Gaming Slots and electronic gaming

Slotting into Macau

Written by The Tiger

This article first appeared in the Jul/Aug 2014 issue of World Gaming magazine.

Electronic gaming giants Aristocrat have long been world leaders in the Asia-Pacific market. They were the first to introduce major linked jackpots to Macau via their highly successful Cash Express link and followed that up with Fa Fa Fa – the first linked jackpot specifically designed for the Asian market. And let’s not forget that Aristocrat is the team behind some of the most popular slots ever made such as 5 Dragons and Choy Sun Doa. WGM’s electronic gaming expert The Tiger caught up with Aristocrat’s Director of Sales and Business Development in Asia-Pacific, Mark Aubrey, at G2E Asia to find out what new developments players can expect in the near future.

The Tiger: Hi Mark, thanks for taking the time to have a chat here at G2E Asia. First of all, how does Aristocrat prepare for a major industry event such as G2E Asia and how important are these trade shows to your strategies?

Mark Aubrey: Tradeshows are a key strategic initiative for Aristocrat across our four major regions – Asia Pacific, Europe, USA and Australia. Preparation for each regional tradeshow (respectively G2E Asia and MGS, ICE, NIGA and G2E, and AGE) spans 12 months, with the tradeshow being the launching pad for the next 12 months of our product offering. It also provides the opportunity to gain feedback on current and future strategies and drive partnerships across the industry.

Tiger: Can you tell us about some of the new products introduced by Aristocrat at G2E Asia 2014 and the conceptual processes behind them?

MA: At G2E this year we’ve introduced arguably our strongest ever portfolio of product, not only in the traditional core gambler space with high volatility standalone products and links but in new categories like mass entertainment and standalone jackpots. We’ve developed a number of new concepts and mechanics and the depth of our product across all segments highlights Aristocrat’s commitment to continue to make games tailored for the Asian market.

A couple of the highlights include our new hyperlink product Good Fortune. Reintroducing Choy Sun Doa – the God of Wealth made famous by Fa Fa Fa – we wanted to create the next evolution of our Asian themed hyperlink product. Spending almost two years in development, we wanted to do more than just re-skin the successful Fa Fa Fa formula. We wanted to enhance it, both in terms of graphical presentation and game play mechanics. The traditional four level jackpot has been enhanced with a fifth standalone jackpot and the base games have been customized and integrated into the link creating a unique player experience. As an example, 5 Dragons Good Fortune adds stacked wilds into the base game. We feel Good Fortune takes our successful hyperlink formula to a whole new level.

At G2E we also showcased our E*Series product in Asia for the first time. Our E*Series games introduce something very different from us. Teaming up with Dan Marks, who has developed some of the world’s greatest entertainment products, we set out to build some of the most compelling and high performing entertainment products in the market. Mass market gaming is continuing to evolve in the region and our E*Series development demonstrates our desire to lead the market in all the different segments. The E*Series portfolio initially comprises three families spanning eight game titles. Each series evolves on popular entertainment mechanics like the highly innovative Mega Symbol in the Storm Queens series and a new Max Stacks functionality in the Sky Rider series which is unlike any other stacking game in the market. With each spin, stacked symbols are added to the reels, but the symbol and size of the stack is random. To add to the experience we’ve also added some Aristocrat-style features like “choose your volatility” blending the best functionality of mass entertainment style product with some of our learnings from the core gambler space – creating new, highly engaging mass floor experiences. E*Series adds something totally different to our portfolio and we’re really excited to get it onto floors around the region.

The Asian region is incredibly important to us. A lot of thought goes into the games we develop for Asia and these are just a couple of examples of the incredible portfolio we introduced at G2E this year. I could go onto 5 Dragons Gold, Super Feature, standalone progressives and so on but we’d be here all day.

Tiger: How does providing electronic gaming, and slots in particular, to Macau and Asia differ from other parts of the world?

MA: Asia-Pacific has unique player preferences in terms of themes, math and jackpot levels. These insights have shaped our portfolio, particularly the great games built specifically for the region such as Fa Fa Fa, 50 Dragons, Yellow Dragon, 5 Dragons Deluxe, 5 Frogs and more. The slots that have proved to be particularly successful in Macau tend to be higher volatility games such as 5 Dragons.

Tiger: Is this a reflection of the type of gamblers to be found in the region or is there also a market for the lower volatility entertainment style slots?

MA: Higher volatility games are certainly a part of Aristocrat’s success in Asia and we will continue to support this core segment. However, we know there are a range of different segments across the region. We aim to provide a compelling product offering, with robust support and pipeline of development behind each segment and ensure we cater for as many players and operators as possible.

Tiger: Why do you think Fa Fa Fa has captured the imagination of the Macau player in the way it has?

MA: The Fa Fa Fa link was one of the first dedicated developments for the Asia Pacific region. To map why this product has captured the imagination of the Macau player we would have to look back at the success of linked jackpots in Macau. Cash Express was the first major linked jackpot progressive product to be launched in Macau and it was a run-away success. It was based on placing Aristocrat’s best known and loved games underneath linked progressive jackpots. Fa Fa Fa took these core principles but overlayed a resonant theme – the God of Wealth to deliver larger jackpots than Cash Express with a similar jackpot trigger mechanism. Fa Fa Fa utilized those great core games such as 5 Dragons, 50 Dragons and Choy Sun Doa under linked progressives.

Tiger: It’s no secret that Asian gamblers love table games, baccarat in particular, which dominate the market place. How do you go about combatting this and is there potential for slots to gain a significantly bigger market share in the future?

MA: We are not focused on “combatting” table games but rather making sure we have the broadest, deepest and best Asia Pacific portfolio across our core Electronic Gaming Machine (EGM) segments. As markets mature, we do see an increased interest in EGMs such as slots and multi terminals and this is equally true of Asian markets as those elsewhere. If we continue to invest in tailoring games to lift the bar in terms of game performance for Asian players and operators, we believe we will continue to unlock market opportunities across this region.

Tiger: In terms of the evolution of slots in Asia in recent years, what can we expect from slots over the next five to 10 years?

MA: I think we will see significant innovation in the slot space in the next five to 10 years, stemming from the rapid changes we are seeing in multimedia. Expect to see technology driven content, utilizing the latest innovations in HD screens, 3D technology and more.

Tiger: Last year saw the debut of another gaming trade show, the Macao Gaming Show. How have you found having two gaming tradeshows in Macau and do you believe both have a future?

MA: MGS successfully launched in 2013 and we look forward to being part of it again in 2014. In such a large gaming growth market we believe there is room for two such shows in Asia Pacific. We’re always pleased to take advantage of opportunities to showcase our portfolio, engage with our customers and drive successful partnerships in gaming.