March 12, 2021 Technology, Land-Based, Marketing

TIMING IS EVERYTHING

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By illustrating a case study of a delayed launch, Ainsworth director of product marketing and strategy Mike Trask discusses with Ezra Amacher the ever-increasing need to stand out from the crowd.

One year ago, Ainsworth Game Technology was on the cusp of launching its A-STAR Curve series when Covid-19 took the world by storm and brought those plans to a halt. The setback was so sudden that the company had already loaded cabinets onto trucks all set to debut at NIGA Indian Gaming Tradeshow & Convention in late March 2020.

In the coming weeks and months, Ainsworth made an almost seamless transition to a remote environment. Microsoft Teams joined email as the de facto form of communication. Large in-person gatherings were replaced by live event broadcasts streamed on YouTube. Behind the scenes, gaming developers fastidiously worked at boosting the company’s library of titles. By the time the launch occurred in late 2020 in several American markets, the company had enhanced the cabinet’s content.

“The time period of a stunted launch really gave significant ability and time to develop some very cool games that you’re starting to see on physical floors now,” says Mike Trask, director of product marketing and strategy. “Here we are a year later. We have launched A-STAR Curve successfully in a number of different markets, and we have well over a dozen unique titles that we’ve developed throughout this period for the cabinet. We’re starting to see some tremendous return on investment from customers as players to return to casinos and they find some incredible new games.”

This is the first cabinet release from Ainsworth since 2017, and with a 43-inch curved screen, it’s very hard to miss on a casino floor. What also makes it stand out is the array of games designed exclusively to fit the cabinet’s design.

“We’ve really kept in-tact the play mechanic and some of the math that we think makes them successful,” says Trask.

In recent years, Ainsworth has tapped into other markets like Class II and historical horse racing. The latter was developed through an agreement with Kentucky-based Churchill Downs, which placed about 1,000 terminals at Derby City Gaming in Louisville. HHR quickly garnered controversy in the Bluegrass State, with some customers even filing lawsuits to recover losses.

Such scrutiny led Kentucky lawmakers to pass a bill this year redefining pari-mutuel wagering to include historical horse racing (HHR), thus ensuring legality of the machines. Kentucky Governor Andy Beshear signed the bill into law in late February. All the while, HHR popularity continues to rise in several markets, leading Ainsworth to add 105 terminals at Rosie’s Gaming Emporium in Richmond, Virginia, late last year.

“We have at this point more than 100 different historical horse racing titles available,” Trask says. “The ability to make a strong title that players are going to love really shows the breadth of talent at Ainsworth. So that's been a vital part of our business over the last couple years.”

Another area where Ainsworth has made headway recently is intellectual property and third-party branded titles. The company tried out two Pac-Man games in 2017, and the response was so strong that they became two of Ainsworth’s most successful titles of the last five years. In March, Ainsworth will roll out another one called Pac-Man Wheel.

“The power of Pac-Man has been tremendous,” Trask says. “It’s just a brand that everybody recognizes. It seems like everybody who has worked on the game or been part of developing it had some nostalgic memory of playing Pac-Man in an arcade as a kid, or playing it on an old video game console. Our game development team has done a tremendous job utilizing those sights and sounds of Pac-Man to make a very compelling gambling experience.”

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