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Bally steps up its video reel games offer in Asia and beyond

Wednesday, 15 April 2009 00:00
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Bally Technologies' ALPHA Operating System for slots claims bragging rights as the first in the industry to support both video and mechanical reel-spinning games.

Now the market-proven and famously stable ALPHA OS has moved to the next phase of development by offering virtual reel spinners in both stepper and non-stepper format on a video slot screen. Given that Las Vegas-based Bally has roots dating back to 1932, it opens up the possibility of offering in video format all manner of reel games from the company's vast library—but with bonusing and levels of functionality never dreamt of by previous generations of reel players.

One of the pulse-quickening Alpha OS-based video product groups Bally will be showing off at G2E Asia in June is its Quick Hit™ series of five reel games packaged in the company's striking 32-inch V32 video cabinet.

"We took the math of the mechanical spinning reels and we put it onto a video version, which is doing extremely well," says John J. Connelly, Vice President, International and Gaming Operations.

Pan-Asian appeal

"We're looking to place them in South Korea. We are one of the largest suppliers on the floors there, and it's one of the largest markets in Asia for steppers and reels," he explains.

"Our strategy in our Asian markets is to continue to roll out the Hot Shot game series and Quick Hits steppers, which are our two flagship game series, followed by the Platinum series.

"In Macau we have rolled out Quick Hit Platinum to the Grand Lisboa, Wynn Macau and Venetian Macau and are pleased with the early results," adds Mr Connelly.

"The Philippines is one of our key growth markets where Hot Shot has enjoyed terrific success. We have just started rolling out our Quick Hit stepper and are seeing strong performance from this series".

At the recent International Gaming Expo 2009 in London, Bally demonstrated its Quick Hit Playboy Platinum game, the latest in its stable of Playboy branded products, and which includes a bonus round with a video display of Playmate models. The company also exhibited Quick Hit Diamond—the follow-up to the Quick Hit Platinum format. In Quick Hit Diamond various scattered symbols lead to one of five progressive jackpots, ranging from a few dollars to a top jackpot measured in the thousands of dollars. Quick Hit Diamond, like its predecessor, features a frequently hitting jackpot, that returns a progressive in the hundreds of dollars on average every few thousand spins.

There's a long-standing debate among gaming equipment manufacturers serving Asia as to whether progressive or volatile games are most popular with players. Bally understands though that the 'Asian' market is not uniform but rather multi-dimensional, both in terms of territories and customer segments within territories. Different game styles appeal to different segments. In any case video slot technology may be rendering the progressive versus volatile debate less relevant than it once was.

Quick Hit games for example are essentially progressives, but thanks to video technology, a product with progressive game logic can be made even more exciting by introducing volatile elements to the bonusing system. And even within the progressive format, individual games can be tweaked to become more or less volatile. Bally's Quick Hit five-reel, five-level progressive games Amber Rays, Gold Storm, Silver Rain and Starlight Fire, for example, have overall hit frequencies ranging from 48.49% for Amber Rays and Gold Storm, to 31.51% for Starlight Fire.

Games inside games

"What makes Quick Hit a success is you can win free games with more free games inside them. Players really seem to like that. We also offer a multi-tier progressive with free games," points out Mr Connelly.

"Progressives are certainly very successful in parts of Asia, but more and more players seem to be looking for games where they may not win as often but when they do they are winning a significant amount," he adds.

ALPHA OS distinguished itself early on as a system that operates completely separately from game applications. This modular approach has allowed Bally to develop and market new games more efficiently and speedily without having to redesign the OS each time. ALPHA OS was from the beginning engineered to support server-based gaming initiatives, including download of game results, configuration and game content.

Bally's continuous desire to combine slot product innovation with delivery via a proven and stable platform is a key element in meeting and even exceeding operators' expectations, says the company. The same principle applies to other areas of Bally's gaming equipment offer, states Mr Connelly.

"Bally is very diversified. We have a footprint of more than 50,000 units worldwide where we derive some kind of a daily fee," he explains.

All systems go

"We are also the global leader in systems. Bally iVIEW as we know is proven with installations in approximately 180,000 units worldwide. With Bally Business Intelligence it's a new product but a proven technology that we are actively marketing. We have just started to install it in a number of locations. Under the Bally brand we are now interfacing that with our systems in the U.S. initially and now getting ready to expand that internationally. It's going to be a great tool in a downward economy to help our customers, at relatively low cost, potentially to generate increased revenue," adds Mr Connelly.

Diversification has also been achieved by strong sales outside core markets in North America he says.

"Our ship share—i.e., the percentage of new orders being placed by casinos versus their floor footprint, always a good indicator—has gone up considerably over the past few years. And our international growth has gone up over the last three years at an average of over 30% per year. That in itself has helped diversification," points out Mr Connelly.

Support for the bottom line

He says, however, that growth in Asia and elsewhere has been pursued with a careful eye on controlling costs and maintaining and enhancing profitability.

"Where our competitors may have been in markets for years and may have been deriving large sums of revenue in many areas and built up large infrastructures, we are at something of an advantage by being a relative latecomer in some emerging markets. Our [corporate] infrastructure is very lean.

"It's enabled us to optimise available capital by for example working with our key customers in arranging finance terms for them. This will help to see us and the industry through this challenging period," says Mr Connelly.

"We will continue to build and grow based on the success of Quick Hit, Quick Hit Platinum and Hot Shot throughout Asia Pacific."

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