elements into a few basic games,” says Walther.
Other highlights include Mammoth Power, a new KP3+ game featuring free spins and multipliers; and the debut of a completely new game mechanic, called Strike Zone.
Strike Zone could be called the next generation of Xtra Rewards, in that it is a new way to entice larger bets through larger rewards. The Strike Zone is a special area within the reel set in which special features like wild symbols, multipliers and mini-bonus wheel spins are activated. The higher the bet, the larger the Strike Zone portion of the screen, starting with two reel positions at minimum bet and rising to a three-by-four box in the center of the primary game with a maximum bet in the first pairing of Strike Zone games, Celestial Sun Riches and Celestial Moon Riches.
In the other inaugural game pairing, Star Watch Magma and Star Watch Fire, the Strike Zone increases reel by reel as the wager rises.
“The point is that the more you invest in making your Strike Zone bigger, the more chances you have of special features happening,” Walther says.
“In Celestial Riches, when you get a wild symbol inside the Strike Zone, it has a multiplier associated with it. If you get a wheel symbol in the Strike Zone, you get a spin of the wheel. But if you don’t have the Strike Zone big enough, you don’t get the special feature or trigger. So, you’re going to want to bet the whole Strike Zone, because you don’t want to miss one of these special features. That would be like hitting a royal flush with less than the maximum bet—you don’t want to be that guy!
“Konami is coming up with reasons for people to want to bet in a higher volume to get higher rewards. This is part of our legacy and our heritage. When we brought out Xtra Rewards, people had the option to bet more to get a chance to win something extra. Hence, the name. Here, the bigger you make the Strike Zone, the better your chance to get something extra out of the game. We’re building upon that legacy with an entirely new twist.”
The Riches Drop and Star Watch game groups are both in a category that is growing for Konami, multiple-progressive slots. As many suppliers, Konami is responding to customer demand for new types of multiple-progressive slot games, launching new progressive slots for the Concerto family as well as progressives for legacy KP3 machines and formats including Podium and Podium Goliath.
One highlight of the progressive group is the clever “Purrfect Pirates Series” of games. “It has something I think is going to make everybody smile—cats dressed up like pirates plundering the Seven Seas, and you get to share in the booty the kitties collect,” says Walther.
Purrfect Pirates is a multiple-progressive game offering a player-selectable denomination, ranging from penny to $1. “Credit prizes scale according to how much you bet per line,” Walther says. “The higher you bet, the bigger the bonus prizes, and the better your chance at winning a progressive.”
The progressives are won through two separate bonus events, both in Purrfect Pirates and its companion, Purrty Pirates. (Female cats, a pink pirate ship.)
Other progressives include two new games in the Castlevania series, Labyrinth of Love and Ring of the Heavens. “The characters are different, but the games are true to the Castlevania band,” Walther says.
Most of the new progressives present unique ways to win multiple jackpots. For instance, in Egyptian Wheel Bonus, four progressive levels are slices on a jackpot wheel which, according to Walther, offers players true odds on the spins.
Other progressive games include Luxury Jackpots, a four-level mystery linked progressive with a top award starting at $10,000; Dragon Emblem Jackpots, with a 7-8-8-8-7 reel array and a simple three-level, symbol-driven jackpot; and Lucky O’Leary Jackpots, which applies the same format to a leprechaun-themed game.
New titles and game extensions will be placed in the multi-game Concerto SeleXion, and of course, in the new Concerto Opus, which will stand 99 inches tall including the candle.
Konami also will demonstrate its expanding online business segment at G2E. The company has been releasing content in the New Jersey for-money online gaming market, expanding its content to social gaming outlets, and has a licensing partnership with PlayStudios.
Other G2E highlights for Konami include its multi-station products previewed last year, the sleek Crystal Cyclone arcade-style ball-drop game and the Fortune Cup mechanical horse-race game. Fortune Cup will be live at the Venetian casino and MGM Grand Las Vegas, so attendees can experience the first global installs while they’re at the show.
The company also will bring a complete lineup of products for the VLT market, designed with program math customized to the rules of each VLT jurisdiction.
And finally, the company will display games for the players Walther calls the “non-traditional gamer.”
“These games are not just for millennials,” Walther says, referring to Frogger Get Hoppin’—with primary skill game play based on the legendary arcade game—and Beat Square, another concept transplanted from the arcade division of parent Konami Holdings Corporation.
“We’re no longer looking at skill-based games as just a millennial product segment,” Walther says. “We’re looking at it as non-traditional gamer. There might be a 46-year-old man who still plays Halo at home. We might be able to attract those audiences to play a gaming machine that is different than your traditional five-reel slot machine. They may still incorporate luck to a degree, but we want them to be different than a traditional slot machine.”
Beat Square, a music-timing game Walther aptly describes as a sort of “musical whack-a-mole,” has its roots in a game called JuBeat, big in Japanese arcades. “We’re leveraging that technology and putting a gaming engine into it,” he says.
The company is even launching a skill tournament-based Beat Square. There will be a Beat Square tournament at Konami’s G2E booth.
Walther sums up this year’s Konami G2E lineup:
“What makes these games uniquely enjoyable for players goes beyond an initial novelty appeal,” he says. “It’s how the individual play mechanics, mathematics, bonus events and entertainment delivery styles work together in harmony for continued excitement and engagement over time.
“Whether it’s a new product category or a new game theme release, our focus is to create satisfying game play experiences that bring new levels of excitement to the gaming floor.”
New cabinets and game formats highlight Merkur’s 100-machine G2E display
Merkur Gaming is back at G2E with the latest version of its Avantgarde Trio, Merkurstar and Evostar cabinets. The Lübbecke, Germany-based firm will display some 100 individual machines at this year’s show.
The units, primarily in single-game formats but with a selection of multi-game options, will demonstrate the many strides Merkur has made in its product line. It’s a fitting way to mark the 60th year of the Gauselmann Group, Germany’s world-famous games-makers and Merkur parent company.
“Merkur Gaming has great expectations for G2E as the top-line brand company for the Americas,” says Charles Hiten, CEO of Merkur Gaming Americas. “We lead the line in the Americas and internationally in what will be a proud presentation of the entire group’s range of gaming solutions and capabilities.”
Merkur’s goal, he says, is to produce “exciting and enthralling, top-of-the-line game themes that will meet and exceed the expectations of players from across the entire spectrum of casino floor attractions.”
The Avantgarde Trio, with its distinctive contours and superior ergonomics, sets high standards of integrated design. The quality gaming machine cabinet features three gloss-finish, 27-inch full HD wide-screen monitors; the high-definition third screen is the ideal canvas for video content and/or embedded jackpot signage.
Merkurstar stands out with its contemporary look and feel. Its high-quality cabinet, with two gloss-finish, 24-inch full HD wide-screen monitors, is designed with player comfort in mind, and is compatible with all major online systems.
But this year, says Hiten, the star of the show is Evostar, the latest addition to the Merkur Gaming cabinet portfolio.
As its name suggests, Evostar has a shared heritage with the successful Avantgarde, Avantgarde Trio and Merkurstar models. It’s a unique hybrid and stellar example of next-generation engineering, with a service-friendly upright and a slant-top player position for the ultimate in player comfort. Evostar features a built-in USB port that allows users to charge their mobile devices as they play, free of charge.
With vivid color effects, resonant acoustics, high-performance multi-game-enabled technology platforms and powerful, resonant acoustics, these products embody German innovation and engineering at their best.
Merkur cabinets display game suites grouped into Random Lines, Asian themes, Fruits & Sevens and Egyptian and Space Age themes, as well as new standout games making their G2E debut this year.
“Without a doubt, there will be games to suit every taste and much more besides: from A to Z, Achilla to Zentaurus, and a world of gaming entertainment in between. For Merkur Gaming, the focus at G2E is definitely on games,” says Hiten.
The Merkur Gaming booth also features displays from across the entire Gauselmann Group:
Cash-handling experts GeWeTe will show a range of innovations from across their wide range of solutions.
Sports betting maestros Cashpoint, the betting professionals, will demonstrate the best in in sports betting entertainment.
Based in Hamburg, Germany, edict egaming Gmbh is the online gaming arm of the Gauselmann Group, a market leader and true trendsetter holding multiple licenses in various markets. It will present the edict Game Solution, by which which Merkur games are marketed internationally for online casinos and betting operators.
In keeping with its commitment to social responsibility, Merkur will host in-booth demonstrations of its cutting-edge Face Check technology. This contactless admission control system is based on biometric facial features, and is currently the only system that allows youth protection without the need to present identification.
With decades of experience in development and production, the family-owned Gauselmann Group has earned a reputation for reliable partnerships with national and international casino operators. The group has demonstrated a nimble response to shifting legal and social conditions, individual client preferences and local market requirements. Its gaming portfolio is multi-faceted and country-specific, and proves the slogan of Merkur Gaming: “We speak gaming.”—By Marjorie Preston
Novomatic continues its penetration of North American gaming markets with a wide array of new products
Novomatic will be bringing more a slightly “down under” feel to the Global Gaming Expo in 2017, as the company inches closer toward finalizing a majority shareholder acquisition in Ainsworth Game Technology, the Australian gaming equipment manufacturer.
“We’ll have a combined booth here at G2E,” says Rick Meitzler, president of North America sales for Novomatic. “Coincidentally, we had our booths next to each other in 2016, and with our stock purchase pending completion, we have a consolidated showing of both companies in one space for 2017.”
But while the deal is expected to close in early 2018, show attendees shouldn’t be expecting too many eye-popping changes right off the bat, as Novomatic generally prefers to maintain the individuality of its acquisitions.
“We have two strong, individual brands and will maintain those brands for the near future,” explains Meitzler. “So in 2018, we will thoughtfully make adjustments and changes that allow for the smartest strategic growth in the U.S. market.”
Regardless, there will be plenty to see at the Novomatic exhibit this year, including a plethora of cabinet innovations, electronic table games, premium-branded slot products and linked progressive jackpot solutions.
With locations in more than 50 countries and sales operations in more 70, Austria’s Novomatic Group has long been the top manufacturer in Europe, but is a relatively new entrant in to the U.S. market, having first set up shop in 2012.
The company’s overarching objective for this year’s show is to continue the driving the momentum that it has built on the North American continent over the last 12 months.
“This year we’ve grown exponentially to support our development and sales,” says Meitzler, adding that the focus for the coming year will be “to continue to grow our market with strategic innovation that fills a need and provides new options at a fair and interesting price.”
Meitzler stresses that the Austria-based Novomatic, whose North American headquarters is in suburban Chicago, brings a unique value proposition to U.S. customers because of its dual expertise in both manufacturing and operating gaming equipment.
“We are manufacturers, but also we are operators,” Meitzler says. “We understand long-term technology investment. We are a self-contained producer of all aspects of our games and systems—from boards and cables to cabinets. This allows us to bypass the middle man and pass those savings directly on to our customers.”
Meitzler also emphasizes that this institutional knowledge makes Novomatic a better overall manufacturer, and a cost-conscious partner that intimately understands the decision-making that goes into a long-term casino investment.
As a European-based manufacturer that is in the process of bringing an Australian influence to its product line, Novomatic games offer a more unique entertainment experience from purely Americanized games.
“We are global operators and innovators,” says Kathleen McLaughlin, who heads marketing for the company’s North America division. “We can take those experiences and translate them into highly refined products and entertainment experiences that provide significant long-term investment value for our U.S. customers.”
At this year’s show, Novomatic aims to act on the positive feedback it generated last year, particularly with its Reel Tournaments, strong content and new cabinet innovations.
In addition, the company has carved a niche for itself in the North America market with its video gaming terminal offerings, which were well-received by attendees last year. VGTs—or video lottery terminals—are machines that are placed in more local, non-casino locations such as bars, cafes and gas stations.
“One of our core competencies is our expertise and comprehensive understanding of route operations,” says Meitzler. “Our global intelligence in route or street operations and game development are a true competitive advantage.” The company has more than 230,000 such games placed around the world.
As VGTs remain a relatively untapped market in the U.S., Meitzler expects the interest in his VGT-compatible cabinets to grow at this year’s G2E. Novomatic’s V.I.P. Lounge cabinets have become popular in the VGT market because of the 34 diverse and entertaining game titles that players can choose from.
With VGT legalization on the table in a proposed gambling expansion package in Pennsylvania, Novomatic is seeing an uptick in demand for compatible machines. If the Keystone State were to pass this form of gaming, other states will be lining up to follow suit, Meitzler reckons, because it is a program that is fairly easy to implement and serves as an additional tax revenue generator.
“It opens up a new market for us,” he says. “It benefits all manufacturers. There are many manufacturers that would not like to see Pennsylvania go. They may not all be obvious about the desire for it to open. We, however, have great understanding and success in route operations, so we are a more outspoken supporter.”
As a relative newcomer to the North American market, Novomatic has sought to capture market share by being highly customer-driven with regard to the products it rolls out at G2E each year.
“We have listened to our customers and developed more entertaining, higher return-to-player games and have had great success with games like Asian Fortunes. Based upon that success, we continue to develop suites of games with that same Asian Fortunes experience and flavor,” says McLaughlin.
The company will also be rolling out its first-ever licensed game title this year. It will rebirth From Dusk till Dawn, the classic 1996 Quentin Tarantino film that featured George Clooney, Salma Hayek and Danny Trejo. The film will be re-cast in the form of a slot machine that has proved quite popular the company’s customer research. McLaughlin says she expects the game to be Novomatic’s blockbuster showcase piece of the show because of its presentation, uniqueness and broad appeal.
“This is not an obvious license. However, the player feedback has been amazing, and the game play experience is something that our research has clearly told us that players are excited about.
It crosses a lot of demographic boundaries and it works,” she says. “This will be a game to play and be seen playing.”
In continuing the popular trend of bringing celebrities to the show floor to help promote new products, Trejo—who also starred in popular 1990s films Heat, Anaconda and Con Air—will stop by the Novomatic booth to mingle with attendees.
The company is also putting the finishing touches on the placement of its Electronic Table Games Stadium on the floor of a name-brand casino operator, which should be a watershed moment for the company. McLaughlin says momentum is expected to continue growing in the Americas for this product line, as it has generated strong player demand despite remaining somewhat “under the radar.”
“The ETG interest has been a great surprise, and has taken off,” McLaughlin says. “We are a major player in the ETG market segment internationally, so it is a natural progression and business for us in the U.S. market.”
Novomatic’s Octavian slot management system has also proven to be a hit with players and operators since last year, as it provides a scalable alternative to current systems and is an “amazing piece of slot management technology that is clean, simple to use and provides an amazing, cost-friendly tool for operators that don’t want to spend big numbers to maximize revenue,” according to McLaughlin.
“Smaller organizations are pursuing our systems aggressively due to the impressive functionality and agile approach we have taken.”
Other Novomatic products that G2E attendees should be on the lookout for include the new V.I.P. Lounge Cabinet—which Meitzler says is one of the most in-demand cabinets in the U.S. market.
“We have been overwhelmed with demand for the V.I.P Lounge cabinet. It’s clear players like our new cabinet design,” he says. “Where it has launched, it typically goes to No. 1 or No. 2 in that location.”
Novomatic will be rolling out several other new additions to its game portfolio at the show, including JackPOW!, JackPOP!, Goddess Rising, Red Dream and new additions to its Fortunes series of math-style games. Matt Ward, vice president of game development, and his diverse international design teams have been focused on creating great content, and this show will demonstrate the impressive result.
At the end of the day, attendees should pay a visit to the Novomatic exhibit to check out new product offerings that bring a European-meets-Down-Under feel and unique price point to the North America market.
“I hope customers visit stand 1259 to get a glimpse of our future,” says Meitzler. “We thrive on being an innovative company and bringing a unique perspective to everything we touch. We’re looking forward to 2018 and the relationship that allows two great companies to show the world their best work.
“We’re known globally as innovative and different, and we are going to keep leveraging that to bring strong choices for casino customers and incredibly entertaining games for players.”—By Aaron Stanley
Scientific Games launches new games in its newest cabinet family, while loading all its TwinStar formats with new content
Two years ago, Scientific Games staged its first Global Gaming Expo following the mergers that brought together three major suppliers—Bally Technologies, Shuffle Master and WMS Gaming—to create the company’s current identity as a complete, end-to-end gaming supplier.
The first order of business following the merger was to combine the best technologies of the former companies and their three major gaming brands—Bally, WMS and Shuffle Master—into a single product platform going forward. The result was Argos, Scientific Games’ current core platform, capable of running content from former Bally, Shuffle Master or WMS teams.
Next would come a common cabinet to house games of the former competitors—TwinStar, first displayed at G2E 2015, hosting all brands on the same form factor.
At last year’s G2E, Scientific Games expanded the TwinStar family of cabinets with the launch of TwinStar J43, a twist on the curved vertical monitor first invented by the former Bally Technologies in its Alpha 2 Pro Wave. The J43 features a 43-inch portrait monitor that curves toward the player at the bottom.
Also last year, the company launched the TwinStar 3RM stepper cabinet, with mechanical reel-spinning games in the TwinStar format. The first games, low-denomination reel-spinners, are in the market now.
All three of the inaugural TwinStar cabinets are in the for-sale category. This year, the company will add three new premium lease cabinets to the TwinStar family, along with still more new content.
“For the last year and a half, most of our efforts have been on launching the original TwinStar and producing content for that and the new TwinStar formats,” says Greg Colella, vice president of product marketing for Scientific Games.
“The original TwinStar dual-screen cabinet, the first to offer both Bally and WMS content, has done well, but the J43 premium-style cabinet has done particularly well. Bally has had successful product in this general style, starting with the V32 (which pioneered the vertical portrait-style monitor) and leading to, most successfully, the Wave. We wanted to follow with another curved display.”
The TwinStar 3RM stepper was launched early this year, completing the group in the field now. “This year, we’re trying to build on the story with new content for the dual-screen TwinStar, the TwinStar 3RM and the J43,” says Colella. “We’re not launching any new for-sale hardware this year; we’re deliberately making a pause from that, because we’ve been flooding the market with all sorts of new hardware for our customers. So this year, it’s all about deepening the library of all of our TwinStar platforms.”
Building the Library
Colella says the company is certainly not abandoning its legacy platforms—there will, for instance, be new content shown at G2E for the Blade s32 and the Alpha Pro Wave.
“We still have a pipeline of games for the Wave, which by far has been the biggest success of anything in the Pro Series,” says Colella. “We’ll be introducing new products for that, but we are transitioning, and most of our efforts are now focused around the TwinStar product line.”
At the head of the lineup of new TwinStar titles are new games for Lock It Link, the popular game series featuring a bonus that locks symbols in place and re-spins for larger awards. “Lock It Link has been a standout for us on the TwinStar dual-screen video,” Colella says. “Our original Diamonds and Night Life games have done very well for our customers.”
At G2E, the company will launch two new games for the Lock It Link group—Cats Hats and More Bats and Eureka Reel Blast. “These will plug into existing Lock It Link games as a way to extend the franchise,” Colella says. Developed by the company’s Australia design studio, the game series has seen significant success in that country. It will debut for the North American market at G2E.
Colella says Scientific Games’ other key development in the TwinStar line is the launch of a new range of mid- and high-denomination video slots.
“This has been an area customers have always asked about—‘Hey, do you have anything new for this space?’—and generally speaking, year after year we’ve said no,” Colella says. “This year, we made it a focus to introduce these games. Most of these games have roots back in Australia.”
The first four titles in this product range are Golden Pharaoh, Jungle Wild, Rise of the Emperor and Fu 888. “Golden Pharaoh and Rise of the Emperor come from the Australia market as well,” says Colella. “They’ve had a fairly robust dollar video slot market for some time. We’re using several of the titles that have done well there as the launch titles for North America. Jungle Wild is an old WMS title that has done well in high denominations over the years, so we thought that, as well as Fu 888, would be good for this series.”
Other highlights on the TwinStar cabinet include the companion games Dragons of Avalon and Eternal Thrones, from High 5 Games. Both are 1,024-ways-to-win video slots based on a successful High 5 math model, with a three-level progressive jackpot added.
And finally, Scientific Games will launch a new video poker series on the TwinStar, in multi-denomination configurations with standard video poker games in single-hand and in multi-hand versions ranging from three-hand to 100-hand games. All of the popular pay tables and video poker variations are available.
“We’ve had poker in the past on the (WMS) CPU3 platform,” says Colella. “This product moves it over to Argos. Scientific Games is one of the biggest companies in the industry, and we want to make sure we are what we tell everybody we are—a full-service provider. We could provide, if you wanted, everything you need for a casino, end to end. So, poker obviously needs to be part of that.”
Reimagining the Stepper
The TwinStar 3RM mechanical reel-spinning platform gives new life to a category once dominated by the former Bally. According to Colella, the company took a careful approach to introducing a new stepper cabinet to traditional players.
The 3RM was launched with two low-denomination games, 88 Fortunes and Fu Dao Le.
In the past, Bally stepper slots were typically launched in high denominations—quarters, dollars and up. Colella says they weren’t always successful because the high-denom player “is fairly set in his ways.” Behind video poker players, he says, the most particular players on the floor are three-reel, single-line, high-denomination players. “You cannot rock that person’s world, and it’s tough to introduce new product to that player,” he says. “We stuck with low-denom because that player is more open to seeing new game ideas.”
Fu Dao Le and 88 Fortunes on the 3RM have been strong products for Scientific Games, so the company is ready for the next step—more content, higher denominations. Because the low-denomination games are successful, says Colella, “there’s not as much pressure for those high-denom games to have to work immediately. We can give them some time to mature naturally and try to get players to transition over.”
While the first two games have been joined by Quick Hit Super Wheel, Wow Black & White and Wow Triple Blazing 7s in rounding out the first low-denomination stepper group, the high-denomination stepper group will be introduced by using “some of the granddaddies of the business,” says Colella—new versions of the classic Blazing 7s, Bonus Times, Black & White, Black & White 5X Pay, Double Jackpot Triple Blazing 7s and Quick Hit 5X 10X.
The new Quick Hit game returns to the roots of that strong brand—it started as a high-denomination stepper in the 1990s, launching the progressive game mechanic that is still its most popular feature, the ladder of progressive levels awarded according to the number of Quick Hit symbols on the reels. The company has released at least one new Quick Hit title every year since that initial introduction.
Colella comments that Scientific Games’ engineers took extra care when designing the TwinStar 3RM—care in making sure the old games are familiar to demanding stepper players. “When we first started designing the cabinet, we had to ask, ‘Does Blazing 7s belong on a cabinet that flashy?’” Colella says. The team solved the problem by creating a different top for TwinStar 3RM—a round top to mimic the old Pro Series S6000 cabinet. “We tried to make it look like a traditional slot machine,” he says.
Of all the form factors launched by Scientific Games last year, none has done better than the J43 cabinet. “We’ve had success with all three of the TwinStar cabinets so far, but this one has been the standout,” says Colella. “Dancing Drums, Heidi’s Bierhaus and Quick Hit Ultra Pays on this platform have all been dynamite for us.”
This year, Scientific Games extends the J43 library with several new titles, starting with companion games Zeus Unleashed and Kronos Unleashed. “These are follow-ups to Zeus and Kronos games we did on the TwinStar, which have been standouts on that platform,” Colella explains. “One of the big twists in these games is the Lightning Respin feature. In the initial games, players looked for Kronos or a lightning bolt that would continue the round. Here, you have all sorts of other enhancements to the reels.”
Also new on the J43 are two new entries for the company’s Wonder Woman slot series. Called Bullets and Bracelets and Golden Lasso, the games were placed on the J43 because the first Wonder Woman games were really successful on the Wave cabinet.
Other new J43 games include Rising Guardian, Rising Panda and Double Blessings, a follow-up to inaugural J43 hit Dancing Drums. The new game links with Dancing Drums, and includes the familiar expanding reels feature.
For the legacy platforms, the company will display an upgrade of the Alpha 2 Pro Wave format. “Last quarter was the first in which the Wave was not our top-selling product,” says Colella. “It has been our workhorse; we’ve sold a lot of these cabinets. What I’m trying to do for the customer is extend the life of the investment they’ve made as long as possible. To do that, we’re putting the Argos platform inside.” The revamped Wave will host the Super Wheel Dragon, Las Vegas and Quick Hit Pro games. Colella says customers will not be charged for the new hardware, only the software.
The WMS Blade s32 video cabinet will host Treasure Ship Bonus, a new game in the Monsters and Mermaids series; and a new version of Iron Man. The latter was introduced in Australia, and was one of the rare occasions that a licensed brand has succeeded in that market.
Finally, on the Barcrest for-sale platform, which features traditional stepper games equipped with simple, arcade-style top-box bonuses, Scientific Games will launch Double Easy Money, which places a 2X multiplier along with the familiar stacks of money in the top box bonus.
Another new Barcrest game is Déjà Vu Diamonds, which employs a gimmick borrowed from the Illinois VLT market that enables the player to win thousands of dollars without stopping to fill out a W-2G form. (Look for the W-2G with a “buster” symbol through it.) After a large win—all $1,199 or lower—the player will be given the chance to buy additional spins. Because the player is buying the additional spins, they count as different plays.
As usual, Scientific Games will shine in the premium space at this year’s G2E. “This is the space where we make really unique games,” Colella says.
Some of the best games from last year’s show will be released to casinos by G2E or shortly thereafter. These include Seinfeld, Willy Wonka Dream Factory and The Simpsons on the Gamescape cabinet.
Scientific Games will launch a wealth of new premium titles in every existing format, plus new formats being debuted at the show.
Heading up the highlights list of upcoming releases is Monopoly Millionaire, the next game on the Pro Wave 360 platform. The 360, launched two years ago with the game Dragon Spin, followed up with Cirque du Soleil’s Kooza and augmented this year with Willy Wonka’s Dream Factory, uses a continuous, 360-degree overhead monitor for bonus rounds on individual Pro Wave units in a circular carousel.
The other high-profile premium introduction is on the TwinStar V24/43 cabinet—National Lampoon’s Animal House, bringing the iconic 1978 frat movie to the slot screen or the first time.
Other highlights in the premium game group include Monsters Return, a new game featuring the famous monsters of Universal Pictures—Boris Karloff’s Frankenstein and Mummy, Bela Lugosi’s Dracula, Lon Chaney Jr.’s Wolfman. On the Gamefield xD cabinet, the game features a hold-and-re-spin feature, wheel bonus and five-level progressive with a top wide-area progressive prize.
Also on Gamefield xD is a new game based on the original Star Trek TV series, called Star Trek: The Final Frontier. The new game features wild reels, mystery stacking symbols, “Tribble Respins,” free games and a battle picking bonus.
In the high-denomination wide-area progressive space, the company will feature Michael Jackson Legend and Cirque Kooza, both with progressive wheels on the Blade mechanical stepper.
These will be joined by the second Cirque du Soleil title, Cirque Amaluna, based on a traveling show the Cirque troupe stages in Europe. It features a seven-level progressive on an Alpha Pro Wave with a digital wheel.
Other new premium games include Hot Shot Inferno, a new twist on the brand that has been popular for around a dozen years. Another multi-level progressive with a digital wheel feature, this one reprises the “mini-games” of the Hot Shot series that spin miniature reels for bonus awards.
Finally, the company is launching several other new games in the Monopoly franchise, including Monopoly Revolution on the innovative multi-player PRIZM cabinet.
Monopoly Revolution is the first slot game on the PRIZM format, which has been focused on electronic table games content. PRIZM is a four-player table, each player with an electronic wagering station. Initial games on the format were Lightning Launch Roulette and a poker variation. “But we also have a lot of slot content on the PRIZM,” Colella says. “They’ve done some terrific work on it. Each player has a three-reel set, and the game does what you would expect it to do—you get your token and move it around the classic game board, collecting money for properties.”
Colella notes that other manufacturers are using formats similar to PRIZM to launch experimental skill games. “They’re trying to sell them on a long-term perspective. I’m saying we can deliver these new form factors with regular casino math behind it. We don’t have to carve out a separate section because the game will be evaluated differently.”
New Forms, New Themes
Scientific Games is using G2E to expand the TwinStar family of cabinets with three new premium hardware formats. The first is the TwinStar Skyscraper V24/24/55. That’s two standard video monitors topped by a 55-inch vertical flat LCD monitor. The inaugural game brings back a legendary WMS brand—Jackpot Party.
“It has all the familiar Jackpot Party elements—the pick-‘em feature, the spin of the disco ball on the top screen,” says Colella. “Jackpot Party has always been a really fun brand for us, so this will be a great addition.”
Next up is the imposing TwinStar V75—featuring a massive 75-inch ultra-high-definition curved display. The machine is equipped with an oversized iDeck button panel, bash buttons on both sides, a USB charging port, and a seat to accommodate two. “We encourage two players to sit down and play these games,” Colella says.
“A lot of times, one person will have to reach over the other player on these kinds of games, so we put spin buttons on each side. It’s comfortable no matter where you’re sitting. I’m really very impressed with the ergonomics for this as a large-format cabinet. I feel I can finally sit down and play as long as I want to play.”
The inaugural V75 game is another Monopoly title—Monopoly Hot Shot. It’s a Monopoly-themed slot with the Hot Shot mechanic, with three mini game-in-game bonuses.
Finally, the company is launching the TwinStar J43 with iReels. It uses the J43 format for a game featuring stepper reels with transparent animation over top, like the old WMS Transmissive Reels and Bally iReels game groups. The two launch games are The Lord of the Rings: Rule Them All and Cash Spin Deluxe. The latter features gesture control to physically spin the bonus wheel.
Scientific Games is using many of the new form factors on what promises to be the most high-profile licensed game series at the show—the first games in the James Bond series.
The company is launching the first three titles at G2E in a Bond series that eventually will highlight all 24 feature films and six different actors who portrayed Ian Fleming’s legendary British agent——along with a number of the villains and “Bond Girls”—in films produced by Eon Productions.
The new Bond slot machines will be positioned in Scientific Games’ booth around a real Aston Martin sports car, the iconic brand of the Bond character’s fully equipped spy cars.
The first game in the Bond series is a game themed around the latest Bond film, Casino Royale. The Casino Royale slot is on the new Gamefield 2.0 cabinet, which features a horizontal 43-inch portrait monitor for the base game flowing up to a vertical 43-inch top-box display.
Also on display will be Goldfinger on the J43 with iReels cabinet. In the high-denomination, wide-area progressive space will be Diamonds Are Forever, depicting the seventh Bond film.
Colella says this year’s G2E lineup will redefine the product roadmap for Scientific Games for years to come. “I’m really proud of the lineup we have,” he says. “We have some of the best games in the business.”