The 2015 Global Gaming Expo (G2E) is over. I won’t say I’m sorry to see it go… I do a lot of walking during my time there. This year, I was only able to be there for two days instead of the usual three. My feet hurt and I’m tired!
On a positive note, I found more table games on display than I recall in the past few years.
On a negative note, I don’t think there were any independent inventors in their own booths. Some may have struck deals with bigger companies for their game or at least some of their space. I don’t tend to ask those questions while scouting for games.
Generally, more than half the games I see fall into the category of “doesn’t have a chance.” I can’t predict which game will be a success, but it is easy to tell which ones will fail. I’d be lying if I said I didn’t see some of those this week, but fewer than expected.
Next is the “sane” category. These games don’t seem to have any fatal flaw, but there is nothing to get overly excited about. They might fail, succeed a little or go on to be big hits. I saw many more of these than I expected.
These games tend to stick to traditional methods but differ from some existing game in some way. In this category were Texas Hold’em-style games from both AGS and Ya Awada (working with Genesis Gaming). Do they have any realistic chance of knocking Ultimate Texas Hold’em (UTH) off its perch? Not likely.
But I don’t think that’s really the intention. They target the Texas Hold’em market, but with games with lower average wagers and thus can be considered a little less intimidating. Nothing stood out about either of these games, but I can’t say there was anything wrong. Do they have a shot to succeed? Yes. Will they? No one can honestly answer that.
That leaves the last category of games – the ones that make you go wow. I couldn’t say there were fewer of these than I expected because these types of games don’t show up every year. Being a “wow” game doesn’t guarantee success (nothing does). It just means the game is different enough to make you take notice while not so different it makes you go huh.
Roughly ten years ago, I think UTH was one of these games. It wasn’t the first Texas Hold’em game tried, or even the first one that succeeded. But, it had a betting structure that made you go wow. You could ramp up your bet when having a killer hand or checking the hand until seeing all 7 cards.
A few years later, Shuffle Master had Dealer Bluff, which is a game that uses the optical reader in the shuffler to recognize the dealer’s hand rank (even though the hand was displayed to no one) and use it to decide how much the player has to wager to stay in. An element of bluffing was built into it (hence the name). To my knowledge, this was (and is) the only time this was done. It might have been the wow factor, but the game never really caught on.
Go forward a couple more years and Shuffle Master introduces House Money Blackjack. This is still my favorite blackjack sidebet as it introduced strategy to the sidebet, which allows for higher paybacks. Yet, it does so without altering base blackjack strategy! The game started out as hot as any sidebet ever has, but didn’t blow all the other sidebets out of the water. So, now we have wow games that have done exceptional, poor and ok.
Also, just a few years ago, there was High Card Flush. I liked this game from the moment I first saw it. It was one of (if not the) first game that simplified poker rankings, eliminating everything but Flushes and Straight Flushes. Here is another game I think had a wow factor that has succeeded… so much that two companies are currently fighting over who actually owns the rights to the game! Companies rarely fight over a failed game.
This last category of game has innovation and whether they succeed or fail, I tip my hat to the inventors for a good faith effort. It is definitely a riskier approach than simply taking something that already exists and adding a minor twist (or less).
I only saw one game I think meets this description this year – Shuffle Master’s (Scientific Games) Turnt Up Poker. The innovation here is that the dealer starts with seven cards with one card face up. If that card is a 9 or greater, it will be discarded (and not replaced). The dealer continues dicarding until a card is turned over that is a 2 through 8.
The dealer, in theory, could play with zero cards (very rare). Once he plays with less than five, Straights and Flushes become impossible! This is the type of feature that makes you go wow. Will the game succeed? I don’t know. We’ll know better by G2E 2016!
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Elliot Frome is a second generation gaming analyst and author. His math credits include Ultimate Texas Hold’em, Mississippi Stud, House Money and many other games. His website is www.gambatria.com. Email: [email protected].