A few of our designers attended the 2012 Global Gaming Expo (G2E) in Las Vegas where they walked the show talking to people in the gaming industry and checking out the latest products and trends. It was exciting to see how this industry is incorporating new technologies into their products and further changing the gaming experience.
Influences from the Consumer Electronics Industry
One of the biggest trends we noticed at the show is that manufacturers are taking inspiration found in the consumer electronics industry – such as simple forms, use of satin metal finishes and lighting that is more sophisticated and less gaudy. The WMS machines show-off smooth lines and a very clean look with lighting effects that are distinct yet non obtrusive. The Bally machines are incorporating black matte finished plastic with faux louvers that reflect the soft wash of light. This is a bold change from the typical reflective chrome that gaming machines are known for. Aristocrat, a gaming solution company based in Australia, featured a gaming machine that was clearly inspired by the iPhone.
Flashy Titles, Brighter LED’s, and Licensed Themes
Games have been upgraded with newly licensed themes that integrate flashy titles, brighter LED’s, more color, high-resolution displays, images, and music. Licensed game themes are available for almost any television show or movie, both old and new.
IGT, for example, introduced games based on Judge Judy, Star Wars, and Sex and the City, among others. These brand name games have one large screen and a handful of people playing in front of them.
WMS made a huge statement with the introduction of their KISS slot machine. Paul Stanley and Gene Simmons were decked out in full KISS makeup and costume when they introduced the machine. WMS also took on retro games with the introduction of a Willy Wonka & the Chocolate Factory machine and featured in-person Oompa Loompa characters as part of the entertainment.
Multi-color edge lighting surrounded the exterior of nearly every machine, and lighting was incorporated around the buttons as well. LED size and shapes are no longer restricted to standard sizes. This technology is incorporated in many of the machines to allow easy customization and enable the games to be changed with the touch of a button. This technology is showing up as both hard buttons and wide format touchscreens. At this juncture there is still the debate if users will accept this style of flat panel buttons or if they will force the industry to maintain the physical button. However, younger generations are more accepting of newer interfaces, so we expect the physical buttons to be phased out over time.
The Superman slot machine from Aristocrat features amazing video and film clip overlays using LCD technology that adds a fourth dimension to the gaming experience.
Gaming devices with sensory immersion have become quite popular. Haptic technology isn’t exactly new, but it is being used in more gaming machines to enhance the tactile sensation through the use of vibrations or motions. It has long been described as “doing for the sense of touch what computer graphics does for vision” (source: Wikipedia).
Also present at the convention were hardware developers that cater specifically to the gaming industry. These manufacturers provide key components such as touch-sensitive displays in unconventional aspect ratios, currency validation equipment, and customized LED setups that sync with the gaming and across networks. Even bill validators incorporate new technology, including integrated customizable displays, and network connections that keep and image of every piece of currency that enters the device. These features help gaming operators manage maintenance, track usage trends, and settle fraud disputes.
iGaming Moving to the Forefront
Interactive gaming (iGaming) was huge at the show. iGaming includes sports betting, casino games and other gambling activity taking place online. It is gambling in the most convenient form – anywhere and anytime. This area of gambling is in its early stages and will continue to evolve as people become more interested in this type of gambling experience. Companies are trying to incorporate this sort of play in the casino environment with the communal aspect. You can sit down at a bank of machines with your friends and the machines work together to provide a shared experience.
In addition to the experience factor, the machines are also connected through their design. A row of machines might have multi-colored lights that travel from one machine to the other. iGaming encourages a more social environment and it’s something we will be seeing even more of in the future.
The Future of the Gaming Industry
Interblock featured their “VIP Hologram Gaming Lounge” where they demonstrated their hologram technology and what might be incorporated in the future of gaming. This stage featured projected images that combine old and new technology, using mirrors and strategically lit backgrounds in combination with high-resolution projectors, animation, and interactive software to create life-like images of people that meld seamlessly into the surrounding environment.
You can view a video from the Hologram Gaming Lounge below. Very impressive technology.
The social gaming platform has become extremely important to companies in the industry and an excellent way to market to the crowd. The Internet, social media, smartphones, apps, and tablets have changed the way we consume entertainment and are creating more opportunities in the gaming industry. People can now gamble from anywhere, the only difference is that there is a regulated world of gaming and a mobile world. The key will be to find the bridge between the two.
Overall, it was an upbeat show filled with excitement for what’s to come. No longer are designs for gaming machines stuck in the past. New designs are more engaging and treated as a form of entertainment with expectations to enhance the user experience.
The hardware trend appears to be heading toward an all-LCD panel based machine that is easily customizable. Customers can change themes from remote locations and re-program individual machines to generate the required revenue. With more iGaming activities taking place, gaming companies continue to evolve in order to ensure people stay interested in new types of gambling experiences. The need to excite the player, entertain them and create a meaningful experience will remain the key factor to the success of the gaming industry in the future.