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Planting the Flag: Novomatic Americas

With a U.S. design studio in full swing, Novomatic continues its push in the Americas

Planting the Flag: Novomatic Americas

With a dedicated U.S. design studio now firmly established and cranking out innovative new games and game concepts, Novomatic Americas is ready to take its place among the leading slot-makers in the massive North American market.

“You will see some bold designs and premium content coming from us this G2E,” says Rick Meitzler, president and CEO, North America.

Not that content has ever been in short supply for one of the industry’s great multinationals.

Austria-based Novomatic Group generated more than €3.9 billion in revenue last year (US$4.32 billion) from what is, hands down, the most diverse collection of markets in the industry—everything from machine games and systems for casinos to VLTs and amusement games, from bingo and lottery solutions and online and remote gaming to land-based gaming and sports betting operations and management. Group companies can be found in more than 50 countries, sales and distribution in more than 80.

The North American arm, in its current configuration as Novomatic Americas Sales, is a relative newcomer to the group, founded in 2012 and based in Mt. Prospect, Illinois, 20 miles from downtown Chicago. But it’s poised to hit its stride in time for the industry’s descent on the Sands Expo Center in Las Vegas later this month for G2E 2016.

“It’s an amazing time at Novomatic Americas,” says Kathleen McLaughlin, who heads North American marketing. “We have access to significant global resources with a wealth of development expertise. Leveraging our international success and understanding players, product and performance globally is integral to our growth. The U.S. development team has worked hard to create entertaining games with a U.S. player focus—this G2E will show the evolution of our North American product lines.”

With innovative concepts like the World Championship of Slots, the centerpiece for Novomatic Americas at this year’s show, it’s clear they’re already there.

The company has secured an Emmy-award-winning producer and director for 16 hour-long episodes of The World Championship of Slots Experience, as it’s titled, on the Game Show Network.

Each episode will be shot at a host casino—where they will run qualifying tournaments for customers wanting to get on the show—and there will be a grand finale.

“It’s a great opportunity for the casinos to market in a new way, and also a new entertainment experience for players around their favorite products that hasn’t been done,” says McLaughlin. “The marketing opportunities are significant. It really is a true entertainment event.”

It’s not your grandmother’s slot tournament, that’s for sure. This takes skill in how you work a built-in “gamble” feature, which allows you to raise your stakes for a chance at the winning jackpot even if you’re far behind the other players. And you can actually get better at timing your move the more you play.

“If there’s a high enough jackpot at the end you can bet up and try to unseat the winner, so there’s strategy involved,” McLaughlin explains. “There’s a special competitive thrill when even if you’re down 20,000 points at the end you can sit and wait and ‘gamble’ past the winner. So it’s not over till it’s over.”

And in terms of the flexibility it offers casino operators—incentivizing them, really, to partner with Novomatic in the marketing of its games and platforms—it’s brilliant. They can select titles from a dedicated World Championship of Slots portfolio. They can customize a tournament by picking base games from among their top performers on the floor.

For Novomatic, thinking outside the box extends also to the box itself, with dynamic platforms like the Dominator Curve and, more recently, the Novostar V.I.P.—a play station that elevates the interaction between player and machine to the level of a sophisticated home theater experience.

Novomatic Americas is eager for the opportunity at G2E 2016 to pull back the curtain on the V.I.P. Lounge. This is a slimmed-down version of the V.I.P. II and III and the V.I.P. Royal, designed to ensure that all the comfort and exclusivity provided by its super-widescreen cousins is available to operators large and not so large.

Judging from the buzz McLaughlin says it’s generating already, look for it to draw crowds on the floor of the Sands Expo.

“We’ve had significant interest,” she says. “It’s one of those products that takes off just from people seeing it.”

The V.I.P. Lounge envelops the player in a plush, lounge-style seating environment, ergonomically designed for comfort and adjustable for optimal reach and leg room, and the perfect viewing angle vis a vis the two 32-inch full-HD LED screens.

Features include a 12-inch TouchDeck player interface that’s customizable for different button-panel layouts and a high-performance sound system to keep you locked in to the action.

“You don’t have to lean up; the buttons are in the chair,” McLaughlin explains. “You can lean back, have a drink, and you’re sitting at a great angle. It’s almost as if you’re at home in your gamer chair. It’s like getting into your own pod, your lounge, if you will.”

There’s more, too. The V.I.P. Lounge is coming to North America with new game content.

The V.I.P. Lounge and Dominator can utilize all software platforms. The cabinet choices provide extreme flexibility for operators to create great gaming spaces. A colorful, graphically rich “vampire”-themed suite on the Novo Line Game Studio 2 platform called “Tales of Darkness” is graphically stunning and highly entertaining.

Two of these games were unveiled at the ICE show in London earlier this year: Full Moon and Eclipse. The former is a five-reel, 50-line, medium- to high-volatility play with a top prize of 250 times bet per line. A wild “Wolf” substitutes for all symbols except the “Moon” scatter symbol, which can trigger up to 20 free games. In the feature, “Wild Extra Wolves” can appear on reels 1, 3 and 4.

Eclipse is a six-reel, 50-line game set for high volatility with payouts up to 1,000 times bet on a single line. The “Moon” substitutes for all symbols in the base game, with three or more of them scattered triggering 10 free games. Prior to the start of the bonus, one symbol is randomly chosen as a special “expanding” symbol that grows horizontally to adjacent reels and pays both left to right and right to left. Free games can be retriggered.

“We spend a lot of time researching players and applying our insights from our customers in North America, as well as from our extensive international operations,” says Matt Ward, who heads the new U.S. design studio as vice president,?product, North America. “Our goal for G2E is to let operators see a new focus on content designed expressly for the North American players.”

This new focus will be evident at G2E in the form of some 20 new game titles in all.

They’ll include Jackpot Edition, an innovative stand-alone progressive that runs off a variety of proven Novomatic titles in a highly animated setting where players collect “coins” in the base game that pile into a “tray” in the top screen.

When enough coins are collected—and you can up your bet to increase them—they spill out from the tray and tip it over. This triggers the “Jackpot Chance” feature, where players get to pick from five “treasure chests.” If they pick one that has a “Jackpot Wheel” hidden inside they win a spin for a progressive prize.

The team is duly excited as well about a new series called “Four Seasons,” and attendees at G2E will soon know why. Each is a five-reel, 40-line title themed around a beguiling “Queen” (for each of the seasons, of course), and each offers a distinct play experience. So, whether you’re a serious gambler or a more casual player after entertainment and time on device, there’s a season and a lady for you.

In Winter, a low-volatility game, the “Winter Queen,” “Polar Bear,” “Husky” and “Ice Bird” may appear in blocks on reels one-three, two-four and three-five, and free games are played at the existing bet and can be retriggered.

Summer, which features the highest volatility of the set, has a special stacked symbol that appears during the bonus and before each game. If the symbol covers two non-adjacent reels, it expands horizontally to cover all the positions in between and pay adjacently for each line played. Free games also can be won again.

“The development team’s focus is clear,” McLaughlin says of the U.S. operation. “They’re taking the right steps so the player gets the most immersive, entertaining games and the benefit of our global expertise.”

Meitzler says, “We have grown at a steady and deliberate pace, and this G2E you will really start to see the results of that effort. We’re a team with tremendous data and development resources.”

It’s about laying “a solid foundation for the future,” says Ward. The goal, as he neatly sums it up—“more selections for our customers, more innovation on the gaming floor.”