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G2E 2016 and slot machine game trends


Another Global Gaming Expo (G2E) is in the books, and now it’s time to digest the smorgasbord of new products, trends and news revealed at the event.

From the slot industry worldview, G2E 2016 may go down as the year skill-based slot machines came of age, with game providers large and small showcasing casino-based prototypes inspired by classic arcade themes, popular at-home video games and of-the-moment mobile phone entertainments.

Of course, skill-based machines were only one of many slot product trends on display at G2E, where manufacturers also revealed new licensed games and communal arcade-style wagering concepts.

It is a lot to take in, and Slot Management & Marketing editors are here to help with our annual recap of major slot game trends we noticed at G2E, which you will find below:  

TRUE SKILL

G2E 2016 was a coming out party of sorts for Gamblit, the Glendale, Calif.-based game developer dedicated to bring skill-style wagering games to the casino floor. Indeed, the company came to the event this year armed with a groundbreaking bit of news—a multiyear deal with Caesars Entertainment to launch its products in the North American casino space. 

According to an accompanying press release, Caesars planned to install and debut Gamblit’s Model G and TriStation cabinets at Valley Center, Calif.-based Harrah’s Resort Southern California starting last month. Plans are also in the works to bring Gamblit games to Caesars properties in Nevada and Las Vegas, pending field trials and regulatory approval. The companies expect these to be the first skill cabinets to hit the California and Nevada markets, and hope to have 225 positions in place by early 2017.

Just prior to the show, Gamblit also announced that it has inked a deal with Poydras Gaming Finance Corp., a leading provider of gaming machines to casino operators in Oklahoma and Texas, to have its games distributed to tribal casino facilities in those states.

Whether in Oklahoma, California or Nevada, the Gamblit cabinets will contain multiple themes and cutting-edge skill-based games; including a Match 3 game and word matching game. Future releases on Gamblit’s gaming positions include popular “gamblified” versions top video games like Catapult King, which gained over 35 million downloads, and INTO THE DEAD, which has over 60 million downloads, both of which were on display at G2E.

Gamblit also demoed new games and products at G2E, including its own eSports platform called G-Sports, with the hit PC and console game Road Redemption. According to company press materials, Gamblit TriStation can be converted to G-Sports and offer games that charge players a set fee for entry into a time-based tournament. Players compete and rank on a leaderboard that is updated in real-time with top players being rewarded at the end with cash prizes.

G-Sports allow casinos to appeal to more of the midcore gaming market with the ability to organize events around a popular game with tournaments scheduled at flexible intervals.

Also on display at the Gamblit booth was The Brookhaven Experiment, a location-based, real-money-wagering, virtual reality (VR) game the company developed in conjunction with Phosphor Games. The game takes place within Gamblit’s Virtual Reality Cube (VRC), and allows the player and watching spectators to wager on the participant’s skill in shooting VR monsters. 

“Phosphor Games is a company that pushes the boundaries of innovation and we are excited to be revolutionizing the casino floor with them in an all new wagering experience—and judging from everyone who has played it, a very memorable one for players and their friends,” said Darion Lowenstein, chief marketing officer for Gamblit Gaming.

Another 100 percent skill games provider making waves at G2E was New York City-based GameCo, which displayed its Tri-Pod Video Game Gambling Machine (VGM) at the Integrated Resort Experience and Suzo-Happ booths. According to press materials, GameCo’s proprietary VGM is an arcade-style video game cabinet and controller. Each VGM features a single-player game, generally 60-90 seconds to play, adapted from top console, PC and mobile developers. The patented VGM gambling platform allows a player’s skill in popular video games to determine the payout and winnings, while maintaining the same casino economics as slot machines.

GameCo also demoed its premier game, Danger Arena, at the Quixant booth and at Downtown Grand Hotel & Casino’s eSports lounge in Las Vegas. Danger Arena is a first-person action video game in which player skill determines the payout, will debut at three Caesars Entertainment properties in Atlantic City this year, pending New Jersey Division of Gaming Enforcement approval.

GameCo also took time at G2E to announce it was opening a second office in Las Vegas.

“Fall is gearing up to be a pivotal time for GameCo, first with the impending launch of our VGM in Atlantic City, as well as our participation at G2E,” said Blaine Graboyes, CEO and co-founder of GameCo in a prepared statement. “The debut of our VGM on casino floors will be an historic first step in the evolution of slot gaming, an industry that is adapting for a new generation of players.”

Traditional slot providers also introduced new skill game prototypes at G2E. Konami Gaming produced three arcade-inspired skill slots for visitor perusal:  including an all skill play version of its popular Frogger franchise called Frogger: a music-infused Frogger road and river crossing game called Frogger: Get Hoppin’; a rhythmic DJ-style game called Beat Square; and a skill-stop VIP premium game called Hot Press Winnings.

According to press releases, Frogger: Get Hoppin’ offers a for-wager twist on the arcade classic, it combines piano-style button melodies with the iconic road and river crossing course in a 15-second race to increasing scores and cash prizes. Frogger: Get Hoppin’ offers a skill-based three-level standalone progressive jackpot, and players can also enter a bonus wheel spin four-level standalone progressive that improves the jackpot chance relative to their game score.

Another music-infused skill concept found at the Konami booth is a rhythmic dexterity skill game called Beat Square. With a nod to Konami creations like Dance Dance Revolution, Beat Square allows players to select song tracks and compete for top scores by tapping synchronized rhythmic patterns across a series of colorful touch buttons.

Konami’s Hot Press Winnings presents a luxury VIP gaming experience with multi-tiered monitor displays for immersive gambling entertainment. Hot Press Winnings is a new skill-stop concept that allows players to impact the timing of the slot reel stop, for higher potential line wins. Similar to how a player presses the spin button for random outcomes, they can signal the bonus reel to stop and determine their award based on their reaction.

“Konami’s core gaming roots hold firm in entertainment, amusement and arcades,” said Matt Reback, vice president, marketing at Konami. “The technology and development resources we have in America, Australia, and Japan are best-of-breed, and we’re thrilled to be able to bring those advancements to the casino gaming realm in new ways during this year’s G2E. Konami has the core creative power to bring new variations of gambling entertainment to the market so our casino customers can offer their diverse player groups an array of gaming options.”

International Game Technology (IGT) continued its foray into skill slot development with the introduction of games featuring varied experiences designed to appeal to a broad range of players. Available for play on mobile and on the CrystalCore cabinet, Lucky’s Quest omni-channel skill-based game is a for-wager, casual-style game that features a map-based progression narrative starring a dragon named Lucky, according to company literature. In Lucky’s Quest, players can unlock characters, win credits and advance to new levels based on performance in the title’s symbol-matching game.  A player’s progress within the game can be transferred from mobile device to EGM, and back, allowing for a seamless player experience across devices and channels.  Players from across both channels can compete in real time for progressive payouts.

IGT also expanded its Video Reel Edge (VRE) family by introducing the Little Fish Big Fish, Beasties’ Bonanza and Cleopatra Pinball games. Each of these games is housed on the CrystalCore cabinet and gives players the option to engage in either a free games bonus event, or a skill-based bonus event where player performance influences the bonus reward.  Additionally, IGT showcased its Texas Tea Pinball game with Tournament Mode for enhanced operator marketing, and player acquisition opportunities.

IGT also displayed a prototype VR skill game called Siege.

“We are dedicated to producing skill products,” said Dallas Orchard, senior vice president of global premium products for IGT. “We obviously know that there is a large need out there to move the industry forward and we want to be right there pushing the boundaries from a regulatory standpoint as well as pushing the boundaries with our customers to offer those solutions.”

Scientific Games’ contribution to slot skill games continues to revolve around its SPACE INVADERS machine. Introduced as a prototype at G2E 2015, the game—a combination of the classic arcade game with slot entertainment and skill-based play—was front and center in the company’s booth this year. SPACE INVADERS plays as a regular slot machine, but offers the user a chance to play the arcade version and shoot down aliens for prizes in the bonus round. For those unfamiliar with the classic video game, SPACE INADERS offers a tutorial and sample play before the player decides whether or not to take a skill game plunge in the bonus round.

Scientific Games also looked outside the slot box when it came to new skill-based offerings. Taking center stage in hardware innovation, Scientific Games introduced the PRIZM Game Table, an industry-first in slot cabinet design. This pioneering social gaming table features a 65-inch 4K display that serves as both the player interface and a table with seating for four.

Created with the Millennial in mind, PRIZMGame Table can be placed on the casino floor or in a lounge setting for community-style play and unparalleled social interaction, and supports both slot and electronic table content.

Scientific Games introduces PRIZMGame Table with Lightning Launch Roulette, an exciting new twist to a player favorite. In this new game, players launch their ball into the wheel to determine their base game winnings. Optional bonus chip wagers add a community, anticipatory element, offering players the chance to win exciting prizes and jackpots based on both the result of their ball’s spin as well as those of the other three players.

Everi Holdings also entered the skill games fray with its licensed Fruit Ninja standalone premium machine. The game features unique skill-based game play as players slice fruit using the game’s unique Swipe Touch technology while operators can set the underlying skill level. “As a theme, Fruit Ninja spans all ages,” said Allison Pope, vice president, executive producer for Everi. “We also offer the operator the option on skill level—they can set the skill level depending on local regulations and their own observations.”

AGS continues to display the It Pays to Know series of slot games, in which players can actually earn more by knowing the correct answers to trivia questions in bonus rounds. The three games in this series are Ripley’s Believe It or Not!, Are You Smarter Than A 5th Grader? and Family Feud.

Ainsworth Game Technology also announced its potential entry into the land-based arcade/skill games arena via a partnership with video game developer BANDAI NAMCO Entertainment, perhaps best known for Pac-Man games. The strategic arrangement will combine Ainsworth’s expertise in the casino gaming business with Bandai Namco’s video game IP and globally well-known characters and brands, according to a press release. Ainsworth and BANDAI NAMCO Entertainment are developing casino products that will fuse the best of slot gaming with arcade, console, mobile and video game technology.

“We’re thrilled to have BANDAI NAMCO Entertainment on board as a partner,” said Jason Lim, general manager of online and social casinos for Ainsworth. “This convergence of casino and video game developers will help us create innovative branded content and gaming entertainment for a new generation.”

ARCADE FLAIR

The desire of Millennials for a more communal-style gaming experience has led to a resurgence of interest in large scale, multi-station, arcade-based wagering games. Konami Gaming led the charge in this area, displaying two arcade play prototypes—Crystal Cyclone and Fortune Cup.

In the spirit of Konami’s Titan 360 multi-station machine, Crystal Cyclone is a colorful, high-energy mechanical bonus game that can simultaneously connect all players to a center roulette-style progressive feature for big wins and excitement, according to press materials. Each player has an individual video slot station with proven base game themes, further enhanced by this one-of-a-kind shared bonus jackpot experience.

Fortune Cup is a new multi-station horse racing concept that uniquely combines mechanical detail with engaging customer interaction through an intuitive touchscreen interface. Fortune Cup exemplifies Konami’s development and engineering expertise, driven by the company’s longstanding legacy in gaming entertainment. It achieved incredible attention and constant traffic from gaming operators and professionals during the 2016 G2E event.

“We can offer satellite wagering terminals so the whole floor can get in on the action,” Reback said. “It appeals to Millennials, slot players…anyone who is an entertainment seeker.”

Alfastreet also showed a group play, mechanical horse racing machine called Royal Derby. In addition, the company displayed Wet Race, another communal, multi-station arcade-like wagering game, this time featuring model boats that raced over a water course.

Recently launched Competition Interactive also showcased an arcade-style race wagering game at G2E. Running Rich Racing, Competition Interactive’s premier game, is a multi-player kart-racing experience where players battle for cash on different courses based on modern spins of classic fairytales.  According to a press release, each race is its own intense adrenaline rush for drivers as well as spectators, who participate by laying stake on their favorite driver.

“Currently the majority of competitive gaming only takes place at the table games,” said Keith Winters, a principal for Competition Interactive. “With our games, the casino floor will be revolutionized with competition not only between the player and the house but now you’re interacting with other casino game players on our multi-player gaming machines. This is bringing the arcade back to life.”

LICENSE TO SELL

As is usually the case, the G2E showfloor was rife with new licensed slot games.

Everi utilized this year’s G2E to announce it was entering the branded slot content marketplace, debuting seven new games based on licensed products. Penn & Teller and Casablanca games were shown on the company’s new Empire MPX cabinet.  The premium participation Empire MPX cabinet features a 40-inch full HD display, game-controlled lighting with backlight feature, a new ergonomic LCD button deck, a mobile device recharge dock with two USB ports, two overhead spotlight features and an optional 65-inch full HD overhead Foundation sign. Penn & Teller and Casablanca are five reel video games that will be offered as WAP games for Class II markets (the company’s first ever Class II WAP games) and as premium daily lease fee games with a local-area progressive top prize for Class III markets, according to company literature.

In addition to Fruit Ninja, other Everi licensed slot content includes Underdog, a five-reel, 27-line video game, and Casper the Friendly Ghost, a five-reel, 40-line video game, which debuted on the Core HDX and Player HD cabinet.  New to the High Rise Games series is Richie Rich, a five-reel video game featuring an eight-tier progressive. Finally, Smokin Hot Stuff debuts at G2E 2016 as the first-ever licensed game for Everi’s three-reel mechanical Skyline series.

Aristocrat Technologies also brought along an impressive array of new licensed games. Gaming operations titles included Tim McGraw, Mariah Carey, Game of Thrones II, The Big Lebowski, The X Files, Candy Land, Dumb & Dumber, Mystery Date, Zorro, Dragon Reign and Tapatio. A new stepper cabinet brought new versions of the chart-topping Britney Spears and the runaway hit Buffalo, as well as the original Diamond Link linked product. Aristocrat’s award-winning Arc Double cabinet featured the new titles My Cousin Vinny, Downton Abbey and Elvira, Mistress of the Dark. New in the Arc Single cabinet are Sharknado and Dragon Link.

“Our top priority is to deliver value to our customers,” said Brooks Pierce, managing director Americas for Aristocrat in a prepared statement. “We continually invest in developing innovations and hardware across our games and systems portfolio to ensure we build a high-performing, sustainable and balanced offering for our customers.”

Ainsworth Game Technology licensed content was displayed on its new A640 cabinet, which featured optimal viewing on a 40-inch high-definition LCD game screen and an attractive design creating powerful game experiences with eye-catching game art. According to press releases, the cabinet comes standard with a touchscreen LCD button deck with a mechanical “bash button” to combine the ease of new technology with the excitement of traditional slot play. Licensed content for this new cabinet includes King Kong, King Kong Skull Island, The Magnificent Seven Reloaded, and Three Amigos Ride Again.

IGT also came to G2E with new cabinets and an expanded line of premium games to populate them, according to multiple press releases. 

G2E was the world debut for IGT’s CrystalCurve ULTRA cabinet.  The towering hardware solution features a 32-inch, curved landscape touchscreen display that is topped with a 50-inch, curved portrait display. Marquee titles to launch on the CrystalCurve ULTRA cabinet include: The Ellen DeGeneres Show Sharing the Love Video Slot and THE GOONIES Video Slot. Both titles are rich in thematic content and utilize the cabinet’s embedded camera technology. 

IGT revealed its CrystalDual + Stepper cabinet and its new content library. The CrystalDual + Stepper cabinet combines the mechanical reels from the S3000 cabinet with a 40-inch upper LCD screen.  The CrystalDual+ Stepper cabinet debuted with game themes Gentlemen Prefer Blondes Slots and How to Marry a Millionaire Slots.

IGT will celebrate the 20th anniversary of Wheel of Fortune slots with the introduction of new game themes on a variety of hardware solutions. IGT offered the Wheel of Fortune Double Times Pay 3x4x5x 3D game on the AXXIS 3D cabinet. Following the success of the company’s first Wheel of Fortune 3D title, this new game features TRUE 3D Reels technology and utilizes the math and symbol set of the classic Double Times Pay 3x4x5x game. IGT also introduced Wheel of Fortune Gold Spin Double Diamond Slots on its new large format mechanical reel MEGATOWER cabinet. 

IGT continued to expand its library of TRUE 3D titles, giving players even more options for glasses-free 3D entertainment. At G2E IGT displayed the ZUMA 3D game featuring seven “must-hit by” progressives; the Jurassic World 3D game full of gripping cinematic 3D content and the BAYWATCH 3D game which brings some of TV’s most iconic beach scenes to life in a 3D gaming environment.

Several of pop culture’s hottest themes also made their way to the tradeshow floor on IGT’s CrystalCore cabinet. Boasting stunning visuals on its 42-inch vertical touchscreen display, the CrystalCore cabinet will bring to life slot themes such as Charlie’s Angels Video Slots and Rubik’s Slots. IGT also introduced SHERLOCK HOLMES: A GAME OF SHADOWS Video Slots.

Scientific Games also pushed licensed product for new platforms at G2E. To start, Scientific Games announced a multi-property, multiyear partnership with Warner Bros. Consumer Products to turn powerful Warner Bros. content into compelling gaming products. The fruits of this arrangement were already evident at G2E in the following slots that featured Warner Bros. themes:

The SEINFELD slot game is based on the 10-time Emmy Award-winning American sitcom that ran for nine seasons from 1989-1998. Seinfeld’s apartment and his group of eccentric friends are the primary focus of the show and Scientific Games’ SEINFELD slot game.  The game merges the consumer-favorite hit TV series with the company’s revolutionary GAMESCAPE slot platform, which offers players a one-of-a-kind play experience. The feature-rich gameplay fully captures the SEINFELD characters’ antics, timeless humor and quirky plotlines that continue to entertain fans worldwide.

THE BACHELOR, a game based on the hit romance reality series from Warner Horizon Television, is a beautifully rendered low-denomination three-reel game on the Blade Stepper, with a five-level progressive jackpot and six bonus features—Limousine Arrival, Rose Ceremony, Destination Date, Fantasy Suite and a spinning wheel in the shape of the iconic Bachelor engagement ring.

The NATIONAL LAMPOON’S VACATION game on the GameField XDcabinet presents a WAP top award, free spins, a wheel bonus and two themed features—The Griswold Family Vacation Bonus and Walley World Free Spins.

Warner Bros. Consumer Products’ highly successful brand licensing offerings include timeless player favorites such as AUSTIN POWERS, CADDYSHACK, THE FLINTSTONES, FRIENDS,THE LORD OF THE RINGS, THE WIZARD OF OZ, WILLY WONKA AND THE CHOCOLATE FACTORY and WONDER WOMAN, among many others.

“We’re excited to continue our partnership with Scientific Games and bring many of Warner Bros.’ iconic brands and characters to fans through new, immersive and entertaining games,” said Pam Lifford, president, Warner Bros. Consumer Products.  “This collaboration will allow us to leverage our popular brands in creative ways and across channels to captivate players and make new consumer connections in the gaming space.”

Other new licensed products featured by Scientific Games at G2E included THE GODFATHER, JOHNNY CASH, TETRIS and THE SIMPSONS. 

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