10 Slot Trends for 2020 Frank Legato, CDC Gaming Reports · January 6, 2020 at 10:54 am From proprietary brands to giant cabinets to video games, here are 10 trends to watch in the new year. In November, we examined what to look for in the booths of slot manufacturers at the Global Gaming Expo. Now that another G2E has come and gone, it’s time for a summary of the trends that will shape the slot floor in 2020 and beyond. New technology in systems, new game styles, and some game mechanics that are starting to explode in popularity will appear this year. While we noted a few of these in our pre-G2E analysis, the displays of the slot manufacturers at the show both validated those choices and will join others in changing the shape, look and offerings of the slot floor. Here are 10 trends for the new year that are changing the nature of slot operations in the casino industry. 1. Hold-and-respin: Last fall, we recommended keeping an eye out for more of this type of game mechanic, which has been absolutely erupting in popularity among players. The hold-and-respin mechanic locks one jackpot or bonus symbol in place and then re-spins the remaining reels, with the goal of collecting the largest award possible. It gives players a reason to stay on a game longer, draws more players to the game, and has increased daily average revenue on the slot floor. Every major manufacturer offered some form of this at G2E. Expect more of the same in the coming year. 2. Sports betting at the machine: The largest slot manufacturers are using their proprietary casino management systems to create a multi-channel experience for players, who can receive tailored bonuses, enter tournaments, and make dinner reservations right at the machine. The May 2018 U.S. Supreme Court decision that removed the federal ban on sports wagering has added one more important bit of functionality—the ability to lay bets on sports while at the slot machine. As sportsbooks and sports betting continue to expand, with digital in-game prop bets and other features, customers will be able to use mobile devices to place sports bets from anywhere on the property. The newest system technology adds the logical option of betting on games without leaving a slot machine. 3. Reel-spinning becomes optional: As part of the industry’s efforts to appeal to a younger audience, many manufacturers are dispensing with the traditional spinning reels of a slot machine – not the favorite stimulus for younger players – and releasing games that are more similar to the games younger gamers play on their smartphones. Puzzle games, matching games, first-person shooters and other mobile-style games are appearing from an increasing number of manufacturers. Some lump them all under one roof as “skill games,” but hardly any of them are based solely on skill; virtually all of them involve chance in some form. What’s different about these games is that they break from the century-old spinning reel model in favor of more modern interactivity. These game styles are still in their infancy, so expect the experimentation to continue this year. 4. Spinning reels hang in there: For all the new game styles appearing that are not based on the traditional slot-machine model, G2E proved that the classic mechanical spinning reel is still a vital part of the game libraries of several big manufacturers. Re-releases of classic three-reel mechanicals are accompanied by new spinning-reel titles, and manufacturers are pairing the traditional games in three-reel setups with low-denomination, multi-line mechanical reel-spinners that place the more modern five-reel video format in the clothes of the classic mechanical game. As long as players continue to patronize the traditional game, the manufacturers will serve this market. 5. Proprietary brands surge: In the past, every year’s G2E provided a new showcase of licensed slot themes, with brands reflecting everything from movies to TV to popular music. While there are still a few new ones, the trend that emerged from G2E 2019 was more about established, proprietary brands than new licensed games. Slot makers reinforced their most popular in-house brands with new takes on their own creations, and even in the case of themes carrying licensed brands, the appearance of new brands was comparatively rare, as manufacturers are opting for new entries in established series of games over pursuing new license base on popular culture. The trend this year seemed to be to look at what worked in the past and repeat it. 6. The growing ETG class: Another factor that reflects the emergence of a younger player base in the industry is a corresponding rise in the popularity of table games, which require strategy and a modicum of social interaction not found in traditional slot machines. Combine this with the growing popularity of online games that allow players to compete on a live table game from a laptop or mobile phone, and the natural result is a growing market for electronic table games. Large slot manufacturers are devoting an increasing chunk of their R&D budgets to the production of ETGs, and operators are devoting unprecedented amounts of floor space formerly occupied by slot machines to stadium-style ETG setups that bring the “live” online table game experience to the slot floor. 7. Cabinets, cabinets, cabinets: If G2E proved anything, it was that slot manufacturers are devoted to one-upping each other in producing new styles of cabinet. Some are playing competitive catch-up in this area, but all slot makers are devising new ways to present unique content, from monitors that are curved into any number of shapes to triple-screen setups that offer privacy and from cinematic presentations, complete with surround sound, to some of the most authentic 3D, midair haptic technology yet seen, along with other equally uncanny effects. We’re in the middle of a cabinet arms race, and it’s only going to get better. 8. Big, big, big: One clear sub-trend contained within the cabinet trend described above is the large-format slot machine. Each of the major manufacturers at G2E showed cabinets which, while not as large as the novelty “Big Bertha” setup, were larger than anything previously promoted as a core or premium cabinet. Monitor sizes of 50, 60, even 80 inches, panels equipped with dual dash buttons, and bench seats that allow two to play a game at once are all becoming common products included in the game libraries of all the big slot-makers, and the small ones, as well. There’s no sign of this trend slowing down. 9. Systems become the games: Each of the top four slot manufacturers continues to develop its system technology, and more and more, that means players are rewarded with bonuses right at the machine. Along with this, the function of holding a slot tournament falls more and more to the casino management system, with the ability to hold either scheduled events or on-demand tournament sessions through the player reward club. As the manufacturers work on perfecting these functions, look for them to become more commonplace. 10. Cashless and cardless: The other system technology being developed at a rapid pace is the drive to simplify paying for the slot experience. The largest slot manufacturers have developed systems that enable players to buy credits without cash—either through deposit accounts or by tapping debit or credit card balances—using only the player’s smartphone. The same technology allows smartphones to be used to activate a slot club account, dispensing with the traditional mag-stripe card. As more jurisdictions ease regulations related to payment, expect casinos to increasingly replace cash, allowing players to pay for play the same way they pay for their coffee at Starbucks.