Beyond Business as Usual

Roberto Coppola leads a program to develop the gaming industry’s newest products

If you’ve ever tried to come up with the next Candy Crush, then you know creating something that people want to play is not easy.

Now add in that people have to be willing to lose money while playing. Enter Roberto Coppola, vice president of advanced products at Aristocrat, the gaming company behind slot classics like Buffalo.

“My job is to work on things that are non-BAU, which means non-business-as-usual,” he says. One of his current initiatives is a program titled thinkBIGGER designed to inspire and support new ideas from employees worldwide, even those that might not regularly work on developing new ideas.

Coppola launched thinkBIGGER in January with a call for “the next big idea for Aristocrat,” and by the end of April, more than 500 employees from five continents and eight countries from Las Vegas to India had submitted proposals both gaming and non-gaming. “In India, it is a challenge to ask people to develop gaming concepts because gambling is not as much of the culture, so we were asking for any idea that would leverage our competitiveness,” Coppola says.

Krystal Ramirez

Approximately 75 entries were selected to formally present at Shark Tank style pitch days in Las Vegas, Sydney and Delhi. Coppola attended and led all three over the course of a 12-day sprint in May.

In July 15 pitches received funding from Aristocrat to complete working prototypes. Coppola and his team are providing support and resources to ensure that several final concepts will be showcased at the Global Gaming Expo in October with the goal of gathering feedback from casino operators from around the world.  

While Aristocrat is keeping the winning ideas under wraps for now, finalists were selected from across the world, and several of the final concepts are designed to inspire millennials to gamble.

In a 2016 study, millennials reported spending only 8.5 percent of their total budget on gambling compared to 23.5 percent of non-millennials. Gaming companies are staying ahead of changing demographics with games that appeal to millennials’ interest in skill-based challenges and social activities.

Though gaming companies have been trying to capitalize on the Nevada law passed in February 2016 that allows for skill-based games in casinos, Coppola shares that creating new concepts for casinos comes with hurdles that other industries do not face. Regulation makes it hard to experiment with new ideas. Successful companies are often happy to keep doing what has worked in the past, and gamblers can be scared to risk their money on a new game. But, faced with changing demographics and technology, companies need to get creative in the coming years.

Coppola believes that as the intellectual hub of gaming, Las Vegas must lead the way, and he believes in the potential of programs like thinkBIGGER to develop the next big thing. “This town is hungry for programs like this. There are so many talented people here that need an outlet.”