Global Gaming Expo (G2E) is a marathon of a conference with all the top gaming providers showing off their next generation of games. There’s a lot to take in, but to make it easier for you, here I’ll showcase my favorite game from each of the booths our team toured this year.
If you didn’t get a chance to check out our articles on the trends I spotted, check out our previous reports on G2E:
With that, let’s dive in to each booth and my favorite game from each!
Light & Wonder: Squid Game
One thing I respect about Light & Wonder is they design games that really link in to their licensed themes. This probably explains why game series like Wonka and the Wizard of Oz have endured for so long – the games really tie into their themes in just the right ways.
A number of other providers leveraged existing games for their licensed products this year; Aristocrat leveraged proven game math models for their NFL series, and IGT’s Whitney Houston was effectively an update to Prosperity Link.
By comparison, there was no mistaking Squid Game was a unique game design, with a structure that, when a character “dies” in the game, your game experience is boosted for a set number of bought spins, with more reel sets and an increased chance of bigger wins (as the dead character’s reel symbols are upgraded).
If another character “dies,” you upgrade again, with more reel sets and more upgraded symbols. It reminded me a bit of Buffalo Gold and the ability for the bonus to over time upgrade to the point of absurdity. Our team saw a true math (not a faked/gaffed) bonus that got to the next-to-last level, which we were told is a very unusual occurrence, and it was quite lucrative.
If it stays in that structure when it hits casino floors (games can always be tweaked beforehand), this game will be a very fun and unique experience – it doesn’t feel quite like anything else out there, a good thing and smart counterprogramming to a lot of the copycat games and brand extensions that were on display.
IGT: Double Diamond Deluxe 9-Line
IGT has in some ways been going back to basics in the best way. Their introduction of a new mechanical reel cabinet, blending the traditional and the modern, has opened the door to updates to some of their classic games. At first, it was offerings like 9-line Pinball and Double Top Dollar.
But perhaps their best update yet is a game I have loved for decades: Double Diamond Deluxe. The Deluxe is the addition of a nudge feature, where reels with arrows on them can nudge up and down.
In the original game, it nudged from outside the payline into the payline, helping to achieve wins. But the 9-line variant allows up to two nudges for the potential for additional line hits. With wild symbols often near the nudging symbols, the door is open for a lot of potential wins, and the nudging livens up the proceedings on a mechanical reel slot well.
In spirit this certainly has echoes of Everi’s Black Diamond Platinum, which also has nudges that can yield (in that game’s case) progressives. Here though it’s all about line hits, and all the money can be found in those line hits.
It’s certainly not the most flashy or exciting title they showed off, but to me it was a perfect evolution of a game that’s been on casino floors for quite some time.
Aristocrat: Buffalo Ultimate Stampede
There were a number of games at the Aristocrat booth that caught our attention, from the NFL series to a version of Wonder 4 that brings together the Fu Dai Lian Lian (Bag Game) games, but my pick is Buffalo Ultimate Stampede.
This one features a hold and spin feature that can unlock additional rows on the reels, not unlike a game like Ultimate Fire Link. But you can also retrigger by getting coins on the reels, just like on any other Buffalo game, giving you additional spins to land more hold and spin prizes.
Of course, like any hold and spin, if you’re below three spins, landing another prize will bump you back up, but the retriggers can give you even more spins to work with, and the unlocking rows opening up the chance to win even more.
There’s also a bonus meter on the screen, but don’t get too excited – it’s a perceived persistence element. That means it is not indicative of a bonus being due to hit – it’s like the pot on Dancing Drums, where a full pot doesn’t mean a bonus is coming either.
The potential on this is pretty strong, and fans of Buffalo games as well as hold and spin games will find a lot to like here.
Konami: Lian Lian Fa
It feels like every time I’m at a casino where Dragon’s Law Fortune Pots is installed, I see someone making some serious coin on low bets like $1.76. I don’t know why I don’t sit at these games more and play them, given how often I’ve personally witnessed this, but it definitely has my attention now.
So when I saw Lian Lian Fa at their booth, with the core components intact from this game, I was excited to see Konami leaning in to what was working with this new game. While it’s another triple pot format, it provides some unique scenarios such as double reel sets and double reel upgrades, as well as the collecting of prizes and letters to build towards the jackpot prizes.
On the surface it sounds like another game with “Lian Lian” in its title, but the use of the ability to add additional wild spaces (which also act as the collection symbol) to add more on the screen, it just feels much more is going on and a lot more action is in play, as I’ve witnessed on these games in the casino.
This should be another solid hit for Konami, as it sticks with what works and doesn’t tinker too much with the format. But you have a cute monkey to interact with now and there’s nothing wrong with that!
Ainsworth: Wild Legends Link
My friends at Ainsworth know my fondness of their Quick Spin series, which is getting a new update with their Platinum version this year, but a different game caught my eye because of the potential of the bonus, and is therefore my pick from their booth: Wild Legends Link.
The bonus has echos of Thunder Cash in that you collect wilds on the middle three reels. Each time you do, your spin counter resets to three, so in that way it works sort of like a hold and spin.
However, reels one and five are completely filled with a mystery symbol reveal that opens each spin. As you lock in wilds, once you get three on the middle three reels that lock into a line, you’re guaranteed five of a kind pays for at least three spins.
Keep locking in those wilds, and the potential of the bonus grows quickly. This is a really nice revamp of that Thunder Cash style of bonus, adding some additional excitement that I’m sure makes for a more volatile game, but also pushes the envelope.
The game will have two themes at launch: a Jaguar version and a White Tiger version.
Everi: Dynamite Pop
Everi has been developing a very savvy habit of taking a component of a game, reworking the rest of the game around it, and launching a new title. Last year, they showed off Combo Cash, which took the Win What You See element of Cash Machine and built a whole new game around it.
This time, Dynamite Pop does the same thing by leveraging one of the bonuses on Cha-Ching! from last year, and developing their own three-pot style game that upgrades the bonus.
The bonus is a bit Press Your Luck-ish in that you hit the button to stop to see what prize you win, but the bonus grid can be upgraded in various ways, such as arrows that can collect a whole row or column (a feature seen on the Cha-Ching! Version of the bonus) and multipliers that can upgrade prizes on a given row or column.
There are two variations that will come out – both have a Jackpot feature that let you collect gems towards winning jackpots when that pot (dynamite in this case) explodes for the bonus.
Overall it’s a good implementation of the three pot format on a bonus that’s a bit unique and, to me personally, fun and exciting! This should be a strong performer for Everi.
AGS: Triple Coin Fortunes Gold
I was immediately taken by Triple Coin Fortunes last year, their three-pot game that bumped up the number of free games, and upgrades, as you landed more pots at once, or unlocked them during the bonus. The theme choices of Leprechauns and Dragons were also well selected, as both were executed beautifully.
AGS historically has been slower to roll out brand extensions (their Fu Nan Fu Nu extension, also shown off this year, follows a game that’s been on casino floors for a number of years, for instance), but this one comes just a year after their original.
A bonus upgrade aspect beyond the pots exists, which is a new unique twist on the traditional three pot format, and you have the ability to get better upgrades (such as higher multipliers) as well as either progress the bonus faster (such as upgrading some symbols to pots before the bonus starts) or eliminate lower-value items like smaller multipliers from the possibilities that can land on the reels.
The game basically ups the ante on every level, bringing the chance for even bigger wins. I liked their spin on the three pot format, and this extension takes it even further in all the best ways. This is one to look for.
Incredible Technologies: 3 Doves
I’ll be one to admit that historically I was not the target player for an IT game, but they’ve been pushing in new directions and have been catching my eye accordingly.
This is another triple pot game, with upgrades that can remove the poker symbols, let the player choose the board size and spin count, and feature expanding reels (think of the Double Blessings bonus where you can get additional symbols).
The upgrades play well together and make for a fun bonus, and fans of the 88 Fortunes/Dancing Drums model will find a lot to like here, mixing some familiar themes with some new twists that will liven up the proceedings.
They showcased a number of games that played with some ideas that are new to them and to me, this is a solid direction for their company – I’m going to be more observant of their games as they hit floors as they seem to be trying new things to good results.
Gaming Arts: Deal or No Deal
I was quite impressed with Gaming Arts’ graphical evolution this year, with their Deal or No Deal game looking incredibly sharp.
The game is on the same cabinet that launched last year’s Brian Christopher’s Pop’N Pays More, a game which has a soft spot in our heart, but in many ways Gaming Arts opted or the game to break out of the standard Gaming Arts visuals.
The bonus also hews very close to the game people are familiar with on TV, and was a lot of fun to play along on the casino floor. Multipliers can bump up the potential prizes before you pick a case, and then open other cases to see what’s not in your case, just as with the show.
Offers periodically let you bail out of the bonus for a guaranteed amount, or push ahead for a chance at bigger prizes – it’s the same excitement and tension taken from the TV show, but now directly in your control as a player.
This one should be a fun one to play on the casino floor!
Interblock: Smart Pit
Finally, let’s throw in a non-slot booth here as I was lucky enough to tour the Interblock booth as well. While I have appreciated the electronic table game evolution, including the stadium solutions and the single player options, which Interblock has been among the leaders in offering, I was quite impressed with their new Smart Pit solution.
With this, they are looking to bring technology into the more traditional pit. Instead of a one-to-many experience on Blackjack like in stadiums, their Smart Pit still features a dealer stationed at a table with six spots to play, and actual cards dealt to each player.
What’s changed here is there’s no chips – bets are made on a screen, and payouts made automatically at the conclusion of a hand. This speeds up the payout process, avoids awkward math on side bets, and for both parties offers speed and accuracy.
For casinos, they can offer more exotic side bets (the smart pit on display offered nine options at once for players who like to live on the crazy side), which can raise the casino house advantage for players leaning into them.
For players, they don’t have to worry about being shorted pays by mistake – my last trip to the casino playing at a physical table, I watched a dealer mis-pay a player, called it out, the dealer didn’t get it, but then two minutes later it registered why it was wrong and they ended up paying the player the rest of their money. This problem is resolved when computers do the work.
They had other games covered by this tech – craps allowed for shooters, but only required one dealer. Cameras detect the roll and can catch when dice manipulation is happening, leading to a game shutdown. Roulette and other pit games could be offered in tandem on the screens, so players could bet on a roulette spin while they wait for the next dice roll or Blackjack hand.
Interblock’s CEO was presenting the solution when I was there and he had a few themes: Better house advantages, faster game play, no mistakes. All of these things are great for casinos as they can generate more revenue, but players will benefit from some of these adjustments too, whether they’re fans of side bets or just hate getting mispaid by dealers who got the math wrong.
Clearly the world of stadium gaming is blending in with more traditional staffed table games, but I’m here for it – hopefully with games that can move a bit faster, lower limits can be possible since the casino will make it up income-wise in speed.