FANTINI’S FINANCE: The World of Gaming

The world’s largest gaming tradeshow will take center stage next week in Las Vegas, with the usual post-show evaluations that could determine the success or failure of many gaming suppliers.

G2E is here so almost the entire gaming world will come to a halt to focus on the great extravaganza in Las Vegas.

As usual, there will be sensory overload on the trade show floor during the day and myriad receptions and parties at night, too much information at seminars to absorb and too many hours standing on concrete floors.

And when it is all over, people will ask: Well, what did you see that impressed you the most? And the answer will be the same as every year: I don’t know, it’s all a blur by now, not to mention all the slot machines were on demo mode and all the table games were being dealt by busty distractions.

Still, there will be worthwhile things to see and questions to ask. Here are some of them:

• IGT and Scientific Games. This will be the first G2E when each of these companies exhibits as a unified whole after IGT and GTECH merged and Sci Games acquired WMS and then Bally, which had previously acquired SHFL entertainment.

How big will their booths be, how broad the product displays and how well do they present their new unified images, while still maintaining brand identities? This will be especially interesting for Scientific Games, which is maintaining the Bally, WMS and SHFL brands.

• The competitors. This will be a chance for competitors to show how they are trying to use the mergers as their opportunity to wedge in.

Aristocrat has come on strong in the recent years with games that are winning market share. Ainsworth and Konami are building huge complexes in Las Vegas to support their North American ambitions. Aruze has been winning market share. Interblock now has an American CEO. AGS has moved assertively into the table game space. Everi, nee Global Cash Access, will get to show its dedication to Multimedia Games as a growth vehicle. Incredible has begun gaining traction in slot machines.

It will be interesting to see how these companies present themselves, not just in contrast to IGT and SGMS, but also compared to what they’ve done in the past.

And let’s not forget international companies such as Novomatic, which has the wherewithal to be a major player in North America, or Paradise Entertainment’s LT Game, which wants to spread stadium seating e-table games throughout the US.

• Skill-based gaming is about to become an industry buzzword.

I am skeptical about skill-based gaming. Adding a few tricks to a slot machine doesn’t make it the kind of game that hooks young people like Mortal Kombat X or Grand Theft Auto V.

I’m also a bit of a skeptic that young players will abandon casinos because operators don’t let players escape into virtual reality.

Nonetheless, G2E will off the first glimpse into the strategies and ambitions of gaming technology companies, and maybe into the thinking of regulators who from now on will constantly struggle with the issues of skill vs. chance.

Perhaps what we’ll see first are simple adaptions of existing skill games like pinball, or those with a hint of skill like pachinko.

In that case, companies like Konami and Aruze can dip into their pachinko inventories or Scientific Games can pull out WMS’ old pinball games for quick adaptations into the American casino market.

Then again, maybe someone will give hints of games that truly engage video players.

We expect to get a sense of that at G2E.

Articles by Author: Frank Fantini

Frank Fantini is principal at Fantini Advisors, investors and consultants with a focus on gaming.