Two years since the industry last gathered in Las Vegas for the annual Global Gaming Expo, gaming suppliers returned to the Venetian Convention and Expo Center last week with a typically robust lineup of innovations in all product areas.
As usual with G2E, the most attention was focused on the slot manufacturers, whose booths were packed to see the newest innovations for the slot floors, from new cabinets to new game styles to systems for enabling cashless slot play.
The heart of the slot suppliers’ exhibits were the games themselves, many designed to make the most of innovative new hardware products. Some of the highlights:
- Aristocrat Technologies unveiled a new premium cabinet at G2E, a follow-up to last year’s launch of the imposing Neptune Double cabinet, which features stacked 49-inch monitors. The Neptune Single features one 49-inch monitor with marquee-style LED edge lighting that gives it a distinctly cinematic feel.
The launch game featured at G2E on the new cabinet was Mr. Cashman Link, a new version of the pioneering progressive product Aristocrat popularized some 20 years ago. The game features include cash-on-reels, the Aristocrat “Hold & Spin” mechanic and a “buy-a-feature” function for free games that allows the player to choose the volatility of the feature among various reel-array heights in the ways-to-win game—the more rows to the reels, the more way to win there are. The player picks fewer spins on taller reels for the most volatile choice.
On the Neptune Double, Aristocrat gave attendees the first look at the new “Dune” video slot, set to be released the same day as the new movie based on Frank Herbert’s classic science fiction novel. The game features a $500,000 multi-site progressive jackpot and new game mechanics such as multiplier stacks, which add increased volatility to the base game.
- IGT celebrated the 25th anniversary of the Wheel of Fortune slot franchise with a slot tournament in the company’s booth hosted by—who else?— Vanna White, the longtime co-host of TV’s Wheel of Fortune. It was part of a celebration that featured a special Wheel of Fortune section in IGT’s booth, led by the game that launches the company’s new Peak65 cabinet and its 65-inch 4K monitor—Wheel of Fortune High Roller. The game features a versatile wheel bonus that can include multiple pointers, progressive jackpot slices, multipliers and mystery bonuses.
Also featured at IGT’s booth was the new Diamond RS mechanical reel-spinning cabinet, hosting a new version of the classic Top Dollar reel-spinner, called Double Top Dollar. The game is a painstaking re-creation of the original Top Dollar, right down to the use of the original sound files from the carnival-style game. But the main technological innovation on the cabinet itself is Diamond RS, which places a transparent video overlay on top of the mechanical reels. This allows the casino or even the player choose between single-line, nine-line and 10-line versions of the game.
- Speaking of new stepper cabinets, Everi launched its multi-denomination Player Classic Signature cabinet, a complementary cabinet to the company’s successful Player Classic mechanical reel-spinning cabinet. The Signature version features a stronger CPU and high-resolution video display technology in the monitor over the mechanical reels, themselves slightly larger than the original reels. Several traditional-style stepper games—which have become a specialty for Everi—were displayed on each of the Player Classic cabinets.
Another standout at Everi’s booth was the Flex Fusion cabinet, the full-feature bank version of the curved-monitor Empire Flex that features an overhead display with audio, lighting and sounds fully synchronized to game play. Displayed on this new format was Cashnado, a player-selectable multi-denom game featuring the Cash Grab Bonus, in which bills and progressive icons fly across the 49-inch touch-screen monitor, and the player tries to touch as many as possible.
- AGS unveiled its “Epic Reels” family of Japanese-themed games, Musha and Mouko, which include a hold-and-win feature, free games, multipliers, and a dual-wheel bonus. The game was featured on the Orion Portrait cabinet with the unique Starwall backing display, which has been perfected since it first was introduced. Animation on the LED backdrop is perfectly synchronized with game events in real time, including a display of the bonus wheel spin that can be seen across the floor.
Other highlights for AGS were Samurai Gold on the new Orion Curve cabinet, the hilarious Cluck Cluck Cash and Meow Meow Madness on the Orion Upright and Orion Slant cabinets; and a lineup of the latest games the company has converted for the historical horse racing market.
- Konami emphasized its new Dimension 49 monitor, the flat-screen version of last year’s curved Dimension 49J. Featured on the flat-monitor version were BattleBots, the video-slot re-creation of the popular video robot competition; Fortune Mint, featuring coin symbols that transform to random multipliers and jackpot symbols when appearing in a highlighted section of the reel frame; and Bull Blitz, a slot version of the popular internet game that has been a huge hit for Konami in Australia under the title Bull Rush. The latter game is a very volatile offering featuring a hold-and-re-spin game returning double pays.
A standout at Konami’s booth on the Dimension 49J curved-screen cabinet was Lucky Envelope, featuring a unique progressive picking game.
- Incredible Technologies displayed one of the most unique technological offerings at the show with its Prism VXP cabinet. The “VXP” stands for “vertical expansion.” The cabinet presents three screens to the player—the main 27-inch 4K touchscreen landscape monitor is augmented by the 18.5-inch button deck, which doubles as an extra touchscreen monitor for use in various bonuses and game play, and behind the main game screen. a giant 55-inch flat-screen 4K monitor that physically rises, using a commercial-grade motor to smoothly move into position for game mechanics on the entire grand display.
The standout game family on this format was UpShot, with a pinball-style bonus initiated on the 18.5-inch touchscreen button deck. In the interactive UpShot Bonus, pinball springs appear on the button deck and the player pushes them to launch virtual pinballs at the expanded monitor, which displays four levels of moving targets.
- Scientific Games featured a mind-boggling variety of games in a huge booth display, but as far as standout titles, perhaps the best was The Wizard of Oz Over the Rainbow. This latest in the game franchise themed according to the classic film includes just about every type of bonus one can imagine, The Wizard of Oz Over the Rainbow, including cash on reels, a persistent “bubble” feature, and a must-hit-by jackpot, all in a striking display of high-definition video portraying the “poppy field” in front of Emerald City in the movie.
Another standout for SG was a new game in the Monopoly franchise, called Monopoly Cheater’s Edition. The idea with this game is that the Mr. Monopoly character surreptitiously helps out the player by placing wild reels on random spins, shaking the reel array to create new wins, and placing higher-scoring dots on the dice during the bonus round.
- Bluberi made a splash with its first G2E exhibit since veteran slot supply executive Andrew Burke took over as CEO. The standout here was Reels of Steel, on a giant stepper cabinet the company calls Big Mech, designed by industry veteran Stephen Weiss. The giant reels are completely metal, with elaborate colored lighting shooting through a see-through outer cabinet. The game itself features non-stepper features including cash-on-reels and free spins.
Bluberi also rolled out another giant game format in its prototype form, for the purpose of gathering feedback from customers. The featured game Iron Derby is a combination of a giant video slot and a mechanical top box displaying three mechanical horses made up of metallic gears. When the bonus is initiated, the player is invited to pick a horse, and a three-horse race streams across the top see-through chamber. The player is paid according to the final position of his picked horse. All players win bonus awards in the race.
- Gaming Arts featured its new Vert-X Grand cabinet, featuring an ultra-bright, 4K 49-inch portrait monitor, theater-quality sound, an ultra-bright LCD button deck, programmable LED play buttons, and attention-grabbing LED side lights. Two launch games displayed were Let’s Spin and Let’s Spin Vegas, featuring a wheel-spinning bonus played out on four concentric wheels—triggered by landing a “Let’s” symbol on the first reel and “Spin” symbols on any of the second through fifth reels.
But gathering a lot of attention on the new cabinet was an enhanced version of Casino Wizard, the multi-game, single-player electronic table game featuring video versions of four different table games. The product took off last year in the company’s legacy cabinet, but on the Vert-X Grand, the games take on a new life with enhanced graphics and a huge playing field.
- Novomatic Americas made a big splash with a new game that combines the features of two of the supplier’s most popular video slots, Thunder Cash and Voodoo Magic. The voodoo theme is masterfully presented on a huge screen in this version, with several very creepy voodoo dolls among the main characters.
The game features cash-on-reels and hold-and-re-spin mechanics, but on this version, the real star is the hardware—a giant screen featuring Novomatic’s “VIP Mamba” chair, designed by seating supplier Patir. Picture a big easy chair with spin buttons at each of your fingertips. The chair is movable—close for intense play or back for one of the most laid-back slot sessions you’ll ever experience. The presentation at Novomatic’s booth was highlighted by two costumed hostesses that looked remarkably like the voodoo priestess characters in the game.
- Another masterful game in the “creepy” genre was shown by Sega Sammy Creation, which displayed House of the Dead, with animated zombies bobbing about and staring at the player from the top monitor. The game uses IP from the company’s parent company, amusement giant Sega.
Featured on the Genesis Crest cabinet, with a 49-inch flat-screen monitor, what stands out about House of the Dead are the animated reel symbols—a gallery of creepy, moving images including rats, jackals, bats and other symbols that grow and multiply in an expanding reels feature.
- Ainsworth Game Technology’s booth featured the supplier’s new A-STAR Curve XL cabinet, a new large-format premium cabinet featuring a 55-inch, 4K curved infinity monitor, a 27-inch, high-definition topper, dynamic LED lighting and an LED touch-screen button deck. The cabinets hosted inaugural games Super Hot 7s Classic and Solid Gold 8s Classic, both three-reel, five- or nine-line games with traditional symbols, multiplying wild symbols including 2X, 3X and 5X, and a giant bonus wheel featuring a “take-it-or-leave-it” option. Players can accept the bonus on which the wheel lands or opt to try again up to three times.
On the original A-Star Curve, the company featured new entries of the QuickSpin series, in the form of a new game family called QuickSpin Growing Wheel. Both drinking-themed games, Bier Bier and Mau Tai Money, feature a persistent state feature that award bonuses for filling up drink glasses above the reels.
- For Aruze Gaming America, all eyes at G2E were on a new offering called Go Go Claw. It is a classic carnival-style claw machine converted into a casino slot machine. The claw provides the only play mechanic, using perceived skill to manipulate a crane-style claw to pick up plastic balls of cash representing credit awards.
Aruze also displayed a new and improved version of its hybrid electronic table game Roll to Win Craps, which places player stations around a standard-sized craps table with automated wagering, operated by one dealer. New features include a simplified way to offer dealer tokes, a new hop bet and adjustable wagers.
While the new slot games were the subject of the most attention at G2E, there were highlights in the exhibits of a wealth of other suppliers as well. Here are a few:
- Cash-access supplier FABICash demonstrated credit- and debit-card cash advances, check cashing, ATMs and kiosks, as well as its Title 31 AML compliance solution FABITrack. The company’s cashless gaming systems also were on display at G2E. The company’s newest solution, FABIWallet, is being launched in casinos toward the end of this year, according to the company’s president and CEO, Anthony Rabito.
“What makes our cashless solution unique is the player can use one single wallet to play slots and table games, place sports bets in the casino and online, and use it in retail locations,” Rabito said. “The FABIWallet can interface with all gaming, sports, and retail POS platforms. If players walk into a casino that is using FABI cash-access services and they don’t want to go to the cage because of long lines, they can enroll to get the app, which takes less than one minute. You can do a debit, credit, or e-check from your phone to load funds. Once the money is loaded to the app on the phone, you can move the money to slots and table games, or play sports, or move the money to retail.
“When players are finished playing, they can move money from the gaming or sports app to the FABIWallet and go straight to the cage or kiosk to cash out, or move the money in real time to their bank. We give the players numerous options to load their wallet and to cash out. In addition, all transactions go through FABITrack, our Title 31 AML compliance software.”
- Gasser Chair Company celebrated 75 years in business at G2E. The Youngstown, Ohio-based Gasser designs and manufactures chairs that can be used in any casino and resort application and has served the gaming market since the 1960s. It also services the hospitality industry.
The expansive Gasser Chair product line includes stylish, durable, comfortable, and functional seating for slot machines, table games, poker tables, bingo, sports books, and keno lounges. Gasser also offers a full product line for the hospitality market, including stackable seating, dining chairs, barstools, conference and desk seating, and lounge and guest seating.
- Tangam Systems feature its new software, Slot Optimization and Data Analysis, or SODA. Designed to look at the configuration of slot machines on gaming floors and maximize their locations, SODA uses available data that might not be obvious to operators.
The software is currently deployed in six casinos in North America.
SODA measures such metrics as player loyalty to games and how often they’ll play a certain slot machine. The company compares it to how grocery stores display goods to maximize sales of certain products. That same philosophy can be applied to now slot machines are grouped in a casino.
- JCM Global displayed a soft-count room operated completely by robots. The setup, displayed in a Plexiglas chamber, deploys several robots at various stations to remove cash from drop boxes, and sort and stack the bills. Not only does it save on labor costs, but it eliminates the possibility of skimming.
CM’s new ICB Automated Secure Asset Processing (ASAP) is the biggest technological advancement to come to the count room since the company first introduced its ICB Intelligent Cash Box more than a decade ago. A network of four industrial-grade robots and industry-standard automation devices, ICB ASAP streamlines the count room, enhances productivity, reduces human contact, boosts security, improves throughput, and increases reliability.
As part of their Future Logic acquisition, JCM also offers Ticket2Go, a ticket-in ticket-out system (TITO) that it operates in Europe, Australia, and New Zealand. JCM’s FUZION is the consolidation of all of the systems’ technology and combined it into one package. It’s operating in California and newly installed in Nevada, but growing.
- TCSJohnHuxley displayed a wealth of innovations in table-game technology including Qorex, Blaze, industry-leading roulette wheels, Ora winning number displays, Chipper Champ Pro and market-leading gaming layouts.