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Orion cabinets are a success for AGS

By Nick Sortal

AGS officials are calling the introduction of their new Orion cabinet the most exciting product launch in the company’s history. Based on early returns, that’s not an overstatement.

About 50 of the cabinets have been placed in recent weeks at U.S. casinos, with the expectation that those machines would perform at double the house average. Instead, returns on the Orion cabinet have quadrupled. “We didn’t reinvent the wheel, but the packaging has made a big difference,” says Andrew Burke, vice president of slot products for AGS.

Besides revenue numbers, though, industry experts also have endorsed the new cabinet. For example, in a report last month, Casino Journal magazine listed it as one of its top 20 most innovative gaming technology products for the year.

Almost 500 game-controlled LED lights surround its 42-inch touchscreen LCD portrait monitor, giving the effect that Orion floats in an immersive light experience. Hence the name “Orion” – one of the brightest constellations in the night sky.

But the monitors also are brighter when there is no money in the games. “So when you’re walking through the casino they’re going to catch your attention,” Burke says. During play, the lights dim so a player’s eyes don’t get fatigued.

Those LED lights are like “plug-and-play” panels, designed to pull the light experience across a bank of games. “When you place Orion cabinets next to each other, they look like a lighting wall, like a billboard,” Burke says. In the future, operators will be able to connect Orion game experiences across banks, so that if a player hits the bonus on one, it would light up all of them.

Burke says attention to cabinets, while still developing the slot games, is a logical next step in the business. “We used to go to a sheet metal shop to design cabinets, and there wasn’t a lot of thought on how a player interacts with the machine,” he says. “But in so many industries, user experience and industrial design are a real science.”

In this case, Burke says a team of about 12 hardware engineers, “obsessed over it 24-7 for a long period of time.” That included a field trip to the Coca-Cola innovation lab in Atlanta, the city where the engineers are also based.

“Our team studied their vending machines and learned that people perceive light at certain distances and certain brightnesses draw interest at certain distance,” Burke says. The engineers incorporated that information as they created Orion.

Orion was developed for Class III and Class II games, with new titles that include Fu Nan Fu Nu, Wolf Queen, and River Dragons.

Burke says he also has received positive feedback from casino operators because of Orion’s optimal sight lines. “I didn’t realize it would be this big of a deal for operators, but when you see pictures of it, Orion looks big — but it really isn’t,” he says.

“Operators have been complaining that, in general, everything has been getting bigger and taller, which blocks sight lines,” Burke notes. “They like the idea you can put this in the middle of the floor. There’s only so much wall space.”

Las Vegas-based AGS will be shipping about 250 Orion machines to casinos across the country on April 28, to begin the rollout. The plan is to supply another 250 machines each month through the summer.