Robust growth in its Asian markets helped propel Aristocrat to a double-digit increase in profit in the first half—and if the innovations displayed at G2E Asia are any indication, that performance is set to continue
Aristocrat came to G2E Asia in May having just secured almost half the slot floor at Manila’s new Solaire Resort & Casino. It was a coup good for almost 600 machines, and it would prove instrumental in driving a solid first half for the Australia-based slot giant in which net profit after tax grew 11.2% year on year to A$52.6 million on $383.2 million in revenues.
Aristocrat singled out “maintenance of our leading position in the Asia Pacific market” as a highlight of those results. Indeed, revenues outside the Western Hemisphere and Australia accounted for 18% of all the business the company did in the six months through 31st March and were up 4.5% over the same period in 2012.
“The Asia Pacific business grew significantly,” Aristocrat said in its analysis of the results, “supported by a product portfolio tailored to the markets in the region.”
This was clearly in evidence on the show floor at The Venetian Macao, where the company unveiled two new entries in its popular Legends series—50 Dragons Deluxe and Fortune King Deluxe—and treated the region to a first look at its innovative Wonder 4 multigame platform.
“2013 is about reaffirming our commitment to Asia and supporting our customers with dedicated and best-performing content specifically developed for this region,” says General Manager Asia David Punter.
The Legends Series has risen to the challenges implied by that commitment by extending the popularity of proven game brands with new features and notable enhancements to the mechanics and the quality of the graphical interface of classics like 5 Dragons, the Reel Power stalwart that arguably is still the best-known game in Macau. The Legends version, which debuted in 2011, offered higher win multiples and a compelling free games feature that lets players choose either a set number of spins with up to a 40-times multiplier or a “Mystery Choice” that randomly selects the number of games and the multiplier. The reception was enthusiastic, and 5 Koi Legends followed in 2012. This year, with 50 Dragons Deluxe, players will be enjoying an all-new graphics and sound package and a “choose your volatility” option that guarantees longer stacked wilds for an even spicier gamble— leveraging, as 5 Dragons Legends does to great effect, that vaunted approach to game math for which Aristocrat is famous. Fortune King Deluxe offers two new features plus bonus free games and a similarly enhanced visual package.
As Mr Punter puts it, “We have to be changing. We have to mold ourselves to what’s happening in the region”—and the maturation of the Macau machine gambler, he notes, has been one of its more significant developments.
“You’re getting players that have got a lot more variety. We’re seeing changes in denomination come into play, more animation and graphics, lower volatility games and higher volatility games. Where it used to be just standalone and link, now there’s licensed product in the marketplace, there’s features in the top box, and you’re starting to see more standalone jackpot-style games.”
Legends is one response. On Demand is another, a downloadable solution, shown in Asia for the first time at G2E, that lets operators change out game content with the touch of a button. This includes a number of dual-language titles. Then there’s More Power, a new iteration of Reel Power that brings a whole new level of interaction to the popular standalone progressive format. More Power features expanding reels that shift from 243 ways to win in 3×5 reels in the free games feature to 1,024 ways in 4×5 and up to 3,125 possible combinations in 5x5s.
The Hyperlink multi-progressive platform is getting a fresh look as well, and G2E saw the pairing of Hyperlink 2.0 with Dragons on the Lake, a game designed specifically for the Asian market that brings together elements of 5 Dragons and FA FA FA in the form of a symbol-triggered jackpot and selectable volatility that lets players target the prize they want to aim for. The bank on the show floor was fitted with an A-list underneath consisting of 5 Dragons Deluxe, Fortune King and Choy Sun Doa.
Dragons on the Lake—Hyperlink 2.0 with an Asian twist, featuring symbol-triggered jackpots and selectablevolatility.
Also unveiled was an exciting reprise of Hyperlink’s legendary Cash Express—Cash Express Gold Class, sporting an interactive top box in the shape of a locomotive smokestack and a randomly triggered “Multiplier Wheel Feature” that boosts base game wins up to 100 times. A “Gold Class Feature,” also randomly triggered, moves the player into a special three-reel screen for 20 free games. Jackpots are generated via a “Stop Reels” button that halts each of the five reels on a points total, the cumulative points corresponding to a progressive. There’s also an additional prize level that resets to a higher amount than the traditional four.
The show also saw the Asian debut of Wonder 4, an entirely unique take on the multi-game concept that allows players to select one or more of four base games in any combination or all four at once. It’s a multi-game within a multi-game with an innovative drag-and-drop feature that lets players move the titles from the menu onto any of the reel sets. Choices include two Reel Power scatter-pay games and an Xtra Reel Power game in addition to the standard payline game. A bonus-packed “Super Feature,” triggered when the symbols line up on reels 1, 2 and 3, gets four games going at once at heady max bets in the range of 1,600 credits. The version designed for Macau and the larger region, “Wonder 4 Stars,” features 5 Dragons and 50 Lions, another proven performer.
It was just days after G2E Asia that Aristocrat stated its expectation that profits in the next six months will be as robust as the first six, with the Asia Pacific division continuing to play a leading role. Revenues in the region were up 7.8% in the first half over the same period last year on a 14% increase in overall volumes, and “The [market] is expected to remain strong throughout 2013 and into 2014,” the company said, “with new openings complementing our established regional business.”
Jamie Odell, chief executive of parent Aristocrat Leisure, said at the time: “This positive momentum has allowed the business to refresh our strategy, fund acquisitions and invest in share-taking opportunities in both existing and emerging segments.”
What this promises for the months ahead is that more of the market-leading innovation witnessed at G2E Asia will find its way to the slot floors of Macau, the Philippines and Singapore—“an increasingly competitive region,” as Aristocrat describes it, where “a tailored product portfolio focusing on regionally relevant content will continue to drive market share.”
5 Dragons Legends was voted ‘Best Standalone Slot’ in the Inside Asian Gaming 2013 Supplier Awards. IAG Editor James Rutherford, right, presents the trophy to(from left) David Punter and Aristocrat Australia Design Studio Director – Concept Matt Chan and Asia Pacific Regional Marketing Manager Nathan Drane.