Scientific Game

Designing for Expansion

For WMS Gaming, opportunities await across East Asia

Friday, 13 July 2012 18:05
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Innovative array—the WMS stand at G2E Asia 2012

WMS Gaming brought more than 40 new gaming machines to this year’s G2E Asia, showcasing innovations the company intends to parlay to drive expansion across the casino floors of Macau, Singapore, the Philippines and beyond.

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WMS’s Larry Pacey, left, and Orrin Edidin, right

Looking out over the sprawling exhibit floor at The Venetian Macao, WMS President Orrin J. Edidin expressed the belief that the opportunities for the U.S.-based slot giant to pursue that goal have never been more promising.

“Clearly the mass market has moved in. The retail player has moved,” he said, speaking of his observation of Macau. “It’s evolving like any market does as it matures. This is still a table market primarily, but slots are becoming an increasingly important revenue generator for the casino operators.”

The larger the market, the more diverse, as he well knows, and what that presents, side by side with the opportunities, is an array of fresh challenges for manufacturers.

“Like what we have in our more mature markets in North America, they’re going to have to cater to different players. There’s a high-volatility, core gambling player that we know and love. There’s also a retail player who’s looking for a slightly different experience. So our product offering has to be segmented to match these different player segments. And that doesn’t come as a surprise to us because we see that in new markets.”

Armed with a powerful new platform in the CPU-NXT3, the broad portfolio of products WMS brought to the show included a variety of differentiated gameplay mechanics, several math models and an array of innovative reel displays.

Licensed titles, always one of the company’s strongest suits, were a highlight, led by the new Aladdin & The Magic Quest, a game that takes WMS’s unique Sensory Immersion technology to a new level—Sensory Immersion 2.0, it’s called—incorporating 3D graphics and theater-quality sound in an experience in which players are taken for a magic carpet ride, literally, in a “motion system” chair that swoops and dips and banks through the air in sync with the three unique bonus rounds unfolding on the screen.

“We think that that’s going to be exciting,” said WMS Executive Vice President, Global Products and Chief Innovation Officer Larry Pacey. “Something new and novel and different that they don’t have. And sometimes that breaks through to all kinds of consumers.”

Also on display was the latest wide-area progressive addition to the popular Wizard of Oz series, “Journey to Oz,” and a new offering, Battleship, based on the board game and movie. “Journey to Oz,” a member of WMS’s Collaborative Gaming series, features a mini-spinning wheel in the base game and a large community video spinning wheel on dual 52-inch overhead screens in the bonus round. Battleship, available on the Bluebird2 and Bluebird xD cabinets, is a five-reel video game available in 20-, 30- and 40-line configurations, packed with bonus rounds awarding free spins, credits and multipliers, each bonus unique to two initial base themes, “Commanding Officer” and “Periscope Pays”.

Mr Edidin acknowledges the difficulties in conveying brand-specific games across cultures. “It’s tough because the brands speak for themselves. There’s only so much localization you can do.” At the same time, there are those who weather the trip well. “Certain brands are universally recognized. And we do focus from a research standpoint on zeroing in on which of those brands do have international appeal, and which have Asian appeal.” He believes Battleship will be one of them. “The movie was hugely successful in Asia. It didn’t do as well in the U.S., or is not doing well in the U.S., but that could be a question of timing. We have a Battleship-themed game that we’re bringing into other international markets as well. It really depends on the brand.”

The company also is confident its new G+ 5x4 series will be well-received across the region. Like all new WMS offerings, this enhanced version of the popular G+ video reel series is the outgrowth of a considerable amount of thought and preparation.

“We do a lot of player-focused research,” noted Mr Edidin, “and we do that research both at the conception and prototype stages, as well as after products are commercialized. We really want to understand the Asian players, and we have a team that’s here and working with operators and gaining access to players and talking to them. It’s really important. The best hope that you have with succeeding with a game in any market is to understand what their expectations are within that particular segment—the high roller, for instance, the high-volatility player, the core gambler, what their expectations are, what they look for when they decide what game they want to play, and then fulfilling those expectations when they sit down and play the game. So the math becomes critically important. Everything else is just the eye candy that gets them to sit down at the game. But the math is going to keep them there.”

The Bluebird-powered G+ 5x4 features stacked wilds, 50- and 100-line options and scattered free-spin bonuses. Among the titles certain to be coming soon to the region’s slot floors, all available in Mandarin: “China Emerald,” with wins doubled in the eponymously named bonus; “Golden Emperor,” which offers a “nudge” feature in the stacked wilds trigger; in “Dragon’s Realm,” players get a fourth row of symbols; and “Rome & Egypt,” also with an extra symbol row and up to 50 free spins in the bonus that can be repeatedly retriggered.

The series—Dragon’s Realm in particular—is doing “spectacularly well” said Mr Pacey. “We’ve seen really great uptake on that,” he said.

The series has been integral to WMS’ evolving approach to game design, the fruits of which will be born in Macau in the months ahead. Its centerpiece, Mr Pacey said, will be a “very, very focused product portfolio around what I would call the core gambler, someone who’s really interested in a core experience, a no-frills kind of experience. There’s a whole product line coming down the road that’s very focused into that segment. Suddenly that’s an opportunity for us. Because we’ve always been on the broader reaches of the spectrum. So to really deliver a consistent core product, I think, will be almost like a new segment for us. We always dabble in it. But we’re going to have something very dedicated there. That’s going to be really good.”

Beyond Macau, Mr Edidin sees opportunities across East Asia. “The Philippines continues to grow. There are several new openings slated for the next couple of years. We know Vietnam is becoming a very hot market and is drawing some large capital investment. I think some of the principal investors are looking for a little bit more flexibility in terms of legislation to enable a successful casino operation, but I think that will evolve as well. There’s Cambodia. And Singapore is obviously a very important market—not just the casinos there but also the clubs. Singapore is an increasingly important market, and we have a very meaningful presence there.”

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''Alladin & The Magical Quest'' - Wide Area Progressive Game Themes 

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