As hundreds of people crowded inside the Sands Expo and Convention Center on Tuesday, the Vegas Golden Knights Drumbots gave a show.
The Knights’ mascot, Chance the gila monster, and the Golden Knights cheerleaders added to the anticipation for the 18th annual Global Gaming Expo show floor to open.
Once let inside, guests were met with bright slot machine lights, celebrity appearances and the latest and greatest innovations in gaming, many promoting the best ways to draw in more players.
Skill-based game manufacturer Gamblit Gaming’s booth was reminiscent of an ’80s arcade. Neon-colored rays bounced off the walls, and a range of visitors in almost every demographic stood around bar-top games, cheering as Pac-Man ate pellets and escaped the likes of Blinky and Pinky.
“Our goal is to offer something for everyone on the floor,” said Darion Lowenstein, the chief marketing officer of Gamblit.
Inside the booth, Gamblit’s machines were paired with big brand names like “Deal or No Deal” and the popular mobile game “Cut the Rope” and “Doodle Jump,” names familiar to younger generations. Lowenstein said the average age of players on the company’s machines is 36.
“You have to think about the experiences (players) want,” Lowenstein said. “I’m a millennial. I grew up playing video games, so I’ve never played slots. I’m drawn to the big, colorful screens and the cool brand. When I walk up, I don’t want to play a game where you sit there and hit a button.”
Pac-Man and Galaga, another classic arcade game-turned-slot machine, also featured prominently at the Ainsworth Game Technology exhibit.
The colors grab the eyes, the theme songs catch the ears, and the critical slot machine demographic of 40-plus-year-olds have fun with two brands from childhood, director of marketing Mike Trask said.
Even on the convention floor, cabinets from various manufacturers competed for attention based on height and attention-grabbing digital screens.
But for all the competition over cabinet sizes and screen features, the fundamentals are the same, Trask said.
“Underneath it all, it’s still classic slot machine,” he said.
Phil Mason, head of production at Sydney-based Pirates Gold Studios, a content provider for skill and slot games, said he’s seen more skills-based games on the show floor this year and noticed that Gamblit’s booth had grown since last year.
“Casinos really need to break into the millennials,” he said. “Skills-based gaming’s very popular. It’s coming off the popularity of casual games and it’s a hot new genre. … Providers like us are still trying to figure out what works on the floor and how we can compete with the slots, share a voice and get velocity and revenue.”
Moths to a flame
The glitz of the show floor was a lot to take in for Kristine Clemons, who works in email marketing for iGaming provider GAN in Las Vegas. This was her third year at the expo, which runs through Thursday and attracts more than 25,000.
“It’s so overwhelming, every year,” she said.
But the bright lights and structures of the machines help draw in players, said Dana Reynolds, senior director of marketing and communication for Aristocrat. The slot-machine manufacturer’s booth was decked out with attractions to draw in attendees, including a production vehicle from the “Mad Max” movie.
“The immersiveness of the games and the interactivity of the games are a trend,” she said. “The structure of the cabinet, how tall they are, what their shape is, it really drives people.”
Also key is giving players reason not to leave the slot machine seats. At the IGT exhibit, a machine branded for the “Sex and the City” TV and film franchise offered a game where conventiongoers selected items on the screen with only their eyes.
A machine branded for the “American Gods” TV series came with a seat that rumbled in connection to action on the screen. Sensors on the machine allowed conventiongoers to push virtual coins raining on the screen from side to side.
The technology is still too new to see what particular gamblers are drawn to and what gamblers seek a more traditional cabinet, IGT spokesman Phil O’Shaughnessy said.
But the goal is to give gamblers an experience that has them talking to friends about that one machine on their vacation that blew them away.
“We have to keep trying new things,” he said.
The Review-Journal is owned by the family of Las Vegas Sands Corp. Chairman and CEO Sheldon Adelson. Las Vegas Sands operates the Sands Expo & Convention Center.
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