Gaming manufacturers adapt to mass reality

slot machines

Macau, once known as a premier gaming destination for high-roller gamblers, has been shifting its weight towards mass gamblers and that change is being reflected in trends on the casino floor. Elsewhere in Asia, gaming jurisdictions are also seeing similar changes and gaming manufacturers are tweaking their product lines to better suit the times.

“There is a move back to lower denominations in table games, slot games and ETGs,” commented Ken Jolly, vice president – Asia of SHFL Entertainment Asia. “The mass market is seeing that they want to play lower denomination games, and we’re seeing that in casinos now with tables. Before casinos [in Macau] were MOP1,500 on the main floor minimum bet, you’re now seeing MOP200-300 tables again, like the old days,” he said.

SHFL Entertainment Asia recently released its Double Blessings slot game, as part of its Duo Fu Duo Cai series. One of the notable changes to the series is that it is now available in a HK$0.05 denomination, the lowest available in the product line.“What we’re seeing in the market is that some of the venues are pushing that now into the 5c, obviously for the mass market,” he said. “Previously it was 10s, 20s and 50c. We’re getting great results in that.”

Help at hand

Joji Kokuryo, senior compliance & operations manager of Aruze Macau said he has observed a similar trend in electronic table games.

“We are seeing an enormous rise in popularity of electronic table games. These machines offer lower minimum bets compared with actual tables, while also having help screens to allow new players to learn the rules and odds of the games. These two points are key when catering to the mass market,” he said.

But the key to attracting the mass market, is in diversity of options.

“While the mass market is often grouped to prefer low to mid volatility and eye-catching games, there is still a need for higher volatility titles. In fact, we feel that the mass market requires a wider range of games, and our main goal is to provide our customers, the casino operators, with a variety of proven titles.”

But each market is different, adds Joji.

“While electronic table games are a focal point in Macau, in the Philippines and Malaysia we are seeing an increase in linked jackpot popularity. In Singapore and their IR model, eye-catching titles suitable to the mass market are performing very well. Vietnam and Cambodia markets are taking bits and pieces of what is working in the nearby Asian markets and gradually updating their floors. Locations such as Saipan have been blooming as of late, further increasing the competition within the region.”

Brad Glencross, global product manager at Interblock confirms: “In Macau it’s all about Baccarat with 90% of casino floors dedicated to Baccarat. This being said there is a steady growing market for our Electronic Roulette and Sic Bo products where players bet at play stations around an automated wheel or dice shaker. The close proximity to the gaming device resonates with the players along with exciting animations and sounds.”

Asian players and operators have taken strongly to ETGs throughout the region, says Glencross. “While Macau, Cambodia and Laos are still strongly traditional; markets such as Vietnam, Philippines and Korea are always excited about new technology on the casino floor. These markets are always interested in adding to the entertainment experience.”

Multi options
 
Even the choice of machine varies from market to market, noted Albert Radman, sales director at Alfastreet.
 
“For example in more traditional markets such as Cambodia, Vietnam, Laos and India the preference goes to the fixed cabinet… In more advanced markets, such as Singapore, Macau or the Philippines the players are looking for more gaming options on a single gaming terminal.”
 
Interblock CEO John Connelly says, “Based on data we have collected, we are seeing that ETGs are a becoming the conduit to the casino floor. They are reaching across gender and demographic boundaries to appeal to every type of player: not only drawing in the next generation of player, also keeping existing and experienced players playing for longer periods of time and playing more often. Slot players and live table games players alike are playing ETGs, because they offer a different gaming experience than what players are used to.”
 
He adds: “At Interblock, our main objective is to share information collected in our research to operators that show ETGs should be evaluated in a category of their own.”

The differences in games aren’t night and day however, says Amy Ruppas of Ainsworth Game Technology.  

“The game design across Asia does not vary too much, with Jackpots being the main game element changed due to differing currency valuations. Games which work in Macau will normally work in regions such as Vietnam, Cambodia and Singapore. Generally, games with some cultural connection to the Asian demographics have the greatest following. The exception to this is the Philippines which has a more Western influence than its neighbours and therefore can have a broader spectrum of games which are popular with players.”

While suppliers are coming out with lower denomination games, there’s also big investment in higher tech, more sophisticated games, say experts, keeping tabs on developments in virtual reality.

Virtual growth
 
Virtual reality, a concept relatively new to the gambling industry, is already forecast to grow nearly 800 percent over the next five years, according to Juniper Research.

“My personal view is that, like a lot of these new trends, they will grow over time and virtual reality is one of those. As the millennials grow older and the next generation come along – they are looking for that all-in type of experience. Products will get much more interactive and more virtual reality style,” commented Jolly.

“There is definitely a shift to utilizing more technology in gaming,” added Joji. “Technology such as 3D [can] already be seen in the market. These technological advancements will definitely attract new players from the mass market. It will be interesting to see if VR can be integrated into gaming technology, although it seems better suited for social and online gaming at this point.”

There is also opportunity in blending the off-casino experience with that of the on-floor experience, say our experts.

It’s the whole package, and it’s not just about gaming, says Joji.

“The mass gaming market is not only looking for the casino experience, but also other facets such as dining, sight-seeing, and resort hotels. However, integration of mobile and social services with casino gaming is growing as well. We have already seen player award campaigns utilize mobile devices,” he said.

Mobile games
 
Scientific Games recently released an app that allows a customer to play real money games from their device when they are detected to be on the casino floor, and switches to a free-to-play social game once they move off.

“There is an emergence between on-casino-floor and off-casino-floor by using mobile technology,” said Jolly.  

However, while the mass gambler appears to be spoilt for choice, the real key to success is down to the maths, concludes Jolly.

“Slots are getting more complicated all the time in the way the mathematics works, it’s an art. If you look at the top 4 or 5 companies putting a total of 100 different games a year, you can probably count in the last five years the best games that are still in the market. The equation to make an outstanding game is not easy. Pretty graphics and sound is not the main driver of a good game.”

As manufacturers update and tweak their product line, we can be sure that the non-premium customer is here to stay.