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Driving Performance

Aristocrat banks on Viridian's early success

Monday, 16 March 2009 00:00
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Gaming real estate is a cherished asset in Asia. As margins are squeezed, only the strongest and best performing products will survive.

Slot machine manufacturer Aristocrat is doing its bit to drive a recovery in Asia's gaming markets by launching its slimmer, sexier, more appealing Viridian. The new cabinet is not only easy on the eyes, with better graphics and gorgeous curves, but its promise of untold riches also makes it irresistible to players.

Sex appeal aside, Aristocrat endowed Viridian with technological enhancements and design improvements that maximise its performance on casino gaming floors and in slot clubs.

When Viridian finally landed in Asia in September 2008, early adopters of Aristocrat's new baby were not left disappointed.

Wynn Macau and MGM Grand were the first Macau operators to install Viridians at the end of 2008 and both report the product has performed remarkably well for them, with Wynn's Viridians recording well above floor average..

Wynn has 20 standalone Viridian cabinets, 14 of which are on the main floor, and 21 Hyperlink Viridians.

Wynn's director of slot operations, Craig Mitchell, reveals that after replacing a bank of Xcite machines with a bank of Viridians, the Viridians are generating one and a half times the revenues of the Xcites—that includes new and old games.

MGM Grand Macau introduced Viridians in December 2008, and is pleased with the cabinets' performance on the main gaming floor.

Aristocrat's general manager Asia Pacific, Ken Jolly, says, "For a new product launch, I'm very excited about the response to Viridian from players. Sometimes new cabinet acceptance can take time, but Viridian's launch has been outstanding. As more Viridians are installed, market acceptance and player popularity continue to grow."

Viridian's early success will see it achieve dominance on Macau's newest gaming floor, City of Dreams.

"One of our largest installations of Viridians will be at City of Dreams when it opens in the middle of the year," says Mr Jolly.

Slots will continue to generate a growing proportion of total casino revenue in Macau, especially following the recent decline of the dominant VIP baccarat market. Macau's VIP baccarat revenue fell 7.5% year-on-year in the fourth quarter of 2008, pulling total casino revenue down 2.5%. However, the mass market held strong during the fourth quarter, with non-VIP baccarat revenue up 8.2%, led by a 29.5% increase in slot revenue. For the whole of 2008, slot machine revenue grew 57.3%, outstripping the 31.0% growth of total revenue.

As the market-leading slot machine supplier in Macau—and most of Asia—Aristocrat is betting on Viridian to help drive an industry recovery.

More than 400 Viridians are operating in to casinos and slot halls in Macau, Cambodia, Vietnam and The Philippines, with more orders nearing fulfilment.

Viridian's launch coincided with that of Aristocrat's new Hyperlink concept, Fa Fa Fa.

Fa Fa Fa is an Asian-themed Hyperlink, which includes three of Aristocrat's strongest performing games, Choy Sun Doa, 50 Dragons and 5 Dragons. Lucky 88 will be the next game added to the suite.

Asian themed games consistently outperform on gaming floors around the world, which is one reason Fa Fa Fa could not only build on the successes of Aristocrat's most penetrated link product, Cash Express, but exceed them, according to Mr Jolly.

Both Wynn Macau and MGM Grand Macau report that Fa Fa Fa's performance is already exceeding that of Cash Express among mass-market players.

Mr Mitchell points out: "The Viridian Fa Fa Fa is our best performing Aristocrat product on the main floor. Since Chinese New Year [in January], it has flown; its performance is more than double what the average is for 20-cent denomination machines here."

High-limit and VIP players generally take longer to adjust and transition to new cabinets and games, so Wynn has softened Viridian's introduction to the high-limit area by retaining Aristocrat's popular MKVI games in the new cabinets.

The Viridian cabinet also includes Money Train, a brand extension of its Cash Express Hyperlink.

"Hyperlink is Aristocrat's most successful link pattern ever and Cash Express is the strongest theme to date within that family. Money Train is an enhancement that will extend Cash Express's life into the Viridian generation," says Mr Jolly.

"Money Train has four games on each cabinet enabling a player to select which game they want to play. The mathematics of the jackpot are equivalent to Cash Express; it is the look and enhanced four-in-one gaming capacity that elevate it to the Viridian Gen7 platform," Mr Jolly adds.

Money Train can run as a link in its own right or hook into customers' existing Cash Express games. Money Train games include Indian Dreaming, Tigress, Turtle Treasure and Tiki Talk.

New standalone games Double Happiness, Lucky 88, Butterfly Kiss and Timber Wolf are adding to Viridian's excellent results.

By the end of 2009, 70 titles of standalone and Hyperlink games will be available in the Viridian cabinet. Of those, 40 will be new games that cater to both the existing Xcite base and Viridian Gen7's.

Aristocrat's marketing director Asia Pacific, David Punter, says the company is undertaking market research in the region to enhance its product range. "We recently sent game designers to the region to liaise with operators and pick their brains about products, games and future developments. The idea behind engaging operators is to open the lines of communication and work towards a pipeline of better, more regionally-focused products."

Mr Jolly says Aristocrat's existing product schedule remained on track despite the challenges thrown up by the economic downturn. "We're still rolling out products as planned. There has been no change to our direction," he claims.

While casino operators are being forced to cut back on investing in their gaming floors through economic necessity, Mr Jolly says Aristocrat remained committed to its customers and is excited by the performance of its new products and games.

Mr Jolly asserts: "We're here for the long term to support our customers through this difficult time. Aristocrat has the largest market share in most Asian countries and we have high quality people stationed throughout those markets.

"A few new slots companies entered Macau recently with the belief that the gaming industry's easy. All they see is Macau's reduced barriers to entry and they want a slice of the business.

"As an established supplier, we know that success—particularly in this climate—can be a hard battle. Successful companies—the ones to rely on—require more than just a presence in Macau. They need a good support network, a reliable reputation, good customer relationships and a range of products which provide a great return on investment."

Viridian Fast Facts

Launch: June 2008 at G2E Asia. First orders dispatched in September

Features: Slimmer footprint, high-resolution dual LCDs, wraparound belly art

Gen7 platform: Driven by Intel embedded processor which enables high resolution graphics, enhanced sound, dynamic scorecards, easy game play interface, onscreen player selectable denominations and powers a new breed of games

Serviceability: Compartmentalised interior for ease of access

Conversions: Games installed by Smart Card rather than EPROM enabling quick conversions, convenient handling and storage, lower corruption risk

Security: Split door design

Green credentials: Lower power consumption, reduced running costs, no incandescent lighting, piping and improved ventilation dissipates internal heat so no need for fans, fewer toxic chemicals used in the manufacturing process

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