Weike Gaming Technology’s new electronic baccarat product has potential to draw in an under-represented segment of Macau’s main-floor players
A key component of the breakneck growth in Macau’s mass-market gaming revenues since last year has been “the customer-segmentation efforts of the casino operators” as gaming analyst Kenneth Fong points out on Page 42 of this issue.
All the mass segments are fed by an apparently insatiable demand for baccarat. At the upper end are the premium-mass players, served by live tables in wellappointed high-limit rooms. The mid-rangemass players flock to regular tables on the crowded main floors, while the lower end has been gravitating to the rapidly proliferating electronic terminals set in stadium configurations around live dealers.
One other segment with apparent room to develop further is pure electronic terminals. Though there is a smattering of such games around town, they have achieved nowhere near the penetration of the terminals around live dealers. This could be partly down to players’ aversion to the purely electronic format, but seems also a function of a lack of compelling product in the market.
Singapore-based Weike Gaming Technology observed the underpenetration of pure electronic baccarat games in Macau and set about developing its Infinity Baccarat, which takes center stage at its G2E Asia stand this year.
Infinity Baccarat features video of a beaming Chinese dealer around which up to 128 terminals can be configured—Weike recommends operators install a minimum of eight to create the requisite atmosphere of camaraderie seen at the live tables.
A selection of Weike’s new game concepts on display at G2E Asia.
Weike opted to film a real person rather than going the animated route because “we want players to feel more connected,” says Ray Poh, recently appointed the company’s COO. He adds, “Infinity Baccarat is modular, scalable and caters to markets like Macau, where labor cost and supply is a limiting factor.”
Infinity Baccarat comes standard in either Mandarin or English, and one of its key differentiating features is “we allow players to squeeze the cards” (using Weike’s patented card-squeezing technology), explains Mr Poh. “This makes it more of a premium product, and allows you to maintain the feel of a live table. We still run more hands than a live table, but obviously with the squeezing part of it we don’t run as many hands as other electronic products.”
The other highlights at G2E Asia for Weike will be a new line-up of slot titles. “This year, besides our stable of 50-line games, we are going to introduce more 30- and 40- line games in order to widen our offerings,” reveals Mr Poh. “There are already a lot of 50-line games out there. But there are some markets, such as Indochina, which prefer fewer lines. For example, in Cambodian casinos, where the denomination is either USD or Thai baht, 50-line games become quite expensive.”
And even in markets such as Singapore, where Weike has “the 50-line segment well covered,” believes Mr Poh, “it’s time to expand to cater to other segments with 30- and 40-line games.” Over the company’s 15- year history, “we started off with nine lines, then added 18, then moved to 20 and 25, and now we’re supplying predominantly 50- line games in Singapore.”
Weike also will showcase several new game concepts at the show. “There is Shanghai Casino and Oriental Legend, both of which are casino-themed. There’s Dancing Snake, which was released this year to mark the “Year of the Snake.” The Illusionist, about a magician, The Great Genghis, themed after the Mongol warrior legend, and the kung futhemed The Grand Master.”
Although all these titles are highly Asian-themed, Mr Poh points out that Weike has also been releasing “several non-Asian themes as well, but the reason we are focusing on these particular ones at G2E Asia is because they are the newest concepts.”
Weike has been working steadily over the past five years to broaden its international appeal by supplementing its “unique and distinctively Asian-themed game library,” as Andrew Masen, Weike’s vice president, Slot Gaming, in charge of game development, puts it. Mr Masen was brought on board in 2008 as a prelude to Weike launching its campaign to penetrate new markets. It had until then been operating for a decade building a solid business supplying slots, electronic table games and progressive jackpot link and gaming management systems to smaller-scale gaming venues in Singapore, Malaysia, Cambodia, Vietnam, Laos and the Philippines.
Weike has its sights on building its footprint in Asia’s major casinos, and especially in the continent’s newly established slots mecca, Macau. The local slot market is a particularly tough nut to crack for new entrants because of players’ fierce loyalty to established games, but Weike has gradually been making inroads with machines that have been performing well against the entrenched competition. Its machines have also been standout performers at Singapore’s integrated resorts, building on Weike’s previously established strong presence in the citystate’s slot clubs.
In addition to the new games, Weike will be showcasing its market-proven systems at G2E Asia. “Our WeSystems cater to club markets and mid-sized casinos around the region,” says Mr Poh. “Importantly, we cater to multi-site venues as well.” That’s because Weike is currently one of the largest systems suppliers in Asia with fully operational wide-area gaming management, cashless and jackpot systems. WeSystems is approved to GLI 12 and GLI 13 standards and is in operation in Macau, the Philippines, Vietnam, Cambodia, Malaysia and Singapore.
Weike’s wide-area networks have been connecting multiple venues run by some of the biggest club groups in Malaysia and Singapore, operating stably and giving the clubs a much-needed competitive boost against the local casinos and integrated resorts.
Weike’s regional-expansion efforts will be helped by its appointment in March of Jothy Sitharthan Markhamuthu as its new vice president, Business Development, overseeing the Sales and Marketing department. Mr Sitharthan is tasked with spearheading the strategy and development of the department to serve existing and potential clients. “With my appointment, I hope I can bring forth my experience and contacts to expand both business opportunities and gaming markets for Weike Gaming,” commented Mr Sitharthan.
Mr Sitharthan has been in the casino gaming industry for 10 years serving in operational roles throughout the region. He has gained extensive experience from various operational gaming roles, including serving as director of gaming machine operations at City of Dreams in Macau. His supplier-side knowledge accrues from his previous position as director of systems (Asia Pacific) at Bally Macau.
“We are very excited to welcome Mr. Sitharthan to be a key member of Weike Gaming. With his familiarity in gaming operations, systems business and his valuable network in Asia Pacific, we are confident that Mr Sitharthan will continue the effort to take our business to the next level,” said Chow Chee Keong, vice president, operations of Weike Gaming Technology.