Scientific Game

Redrawing the Road Map

TCSJOHNHUXLEY is charting new paths to growth around a renewed emphasis on product development

Wednesday, 23 January 2013 13:48
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It’s a retooled, repurposed TCSJOHNHUXLEY entering the new year, eager to build on its successes in Asia as both a top distributor and an imaginative developer of table games and supporting systems.

The last 12 months have been significant ones for UK-based HUXLEY, with Cath Burns taking the helm as group CEO last March and veteran Executive Director of Operations Rebecca Kingswell stepping up last summer to replace Tristan Sjöberg as head of the Asia business and Dr Sjöberg assuming the role of Executive Chairman with the passing of his father, Bertil Knutsson, the company’s owner and guiding spirit.

To hear management tell it, what transpired over this period was something akin to a corporate soul-searching. Strengths and weaknesses were scrutinized. Operational capabilities were reviewed and revised. Core values have been reaffirmed. No small thing for a company whose name has long been synonymous worldwide with innovative technologies for the pit. Significantly, there’s now a new vigor behind the money and mind capital being directed toward refining and expanding the product portfolio. “It’s exciting,” says Marketing Manager Tracy Cohen. “It’s a new focus for us that we didn’t previously have and it puts us in a stronger position as a company, definitely, for growth.”

If you were spying the influence in all this of the highly respected Ms Burns, who was instrumental over the last decade in putting Bally Technologies on the map in Macau and across East and Southeast Asia, you’d be right.

Taking the helm—Cath Burns

“Absolutely, absolutely,” Ms Cohen says. “We have pulled together as one team globally and identified our strengths and weaknesses, prioritized our product development for the short term and established our key interim goals. The focus and disciplines that Cath has brought to us is definitely helping us as a business, from the product portfolio that we currently have and whatever we develop in the future.”

By late spring of 2012, TCSJOHNHUXLEY was revamping the Far East team with the appointment of a new Sales Director, Andrew Hanley, who was Ms Burns’ Sales Manager at Bally, based in Macau, and who’d served prior to that as Vice President of International Sales for Transact. This was followed by the opening of a new design and development facility under the auspices of TCSJOHNHUXLEY’s Europe division and strategically located near York University in England—an IT hub, home of the country’s Science City and its “single largest source of software developers,” according to Ms Cohen. “So we’ve got some of the most talented software developers to choose from,” she says. “We’ve got now a team of seven people that are going to be just purely developing system and games software, which is very exciting for us because, obviously, we own it, we’re in control of it.”

In October, after a three-year hiatus, the company returned to G2E in Las Vegas in a burst of creativity aimed at broadening the audience for table games, a mission TCSJOHNHUXLEY has fulfilled well over the years.

Ms Burns professed herself “delighted” with the return, saying, “We are looking forward to sharing our future plans for product development, innovation and growth.”

On the games front, the show saw the unveiling of a new live blackjack hybrid designed with Asian players in mind and titled Dragon 21. Bettors may choose either “Tiger” or “Dragon”. Hands are played out around simple blackjack rules, and the hand closest to 21 wins.

The homage to baccarat is obvious, as it is with BaccPo, which debuted at G2E Asia last May and was shown in Las Vegas in two new versions. Similar to Dragon 21 in its combination of blackjack’s speed with the betting simplicity of baccarat, the game is unique in that it’s spiced with a skill component derived from poker (hence, the name), and the company sees it as an entré into Asia’s VIP rooms. “That’s our next stage of development of this particular product,” says Ms Cohen.

“Once the platform’s there, and it’s solid, then we can add anything to it. The opportunities are absolutely limitless.”

Then there was Tablet Roulette, a child of TCSJOHNHUXLEY’s technological prowess, a server-based platform that brings live table action to players anywhere in the casino via their tablet computers.

There’s no mobile app yet, but that would seem to be the next stage.

“It’s a question of maximizing the R&D and product development time scales with the needs of our customers. So we can sit here and say we want to do this, this and that. The reality is we need to align our product development to business opportunity.” Ms Cohen adds, “We’re being very careful not to over promise. There’s a process in place now to help us prioritize customer commitments. We do not offer any promises over and above what we know we can achieve.”

But there will be a Baccarat version, a development of some relevance in this part of the world. In fact, the timetable is the first half of the year—prime time, as it turns out, for an unveiling at G2E Asia.

“There will be some exciting products,” Ms Cohen promises. What’s also certain is that the TCSJOHHUXLEY we’ll see in Macau in May [at G2E Asia] will be fundamentally different from the one we’ve seen here before.

“We are committed to Asia. We are investing in products and people for the region. We have invested significantly over the past year and will continue to do so. Our Executive Chairman is based in Singapore which further supports our commitment to the region,” according to Ms Burns.

“I think it is metamorphosing,” Ms Cohen says. “It’s working on the strengths of our past and looking to the future, understanding the marketplace. In the past we were trying to do lots of things for all customers. So we’re now taking stock of what we’ve got, reevaluating it and looking for products that add value to our customers’ business and have growth potential. Especially products that we develop in-house. That said, we will continue to forge strong relationships with our product partners through our distribution relationships. We have had great success with these relationships, and that combined with our focus on more internal product development means there’s great potential and a very strong road map to the future.”

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