ARISTOCRAT: A Buffalo Anniversary Worth Celebrating Buddy Frank, CDC Gaming Reports · October 10, 2018 at 6:55 pm If you thought about it for a moment, you could probably come up with a list of hundreds of the hottest slot machines ever created: from the ancient Honey Money reel-spinner to the LED-encrusted Orion Fu Nan Fu Nu. But how many of those games stayed on top of the charts for 10 years? Add that qualifier, and suddenly that roster narrows to just two games: IGT’s Wheel of Fortune and Aristocrat’s Buffalo. The latter is the most recent game to achieve this milestone and, to its credit, Buffalo led the herd when competition was significantly stronger than it was in the early days of Wheel’s reign. Recently, two of Aristocrat’s own products (Lightning Link and Dragon Link) have knocked Buffalo out of the top spot, but the game is still in the Top Ten. More importantly, Buffalo led the revolutionary transition from reels-to-video, made the penny the preferred denomination worldwide and propelled Aristocrat into its decade-long dominance in video reels. It’s no wonder that the company is using G2E to launch a special 10th Anniversary edition of this iconic game: Buffalo Diamond. As shown below, it’s launching on the flame55 cabinet. If Bally named their bottom-curved game a J43, maybe this one should have been labeled the S55, since it curves outward at the top and inward on the lower main part of the screen. Whatever you call it, the flame 55 is impressive. At last year’s G2E, this platform debuted carrying some impressive star-power themes: Mariah Carey and Game of Thrones. Like most successful curved platforms, this game is not too big and not too small. That seems to be the winning ticket for success today. The cabinet appears large, but actually has a small footprint.But the truth is that Buffalo seems to work on just about anything. ATI’s Global Brand Manager of Buffalo, David Kaminkow, says that the basic formula for this game has remained the same throughout different versions and cabinets. They all have what he describes as Buffalo DNA: high volatility, consistent symbols, nested bonuses, free spins, re-triggers, multipliers that multiply, and a Reel Power mechanic. Pre-2008, volatility was not a hot commodity in the U.S. But it was the key attribute of Australian slot math. In the U.S., volatility was pretty much abandoned in the era of IGT’s 25¢ and $1 Double Diamond. That iconic title had a game mechanic allowing for regular small wins, with the emphasis on entertainment. With American casino gaming then dominated by touristy Las Vegas and Atlantic City, the strategy was successful. Accordingly, when Buffalo first hit our shores, it was not an overnight success. In fact, it struggled on the Las Vegas Strip for over a year, since no one dislikes volatility more than infrequent tourists. It was the proliferation of Native American casinos in community markets across the country, along with Las Vegas locals, that caused players to notice that this game was something special. There’s always been a debate about which factor makes a game great. Australian-style game math generally works well, and Buffalo was based on it. But Aristocrat themselves produced several games with different themes and identical Buffalo-math in 2010, and none of them really worked. Likewise, almost every slot manufacturer tried clones with every possible combination of a bison name, volatile math, artwork and/or colors with virtually no success. And when it comes to cabinets, Buffalo didn’t need a giant platform or a curved screen for success. The original MAV 500 box (shown at top) was/is less than spectacular, but the numbers it generated certainly were. Since then, Buffalo has been a hit on everything from Aristocrat’s giant Behemoth to a Bally cabinet powered by a Class Two bingo engine. Something else new was the lack of traditional pay lines. These Reel Power and Xtra Reel Power concepts, first pioneered by Aristocrat in the 90’s, greatly expanded the possible winning combinations. It’s common in most video today, but never more popular than on Buffalo. One of the distinctive elements of the game is the screech of the eagle. (Birders will argue that it’s really a red-tailed hawk call.) The original credit for this game goes to long-time Aristocrat design group Oz Studio in Sydney, where several top minds contributed. These folks also gave us the popular 5 Dragons and Super Wheel Blast. The team’s inspiration surely came from the large herds of buffalo roaming the plains of the Australian outback. Wait, what? There are no buffalo in Australia. At least not native ones. They have water buffalo, brought in from Indonesia a hundred years ago, and today there are some ranchers raising limited quantities for bison meat. Clearly, though, the buffalo is an All-American icon. So, too, are the other four game symbols: wolf, elk, eagle and cougar. The remaining card symbols, ace through nine can be claimed equally by both continents, since American frontiersmen and pioneering Aussies were both renowned for their love of gambling and card play. The first successful clone, Buffalo Deluxe, was also from Oz Studio and had a choose your volatility feature. It was just a marginal success, but the next game from Studio 6 (also Australia-based), Buffalo Stampede, was very strong. Studio 6, it should be noted, also has an impressive resume, featuring More Chilli and Cash Express Gold. Stampede marked Aristocrat’s move in to the participation space. It debuted on what at the time was a big screen format: the Verve cabinet. (For a look at it, see Pechanga Resort & Casino’s You Tube video here). But Buffalo again defied tradition as variations from other studios were also hits. Buffalo Grand on the Double Arc cabinet came from Studio 54’s Ted Hase (one of the original creators of the Xbox) working with Aristocrat in Las Vegas. This group also contributed Tarzan and The Walking Dead games. The latest 10th Anniversary game is from their Secret Sauce Studio. It’s also based in Las Vegas and produced Britney Spears and the Big Bang Theory. Aristocrat seems to have no shortage of innovative studios stocked with great game designers on their team. Whatever their origin, each spin-off has the Buffalo DNA. They just add more and more features. The Diamond version is no exception. It features 2,400 ways to win (up from the original’s 1,024) and has a five-reel 4-5-6-5-4 symbol arrangement. The lower concave screen seems perfect for the reel-set giving the giant cabinet an intimate feel, while the new vertical bonus wheel seems natural on the convex upper portion of this S screen. In addition to the 2X, 3X and 4X multipliers that are seemingly everywhere, this game features a $500,000-reset progressive triggered by the wheel. If all that weren’t enough, Aristocrat showed their Relm XL reel-spinner with Thundering 7s and Inferno last year at G2E and are unveiling new Buffalo Golden Sevens and Ignite themes at this show. You can also get Buffalo Gold now on the standard Relm. Given Buffalo’s place in our industry with over 20,000+ installs, it seemed justified to feature just that game in this story, but there’s a lot more to see in the Aristocrat booth. They are again located at G2E in the power row at the left end of the Sands Expo between Everi & Scientific Games and Konami & Novomatic. As Matt Wilson, Aristocrat’s Managing Director America’s, says, We are passionately committed to creating products for every customer preference, and we are absolutely thrilled to showcase our latest innovations at this show. Take him at his word, since you’ll need more than a few minutes to see their new Edge X cabinet and preview themes such as Mad Max: Fury Road, Billions, and Westworld. There are also new versions of Madonna, Walking Dead, Big Bang Theory and the legendary Lightning Link/Dragon Link games. Of course, there are dozens of new themes out for each version of the Helix and Relm cabinets. Throw in a handful of new features on their Oasis 360 tracking system, and you’d better plan on spending at least an hour there. Two might be better.