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Growing Arsenal: Everi Holdings

Everi adds licensed brands, new formats and improvements to its industry-topping tournaments

Growing Arsenal: Everi Holdings

When former suppliers Global Cash Access and Multimedia Games were officially christened at the New York Stock Exchange just over a year ago as Everi Holdings, one thing that was made clear by its executives was that GCA’s acquisition of Multimedia Games would do nothing to impede the operations of the fast-growing Austin, Texas-based slot supplier.

Multimedia Games had already captured player attention with clever, engaging games in several different form factors, in addition to redefining the nature of slot tournaments with its universally regarded TournEvent system.

The leaders of the new Everi knew enough not to interrupt success, but to support it with the resources needed to improve and expand the product portfolio.

That plan also was a no-brainer for Michael D. Rumbolz, who took over as interim president and CEO of Everi with last February’s departure of former CEO Ram Chary. Rumbolz was confirmed in May as the company’s new president and CEO.

Rumbolz is a seasoned veteran of the supply side of gaming, having served in top executive positions in all of the new Everi’s disciplines, from a stint as CEO of cash-access supplier Cash Systems, Inc. to vice-chairman of systems pioneer Casino Data Systems, to CEO of mid-1990s star slot supplier Anchor Gaming.

In fact, few could imagine a better choice for the top spot at Everi than Rumbolz, whose experience in gaming supply is augmented by gaming regulation—he was chairman of the Nevada Gaming Control Board in the late 1980s—and operations, as director of development for Circus Circus Enterprises, president of Casino Windsor and director of Seminole Hard Rock Entertainment.

Rumbolz would use that experience to expand on the resources already in place—not the least of which was David Lucchese, who had been in charge of the slot division for several months when Rumbolz took the reins as CEO. Lucchese—formerly a longtime executive of Bally Technologies and, like Rumbolz, an alum of system company CDS—expanded slot development beyond its Austin base with new R&D studios in Chicago and Reno.

Austin, long a key asset for Multimedia Games due to a steady flow of engineering talent from the University of Texas, would remain the hub of game design with the expansion to eight design studios. Once fully staffed, the Chicago and Reno studios stand to double the total number of studio content teams.

“For decades, we’ve taken pride in developing original game titles, many that quickly became favorites with slot players at casinos across the country, and still remain popular today,” says Lucchese, who is executive vice president, games for Everi. “Everi continues to evolve, and has taken strategic steps over the past year to expand our game development strategy to incorporate licensed games into our already strong library of core titles.”

The studios are managed by Allison Pope, executive producer in Austin; Bradley Rose, executive producer in Chicago; and Michael Conway, creative director. The three work together to collaborate the efforts of Everi’s studio content centers.

Towering Additions

New games for all the company’s existing platforms on the Core HDX, Platinum MPX, super-sized Texan HDX and other Everi cabinets are joined this year at Global Gaming Expo by launch games in two new premium top-box options, Tower 370 and Game Crown.

Tower 370 is Everi’s first leased wheel product on a video slot. It features frequent wheel spins on a portrait-style vertical top monitor using a Quixant processor to create a cinematic display. Three games on the Tower 370 will be on display at the G2E show, with the launch title, 7 Spins, to be available for sale.

Developed in the new Chicago studio, 7 Spins is everything its title implies: Players entering a bonus round can get up to seven spins on the big bonus wheel, with multipliers rising up to 7X by hitting a slice on the wheel. The wheel-spin bonus is very frequent, as Everi seeks to capitalize on the popularity of spinning bonus wheels with players.

The Tower 370 top box is offered as an option for exclusive game themes on the company’s Player HD and Player SLX cabinets. It augments the High Rise series of games.

The Game Crown top box was introduced earlier this year with the game Sushi Sushi Bang Bang. Designed for select entertainment games on the Player HD and Player SLX cabinets, Game Crown transforms the top monitor of a game into a back-lit display facing down at the player. According to the company, the series “will close the gap between High Rise Games premium top boxes and standard video titles.”

At G2E, Everi will use Game Crown to launch the sequel to last year’s comical “Yardbirds” game. Yardbirds 2: Foxy’s Revenge uses the same funny music and animation as the original, in an entertaining bonus in which the player picks eggs to hatch over the backdrop of goofy barnyard music.

Additionally, the company is unveiling a new line of premium linked progressive games with integrated signage that will be available in Q1 2017. The new games will leverage the popular “Jackpot Jump” feature Everi has used on other progressives, which locks in a progressive tier and awards the player a pick bonus for a chance to advance to a higher tier.

Completing the Library

The dedicated games for the new formats will be only one of many highlights for the company at G2E. New games will include unprecedented offerings for Everi, in new and established cabinet styles.

Heading up the portfolio of new games will be the first in what will be a library of licensed, branded premium games, in a variety of formats including current cabinet setups Skyline, High Rise Games and Player HD.

Additionally, a new premium cabinet called Empire MPX was developed specifically for the game that kicks off the era of branded themes at Everi—Penn & Teller.

The new game will showcase the legendary duo, Penn Jillette and Teller (he legally dropped his first name, Raymond), whose act combining comedy and magic has headlined at the Rio in Las Vegas for the past 15 years. In addition to the show in the Rio’s renamed Penn & Teller Theater, the duo has performed its award-winning combination of jokes, illusions and social commentary on Broadway, in arena shows throughout the country, on television specials, in their own movie, and even in video games.

“We are so thrilled to be working with Everi’s creative, inventive team, who are adding their own special brand of magic to this game,” said Jillette when the game was announced. “We thought that having a theater named after us in Las Vegas was an honor, but it turns out that having our own slot machine is the ultimate honor.”

The slot machine will capture many of Penn & Teller’s best illusions along with the pair’s special brand of comedy in a collection of video clips and voice-overs woven into bonus events on a wide-area progressive game utilizing the new premium cabinet. The stars themselves will be on hand at G2E, where they will participate in the charity slot tournament held in connection with Everi’s “TournEvent of Champions” finals.

Another high-profile licensed brand to be launched at G2E is a nod to the current trend toward skill-based casino games. The company has licensed Fruit Ninja, the social and mobile game sensation. With more than 1 billion downloads to date, the game is the No. 2 top-selling paid iOS app of all time, and a top-five paid app in 147 countries. Around 70 million monthly active users slice fruit apart on their smartphones on the familiar game.

The company is using the license for two separate games—an in-revenue video slot on the High Rise cabinet with a skill-based bonus round, and a full-blown skill tournament version that casinos can use for promotional tournaments and other events.

“This is putting skill-based gaming where it belongs,” comments Conway. “With an out-of-revenue tournament, players will really be rewarded for having skill; you don’t have to water down the skill factor as you do with a slot machine.”

“Our progression into licensed gaming is an exciting venture for us, as we will now have a comprehensive catalog of highly recognizable brands that will translate into engaging game play and deliver great returns for casino operators,” says Lucchese. “Penn & Teller and Fruit Ninja are just two of the licensed titles we are planning to showcase at G2E this year, and the initial buzz has been positive from customers and slot players alike.”

The first two licensed titles will launch a completely new licensed game group for Everi. Just before press time, the company signed a licensing agreement with Dreamworks Classics, opening the door to video-slot treatment of several animated classics owned by the company, which include Casper the Friendly Ghost, Underdog and Hot Stuff.

“We have several other licenses that are in the queue,” says Jim Palermo, vice president of game strategy and product management for Everi, who notes that the company will release at least seven different premium licensed games over the coming year.

Core Strength

The licensed games will be accompanied by a complete lineup of new video slot games on all of Everi’s cabinet styles, from the popular Core HDX—which features custom, game-controlled bonus accent lighting on its marquee-style display—to the immersive-style Platinum MPX, complete with sound chair and 40-inch high-definition monitor.

Palermo notes that the Core HDX, launched at G2E a year ago, has been recognized by the Eilers-Fantini Slot Survey for out-performing all other cabinets launched last year.

“Operators are saying it’s bringing their whole floor up,” Palermo says. “It’s really a premium-feeling cabinet for a standard cabinet price. Also, it’s the first cabinet to offer Everi Bet, an operator-controllable minimum bet that can be adjusted without changing volatility. It gives operators a chance to bring back the nickel video product—creating a segment that currently doesn’t exist.”

The Eilers-Fantini report showed that 60 percent of respondents reported Core HDX outperforming other cabinets this year, with 10 percent of those saying it was “significantly outperforming” other cabinets.

The premium Platinum MPX, designed for non-licensed games, has consistently generated 2.1 times house average, Palermo says.

Everi will launch a complete slate of new games on these and other formats, including the successful High Rise series of bonus slots and the Skyline Top Box series, which Palermo says is Everi’s top-performing product in the field.

Rounding out the game collection will be new titles for the Player HD legacy cabinet and the Player Classic, the traditional stepper model.

The games themselves reveal the same wave of creativity, signature humor and innovative game mechanics that have become Everi’s hallmark.

Two new multiple-progressive games feature dynamic bonus wheels and extra features to make progressives more frequent. The new Tower 370 offers the 9 Diamonds bonus wheel that triggers spins for credits, or transforms the wheel to award free spins. In addition, nine or more diamond symbols scattered on the reels trigger a progressive win. In Snow Queen for the High Rise Games series, when a Golden Queen symbol lands on the fifth reel, all other queen symbols turn into progressive triggers in a feature called “Extra Strike.”

The Platinum MPX series is as innovative as ever this year, as evidenced by twin releases called Earth Rainforest and Earth Oceans. Both employ beautiful nature photography in a unique way—high-definition still images comprise the artwork on and around the reels. The images themselves move in slow motion, with very little in the way of actual animated images. It creates a soothing, nature-like effect to surround game features like expanding reels— both games feature mystery events that expand the reels up to eight rows.

The High Rise series game Blazin’ Double Jackpot employs a math model that has seen much success for Everi—the nine-reel format. Mapped out on a traditional-looking three-by-three reel grid, the nine-reel setup allows for many special features, not the least of which is a multiple progressive jackpot setup with progressive wins for five or more jackpot symbols on the nine-space grid. The top prize is returned for covering all nine visible spots with the jackpot symbol (a result that would be practically unachievable if those nine spots represented results on only the three visible reels).

Other Everi highlights this year include unique twists on reel setups, game mechanics and progressives. This includes the company’s first two “ways-to-win” games. Great Tiger is a six-reel ways-to-win game. The six-by-four reel setup results in 4,096 ways to win on each spin. Sticking wilds on the free spins add to the effect. More Fire, from Australia’s Lightning Box Games, is a five-reel, 1,024-ways-to-win game in which the player selects the volatility of the free-spin round.

The Jackpot Boost series features progressive-jackpot reset levels that rise with higher bets, and a feature in which the player picks a jackpot trigger to “boost”—adding hundreds of that symbol to the reel map to boost the chance at a progressive.

Adrenaline Rush includes a compelling “Hot Wire” feature that places dots around the reel set, and randomly runs what looks like an electrical wire to connect the dots and award extra wild symbols.

Everi’s core video slots in the entertainment genre repeat what has made the company’s games popular—funny animation and sound effects, entertaining picking bonus sequences, and lots of time on device.

Lucky Pony is a great example. The game, a collaboration between Everi’s Austin and Chicago studios, revolves around cute animated pony characters in different colors. You pick your pony at the beginning, and at various points, you get to accessorize the character with tiaras, jewelry and other costume pieces. There’s even an Easter egg in which you touch your pony on the screen and the character breaks wind—spewing a rainbow out of its backside in a hilarious break from game action.

Conway notes that the music in Lucky Pony is a song composed—and performed—by some of the team members at the Chicago studio. “They’re musicians,” Conway says. “They wrote and performed the song. And it’s a great song—it stays with you after you leave the game.”

Other core games continue what Everi does best. Honey Bear features irresistibly cute animation in a picking bonus that has the bear character searching for the beehive with honey revealing the best bonus. Bears and bees will actually foreshadow big wins by scampering across the screen at the beginning of a spin.

Carnival in Rio Wild Match re-imagines one of Everi’s top historic games in a High Rise slot with two reel sets, one in the top monitor. Like the original, each reel set uses live-action video of Brazilian dancers as stacked symbols in the base game and as wild symbols in the bonus.

The video offerings will be accompanied by a complete lineup of stepper products using the tall Skyline cabinet for bonus events, progressive ladders and old-fashioned pay table displays. Blazin’ Gems is a nine-line game with a classic look. High Voltage Electric Lines is a five-line game that changes the “electric line” with each spin. Hit a line combination on the electric line and win a progressive.

Triple Threat is the first stepper game to feature Everi Bet, with denominations available from penny through $25 and bets ranging from a nine-coin minimum to a 480-coin maximum, with game volatility remaining constant.

TournEvent 5.0

The lineup of new games, of course, augments the product for which Everi is perhaps most well-known—the TournEvent instant tournament system.

This year, the release of TournEvent 5.0 features several enhancements, including the addition of an automated wild-card drawing. This feature is perfect for the TournEvent of Champions, the annual event that sends winners of preliminary contests at casinos around the country to a final tournament held at Wynn Las Vegas’ XS lounge, with a top prize of $1 million. No finalist from satellite tournaments wins less than $500, and each finalist is awarded an all-expense-paid trip for two to Las Vegas for the finals.

The new automated wild-card drawing offers losing participants a second shot at the prize. After the first round of a tournament, each subsequent round automatically picks a losing player from the previous round to advance to subsequent rounds. Alternatively, it randomly selects players for an automated “Wild Card Round” to potentially stay alive in the tournament.

Other new features include automated VIP filtering to guarantee a property’s best players are registered for the TournEvent contest, a “Find Seat Helper” that assigns a bank and a seat color to each contestant during registration, and beginning next year, a skill-based option.

The Everi game pipeline—for this year, 109 new Class III games, 115 in Class II and 100 for the Washington video lottery system—will be well-represented at the show, as will all the system advances.

“We are continuing to enhance our original game content and expand our core product library with a variety of offerings,” says Lucchese. “These new products, along with our award-winning TournEvent slot tournament system, demonstrate our commitment to meeting the needs of our customers. We remain focused on developing the best products that casino operators can rely on to provide their patrons with a premier gaming experience.”

Frank Legato is editor of Global Gaming Business magazine. He has been writing on gaming topics since 1984, when he launched and served as editor of Casino Gaming magazine. Legato, a nationally recognized expert on slot machines, has served as editor and reporter for a variety of gaming publications, including Public Gaming, IGWB, Casino Journal, Casino Player, Strictly Slots and Atlantic City Insider. He has an B.A. in journalism and an M.A. in communications from Duquesne University in Pittsburgh, PA. He is the author of the books, How To Win Millions Playing Slot Machines... Or Lose Trying, and Atlantic City: In Living Color.  

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