G2E Asia 2012: Excellent Show, Mediocre Conference

G2E Asia’s gaming exhibition, held in Macau May 22-24, witnessed an increase in visitation of more than 12 percent over the previous year on the second day. This interest in the show is only to be expected as Macau, the largest single gaming market in the world, is expected to register revenues that would surpass the $40 billion (USD) mark in 2012-2013. Just last month, the territory saw a 24 percent spike in gaming revenue. The Macau market is now more than five times the size of Las Vegas. It’s hard to believe that the gaming industry in Macau was opened up to competition just 10 years ago! In recognition of Macau’s ever-growing stature on the world gaming stage, companies such as Alfastreet, Aristocrat, Bally Technologies, Aruze Gaming, IGT and many others were exhibiting their wares in Macau for the sixth straight year.

This year’s show featured approximately 130 exhibitors displaying their products and services on more than 63,500 square feet of exhibit space, a nearly 50 percent increase from when the show began in 2007. Besides the exhibits, G2E Asia also featured a packed conference program divided into two tracks—one for senior managers and one for middle managers, covering operations, gaming technology, marketing, and economic and social trends. Like previous years, G2E Asia offered the one-day Gaming Certificate Program on May 24. However, unlike previous years, the material presented by some of this year’s faculty seemed somewhat lacking in substance, originality and practical applications. The intent of the certificate program is to develop capable executives for tomorrow, and I think greater attention should be devoted to course content, as well as choice of faculty if the sponsors are serious about making G2E a learning environment. The general conference was also somewhat of a disappointment for some delegates. The content of the sessions, with few exceptions, seemed like a regurgitation of known facts, with little flair or substance. In many cases, the speakers and moderators had little knowledge about, or exposure to, the gaming industry in Asia.

Returning to some of the exhibitors, CEM talked to representatives from Shuffle Master, Aruze Gaming, TCSJOHNHUXLEY and Bally Technologies to get a sense of where the Asian market is heading. Gavin Isaacs, CEO of Shuffle Master, personally conducted the press tour. “This year’s exhibit at G2E Asia highlights the most extensive product lineup in our company’s history,” Isaacs said. “We look forward to a great show where we’ll have the opportunity to demonstrate how our products are designed to deliver more profitability to Asian casino operators and more fun and excitement to players.”

Yellow Emperor™, Shuffle Master’s latest stand-alone progressive jackpot game displayed at the show, combines the legendary Chinese hero warrior with a proven, high-performance game formula. In the Year of the Dragon, the flying dragon feature promises to be a popular gaming floor addition for Macau casinos.

Developed in Shuffle Master’s new studio in China, a range of new Asian-inspired stand-alone titles were also showcased, including My Fortune Star™, God of Wealth™, Monkey & Moon™ and Cash Carry™. Each title offers its own unique features such as increased subs, stacked symbols, more coinciding wins and a free games multiplier.

Almost all vendors seemed very bullish about the prospects for casinos and casino equipment not only for Macau, but for all of Asia. With the market in the Philippines ramping up, and the prospects for casinos in Japan, South Korea and Taiwan looking somewhat promising, this optimism is understandable.

Sal Piacente demonstrates an assortment of sleight of hand techniques to show visitors.
Sal Piacente demonstrates an assortment of sleight of hand techniques to show visitors.
Bally Technologies’ Michael Jackson King of Pop™ slot machine was a big hit at the show. With five reels, 25 lines and 320 credits max bet, this product is sure to make a splash in Asia. A player is bound to be entertained as they sit in a comfortable surround-sound chair and win bonuses while listening to five of Jackson’s greatest hits: Beat It, Billy Jean, Smooth Criminal, Bad and Dirty Diana.

The Bally stand also featured a full complement of award-winning systems solutions on display, including core casino management, table management and slot managements systems. The company’s innovative player-focused bonusing systems—Elite Bonusing Suite including Virtual Racing, tournaments and U-Spin Bonusing attracted much interest from attendees.

TCSJOHNHUXLEY showcased BaccPo® for the first time at G2E Asia. Through a distribution agreement with Gaming Commerce Pty Ltd., BaccPo is a fast-paced table game that combines the thrill of blackjack, a simple hand ranking system similar to baccarat, with the adversarial elements of poker. BaccPo also is not actually governed by fixed rules, which brings skill into game play. Simon Witty, TCSJOHNHUXLEY group product development director, commented, “The ability to offer baccarat players a fast-paced alternative, as well as allowing expanded game play is a major advantage, especially in this region. We believe both BaccPo and BaccPo® Poker will add a whole new dimension to player enjoyment, appealing to a much wider audience than the traditional games.”

TCSJOHNHUXLEY also promoted updates to its award-winning Gaming Floor Live system at the exhibition, with the integration of Sic Bo to the platform, as well as recent developments of the SuperNova Table Bonus System.

More than half of IGT’s games at this year’s show were designed to focus on local markets with the themes, dual languages (Chinese and English), and math models that Asian casinos and players typically prefer. The array of games contained legendary Chinese themes such as West Journey Treasure Hunt™ and Golden Three Kingdom™, as well as appealing titles such as Four Great Chinese Beauties®, Big Dragon Lounge™ and Pearl Dragon™.

The company spotlighted the industry’s first community play 5-reel slot, Fast-Hit Progressives™, which is available in Chinese. Also showcased were blockbusters The Dark Knight™ and Ghostbusters™ on the eye-catching Center Stage™. After installing Center Stage, operators can refresh content with the latest games featuring big, bold titles. These entertaining titles join a full line-up of IGT’s games, including MegaJackpots® Premium Products favorites—Sex And The City Fabulous!™ MultiPLAY and Elvis The King® Multi-Level Progressives. Resembling a 1950s jukebox, Elvis The King Multi-Level Progressive Jackpot slot transports players back to a time when Heartbreak Hotel and Jailhouse Rock were musical hits on the Billboard Top 100. Players will know they have won when they hear Elvis crooning one of his all-time hits!

Aristocrat’s Dragons on the Lake™ gameAristocrat’s Dragons on the Lake™ game
Aristocrat’s Dragons on the Lake™ gameAristocrat’s Dragons on the Lake™ game
Celebrating the Year of the Dragon, and referencing this year’s zodiac element—water— the Aristocrat stand was crowned with a 32-meter dragon, flying over a dramatic “water beads” centerpiece. Visitors entered and exited through two auspicious dragon gates, adding to the excitement and spectacle of Asia’s premier gaming trade show. Major new game titles showcased by Aristocrat included Keys of Fortune™, the first symbol-driven link progressive from Aristocrat in Asia. Keys of Fortune allows players to win multiple jackpots in one jackpot feature for the first time. Visitors also got a chance to test out Dragons on the Lake™, the next version of the successful Hyperlink™, built specifically for the Asia-Pacific region and including a new feature that allows players to choose jackpot volatility. Both Dragons on the Lake and Heaven & Earth™ were unveiled in dual language, complying fully with forthcoming regulations in Macau. The company also spotlighted Dragon Superior™, the latest advanced graphics package to be released in the popular Xtreme Mystery™ jackpot range, combining stand-alone games under a mystery link with up to three levels of jackpots.

A quizzical facet of this year’s show was the lack of freebies distributed to attendees. Apart from the obligatory pens and carry bags on offer, there was little that attendees could take home with them. Gone were the keychains, card decks, umbrellas and luminous balls that were so generously handed out in previous years.

To me, the high point of this year’s show was the drama that erupted on May 23 with a legal war being played out on the floor of the show between two rival electronic table game manufacturers, in full view of the entire Asian gaming industry.

Hong Kong and Macau-based LT Game and Las Vegas-based multi-national Shuffle Master duked it out in an altercation involving court injunctions, patents, the Macau Customs Service, and threats from conference co-organizers, the American Gaming Association (AGA) and Reed Exhibitions, to eject LT Game from the show or to switch off the power supply to LT Game’s stand at the show. Reed Exhibitions released a statement, saying: “As seen on our show floor, the gaming industry is a highly technological and innovative market that strives to provide the most entertainment value for its customers. It is not uncommon that in such a competitive environment legal disputes may arise which must be resolved through the justice system. G2E Asia should not and does not play any role in such conflicts. In order to maintain the reputation of individual companies, of the industry and of the host community, we are dedicated to providing a level playing field for all of our exhibitors.”

This is the stuff memories are made of!

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