Slot Sector 2019: G2E reveals consistent trends among slot manufacturers Frank Legato, CDC Gaming Reports · October 4, 2019 at 10:45 am Next month in this space, I’ll offer my subjective opinion of the top games I found among all the innovative new slot products at this month’s Global Gaming Expo. Normally, in January, I’ll offer a piece analyzing trends in the slot sector. However, a summer spent examining the research compiled from the major slot manufacturers’ product lineups for this year’s G2E reveals several trends to watch for as you approach the booths of the world’s slot suppliers at the show. While the new product collections of the major suppliers are as unique and varied this year as the suppliers themselves, there are definite commonalities that are becoming standard-issue in the slot product that will be arriving at casinos in the coming year. The most obvious trends involve hardware. It is almost a requirement these days for major slot suppliers to release new cabinets every year, and the features on those cabinets change with every advancement in technology. Leading the way are the central features of those cabinets, the ever-sharper video monitors. Like most trends in slot technology, the high-definition LCD video monitor has evolved as it has become a video slot requirement. For instance, the curved monitor, first introduced with the Bally Pro Curve years ago, has been given its own twist by each supplier, from Aristocrat’s Arc to IGT’s CrystalCurve, to Everi’s Empire DCX, to Konami’s Concerto Crescent. Some suppliers are now curving these monitors into “J” or “S” shapes, just to give them their own distinct look. Some are positioning them vertically, in portrait style. Others position them horizontally, in landscape style. Some combine both configurations into entirely new styles. One increasingly popular style for video slot monitors is an immersive, cinematic view created by a central monitor flanked by two side displays, which give the player his or her own semi-private game-play area. Watch for more of this cinematic style of display at G2E this year. The resolution on these screens is something of a trend in itself. Most of the new monitors carry 4K UHD – Ultra High Definition – specs. From the player’s perspective, graphics have never been more intricate or colorful on slot machines than the ones you will see at this year’s G2E. Most of the big manufacturers save one or two major launches for the show itself – often accompanied by radical new hardware presentations – hoping to make a big splash. While there may be one or two such reveals at G2E this year, attendees will definitely find that all of the major suppliers are shoring up their product libraries with variety in hardware choices, offering all the required sizes and configurations of cabinets. Last year was the year of the giant, or at least the semi-giant, with several suppliers launching cabinets featuring displays of 50 inches, 60 inches or larger. This year you can also expect a flood of content for those form factors previewed last year, as well new variations that complete each manufacturer’s lineup of core, premium, large-format and other specialized form factors. There also will be some surprises: more than one supplier has hinted at new game presentations to be unveiled at the show. The characteristics of the games themselves are feeding several emerging trends as well. Numerous suppliers are launching games with so-called “persistent-state” features, which require a chase of some kind for credits, multipliers, progressives or other awards, typically by collecting symbols that lock in place for a finite number of re-spins. It is what’s now known as the “hold-and-spin” or “lock-and-spin” game mechanic, depending on the manufacturer. This latest trend arguably originated with a featured game mechanic of the Aristocrat mega-hit Lightning Link, but the mechanic is now being picked up in a variety of different ways – each with an achievable goal that keeps the player seated longer, or at least until the feature plays itself out. One supplier commented that persistent-state features like the lock-and-spin mechanic are “definitely having their moment” in the slot market. It’s a near certainty that you’ll have trouble finding any exhibition of new slot games at G2E that does not include this style of game mechanic somewhere in the suite of video slots. Another bona fide trend: multiple progressives. In fact, a constant flow of new multi-progressive products has meant that they’ve gone beyond trend in the slot market; they’re now effectively a requirement. All those tall, elaborate top HD monitors are showing multiple progressive meters, with multi-site or near-area progressives sharing space with fixed bonus prizes in any number of progressive schemes, from straight line combinations to collecting jackpot symbols to pick bonuses to spins of the ubiquitous bonus wheel. Which is another trend that never leaves, by the way: the wheel. Each of the major suppliers features video and reel-spinning slots with wheel bonuses, ranging from the classic game-show wheel spin to any number of other ways to give players multiple chances to spin that wheel. These days, there are typically progressive jackpot slices on those wheels, but it’s still the same: Players love wheel bonuses. Other trends abound as manufacturers look at their own best products and find new ways to use the best features of those games. What’s interesting in a non-trend sense is that, this year, there aren’t a lot of new licensed brands being launched. There are plenty of licensed brands, of course, but the suppliers are focusing on augmenting the brands that are already working – fantasy TV shows, music, and lots and lots of game shows. What the suppliers are doing successfully is choosing brands that play neatly in the world of gambling. Game shows are the obvious choice here, with TV contests easily translating into bonus rounds. But there also are TV and movie franchises that have become familiar attractions on slot floors, if only for the devotion of fans of a particular show, or, increasingly, a video game. To that end, look for increasing nods at G2E to the world of video gaming, from arcades to consoles to, notably, mobile-phone games. And not just from the growing sub-group of “skill games,” or skill-enhanced slot specialists. Owners of many of the most storied arcade and mobile games are beginning to look to the slot floor as Gen Xers begin to comprise more of the casino customer base. And as millennials reach casino age, a slow, steady rise in this style of game can be expected. Finally, the slot manufacturers are achieving much success through enriching their own internal brands, bringing new looks to established proprietary brands. In the end, a lot of the new splash goes back to content designed specifically to populate the variety of new cabinet styles, sizes and configurations. This year, an area that is expanding in the product libraries of several suppliers is the bartop. Traditional bartop leader IGT is improving its own product with new bartop configurations and forms, and several of its competitors are preparing to introduce their own bartop units. The common denominator to all the new bartop units: they all include popular video slots, as well as the traditional video poker and keno bartop mainstays. For suppliers, it’s all a matter of staying one step ahead of the next trend. The Global Gaming Expo is where you’ll find the next trend, and possibly the trend after that. And, quite possibly, the majority of those innovations will be highlighted in one area: the booths of the slot manufacturers.