#1143 – Wet and Wild Entertainment Investment

A cluster of interesting international trade events took place before the big end-of-year conventions. These offered a snapshot at the investment recommencing into the entertainment and leisure space, as the build-up for the fall season took hold. We also reveal some interesting new aspects and trends that are beginning to impact the sector.

Wet and Wild!

The 42nd annual World Waterpark Association Symposium & Trade Show (WWA’22), held in Las Vegas, is pivotal event for the waterpark and resort sector of the industry – while much has been consolidated over the years into IAAPA, the WWA is 100-percent focused on the water attraction and entertainment scene. The need to stay relevant was shaping the show floor, as the thinking of the trade gathered. 

As reported in our IAAPA-EMEA’22 coverage, the appearance of “VR Waterplay” in floor rides, attractions and special experiences, has gained serious momentum – both for waterpark and hotel pool deployment, but also for the burgeoning cruise line business. At WWA’22 we saw developers such as Ballast Technology presenting their ‘DIVR’ and ‘DIVR+’ – with the VR snorkel system incorporating sensory affects. This was along with their already established presence with ‘VRslide’ – which has been installed at several waterparks, offering a selectable VR experience to the popular floom and water slide attraction. 

It was revealed that Sub Sea Systems had developed, in partnership with Ballast, the new ‘Kaimana’ platform, which was dubbed “the world’s first underwater game area”. It is based on the ‘DIVR+’ platform but now comes within its own unique enclosure, for multiple users at a time to experience the underwater game system – part of the corporation’s ‘DeepdiveVR’ architecture, with a throughput of some 60 players an hour. 

The appearance of VR in water parks has also been mirrored by the appearance on cruise ships. Several cruise line companies employ specially commissioned VR experiences – such as AIDA Cruises installing the ‘YULLBE GO’ experience on this line. Meanwhile, several cruise ships have employed “VR Waterplay” on their vessels. We can expect more water-based immersive attractions in the coming months – many of these new ideas will be seen in a few weeks at IAAPA Orlando. 

Gaming Investment

Marking a cramped Vegas show calendar, Global Gaming Expo (G2E’22) returned to Las Vegas, and The Venetian Expo venue, for the 22nd outing of the G2E gaming event. The event expected to welcome some 18,000 attendees but, the show organizers Reed Exhibition (RX) working with the American Gaming Association (AGA), saw nearly 25,000 gaming professionals attend the Vegas gathering to see some 350 exhibitors. This was reflective of the continued strong return to physical events (placed in perspective, the 2019 event had attracted 27,000 attendees).

A new element of the G2E’22 event was the inclusion of sessions and exhibitors promoting “Holographic Touch” – the casino sector is looking to embrace the next-generation of gaming, with the use of frictionless play and display medium. Exhibitor Holo Industries came to the show with their ‘Holographic Touch’ technology for zero-touch gaming; along with the Omnico Group showing their contactless casino machine technology.

On a crowded Vegas show floor at G2E’22, one of those operations who exhibited was KONAMI Gaming – the casino and skill gaming US division. As previously reported in September, the news of the Japanese parent corporate’s 16-percent dip in profits had been revealed, but regarding the operation, their Gaming & Casino Management Systems division, dealing with the casino sector, had seen its profits decline by 10-percent, blaming global supply chain disruptions. The operation is focusing on an expected upswing, while also looking at diversity towards smaller casino facilities and cruise line gaming business.

Another exhibitor with an amusement pedigree was SEGA Sammy Creation – the North American division of the casino and gaming division of the corporation. The company announced they had developed two new games for their ‘Genesis Crest’ video slot cabinet. ‘Resident Evil: Vendetta’ is based on the popular horror video game licensed from CAPCOM, while the second tile, called ‘Alien Heroes’, is an original game developed by Sammy and based on their previous Pachislot property. The importance of leveraging well known IP into the gaming scene has been reported on before, and close on the heels of the Licensing and Brand summit in London, the continued investment into IP-based gaming machines was not lost on the attendees. 

While the casino and gaming floor business works towards attracting the audience, and keeping them entertained, the G2E show reflected a move by the industry more towards Sports Betting and eSports investment. While large display slot machines continued to benefit from the advancements in LED display technology, with wider, higher, colour resolution and curved displays, the real innovation still seemed to be in development regarding what can be expected from the next generation in gaming machines. While no real continuation of the VR investment was seen on the public floor of the show, new 3D technology display was previewed behind closed doors – suggesting at more holographic innovation in the coming months.  

eSports Casino Investment

During last month’s eSports coverage in The Stinger Report, we touched on the eSports Betting and Wagering aspects of the scene, and the difficult birthing pain between conventional casino and eSports activities. Regarding Las Vegas and the casinos, an example of the opportunities was represented in August with the holding of the Evolutionary Championship (EVO) series at the Michelob Ultra Arena, part of the Mandalay Bay Casino Resort. It attracted players and spectators to watch live competition on the latest fighting games, including the conclusion of the Tekken Fighting Championship. It was reported that the event saw ticket sales exceeding 18,000 – with estimates that 20,000 tourists were attracted to the event.

Other Las Vegas properties that have embraced an eSports narrative include Luxor Hotel & Casino, which has incorporated the ‘HyperX Arena Las Vegas’ into their mix and replaced their Sports Betting operation for a permanent 1,000-seat dedicated eSports arena. The venue has played host to sell-out events and streamed competitions. Other casinos in the area are closely evaluating these examples of permanent arena installations to draw the emerging eSports audience. While the jury is still out on the long-term profitability of this deployment, eSports will be driving the future revenue of the gaming halls as the audience matures to the entertainment. The question is, how best the casino sector can support this transition and turn a profit.

The volatility of the sports betting interests in eSports was revealed just days after the major trade event. News was broken that Esports Entertainment Group, a company previously in the news, had ceased operation of their controversial Vie.gg sport book division. After receiving regulatory approval from the New Jersey Division of Gaming Enforcement in January of this year, the operation had been haemorrhaging investment, and the decision to close the operation will see the company now focus on restructuring and looking towards other markets internationally, towards re-entering what they see as a market with great potential.  

The drive for eSports in the Vegas area was underpinned with the announcement that the former Gameworks Las Vegas location had been taken over by a new tenant. Opening during the G2E month, Velocity Esports is a brand-new eSports venue comprising some 100 eSports game titles, along with amusement platforms and a dedicated hospitality and bar offering. The operation sits in the previous Gameworks location and is the second in the chain of competitive gaming venues hoping to cement their presence in Las Vegas’s active eSports community. 

Amusement and Entertainment in Casinos 

Away from G2E’22 and the impact of entertainment on the offering from the casino venues was reflected in the number of new amusement entertainment spaces being developed. One such example was the opening at ‘Bally’s Casino’ in Las Vegas, of the new ‘Bally’s/Horseshoe’ – an amusement hall with the latest video and redemption pieces. Previously the ‘Sportsbook’ location, the space has been totally redeveloped by the Caesars Entertainment operation into a modern amusement venue – which is an extension of the casino floor. The 7,000-sq.ft. arcade is aimed at family and younger visitors to the casino, with the games operated by a cashless card system (Fun e-Card), and the space will also include a bar area (which has yet to be completed at the time of writing). Sources close to the installation suggested that amusement machines in this environment could generate revenues like their slot machine equivalents – time will tell how well this latest operation will fare.

Amusement and Competitive Socializing has also reached other Vegas venues, as a new entertainment component to the gaming floors. It was revealed that the first AR Darts platform was installed at the ‘Golden Spike’ casino hotel (part of the DTP Companies). The 501 Entertainment developed ‘Smart Darts’ platform installation marks the first placement in the States. Also, this marks the first of several Social Entertainment style lounges and arenas being installed across the Vegas cluster of hotel casinos. It is expected that the social element of the casino scene supporting the nightclub and hospitality element will be supported by the growth of entertainment, along with the gaming, as will be seen next year. The G2E 2023 event will take place on the 10-12 October.

About the author

Kevin Williams

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The brainchild of two location-based experience enthusiasts, Christine Buhr and Brandon Willey, the LBX Collective aims to inform and educate, create opportunities to connect with industry peers, and to spur collaboration, discourse, and cross-pollination of ideas.

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