Slot machines with 3-D visuals. Multi-player games with arcade themes like Pac-Man. Illuminated, towering slot machine cabinets with images of movie characters.
For many guests at this year’s Global Gaming Expo, it’s all old news.
“Everything’s kind of the same,” said Kristine Clemons, who works in email marketing for iGaming provider GAN in Las Vegas, as she toured slot machines on the show floor. “Basically, just the pictures change.”
The G2E conference gives vendors an opportunity to show off the latest gaming technology, but some of the attendees at the 2018 G2E said they were underwhelmed by this year’s technology.
Same old, same old
“There’s a fair amount of similarity,” said Benjamin Sutherland, co-founder and CEO of San Francisco-based game development studio Present Creative. He said some machines on the show floor had fallen into old routines; he pointed out a fruit-themed jackpot game standing nearby.
“It looks great, but it looks like any other fruit game,” he said. “There’s a particular customer type who wants more of the same. … So it makes sense that there’s a lot of safe plays going on here.”
Rom Hendler, founder and CEO of travel and hospitality company InnoVel Travel Tech in Israel, decided not to attend G2E this year because he believes the expo’s technology is “more or less the same” every year.
“The gaming industry is not really going through disruption,” he said via email. “Disruption is the mother of all innovation since it forces you to adopt.”
Hendler said executive directors are often too focused on margins, immediate threats and expansion. New technology often falls to the wayside.
“(Innovation) is a cost center for them at best,” Hendler said. “We need to become more attractive than other (industries) for emerging technologies. … We need to go out to look for those technologies and not wait for them to come to us.”
A slow change
Michael Richards, managing director of investment bank Merit Harbor Capital in Seattle, said he didn’t see any drastic changes on the show floor this year. But he believes the gaming industry has been innovative, even if it’s been a slow change. He said skills-based games and slot machines have been some of the most creative in finding ways to target younger generations.
“It’s a very innovative industry recently,” he said. “Not year-to-year, but compared to seven or eight years ago, it’s slowly innovative … As a new generation of millennials and players that don’t play as much of the traditional games like craps or roulette or horse racing, they’re trying to find a lot of new ways to appeal.”
Jay Sevigny, the president of VGT, an Aristocrat company, said the company has been bringing in new innovations to the floor, such as a bar top game with a new cabinet design.
“I think we all come here looking to see what innovation is coming to the market,” he said. “There’s a lot more than games here, too. There are a lot of people bringing new technologies for the industry to incorporate into the way we run our business.”
One of the new names exhibiting this year was one familiar to arguably every attendee of G2E.
Google ran one of the smaller booths on the show floor. Representatives from the tech giant and its partners showed a digital whiteboard that uses Google’s internet storage services and hawked Google’s artificial intelligence product for call centers
“Hospitality is an area where we can really grow,” said William Nilli, a key partner manager for BenQ, which works with Google on the digital whiteboard product. “We want casino operators to see the possibilities.”
A couple of exhibitors said they found success at other trade shows and decided to finally go directly to the casino operators.
Las Vegas resident Cory Gamberg brought a batch of his LED-lit poles. He hoped to persuade casino operators to put the poles at their nightclubs, bars and restaurants. He also wants to try to sell them to airports and banks.
“I’ve really found success at these trade shows,” the Lytepost president said. “It helps to bring someone over and say, ‘see what my product can do for you.’”
Not every new vendor tried to appeal to attendees’ eyes and ears.
Michael Schmidt had different size models of his OdorStop product blowing at his exhibit booth.
Schmidt, based in Hamburg, New York, wanted to add more customers to his generators of ozone, used to deodorize and sanitize large spaces from mold, mildew, tobacco, smoke and other smells.
Schmidt said he counts MGM Resorts among his customers.
“We’ve been doing great so far,” he said. “Some people I’m confident will make purchases after the show. Some people are just buying units off me with cash. It’s a real surprise.”
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