As casinos across the U.S. continue to work to return to full capacity, customers are looking forward to playing familiar favorites again and trying out the latest games to hit the market.
There is, as ever, a plentiful supply of new slots in the pipeline ready for release, but the introduction of those titles is not the biggest change that players will notice in the near future. When it comes to product differentiation and impact, the most significant battleground is perhaps not the games themselves, but the hardware.
Tech companies may have spent years developing components that enable people to run their lives from a device small enough to fit into their pocket, but for the gaming industry, progress is all about cabinets that are bigger, flashier, and more visible on the casino floor.
The latest generation of products includes the Mural™ which Scientific Games describes as the “most visually dramatic gaming cabinet” in its range, adding that it “captures the imagination with its stunning dual 55-inch, 4K resolution curved display, immersing the player in the game, and creating an eye-catching attraction on the casino floor.”
The real driving force behind the release of the Mural and other high-end cabinets is the need to keep pace with developments in consumer electronics. If players are used to watching video on 4K televisions, shopping from home on touchscreen devices, and gaming on consoles that provide lightning-fast play and smooth animation, why would they expect anything less on the casino floor?
Scientific Games has incorporated high-spec displays, the latest touchscreen technology, and a high-speed Salem™ processor in the cabinet, along with an embedded wireless mobile phone charger for player convenience. However, it was noticeable that the manufacturer’s promotional literature led with visual appeal as the primary feature of the Mural™, which will launch with 88 Fortunes® - Emperor’s Coins™ and Willy Wonka™ - Dreamer of Dreams™, the latest installment of its popular Willy Wonka™ game franchise. And these games are not the only ones with a focus on standing out from the crowd on the casino floor.
IGT has launched the PeakSlant49™ Wheel, a “towering, attention-grabbing cabinet,” for its Wheel of Fortune® slots series. It is packed with high-tech features, including a 49-inch progressively curved ultra-HD touchscreen display, intelligent lighting, and dynamic player panel. Yet again, the manufacturer appears most eager to promote its looks. “Standing at nearly nine-feet tall, the PeakSlant49 Wheel cabinet becomes a jackpot beacon on a casino floor with its vibrant, dynamic video wheel,” IGT’s promotional material says.
It is a similar story with AGS, which has signed a license agreement with the NHL to produce hockey-themed slots and table games. It marked the announcement by launching a Vegas Golden Knights slot machine, which customers at the South Point Casino will struggle to miss, as it is eight feet wide and eight feet tall with a multi-person seat to encourage community-style play.
While this focus on styling has obvious benefits in terms of attracting customers to try out game titles and making them a real talking point, the success of any particular cabinet will ultimately be driven by the quality of the games being offered and whether they utilize the available technology in a way that engages players.
Tom Jingoli, executive vice president and chief operating officer of Konami Gaming, Inc., explained that the right content had been key to the success of another eye-catching cabinet.
“DIMENSION 49J caught incredible attention with the debut of All Aboard and Ocean Spin, which have quickly become some of the highest-performing premium slot series in America,” said Jingoli.
Konami is now hoping to replicate the success of the premium J-curve machine with the addition of the 4K flat-screen DIMENSION 49 and the DIMENSION 27, a core cabinet with three 27-inch stacked screens, to its range. All three cabinets have a pipeline of original content.
However, original content for slots in brick-and-mortar casinos is not the only way in which Konami is seeking to leverage the power of the most engaging games. It is also focusing on how its customers can benefit from the slot’s franchises popular in the iGaming space.
“Today it’s not uncommon for casino operators to participate in both the online and land-based gaming sectors. Konami’s long-held focus is empowering operators with proven game content to reach and engage their players through a mix of platforms,” Jingoli explained.
“As iGaming has grown, we’ve begun omni-channel game releases where new games are released for availability on all platforms around the same time, which allows land-based casinos to capitalize on growing game recognition and excitement in the online space and vice versa.”
There are already many titles that have been adapted from land-based slots to work in international iGaming markets, and any casino signing up for a first iGaming account may be surprised to discover that favorites such as 88 Fortunes®, Crazy Money, and Wheel of Fortune® are all readily available. There is also a near endless list of mobile slots that can be licensed and offered in casinos, but that is not the only source of ideas available to developers.
Las Vegas-based GameCo has taken inspiration from vintage video games for its range of arcade-style games. Titles such as All-Star Hoops, Sweet Spot Golf, and Destination Tiki add a betting dimension to the sorts of games that have traditionally been played just for fun and are designed to engage a new audience of millennial players.
The potential offered by this arcade-style gaming has tempted both gaming technology giant Playtech and Jason Ader’s SpringOwl Asset Management to make significant investments in GameCo, which suggests players will be seeing a lot more of it in both the land-based casino and iGaming sectors in the coming years.