Ever since the video-game giant Konami Digital Entertainment of Japan first entered Nevada and the other major gaming markets of the U.S. more than a decade ago, its subsidiary Konami Gaming of Las Vegas has consistently improved its product.
It’s a habit developed early on. After a market entry that consisted of importing Konami’s line of video slots from the Australian market into the U.S., the company worked in the early 2000s on developing content specific to North America. Success was mixed at first, but by the middle of the decade, company officials began work in earnest on what would be Konami’s breakthrough product in North America, the K2V video platform.
Soon after its launch at the end of 2006, the new video series catapulted Konami into the top ranks of U.S.-based slot manufacturers, and things have only gotten better. With Konami video slots already earning big for operators, the company’s “Advantage Series” of five-reel stepper slots scored another hit, as did “Advantage Revolution,” a hybrid game with mechanical-reel and video bonus events in a revolving top-box display.
Meanwhile, the company continued to refine its video product with special play setups like “KonXion” and “Scattereels,” two different scatter-pay slot styles, and other game innovations. At the same time, the company’s engineers in North America were working with sister company Konami Digital Gaming in Japan, tapping the forces behind home video games like “Metal Gear Solid” and “Pro Evolution Soccer” to create new video slot experiences.
That effort continues this year at a new level with the next generation of Konami’s video platform, KP3. The new operating system will debut on perhaps a dozen new titles at Konami’s G2E booth, as the new platform begins to work its way through Konami’s markets. KP3 is GLI-certified, and is in commercial release in several jurisdictions. A Nevada field trial is slated to end in November.
Ross O’Hanley, Konami’s vice president of domestic game sales, says enhanced graphics on the new platform work with the enhanced lighting effects on the Podium Slant and other new cabinet styles to bump the visuals to new levels in the KP3 series. “It gives our designers the opportunity to incorporate graphics that are much sharper, and we’re leveraging Konami Digital Entertainment, which specializes in video games, to improve our video slots.”
O’Hanley says KP3’s more powerful processing allows not only for more interesting options for player interaction—players can choose their own bonuses, pick volatility, make choices that affect the bonus round—but helps game developers “create virtual 3D worlds inside those games.”
“KP3 is not a hardware solution; it’s a software solution,” O’Hanley says, adding that it is a scalable solution. “It’s a video slot game not only for the current player, but for the future player who grew up playing a Sony PlayStation, who is drawn to interactive participation.”
At G2E, Konami will showcase the new platform in several different game groups, both video and stepper. However, there also will be new games in the legacy K2V platform, which is sticking around for a few years. According to O’Hanley, Konami has a three-year plan to support and develop new games on K2V. “The good news is that the titles have been so strong, and our hit ratio has been so good, that some of these games are lasting 10-12 years, plus,” he says. “There are a lot of K2V titles customers haven’t even tried yet, because the initial titles have been so successful.”
For early adopters of the Podium cabinet with K2V games, Konami has provided an easy conversion path to KP3. Many operators are mixing and matching the two platforms on the floor.
Both formats will be well-represented at G2E, along with a new stepper series, community gaming offerings, new cabinets and follow-ups to many of Konami’s most popular slots.
The new reel-spinning format represents an innovative technology that appeared in prototype at last year’s G2E. The “Dynamic 5” series features two-part mechanical reels—they are reels within reels, one layered over the other, allowing for unique graphic effects, expanding wild symbols, reels turning into fire, and other bonus “animation” in a stepper format that once was only possible with video.
The format, which is being launched on Konami’s new Podium Slant cabinet, also includes a 22-inch LCD monitor for more traditional styles of bonus games, along with the primary game effects and a “skill-stop” feature that allows the player to stop the reels.
The 25-line and 30-line games use the new KP3 platform as the operating system. Konami will show two banks of Dynamic 5 games at G2E, with titles including “Dragon’s Reward,” “Glamorous Gold,” “Hot Winning Wilds” and “Kingdoms of Treasure.” Each of the games features a four-level stand-alone progressive setup, with jackpots displayed on the top monitor.
The Dynamic 5 series joins Konami’s two other hot stepper game groups, Advantage 5—the hit series featuring five oversized reels and an elegant mirrored top box—and Advantage 3, the three-reel series out now on the legacy K2V platform, but being launched this year in KP3. “Video may be hot right now, but we have a lot of customers in the traditional reel market who are looking for new stepper products,” says O’Hanley.
KP3 also is the platform being used for two new progressive platforms Konami is launching at G2E.
One is the slot-maker’s newest community-style game offering, the “Fortune Chaser” eight-level progressive system. With the slot-maker’s new “Twin Play” titles as base games, Fortune Chaser awards “Pirate Tokens” with reels symbols during primary-game play that are used in a community-style bonus game.
Each of six or eight players on the bank has a corresponding pirate ship on the community bonus display. When five Pirate Tokens of the same color are collected, a die is rolled on the screen and the player’s ship is moved. The object is to land on one of four islands, which triggers the progressive game. The player is prompted to select a space on a grid, which either awards a bonus or the Gold or Silver Progressive jackpot.
The spaces on the grid remain out of play for subsequent bonus rounds—meaning the chances of revealing one of the top progressives goes up every time someone triggers the progressive round. The spaces remain out of play until one of the progressives is awarded.
O’Hanley says the appeal of the game lies in the fact that each player’s bonus round benefits the entire bank, by increasing the chances at a progressive. “Players are playing together,” he says.
Konami’s other new progressive system is “Round 1,” a four-level stand-alone mystery progressive in a video format. When the bonus on the game is triggered, the screen changes into a boxing ring, with a boxing kangaroo standing next to a prize reel. When the player presses a button, the kangaroo hits a plunger to send lights traveling from the bottom to the top of the screen, stopping at the prize reel.
The bell rings to prompt the player to look up at the top screen, where the prize reel spins until the player presses the spin button to stop it, revealing one of four progressive jackpots.
Tried and True
The new products will be accompanied by new entries in all of Konami’s established product groups. On the Advantage 5 stepper platform, the company will display a new version of the “Rock Around The Clock,” the hit game released last year on the Advantage Revolution platform.
The new game in the series is a four-level progressive slot called “Party All Day and Rock All Night.” The 30-line game features a free-game bonus and an “Extra Reward” progressive feature triggered when the clock displayed randomly hits “Bonus Time.” Each jackpot is presented as a record on a juke box, and the record needle acts as an arrow. When it stops, the player is awarded the progressive corresponding to the record, or a consolation bonus award.
There also will be a new interactive bonus game launched called “Quest for Diamonds.” It is a follow-up to last year’s “Jackpot Island,” which featured an interactive pinball-style bonus with real flippers. The new game allows players to choose their direction through a bonus map looking for diamonds, and accumulating credits along the way.
Finally, Konami will have a complete section of its booth dedicated to the popular Konami Casino Management System, or KCMS, still one of the fastest-growing systems on the market.
But the show-stopper, says O’Hanley, will be the new KP3 platform. “We showed many customers early titles on the format last year, but now, it’s installed and performing very well,” he says. “Now, it is not a concept but a commercial product, with nine titles already released in GLI jurisdictions and another 11 to come before the end of our fiscal year in March.”
KP3 is one more way for Konami to leverage a success story that has seen ship share rise from 11 percent two years ago to 15 percent halfway through this year, with recurring-revenue games in the field exceeding 6,000 and still rising.
Any way you view it, Konami’s improvement as a slot-maker is a habit not soon to be broken.