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The Next Big Thing

Why ultra-large slot machines are all the rage on today’s casino floors

The Next Big Thing

Meet the new casino hosts.

They have unconventional names, like Big Red, Goliath, Behemoth and Texan. They project grandiose plans for a realm in which size not only matters, but defines it.

These large-format slot machines won’t speak directly to customers, but their functions mirror goodwill ambassadors. They sell the glamor and fantasy of gaming via colossal size, sophisticated lighting, enhanced graphics and pulsating music.

Machines often standing eight feet tall or more belong in a place with no clock, two-foot drinks and a perceived paradise without limits. They fit a super-sized world and the McMansion-esque dream of one life-altering spin. Even small victories prompt bells, music and the reinforced message of “winner.”

Large-format machines garner foot traffic and attention. They accommodate photo ops, curiosity seekers and patrons wanting something different.

Technology makes the world smaller, and more precise, but in the casino realm, large works. While marketing experts crunch numbers and Big Data predicts spending habits, big machines gain a bigger following.

There’s always a place for visual utopia. There’s always a need for “Wow.”

Big Red for Big Green

Las Vegas-based AGS rides on the wings of Nevada approval for its Colossal Diamonds slot machine, often called “Big Red” because of its larger-than-life cabinet size (roughly the size of three standard cabinets) and signature red color. The Big Red advance began in February after a successful field trial on the Las Vegas Strip at Paris Las Vegas and Caesars Palace.

Less than eight months later, more than 50 Big Red installations have occurred in Nevada, according to Andrew Burke, vice president of slot products for AGS. The Venetian, Planet Hollywood, Bally’s, South Point and Green Valley Ranch were among the first properties to carry it. The Horseshoe in Baltimore appears poised for installation and New Jersey will likely showcase the product when it’s approved, Burke believes.

Big Red means big talk. And often big money.

“It has started to re-emerge, and I am proud to say we are a big part of that reason—we are a leader in this category,” Burke says. “The concept works. One unit at Thunder Valley in California was doing about 10 times the house average. It was just jaw-dropping.

“Big Red is a social experience. When somebody is playing it, there are often people crowding around to watch this person play. It’s part of the attraction, along with people getting their pictures taken there.

“Besides the attraction, we packed it with some really great, proprietary math,” he adds.

Burke says Big Red, which comes on wheels, can easily be placed anywhere. Shrewd operators may wish to deploy it in low-utilization spaces, like an approach area to a parking garage.

Big Red has been a top performer for AGS, with nearly 250 placements across 23 states including Mohegan Sun in Connecticut, WinStar in Oklahoma, Pechanga in California and Hard Rock in Florida. With its three-reel, single pay line and large, vibrant graphics, the unit prospers from simple game play and frequent payouts.

One of its satisfied customers is the Coushatta Casino in Louisiana, which installed Big Red in 2015.

“What really made me take a good look at this machine was overhearing a couple of my peers talking about its performance at G2E in 2014,” says Warren Davidson, the director of slots for Coushatta Resort. “What I really like about the game is that it first attracts players who don’t typically wager $5 or more. After they give it a try, the low-volatility play takes away the fear factor and gives players value with time on device.

“The video simulated reel-spinning and sound effects are extremely well done and enhance the experience,” he adds. “It often draws a crowd when it is in play, and that generates even more trial. It is consistently the highest performing game on our floor.”

AGS gives Colossal Diamonds a revamp this year, placing the big game on its new Atlas operating system for better colors, more vibrant graphics and advanced features.

Great Goliath

Konami Gaming graces the large-format realm with Podium Goliath.

“Premium, oversized cabinets have really emerged over the past four or five years and have seen a lot of success,” says Steve Walther, senior

director of product management for Konami. “They capture attention, create diversity on the floor, and infuse a certain excitement, especially for bonus feature events. Guests take notice and gather around to watch the action unfold.”

Goliath fits a theme, making the name immediately synonymous with a grand product. It includes a multi-game function unique to the industry, Walther asserts.

“Goliath offers the premium experience of a large-scale machine with an available game library running into the hundreds,” he indicates. “Any KP3-platform game you find on our standard Podium machine can be featured on Goliath’s extra-large dual 32-inch HD screens, as well as stand-alone progressive games like our Jackpot Streams.”

Konami recently expanded Goliath to include SeleXion multi-game functionality, with up to 10 themes available instantly on this single oversized machine. Walther says its depth of game content is unmatched by any oversized cabinet in the market.

“Our customers love it because they have countless configuration options and they don’t have to worry about managing a limited pipeline of available games,” he maintains. “Additionally, the Goliath is unique because while it is oversized, to be sure, it is still flexible enough to be banked or placed on a floor in pod formations.”

The flexibility could be paramount. Walther acknowledges the revenue concern for oversized machines and their floor position. He says Goliath has achieved a sweet spot where it can be merchandised as a high-profile novelty or alongside standard core product.

“Goliath has been effective as an end cap in a high-traffic area, in pods of three or four, and banked against a wall,” he adds. “Our pricing on the Goliath has allowed our customers to earn a revenue premium by placing the cabinet without displacing more than one standard-sized product.”

Walther says customer feedback indicates that patrons recognize their favorite Konami games on Goliath’s larger-than-life dual displays, and they enjoy the immersive effect of the oversize format with the game-play mechanics.

“For operators, Goliath makes sense for their business because they know what games are popular and they’re able to expand their offering for those proven games to the oversized display with strong success,” he says. “Many of our customers are placing Goliath with bench seating to match the scale of the cabinet, and more importantly, to accommodate couples’ play.”

Texas-Sized

It makes sense for Everi Holdings to showcase a large-format machine. The company has enjoyed a larger-than-life progression over the past couple years. It was formed through the merger of Global Cash Access and Texas-based Multimedia Games, which had served the casino industry for decades.

The new company may command a tip of the 10-gallon hat for the Texan HDX. The product is more than eight feet tall, with eye-catching accent lighting and a stylish, comfortable two-person bench. A three-way sound system is part of the package.

The Texan has dual 42-inch HD integrated displays, ergonomic player controls, integrated touch screens and a three-way sound system, among other highlights. It also has dual repeat bet buttons, with classic and new content, including high-denom titles.

“Since its launch, we have placed close to 150 Texans,” says David Lucchese, executive vice president of games for Everi. “Most of our core titles are available on this cabinet, as well as unique content intended exclusively for the Texan HDX.

“With its larger-than-life merchandising of our best gaming content across an often-crowded casino floor, the Texan HDX provides significant value to our customers.”

The Sound of Science

Scientific Games is a leading innovator in the global lottery and regulated gaming industries. The company has continued to advance the games, technology, programs, marketing research and security that have been a driving force behind the success of more than 300 customers on six continents over the last 40 years—and in the case of Bally slot machines, more than 80 years.

How’s this for the large-and-in-charge category? Its Super Bellringer product matches technology with psychology.

One version has three reels with 10-credit bonus lines and an 800-credit max bet. The bells, music and coins flying through the air denote the payout.

Another features nine reels and eight lines. Three or more scattered Super Bellringer symbols trigger the Tower Bonus Feature, showcasing chances to win credits or a bonus level, which awards a multiplier.

The driving theme throughout the game is Anita Ward’s monster hit, “Ring My Bell,” the top song in the United States in 1979. It propelled her career, and now it’s used to accent a winning spin. Note the musical blast from the past, connecting with baby-boomer patrons.

Once the symbols are hit, bells erupt, the song plays and a sense of celebration ensues. The first part of the process determines a bonus level ranging from 16 to 200, with the clearing of each hurdle marked by a bell. The second leg is the bonus level. A bonus level of 56, for example, combined with a multiplier of three creates 168 credits.

The music, different forms of lighting and the process of determining the bonus underscore the sense of victory, subtly working customer loyalty while paying off a winner.

A Double Play

Aristocrat, based in Las Vegas, engages in the design, manufacture and marketing of gaming machines, progressive systems and casino management systems.

It places two prime products in the large-format space.

The Arc Double is hailed as the anti-box, breaking floor monotony with its graceful lines. Company officials consider it sleek and sinuous, able to draw attention and become a player destination. Arc Double is curved, with an ergonomic design, and showcases twin LCD touch screens. It also has 5.1 stereo surround sound.

The Behemoth essentially doubles the Double. Via this cabinet, the company says it produces an industry-leading 84-inch ultra-high-definition LCD portrait monitor. Its visual impact and sight lines make it a magnet, visible from many spots on the floor. Like other large devices, it becomes a de facto sales person, beckoning people to come play.

Behemoth fits attractively against a column, back to back or as an end cap, officials say. It also sports a 14-button deck with dual flash buttons, enabling a shared experience. The cabinet displays upgraded graphics and powerful 5.1 stereo surround sound. It has a dual bench surround-sound system.

This is a perfect example of go big or go home. The sound system, monitor size, graphics and bench serve as party invitations.

Big Houses

The large hits keep coming for IGT, the multinational gaming powerhouse that produces slot machines and other gaming technology from offices in London, Rome, Providence and Las Vegas.

At G2E 2016, IGT introduced six new cabinets to complement its innovative slot portfolio, yet two in particular loomed large, as the MegaTower and S3000 XL underscored its commitment to the large-format cabinet space.

Fueled by the success of IGT’s S3000 cabinet, both of these large-format cabinets are designed to build on the company’s leadership in the mechanical-reel, or stepper category. The MegaTower lives up to its name, at 11 feet tall and occupying premium front and center real estate in IGT’s 25,000-square-foot booth at G2E.

The cabinet’s massive 6.5-inch reels combined with a 50-inch video monitor showcased Wheel of Fortune Gold Spin Double Diamond. Atop the MegaTower stands a 27-inch Wheel of Fortune wheel, which is activated along with big winning potential when players reach a bonus round. Intelligent lighting and a dynamic player panel with dual bash buttons round out this machine, which comfortably seats two. The life of the party at IGT’s booth, the MegaTower served as the backdrop for Las Vegas Mayor Carolyn Goodman presenting a Key to the City of Las Vegas to Vanna White in celebration of 20 years of IGT Wheel of Fortune slots.

The S3000XL builds on the S3000 cabinet’s re-definition of the stepper space. By leveraging player-favorite content from the S2000 cabinet, IGT maintains the integrity of game themes while adding elements of technology to enhance them, company officials say. Within 18 months of its introduction, IGT shipped 10,000 units of the S3000. The company enhanced the proposition with the S3000-based Spin Ferno tournament solution. The S3000 XL takes that enhancement another step, offering the company’s casino partners the opportunity to utilize IGT’s comprehensive stepper portfolio in the large-format presentation.

The cabinet was also introduced with new themes, such as Texas Tea Pinball, which offers players the chance to experience continued game play on the large video screen above the massive 6.5-inch reels. IGT also introduced the 25th anniversary of Double Diamond on the S3000 XL, a nod and salute to the company’s vast history in the mechanical reel segment.

Based upon their sheer size alone, the MegaTower and S3000 XL garnered significant attention at G2E 2016. But their appeal extends well beyond the show, company officials assert. IGT’s vast content library can be ported to the large-format product line.

Throughout the industry, operators gain new flexibility with this emerging product line. Oversized cabinets can be used as magnets for a slot bank, space-filler for an area that does not produce revenue, or a subtle sales force. Figuratively, and literally, they are on the rise.

Casino Connection Sports Editor Dave Bontempo is an award-winning sports writer and broadcaster who calls boxing matches all over the world. He has covered the Philadelphia Flyers in the playoffs, as well as numerous PGA, LPGA and Seniors Golf Tour events, and co-hosted the Casino Connection television program with Publisher Roger Gros.

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