1/27/2012 : CONVERGENCE THE GAME AT I.C.E.
Online and land move ever closer together
The links between internet and land gambling are strengthening to such an extent that operational cross-overs are taking place everywhere, numerous show exhibit and visitors commented at the ICE show in London Wednesday.
The growing numbers of commercial partnerships bridging what was once a clear divide attest to the increasing frequency of land and internet deals, with many land gambling companies now pursuing agreements with online developers to assist them in translating successful land gambling products to the internet environment.
The more positive vibe this year was the subject of comment by many of the thousands that thronged the ICE expo on Wednesday.
International hosting and services firm Continent 8 was just one of several service companies with ambitious expansion plans, announcing an extension of its pan-European network to service increasing demand from Italy.
The company will go live in Q2 2012 with a new Milan-based point of presence in conjunction with partners Tinet and Level 3, adding to the Continent 8 presence in France, Singapore, Isle of Man, Canada, the UK and Malta.
The company additionally celebrated its second consecutive award as Technology Supplier of the Year in London Monday, an accolade from the International Gaming Awards.
With many visitors concentrating on the touch and feel of new products in the expo sections of ICE in London, it’s possible to overlook the outstanding range of conferences running in tandem with the show.
Featuring expert speakers, delegate interaction and networking, and above all a substantial flow of relevant industry information on a diversity of topics, the ICE conference program has eight major presentations.
Kicking off the action on January 23rd was a high-powered exchange between delegates from the European Commission, who joined members of the European Parliament to exchange views on the Green Paper and regulatory developments at the fourth Annual International Casino Conference.
That was followed on Tuesday by four conferences:
Combating Cybercrime to focus on mobile fraudsters;
Discussion on domains – dot com vs. dot country;
Innovation in lotteries at the Multi-Channel Lottery Conference
Wednesday’s program features two more key events, a seminar focusing on customer relationship management and a presentation by key executives on the integration of online and offline gambling.
The conference schedule ends Thursday with a workshop on the monetisation of social online gaming and a discussion with execs from leading industry companies on mobile gambling and the boom this channel is currently experiencing.
Back on the show floor, Betsoft continued to add to its game inventory with the release of the 5 reel, 30 pay-line slots Lost – an ancient Egypt / intrepid explorer theme – and Madder Scientist, a continuation of the company’s earlier success with a similar product.
The graphics on these 3D games, which include bonus rounds, are outstanding.
iSoftBet showcased an intriguing Facebook-friendly marketing app titled Crazy Slots and talked up several new platforms compliant with a range of European regulatory regimes.
The new platforms cover mobile casino and jackpot games, and mini and side games.
The company has a gaming suite of almost 400 products, to which it is adding monthly, with the latest releases including a comical Western chameleon-themed slot titled Rango, a mystical The Love Guru and several other 3D branded games from Paramount.
The latter is especially intriguing, with illustrations from major movies like Basic Instinct and Bruce Lee hinting at the themes for upcoming releases.
The Icelandic software developer Parspro was again much in evidence at ICE this year, punting a new mobile platform for sports betting in answer to growing demand for this profitable and expanding gambling channel.
The mystery product launched by Net Entertainment at the show turned out to be a surprise for everyone – a slot themed on the crime cult movie Scarface, which flows from the software developer’s brand agreement with Universal Studios.
The 5 reel, 20 pay-lines slot has a host of features that includes free spins, expanding wilds, a massive bonus round and even a nudge feature to improve winning opportunities, all wrapped in a cinematic and interactive theme with superb sound effects.
The UK-based online games content provider Mazooma has grown remarkably in only a few years of business, and its games can now be found on most of the big European internet gambling groups. Its latest games include Atlantis Treasure, a 5 reel, 20 pay-line slot with an innovative ‘stepping’ function which resets after every win, triggering a cascade of new opportunities across the reels.
The company has also launched Monkey Business, a 5 reel 20 pay-liner which debuts on Sky Vegas soon, along with a Hi Lo Poker game with a built-in progressive. Mazooma has some interesting future partnerships in mind and we will soon be hearing more from this burgeoning firm.
Sustained player interest in live dealer action is continuing to encourage companies offering these facilities either through agreements with land casinos or from specialised studio sets.
The Smart Gaming Group has studios in London streaming its products to a growing number of internet operators and land casinos wishing to make in-room or on-premises mobile gambling available to guests. The company has developed quality software for pre-loaded tablets using both Android and IOS platforms, and was displaying outstanding clarity on large screens.
The Aussie-founded Vuetec live dealer supplier, which streams from Fitzgerald’s Casino in Dublin, is about to widen its sphere of influence with a new agreement with the Palace Casino on the Isle of Man. Testing is in progress and the company hopes to be fully operational from the Isle of Man, operating under a Malta licence, by mid-February, according to operations manager and former Dragonara Casino chief Gordon A. Clark. Vuetec currently has around 20 operators using its product, which was among the industry pioneers of this style of gambling.
The popular Latvian software provider CTXM had a noticeable presence and like many of its rivals is paying close attention to improved mobile products across the main platforms. Its game release schedule hopes to push out 2 to 3 new games a month.
Openbet was showcasing a very impressive new online slot branded Double Dragon, with an oriental theme and a slew of features that includes expanding Wilds, Scatters, Free Spins, multiple and varied bonus rounds, a gamble facility and something called MegaSpin in which for an additional stake a player gets 5 spins with ‘enriched’ win lines and awards. The whole package is carried by rich animation and sound effects.
Barcrest, a former IGT company now in the Scientific Games group, has augmented its interactive range of slots with Arabian Charms, a 5 reel 20 pay-line game with two bonus rounds; Crown Jewels, a 5 reel 10 pay-line slot featuring cascading reels and multipliers; an updated Rainbow Riches slot with three bonus rounds and a 5 reel 20 pay-line format; and Ca$ino which has similar features.
Talking of IGT, the Interactive Division of the company has some great game treats in store following the runaway success of its Pixies in the Forest slot, where the multi-featured format and 3D stereo sound effects will probably be carried into future games.
Ready for launch later this year is the latest in the company’s Monopoly range, branded Monopoly Plus. This is a slot based on the popular board game, and the graphics – especially in the bonus round – will be immediately recognisable to punters.
The extensively animated 5 reel 30 pay-line game features a new concept called persistent data – or ‘memory’ in which the game servers remember the player’s achievements, enabling him or her to earn better bonus game results as they rise to different levels, unlocking more tokens in the process.
An IGT Interactive spokesman summed it up as “The more you play, the richer the game.”
The company has designed in localised Monopoly boards and level meters so the player can keep track of progress, and the new features could well be carried over to a new series of games.
Around Q3 2012 players could also see a new version of the highly popular Elvis series slots dubbed Elvis the King, featuring all the icons associated with this great American entertainer, wrapped around a big, multi-featured game that will have 3 different and entertaining bonus rounds, roaming Wilds and tumbling reels.
Plans to simultaneously launch this and other slots themed on Ghost Busters and a new Star Trek online and in land casinos are in progress.
The giant land games supplier Novomatic is pushing its interactive interests through its subsidiary Greentube, which is keen on multi-platform mobile development and on translating popular land games to the internet medium.
New slots on the Greentube launchpad include Rainbow King, Roaring Forties, King Cash, Ultra Hot , Rex and Moorhuhn.
Passoker, which provides an in-play betting product that includes elements of card gaming, has signed up UK gambling group William Hill plc. The product will go live next (February) month, according to Passoker CEO Stuart Carr.
Bally Technologies sealed a second internet-related deal at ICE, inking a deal with ComTrade that will see the latter company assisting Bally in moving its games to the internet environment.
Another US land company interested in the internet is Shufflemaster, which is using its interactive division at ICE to promote a new product that will enable online operators to host play-for-fun, customisable games on their websites.
Players can learn to play the games interactively, at the same time accumulating loyalty points redeemable at land casinos and helping Shufflemaster to prepare the ground ahead of possible US legalization.
Digient chief executive Martin Prantner has high hopes for his new Bingo Booster product, due for launch in Q1 2012 in the UK and later in Ireland.
Bingo Booster enables remote participation via the Web in land bingo halls desperate for business. The product will assist land bingo operators to extend their reach to the online environment.
Away from the strictly business side, entertaining visitors to ICE on Wednesday included the famous wrestler, television and movie celebrity Hulk Hogan on the Openbet stand, and IBF boxing champ Dejan Zavec who spent some time with the staff at Interblock.