Video reeling them in

Alex Lee asked a number of companies the following question –“Do you use video reels purely because this is a modern trend and it’s cheaper than mechanical reels or do you see yourselves as a pioneer in this field?  Are video reels simply Technology for technology’s sake or do your poker games offer players something new and different?  What do you have in store for the future, especially as serial games featuring multiple reels on one screen seem to have taken the ‘reel genre’ as far as it can go?”  Here are some of the best responses..

Craig Beer, Empire Games

Obviously we as an industry have seen an explosion of video based product since the introduction of section 16/21 machines (in the UK) during the last 18/24 months. I would say that the industry trend has been responsible for Empire Games developing this type of product. I would disagree that the video based reel products are cheaper than the traditional reel based products as is reflected in the price of the products.
      Technology is advancing every day, and yes as game developers we can do far more with video based products than traditional reel based products, including much better graphics including 3D. More than one game can be used on the same video screen and much more detailed features can be offered to casino players. We are constantly developing both reel and video based products and we will look at the market sectors and customer demand prior to any product testing or product launch, however a follow up to Ocean’s Eleven will be available in the summer.
      With thanks to Craig Beer and all at Empire Games

Phil Thomas, ace Coin Entertainments

I believe that video gaming is being successful mainly due to the flexibility of presentation that it affords. Video gaming by way of reel simulation goes back to the 1980s and although a few games were successful at that time, the higher costs were probably seen as being prohibitive in terms of sales potential especially from the sectors that, due to rental pressures, were very cost conscious. Video is succeeding in the sectors where rental pressures are less prevalent, for example arcades, bingo clubs and casinos – video games are performing extremely well in these locations and I honestly do not see a realistic return to physical reel machines as they do not have the flexibility of video platform, in particular in terms of multi-game capability.
      Video is not technology for technology’s sake. Apart from the obvious additional attributes such as multigame presentation and creative opportunities that are just not possible with glass artwork and physical reels, players have for some time been looking for new directions- I believe that we are only scratching the surface in terms of game development and potential. However, we do need to be cognizant of the ongoing need to prevent gaming from being overly complicated and running into the trap of excluding players rather than developing games for broad appeal.

We have a sequential game currently in commercial test called Fistful of Dollars. The game is part of a three-game AWP compendium presented in our Dream Play cabinet. Fistful of Dollars has been fully tested as a stand alone game and has performed  very well in it’s own right; adding it to the AWP compendium was an easy decision and allows Ace coin to present a three game AWP offering that covers all player tastes.
      I think that the Dream Play platform is a good example of just what can be achieved for the operator and the player in terms of flexibility – as well as the three AWP poker games, Dream Play contains a compendium of three  Section 16/21 games in the library and the operator can switch easily between the game categories or add more games, when he chooses, without moving the machine. Legislation may change but the machine is already future proofed for what we already know to be the likely operational changes due in 2007. The days of constant and costly machine installations and transportation in order to change games are rapidly disappearing.
      With thanks to Phil Thomas and all at Ace Coin Entertainment

Hanna Proskumya, Extrema

At the moment we use both video reels and mechanical reels. We have created Waikiki Beach – mechanical gambling machine. I believe that in our case usage of video reels is not a question of spending less money on development and manufacture than on mechanical ones – it is more a question of popularity. Mechanical reels are not popular in our country (Ukraine) like they were not long ago. This is because of a shift in the mindset of Ukrainian players. They have stopped treating video reels with mistrust, as now many of them have computers at home. Besides video slots are more attractive, more profitable and they offer more opportunities to a poker palyer.

      We develop and manufacture both traditional video reels and new ones, such as maski Show and Village of Fools – these new and peculiar games are based on the characters of famous and very popular people from domestic TV shows. Elephant’s Case, meanwhile, is created on the basis of legendary animated film Sledstvie vedut kolobki.   These three games are different to traditional ones not only in terms of the characters, but also regarding the bonus system and opportunities to win more money. In future we plan to put to market several new slot games and multigames, which comprises five popular games, including pokers. We also plan to present new types of cabinets this year. As regards other new projects, we plan to open an internet casino and a mobile casino (for mobile phones).
      With thanks to Hanna Proskumya and all at Extrema

Richard Barr, astra

Astra Games is a pioneer of video AWPs in the UK gaming industry, introducing the ground breaking 42ins plasma multiplayer Party Games to the UK market at ATEI 2003, and launching the genre defining Section 16/21 game Party Games Slotto at Preview 2004. this proactive approach to the utilization of technology has a myriad of benefits to player, operator and manufacturer.

      Combining the familiarity of a reel-based game with an eye-catching video feature was a central stratetgy of Astra’s early development. This concept had the ability to attract new players while still entertaining regular players, adding ever-desirable ‘pulling power’ to gaming floors. Party Games Slotto married a five x three reel matrix with 20 winlines, a previously impossible notion until the advent of video, unleashing a new style of game that immediately caught the imagination of all areas of the poker industry news.
      The inventiveness of Astra’s development team has profited greatly from the game enhancements the medium of video offers, taking classic game features and characteristics and spicing them up by way of interactive features and entertaining graphics. An excellent example of this is the facility to change awards linearly with stake, best seen on a dual screen cabinet such Astra’s Skyline where the top screen displays the new awards fort the player.
      Serial gaming is currently the buzzword resting on the lips of the industry, but Astra have approached the genre from a different perspective. Billionaire, astra’s new serial game, is a dynamic product on which the player can commit to playing a series of up to four games in one button press, the results of which are shown on four sets of three reels on screen. Alan Rogers, director of sales, describes the game: “Bullionaire embraces the ‘sequential’ principal but also retains the simplicity and entertainment that makes Astra’s Section 34 AWP games so appealing. Four sets of reels are visually very exciting in play, but they ’re also easy to follow as the screen is less crowded and the player can see the action of each game. This is an excellent example of the benefits video can bring. ”
      Rogers added: “Video is the future of gaming and its possibilities have not been fully exhausted. Technology is a driver that creates ideas, each new discovery spurring a multitude of new thoughts. Astra will endeavor to push the boundaries and create new games. ”
      With thanks to Richard Barr and all at Astra

Robert Taylor, Gamesoft

Firstly, using video is not cheaper for manufacturers than using mechanical reels, although they do offer the operator cheaper conversion and operating costs. Our use of them has increased as players who traditionally ‘didn’t trust a computer’ have increasingly accepted them. We use them primarily because they allow tremendous opportunities to show features and offer original styles of games in new and innovative ways. They also give operators the ability to quickly and inexpensively change games. Video reels can offer something genuinely different. There is no way our ‘cascading’ reels as used on our firecracker and Firestorm games could be manufactured as a traditional reel. It allows many new feature options that we know players enjoy.
      We see serial games as one option for the development of AWP going forward, but I don’t think they take the reel genre as far as it can go. We are looking at several other styles of video reel based game that we also hope will move the AWP forward as we know it and that have not been seen before.
      What is important in the UK right now, is that at a time of great uncertainly about changes to machine standards prior to the implementation of the 2005 Gambling Bill next year, we offer operators flexibility in terms of how they might convert or alter existing product to ensure it complies. This is where we believe our games machine really comes into its own with its compete flexibility and ease of adaptation conversion at minimal cost to the operator. Traditional mechanical reel based machines are far more expensive for the operator to convert or adapt.
      With thanks to Robert Taylor and all at Gamesoft


Tim Wittenbecher, bally Wulff

Video reels are not cheaper then mechanical reels. We need a PC to simulate and control them and a TFT to display them, which in our case costs much more than a set of mechanical reels. There have been video reels in gaming machines for many years, while Bally was still using mechanical reels only. Therefore we cannot call ourselves pioneers. On the other hand video was   forbidden in most parts of Spain in the past and now that they are legal again, we were the first company to show new machines including video reels. We chose a concept that combines mechanical reels in the lower game and 3D video animation in the upper  game. We chose a high resolution graphic card, a powerful PC and a 3D design which makes the complete video reel set extremely realistic. Compared to all the other video concepts shown in Spain’s last exhibition, we are pioneers, because our concepts is unique and the quality. Most games were video only –not combined with mechanical reels.
      On our TFT in the upper game we do not only show the reels spinning but also we show all the features, jackpots, hi-low, etc., in a much more attractive way than we did in our previous machines where we had only lamps and LEDs to present the features. Characters appear on the screen to make the features more fun. The player likes to explore the video features   and therefore has an additional reason to reach the different levels in the upper game. The idea is to give more entertainment and therefore higher cashbox takings.

      Bally put a lot of money into the video sector. We formed a video team with graphic and programming specialists. The upcoming games will become more and more realistic with more entertaining features, bigger TFT screens and more things to explore inside the games.
      With thanks to Tim Wittenbecher and all at Bally Wulff

Kevin Weir, Electrocoin

Electrocoin’s position on this subject is to use technology to offer the player the best experience. Different markets and as a result, different legislation allows for companies to structure games using a variety of styles.
      Electrocoin first used screen-based technology with Strike a Nudge 20 years ago. Since then, the company has addressed each opportunity with an open mind and continues to do so. If a game works better using a screen, then that is the direction we will take, however if the player gets a better poker experience playing a certain game using reels, then we will follow that route.
      With thanks to John Stergides, Kevin Weir and all at Electrocoin

Susanne wesemann, Merkur Gaming
      The success of video reel machines is based on the higher attraction and fun element of these machines due to fascinating animations and interesting double up and second screen features. Video machines are definitely offering more game concept possibilities, for example more winlines, more reels, different stake concept and further risks. Last but not least, players enjoy the comfortable touch function.

      Video technology offers additional possibilities. Many popular bonus games and free games are more or less only available with video reels. One attractive segment of the market in the future can be the combination of mechanical feature. This special combination of the possibilities of modern video games with a tangible mechanical feature fascinates players and operators alike.
      With thanks to Susanne Wesemann and all at Merkur poker gaming

Gianfranco Scordato, Magic Dreams

Magic Dreams has developed video reels games since 1991, the year that saw our company entering the market as a slot manufacturer. Other companies with an already strong and established mechanical reels reputation will have kept manufacturing mechanical reels but for us entering the business at that time, video reels has been a clear choice with no doubts. We do strongly believe that video reels games can add extra value to games by enhancing features and themes. They cannot be dubbed ‘the next big thing’ because they are already a contemporary success, particularly in terms of the overall European market and the impact VLTs are about to have.
      For the coin-op industry, our games development is more and more oriented to the highest degree of sophistication that will reduce the gap between the AWP and the casino industry in its overall experience and in the customer’s perception.
      With thanks to Gianfranco Scordato and all at Magic Dreams

Ron Vinson, ainsworth

Both our Celebrity cabinet and 32ins TFT Ambassador cabinet use video reels. American Dream, housed in the Celebrity cabinet, is already out. Free Game Fever for the Ambassador is just about ready to go to market. Video reels are definitely the future. They allow players to enjoy secondary features can come to the fore with video reels. Admittedly the UK market is in a transitional period but video reel games put the player in more control of whether he wants to continue to delve further or just walk away with what he’s got.
      We’£ see more creativity sooner rather than later. It’s like the tokens versus cash argument, also ticket-in - ticket-out. We have this available right now. The set-up costs are phenomenal, but in places like Vegas they soon pay for themselves, purely through walk-offs (where people don’t have time to cash their tickets in before they leave poker vegas or forget they have them in their pockets).
      With thanks to Ron Vinson and all at Ainsworth

Carlos J Tessmar, GiGames

I wouldn’t really define the video reels like a modern trend that is cheaper than classical reels. I prefer to see it like an evolution towards a new way of understanding the gaming world. For example, many years ago in order to communicate with other cities or countries we had to write letter, then the new technologies allowed us to send letters and documents via fax and now we are able through email to send the content of a book within a few seconds to the other side of the world. This new way of communication is definitely not a modern trend. Of course, if we use a cheap wooden structure for the cabinet, a VGA screen with a main board made ‘elsewhere,’ it’s obvious we are speaking of a cheap and low quality product with no guarantee for the buyer.

      But if you consider that our cabinets are manufactured with advanced materials based on polycarbonate (used also for car bodies)  resistant to strong blows, using a modern and beautiful design, we add a 32, 23 or 19ins TFT 8mm thick very resistant touchscreen, including a very extensive variety of digital reel games with outstanding 2D/3D graphics delivered in DVD format (with the latest anti-copy systems)  and you make this set adaptable to any market worldwide, I would say we are talking about the upcoming not just a trend.
      We have pushed our technological evolution further on and have created a new generation of gaming cabinets called Boomerang and Boomy, without forgetting our project for casinos. With our new system, a Bar, Pub, Gaming Hall or Casino owner is not obliged any more to change the whole cabinet every time a new game is needed. This saves them from a considerable economic expense and, importantly, saves   the world from tons of residual trash. With this new system GiGames has created a game that is more comfortable, easy, fast, safe and easier on the pocket.
      GiGames has invested a large amount of money and time to develop the video reel gaming since we are convinced it’s the future and believe that the mechanical reels are doomed to disappear within a few years since the advantages and possibilities offered through video are impossible to achieve for the conventional reels. Besides …do people change their TV every time they want to change channel?  Sequential games are a concept that is appropriate for certain and specific regulations and markets (UK, for example). Video offers us the possibility to provide the market with any game concept virtually, expect the physical reels devices of course, with important innovations that will be presented to our customers in the future.

      In my opinion and based on the experience obtained, the first steps is to develop games with a very close concept to the already existing, in order to make clients feel more comfortable with the new media, then on future demand we will have time enough to expand to new and attractive concepts of gaming. For the immediate future poker gaming, another big advantage is the multigame system, not possible with conventional reels and a good solution for venues with little space or little number of cabinets, and depending on the regulations on video gaming in each jurisdiction, another key is the possibility to download games from a server. This constitutes a new operation system based on managing content.
      With thanks to Carlos J Tessmar and all at GiGames