Focus on IGT: Best slots blend art of cabinet design with emotion of games, IGT exec says

November 18, 2022 8:00 AM

Focus on IGT: Best slots blend art of cabinet design with emotion of games, IGT exec says

  • Mark Gruetze, CDC Gaming Reports
November 18, 2022 8:00 AM
  • Mark Gruetze, CDC Gaming Reports
  • United States
  • Focus on Partners

While slot manufacturers invest lots of time and money in designing cabinets, the emotion its game generates among players ultimately determines success, a top IGT executive says.

“It’s a magical blend between the hardware and the software that appeals to the player,” said Domenico Pastia, the company’s senior vice president for global product. “The hardware is fantastic to attract the player to the machine. But the software is what allows the player to be loyal to that game or to that manufacturer.”

Pastia spoke with CDC Gaming Reports after last month’s Global Gaming Expo, which marked the trade show debut of IGT’s two newest cabinets: the PeakDual 27 for core video games and the PeakCurve, with a library of premium video titles. Pastia said interest in the new offerings and the company’s other products at G2E was “even more than we expected.”

With the additions, the Peak line has six video gaming cabinets; it started with the PeakBarTop, launched in 2020. The PeakDual 27 will be on some casino floors by the end of the year, Pastia said, and the PeakCurve will begin showing up in the first half of 2023. Both models are intended for mass-market distribution and will be placed in casinos around the world.

The new cabinets are examples of innovation on the hardware side. The PeakCurve features a 49-inch C-curve display, advanced ergonomic design, and a 27-inch topper. The PeakDual 27 has a first-of-its-kind approach that integrates two screens under a single pane of glass, with the bottom screen curled. Engineers put the player screen at the lowest level on the market, reducing glare and improving the player’s viewing angle, Pastia said.

But emphasis on ergonomics and technical developments are just part of his equation for slot success.

“You can have a great piece of art – and I think we do – but if you don’t have great games, you cannot bank on it,” he said.

IGT’s blend of hardware and software involves a “disciplined approach” to game development.

He said IGT solicits players’ opinions throughout the process, getting feedback on everything from overall game concept to actual play. Selected players with an affinity for the brand or type of game are questioned extensively, with responses detailed for game designers.

“There are many things, particularly presentation-wise, where you really can capture issues, preferences, that are then adjusted,” Pastia said. “Every time you’re exposed to the players, you get insights.”

Those insights add to the findings from numerous in-house reviews.

“(Our) ability is to pivot and change when it makes sense,” Pastia explained. “And the ability is also not to change sometimes … (because) you have an idea and a value proposition in mind. It’s not easy. A slot is not a utility product; it’s an emotional product. It’s really difficult to describe emotions, but the best-in-class creative people are able to do that.”

Games can appeal to specific types of players, but Pastia cautioned against appealing to only one group. “The ability to expand to many segments is crucial.” Identifying more than 10 player segments dilutes the overall pool too much, he said, while having fewer than three is not meaningful.

“The emotion that each game provides is actually the best segmentation. Demographics play a role to a certain extent, … but what really makes the difference is not your age or your religion. The value is in your emotional response to the game.”

He said top-performing games, including IGT’s Prosperity Link multi-level progressive and Wheel of Fortune High Roller, make it easy for players to understand how to win, which helps establish familiarity with the game. Prosperity Link was named “Best Slot Product” in the 2022 Gaming and Technology Awards sponsored by Global Gaming Business Magazine,

“It’s been proven in IGT and beyond that the games that are able to deliver a clear message are the most successful.” Pastia said. Still, less successful titles are inevitable.

“We tend to forget that failure is part of the game,” he said. “If you don’t fail, you don’t learn.

“The industry has an exciting but difficult item we are always facing: that performance and numbers will judge us. Your rate of success is what measures your success.”

Mark Gruetze is a veteran journalist from suburban Pittsburgh who covers casino gaming issues and personalities.