Think of one of the biggest, most well-known and trusted gaming manufacturers out there. I’d bet that IGT was one of the first, if the not the first, company that came to mind. With a tried and true product line for almost every area a casino property could ever need, not to mention a great group of people behind it, it’s no wonder IGT has risen to such epic heights throughout the years. And they certainly aren’t going to be stopping anytime soon. So here we take a closer look at just some of their offerings. Though they have a massive amount of products in their portfolio, it is their culture of innovation, the new IGT Cloud and a pop culture-focused game lineup that are discussed in this article.
What makes IGT so innovative? According to Darrell Rodriguez, senior vice president of global game studios at IGT, it all comes down to having the best. “We’ve been in business for more than 30 years, and we are able to attract the best talent across the globe,” he said. “We have more than 12 studios on four continents, more than 600 people making more than 450 games a year. IGT attracts the best, has the best, and makes the best.”
Recently, IGT kicked off a new internal program they are calling Innovation Week, where the studios and other related departments take a break for a whole week just to focus on coming up with new, interesting and sometimes, wild, ideas for new games and concepts. During Innovation Week, everyone gets to be a game maker, including project managers, artists, designers and engineers, as well as people from internal testing organizations. Participants are assigned to small groups and work in conference rooms solely to collaborate on unique games and out-of-the-box ideas. “From that one week, we came up with a ton of different ideas. We’re actually implementing over half of these ideas now into our game portfolio,” Rodriguez shared.
Another ingredient in IGT’s recipe for innovation is its people, and Rodriguez says IGT finds talent both outside and inside the industry. Coming from the video game industry himself, he says looking beyond the borders of what and where you would typically look for talent maximizes IGT’s innovation.
IGT’s Elvis the King game
IGT’s Elvis the King game
There’s no doubt about it—IGT is in tune with players, trends and favorite brands in today’s culture, which is likely why their titles are performing so well. Capturing names, titles or songs from popular movies, TV shows, music and more, they’ve made memorable games to intrigue the player of today, tomorrow and even the past. It all started with Wheel of Fortune in the ‘90s and continues today with games such as Elvis the King, THE HANGOVER, Sex and the City, Ghostbusters, Dark Knight, Breakfast at Tiffany’s, and Beverly Hillbillies, which is being released soon.
Rodriguez says it comes down to finding the brands that players identify and connect with, and then leveraging those themes in new and entertaining ways for the casino floor.
For example, IGT’s Elvis game saw its first iteration in the ‘90s, and now an all-new version is coming soon. Rodriguez says the new game is all about the music, sound effects, bonuses and game play features, including the thrilling Hound Dog Bonus and Jailhouse Bonus, and a special sound chair that takes this game to a whole new level. Ghostbusters is another title that uses innovative effects with special 3-D technology to make the game—and movie—come to life. And Wheel of Fortune capitalizes on the famous wheel that is synonymous with the show on TV and big jackpots.
Ghostbusters uses special 3-D technology to wow the player.
Ghostbusters uses special 3-D technology to wow the player.
Obviously technology has evolved since the first Elvis and Wheel of Fortune games, and it’s that evolution that many may say is the most exciting part of this industry. For IGT, one exciting revolution, 3-D technology, comes from its MLD, or multi-layer display. “The game on floors today that takes the best advantage of 3-D technology is actually Ghostbusters, which is an extremely popular game on our Center Stage platform,” Rodriguez explained. He describes the evolution of touchscreen technology, too, as “absolutely astounding.”
“Another game that is both innovative and takes advantage of new levels of gaming technology is Big Buck Hunter Pro,” he continued. “ It brings a video game classic to the casino floor, where in the bonus round you either hunt for ram or deer, test your aim during target practice or shoot plates. It combines the arcade feel with gambling to provide the ultimate casino gaming experience.”
To the Cloud and Beyond!
Continuing to provide that ultimate gaming experience, IGT announced in late 2011 its own version of what seems to be the new talk of the town—the cloud. Demonstrating their forward-thinking, IGT made sure to harness the power of this game-changing service. The initiative marked IGT’s move to empower operators to provide seamless gaming experiences across land-based, mobile and online devices. And speaking to CEM about it was Chief Technology Officer Chris Satchell. He discussed not only IGT’s cloud product, but what we should expect to see in the near future that will benefit operators via the technology.
The “cloud” is moving in, making a foothold in our everyday lives in the form of Internet-related social sites such as Facebook and Twitter, and so much more. Cloud computing solutions, such as Software-as-a-Service (SaaS), are radically changing the way organizations acquire and utilize business applications, as well as influencing how hardware and software vendors develop, deliver, package, price, sell and support these solutions. But unlike internally managed and operated gaming and player tracking systems today, modular updates at a central server provide end-users with the latest improvements and functionality without a painstaking waiting period to secure the necessary manpower to perform these tasks, as does the current process with closed and locally managed systems.
The industry as a whole has come a long way since the first introduction of electronic SIS (slot information system) and player tracking of the 1980s, which over time continues to evolve into the business intelligence and operational efficiency tools necessary to maintain a competitive edge and controllable expenses while providing customers with an enhanced gaming experience.
We all want an enhanced gaming experience, both for the player and the operator, right? In many cases, this starts by integrating an IGT sbX package on your property’s floor. IGT’s GSA-compliant systems solution with sbX Floor Manager, Analytics and Media Manager allows casino operators a way to design and deliver customized player experiences. IGT Cloud takes floor management and design to a new level by housing and managing your system software and servers within a cloud infrastructure, reducing the requirement of typical hardware and software at your own casino. This means fewer servers are required and updates are managed by IGT instead of at the property level. Tapping into the power of sbX products becomes readily accessible via IGT’s cloud environment, supporting both stand-alone single and multi-property operations.
Naturally, the IGT Cloud fits right in with IGT’s systems offerings. “We see IGT Cloud complementing the current systems delivery offerings by providing a choice to the operators in regard to how they utilize their resources,” Satchell said. “This choice will enable new operating models, rapid deployment of new technology and deeper connections with patrons. Ultimately, this will allow operators to focus on what is most important: enhancing the patron’s experience by making the right content available at the right time.”
Operating in a fluid environment requires in-depth, real-time analysis of player demands, game performance and floor configuration, which is where connectivity to IGT Cloud comes in and excels, making lives easier.
There can be an abundance of variations in reporting and analytical reports generated, whether it is one or multiple properties, and reporting can become customized to the taste of the person creating the reports. Employees at any level, from slot directors to CEOs, can consolidate data into whatever format meets their needs. This accessibility to operational performance reporting through a centralized source that provides comparative performance metrics and indicators is another benefit provided by IGT Cloud.
It’s worth noting, though, that data files can still be accessed on-demand to support internal reporting and the server can be located on property if needed. Restricted access to system data in its raw format is still available to those savvy individuals that enjoy reporting in their own formats.
Another added feature of working within the IGT Cloud environment is the flexibility of having software located in one location. Any combination of system data is easily accessed and reported, allowing operators to gain enhanced reporting of game performance using sbX analytics. Furthermore, the inclusion of BI (business intelligence) is a powerful addition to any organization, and with IGT Cloud, that becomes readily available.
Smaller to mid-sized operations that might be technically challenged due to staff or financial restraints will likely benefit the most from IGT Cloud technology. These operators would gain all the benefits of a full server-based gaming system without the high cost of purchasing required servers, while having immediate access to the full menu of IGT products tailored for IGT Cloud. However, there is still a requirement to provide an adequate infrastructure and wiring architecture for the system internally. Operational restrictions due to growth or expansion in remote geographical areas are lifted wherever Internet accessibility is available and regulatory approvals are in place. System expansion for cross-property marketing is also a major benefit to a centralized system.
IGT has also announced a Cloud Partner program, which is a powerful collaboration between IGT, casino operators and CA Technologies. The program continues innovating how casino games, systems and experiences are delivered.
IGT Cloud has launched with a key set of innovative casino operators in EMEA and Latin America, including Gala Coral, Olympic Casinos, Le Casino d’Évian and Coderé. As to where else we can see it deployed, Satchell said IGT “would like to utilize cloud technologies across all jurisdictions as a method of content deployment for systems and games.”
Innovations such as the IGT Cloud will continue to be a focus for IGT, especially in the coming months. Rodriguez teased us about IGT’s upcoming G2E exhibition, where he says we’ll see more connectivity to the Internet and new ways to combine the casino floor with the Internet experience. It’s definitely a direction IGT is heading, and he says we can expect a stronger showing on the floor because of it.
Editor’s Note: Special thanks to Rich Lehman for his help on the cloud portion of this article.