By now, everyone knows that the world’s largest slot manufacturer, IGT, is being acquired by GTECH, one of the traditional powerhouses of the government-sponsored lottery industry. But what some may not know is that GTECH was well on its way to its own new identity in the slot market before anyone ever mentioned M&A activity.
The slot business of Italy-based GTECH S.p.A., of course, had a long pedigree—not only in the Spielo brand of slots familiar to the Canadian VLT market, but in what was once the Atronic brand, which grew from roots in Austria to popularity across European markets, and then in the U.S. through an Arizona-based subsidiary.
By the time GTECH acquired Spielo International—which had acquired Atronic previously—the Spielo brand of casino slots had gained a following of its own through innovative products like the Deal Or No Deal branded franchise of slots, a series of slots based on the PopCap internet games, and the Passion series of stepper games.
At last year’s G2E, the game design capabilities of the former Spielo reached a new zenith with the game that was the absolute hit of the show, “Sphinx 3D.” That game introduced what the company calls “True 3D,” a technology that enables 3D graphics as authentic as any film at which you are distributed 3D glasses—maybe more so. This “glasses-free 3D” enabled an elaborate Sphinx 3D game that takes the player on a journey through an ancient Egyptian village and inside the Sphinx monument to explore various chambers for bonus credits.
Mike Brennan, director of product marketing for GTECH, says the company had originally envisioned the True 3D technology as the basis of niche or novelty games. Then came G2E.
“The reception of Sphinx 3D exceeded our expectations,” Brennan says. “Based on feedback from casino operators, we decided we had something that wasn’t a niche, but had widespread appeal. It’s been a great launch of the product from coast to coast.”
With Sphinx 3D an unqualified hit, GTECH’s game designers quickly got busy creating a complete series of True 3D slot games. “We realized more of the market could handle 3D, and since enthusiasm and performance were still high, we decided to be aggressive,” says Brennan. “At G2E, we’ll launch four new True 3D titles, all to be available by early 2015.
“Our content teams did a fantastic job of realizing we had some exclusive market share and an exclusive opportunity, so we decided to leverage that for multiple player segments. 3D doesn’t have to be for this entertainment-style mass-market player only.”
Field analysis, in fact, has revealed that some play the games with the adjustable 3D effect very low, a sign that players like the math models as much as they like the game’s 3D and bonus journeys. With that in mind, three of the new True 3D games being launched are designed to specifically target the core gambler, “without negatively surprising any player segment,” Brennan says.
“Dragon’s Temple 3D” is based on one of GTECH’s top three core games historically. The 3D technology in this game is used to great effect in the basic presentation of the reels as three scrolls, while expanding wild dragon symbols and an infrequent free-spin event contribute to a unique combination of a high-hit-frequency base game with a volatile bonus. “Dreams of Asia 3D” is based on a more volatile math model with a high bonus focus.
Players who like more entertainment-based games are served by the first game in the PopCap series to be given the True 3D treatment, “Bejeweled 3D.” All base-game objects are in 3D, with a four-by-five field of cascading reels, and a 3D bonus in which the technology is used to masterful effect—the player travels through a “Warp Tunnel” collecting bonus credits, and at certain junctures can choose to go left or right by moving his head.
Another bonus sequence takes the player into the “Bejeweled Castle,” which, in the internet PopCap game, is simply background art. GTECH has used the True 3D technology to take the player inside the castle rooms, created in intricate 3D detail, to pick credit prizes hidden behind objects.
Other True 3D titles to be launched at the show include “Aladdin’s Fortune 3D” and another being kept under wraps until show time.
The Community Treatment
GTECH bought in big to the community-style game two years ago with “Deal Or No Deal Join ‘N Play,” and according to Brennan, customer research has confirmed that players still want the community experience. “Others have bowed out of the community-style game, but we feel it’s still viable,” he says. “There is a certain percentage of players who still want that community experience.”
As always, customer research dictated the exact community experience to provide players, and the best format for casino operators: three games instead of the five-game setup used in Join ‘N Play. “We learned some really interesting things, and have deployed player-friendly game mechanics across our community games,” Brennan says.
GTECH arrives at G2E with several new community-style games, including the first two PopCap games to receive the community treatment, “Bejeweled Community” and “Zuma Adventures.”
Bejeweled Community features two entertaining base games as well as a variety of randomly triggered Bejeweled Bonuses, including a two-tiered community bonus with a “Take or Risk” feature in the second level. A mystery bonus allows the player to pick “Chance” for a normal free-spin round or “Skill,” which triggers an actual skill-based game of Bejeweled.
Zuma Adventures offers two unique base games, including a never-seen-before reel spin mechanic on one title, and three community bonuses. Not only does the overhead display showcase bonuses, but individual events on the screen provide players with extras like wilds and qualification hearts through cute frog events.
Deal and Drop
As has been the case for the better part of a decade, GTECH uses the G2E show to add to its growing library of games based on producer Endemol’s Deal Or No Deal TV game show.
“Deal Or No Deal Las Vegas!” is the first in the game series to be presented on GTECH’s MaXVusion cabinet, the large-top-box presentation originally launched with “Zuma” and other PopCap titles.
The latest to feature TV host Howie Mandell and other stars of the show, the game sets the basic game-show “Briefcase Bonus” from the show against a glamorous Las Vegas backdrop. Two base games share a unique middle reel that only contains wilds and bonus triggers. The bonus is played during and intermittently throughout the base game.
“It’s the first time we’ve had a persistent bonus in a Deal Or No Deal game,” Brennan says. “You play the bonus while you’re playing the base game.”
This year, the Deal game is accompanied by a new branded slot based on another Endemol game show, The Money Drop. While the game itself was on the air in the U.S. previously and is still on internationally, it was the game mechanism that could be gleaned from the show that attracted GTECH, according to Brennan.
The game involves a series of of player’s choice and risk propositions, in which each player can use strategy and risk assessment to target prizes and progressives.
GTECH’s show lineup is rounded out by a complete portfolio of core games for the North American market, including new titles in each basic game category. In every case, there is a special feature that sets the game apart.
GTECH will evolve some current popular core game families in new themes. There’s a new “Wild Stays Until It Pays” title, “Queen of Olympus,” where stacks of wilds remain on-screen until they contribute to a win. And the company’s current top game family, Trigger Tiles, will be featured in two new game themes, “Wild Nymph” and “Uncovering Egypt,” that add new bonuses to the popular binding mechanic. (Uncovering Egypt features a very entertaining “Excavation Bonus.”)
According to Brennan, the winner in the manufacturer’s player focus groups this quarter was “Xanadu,” a game with a one-symbol bonus trigger that turns any reel it lands on into a mini scrolling bonus selector. Another standout is “Elven Gold,” with an all-or-nothing shell-game bonus and interactive free spins.
Additionally, GTECH will unveil new games in its Passion high-denomination stepper series, including “Queen of Egypt,” which features a sixth reel that triggers a mechanical bonus wheel.
Brennan says the company continues to concentrate its focus on core games this year as much as any of the licensed series. “If you don’t have good core content, it’s hard to make good premium content,” he says. “With our core games, we refuse to try to imitate or be a me-too player. Our creative people really strive to bring forward unique features.”
Brennan says the approach led to 2013 being the company’s best year for sold games in memory, and number of hit games as well.
In addition to the casino games, GTECH Interactive will display a complete portfolio of games, systems and services designed to work individually or together. The company’s interactive products include solutions for poker, casino, bingo, sports betting and lottery markets.
This year, the interactive division will launch a new betting platform called “WagerWise,” a poker app for tablets; and GTECH’s play-for-fun and virtual currency solutions. All games will be available to connect directly to the customer platform or through GTECH’s Player Account Management system, an innovative solution that offers a single 360-degree view of the player.
GTECH also is launching linked jackpot products including “Action Jackpots,” a novelty product offering four different progressive links tied into one gaming machine; and “Peruvian Riches,” a mystery jackpot for the Latin American market that can be run on nearly any GTECH core game.
Multi-games on display will include the new prodiGi Vu “My Choice,” which offers nine different suites with four popular and proven games.
Finally, the systems division will showcase a range of modules for the GTECH Galaxis casino management system, “JP2go,” a turn-key stand-alone jackpot system, and the Intelligen central lottery system. This year’s GTECH booth also will feature a social area called the Orange Lounge, where GTECH’s customers can connect with their favorite social networks.
All this adds up to the largest-yet display of GTECH’s casino content and products. Regardless of what the GTECH trade-show display will look like in the future, attendees will certainly be impressed with the present.