Gaming Slots and electronic gaming

There’s a new game in town

Written by The Tiger

This article first appeared in the May/Jun 2013 issue of World Gaming magazine.

SHFL entertaınment has long been one of the leading players in the gaming industry with a diverse offering of products. As we witness the increasing move towards electronic gaming in the Asia Pacific region, it is no surprise that SHFL entertaınment is again making people take notice. Their new progressive jackpot “Duō Fú Duō Cái”, already firmly established in Macau and rapidly spreading its wings across Asia, is at the forefront of SHFL’s latest surge.

Take a stroll around the main gaming floor of any major Macau casino and it won’t be long before you stumble upon the iconic “Fa Fa Fa”. Aristocrat’s phenomenally successful progressive jackpot product has taken Macau by storm since it was first introduced in 2009 to the point where sometimes it can be near impossible to find a Fa Fa Fa machine available. Why is Fa Fa Fa so popular?

The answer, ironically, has very little to do with Fa Fa Fa itself and more to do with the machines the jackpot is linked to – specifically “5 Dragons” (see our Rise of the Machines story on page 42 for more information on “5 Dragons”).

The high volatility of “5 Dragons” and the perception by players that they have some say over the outcome of the free spins feature are key aspects of the machine’s popularity, with players able to sacrifice the number of free games awarded in return for greater multipliers. A popular strategy is to bet big knowing the initial bet multiplied by a high multiplier means players don’t necessarily have to hit the big reel combinations to score a decent win. This strategy becomes almost irresistible once combined with the Fa Fa Fa progressive jackpot – with the prevailing (and correct) school of thought being the bigger one bets the more chance one has of hitting the jackpot feature.

The upside of this strategy is that a lot of money is turned over on “5 Dragons”, which leads to Fa Fa Fa jackpots going off with greater regularity and, as a result, the machines being played more often. It’s a self-fulfilling prophecy with the pattern becoming so entrenched that almost all big jackpots going off in Macau have been Fa Fa Fa. Macau’s biggest ever jackpot was a Fa Fa Fa that hit at Sands Macau on 10 February 2012 worth HK$21 million! By comparison, the Macau Megabucks progressive jackpot introduced by Sands China Limited in 2011, which currently stands at a massive HK$58 million, has never gone off.

Unsurprisingly there have been numerous attempts from various manufacturers to emulate Fa Fa Fa’s popularity without any real success … until now.

What is Duō Fú Duō Cái?

In 2012, SHFL entertaınment launched its “88 Fortunes” and “5 Treasures” machines which, like their predecessors, were full of Asian themes and imagery and heavily incorporated the lucky number “8” into their game play. All the betting options incorporate an auspicious number and you can bet anything from 8 credits to 880 credits covering all ways, with the standard bet being 88 credits.

Like “5 Dragons”, both “88 Fortunes” and “5 Treasures” appeal to the Asian marketplace because of the perceived level of control players have over the free spins features, but it is the Duō Fú Duō Cái jackpot above the two games that really sets these machines apart. Again, Asian themes feature heavily in the Duō Fú Duō Cái jackpot which is rich with symbols of wealth, luck and prosperity. Even the name follows these themes, with “Duō Fú Duō Cái” literally meaning “much luck, much fortune”.

When the Duō Fú Duō Cái jackpot feature is randomly triggered, players are presented with a screen of 12 lucky Chinese coins from which to choose. Touch a coin and one of the four “Fu Babies” appears, each corresponding to one of the four jackpots – Mini (green), Minor (blue), Major (purple) and Grand (red). Find three of any of the “Fu babies” and you win that prize. Imagine the excitement after hitting two of the Grand Prize Fu babies – just one baby away from a life-changing win!

So why is Duō Fú Duō Cái (which seems to have earned itself the English nickname “Fu Babies”) better than Fa Fa Fa? We spoke to Ken Jolly, Executive Vice President of SHFL entertaınment in Asia, who knows the slot industry in this region as well as anyone. After many years at Aristocrat, Ken now leads the dynamic team at SHFL. He claims Duō Fú Duō Cái’s edge come from the “maths package” behind the game, although like all good electronic gaming executives he jealously guards the intricacies of that maths package. When WGM probed him for details, a jolly Jolly laughed, “I can’t give you that! That’s what makes Fu Babies, Fu Babies!”

While Fa Fa Fa remains extremely popular in Macau, Duō Fú Duō Cái is the only alternative that has managed to make anything like a similar impact, with over 250 machines now in the marketplace. The biggest installations at the time of writing are at City of Dreams, Galaxy Macau and MGM. Originally installed only in 10c denominations, the Fu Baby progressive jackpot is now available in 20c and 50c with some venues even discussing a HK$1 option in the near future.

Since being introduced after last year’s G2E show, Fu Babies has already seen an accolade in the form of the title of “Best Progressive Slot” for Inside Asian Gaming’s 2013 Supplier Awards.

Wayne Freeman, SHFL’s Product Director EGM’s for Asia, said he had been taken aback by just how quickly Duō Fú Duō Cái has taken hold in Macau. “It’s over 20 years since I have seen a linked slot product create the phenomenon that Duō Fú Duō Cái has created in Asia,” he said. “It is exciting to have the opportunity to work with the SHFL design and engineering team that created this product in Sydney, as well as working with our customers to maximize opportunities for revenue potential on their gaming floors”.

While creating a truly successful e-gaming concept is never a sure thing, what SHFL entertaınment and their Duō Fú Duō Cái jackpot demonstrates is the importance of paying close attention to your target market. In this case it has very much been a case of observing trends in Asia and providing a product that appeals not only to the customers’ tendencies but also their long-held traditions.

As Peter Wilkins, SHFL’s General Manager Electronic Gaming Machines, explains, the success of Duō Fú Duō Cái was a journey that involved many years of effort:

Macau, like any other gaming jurisdiction, has developed and evolved over time. SHFL entertaınment … has navigated through a diverse range of styles, techniques and game play options over the previous eight years or so before arriving where we are today.

Developing product for Asia has to be a very considered process as the entire region is steeped in a gaming culture. It is possible that without the open minds, patience and willingness to partner displayed by the operators in Macau, no suitable product may ever be developed.

We would hope that the apparent success of Duō Fú Duō Cái is evidence of our increasing connection with regional tastes and somewhat of a reward for effort. We will continue to work hard with the aim of repeating that success.

Next time you’re wandering the casino floor, why not spend some time with the Fu Babies?

Jackpot’s Chinese name
What’s the baby holding?
Chinese cultural significance
duō fú jù jiǎng
much luck, grand prize
a bat
The word for “bat” sounds like the word for “luck”
duō cái dà jiǎng
much fortune, big prize
a gold ingot
The gold ingot represents wealth
duō xǐ zhōng jiǎng
much happiness, medium prize
a fish
The word for “fish” has many lucky associations
duō shòu xiǎo jiǎng
much longevity, small prize
a peach
Peaches are associated with longevity