You could feel the excitement buzzing through the theater. Nick Khin, president of Aristocrat Americas, kicked off the 2010 Oasis 360 Summit at The Palms in Las Vegas by telling the audience his outlook is much more positive than it was a year ago. More than 350 people attended the summit, representing more than 125 sites and breaking the record for the highest number of properties participating. Some have been using Oasis 360 for more than a decade; others joined the 270-member system portfolio this year.
“We as an organization are truly appreciative of the continued support and loyalty from our customer base,” Khin said. For Aristocrat, the summit was all about showing appreciation to customers, helping operators learn how to best use Oasis 360 and looking to the future together.
Khin highlighted new developments at Aristocrat including the upcoming introduction of a new learning tool for customers, the existence of three game studios now in Las Vegas, new components for Oasis 360 and the release of Rockin’ Olives by Michael Godard on the Verve cabinet.
Julius Patta, chief technology officer at Aristocrat, addressed the opening session crowd in his signature style. Hip shoes, nice jeans, a comfortable dress shirt and baseball cap. Khin joked that he’s pretty sure Patta does not own a suit. The message Patta delivered matched his outfit. He talked about hip new things we can expect to see in the future, but also took a sensible approach to how casinos can move forward without leaving their comfort zone.
Patta made it clear that operators don’t have to start over to move forward with new technology. He said what you have will not go away, but you will add in new things. “This is a tremendous opportunity to expand gaming beyond the EGM.” Patta says Aristocrat can help operators get to this point by working with them to take it step by step. “You set the pace and we’ll get you there,” he says, echoing the theme of the summit. Patta told attendees, “We want you to get connected.”
Sheleen Quish, chief information officer at Ameristar Casinos, told attendees about her company’s decision to stay with Aristocrat after looking elsewhere for systems services. Quish compared the relationship between the two companies to a marriage whose partners were experiencing the “seven-year itch.” Quish said Ameristar was frustrated and felt unimportant. The hardware in the casinos was nearing end of life and the floors needed to be rewired for Ethernet. Ameristar opened an RFP and there was an all-out effort to win their hand. Quish said the RFP helped take the emotion out of the decision, “You can’t make a business decision based on the amount of tingle you get at an executive briefing.” Ameristar was seriously considering going to another company until the turning point at one nerve-racking meeting with Aristocrat leaders. Khin and Quish said the meeting got a little ugly as executives were candid and honest. But that changed the relationship for the better.
In the end, the renewed relationship continued as Ameristar decided to stay with Aristocrat because of its value, improved guest service opportunities, paved road map for the future and stability. Ameristar is now investing in moving to Ethernet and looking forward to working with Aristocrat each step of the way, at Ameristar’s pace.
Quish says the summit is “a really critical conference for all of us,” as she challenged attendees to partner with Aristocrat. “Don’t hold back; tell them what you need; tell them what you feel. But own your own flaws.”
Kelly Shaw, vice president of systems sales and marketing, said Aristocrat wants to hear feedback and be held accountable. She encouraged attendees to speak with each other and learn from each other’s experiences.
Patta and others took time during the week full of sessions and learning opportunities in the lab to really explain the difference between server-supported gaming and server-based gaming. Patta says the move to server-supported gaming is already taking place, with download and configuration and service windows. But these features are not truly server-based gaming. Patta says they do reduce inefficiencies and enhance the floor, but they do not use new distribution channels or create new forms of revenue. Server-based gaming is next, and Patta calls it “a gigantic leap of faith.” With server-based gaming, operators will be able to tailor game experiences in real time, with the ability to reach beyond the casino walls. This, he says, will extend present day operations, not replace them. Aristocrat’s TruServ product can do all of these things. The company is currently working on bringing it to North America.
Meanwhile, Oasis 360 continues to evolve and transform to follow the networked gaming goals at Aristocrat. Chris Rowe, product manager for networked gaming, led sessions about networked gaming in which he explained Aristocrat’s vision for the future and how the company can help casinos make the transition step by step. He also explained how Aristocrat can help casinos bridge the gap between SAS and the new world of G2S without overhauling the entire floor. The key, Rowe says, is that casinos do not need to have one or the other when it comes to new and old technology. “Aristocrat, in our networked gaming vision, is keeping this in mind. These need to integrate.”
One question we heard from operators was on whether manufacturers are working together so that casinos can have server-supported or server-based gaming without buying multiple systems. Patta says Aristocrat is working on it and actually has it working in the lab, but it needs other companies to cooperate before it can happen in the real world.
In the “lab” at the summit, the Aristocrat systems team showed off nVision, the company’s new business intelligence tool. The tool uses advanced reporting and visualization through dashboards to enhance the way operators evaluate casino floor performance, monitor player activity and analyze promotional events. Attendees were also able to take a look at the Aristocrat’s next generation of Sentinel, nCompass. The nCompas unit is the link between the gaming machine and Oasis 360. It facilitates the transfer and display of messages and gaming data to a media window right on the game screen. SpeedMedia campaigns, bonusing events, announcements and more are supported by nCompass. Khin pointed out that these new offerings help casinos connect with and understand their customers and are examples of how Aristocrat is “player led and technology driven.”
At the poolside party, attendees also got the chance to try Michael Godard’s Rockin’ Olives game and chat with Godard himself. Godard told CEM, “I grew up here in Las Vegas. I’ve always loved gambling and of course I love art. So for me it was the perfect marriage—the most insane and fun project ever.” Godard was involved with the game creation more than he originally imagined. He hand-painted the symbols, created story boards and made sure the animation matched the audio. Godard said he loved creating something related to math, art, humor and gaming. “Everything in life that has a lot of value is something requires a lot of hard work. I mean, that’s what makes you appreciate it more.” Godard said he can’t wait to get one of the machines in his house. When talking to a crowd of attendees, Godard said if they love this game, they should definitely watch for the next one.
Patta encourages everyone to visit Aristocrat at the Global Gaming Expo to see more of what the company is working on. “We are promising you the moon. At G2E we’ll show you one square foot of it.”