For anyone who happened to attend the G2E Global Gaming Expo last month, you’ve surely noticed the next generation movement taking over today’s slot machines. What was once specifically designed to be incredibly fast and easy is now taking on a more immersive role, drawing players in with high-tech designs, popular themes, skill-based interaction and engaging storylines meant to attract a new generation of gamers to the seats.
Having experienced G2E in person, Kristen Peterson of Las Vegas Weekly published an editorial on the subject headlined, ‘Not your Grandma’s Slots’, in which she described the immersive nature of the latest developments in slot machines. Peterson’s description of an idealized slot featuring the immensely popular daytime television host, Ellen DeGeneres, perfectly defined the current mission of slot machine makers around the world.
“Ellen DeGeneres wants me to win. And big! She cheers me on from inside her very own slot machine on the Sands convention floor.
The more she cheers, the more I want to keep playing. We’re united in the comfortable realm of daytime talk TV packaged in a casino-floor penny slot. When luck tilts in my favor, she dances across the 42-inch vertical touchscreen display, emitting sparkles. “I hope it’s bonus time,” she says. “I feel so alive.”
The Ellen DeGeneres themed slot was developed by IGT, but was just one of many new-wave designs featured at G2E that alluded to the future of slot machines. David Bollesen, Studio Director for IGT, worked in the video gaming business before taking over his new role at the slots development company. “Making a game for this industry now, it’s a production,” said Bollesen. “The creative is critical.”
Over at Bally Technologies, one of IGT’s top competitors in the slot machine industry, the sentiment was mirrored. Mike Trask, a spokesman for Bally, said, “We consider us competing with the video-game world for the talent.” His company currently employs personnel with a wide range of skills that include everything from mathematicians and game engineers, to artists, designers and media techs.
These next generation slot machines may or may not attract the typical slots clientele of old – the seniors crowd that historically chooses slot machines for the simplicity of inserting a coin, pulling a lever (or pushing a button) and waiting for the results; the good old “wash, rinse, repeat” system. However, studies have shown there’s a whole new type of visitor to the Las Vegas Strip. They are the younger generation, raised on video games and seeking higher intensity entertainment. And in its current state, they have no interest in playing the slots.
Delivering a gambling experience these players will find worthy of their dollar means innovating products to appeal to their senses, and that’s exactly what IGT, Bally and another slot machine rival, Merkur Gaming, have been working on. Merkur was the company responsible for the pod-like slot machines (pictured left) that have been taking over the casino industry’s headlines for weeks.
Currently, the average slots players in Las Vegas are females over 45 years of age. They are attracted to charming slot machines that feature things like kittens and unicorns and cartoon-style characters, with high pay lines and speed being paramount. Trask says that’s great for the typical slots player, but the goal is to attract a new crowd of players via eye-candy graphics and immersive gameplay that requires an element of skill (a la the Angry Birds generation).