‘Cornsquealius’ in the Room
AGS debuts its first themed gaming area to capitalize on the popularity of the Rakin’ Bacon! franchise
By Frank Legato
In the first glory days of the themed slot machine, casino slot floors were dominated by one slot after another based on TV, movies, music or other elements of popular culture. In more recent years, one of the biggest trends among slot-makers has been to capitalize on popular themes created in-house with a parade of sequels.
Of course, the best of the licensed entertainment themes have survived, some with individual titles numbering in the hundreds. But there are a number of internally produced, proprietary slot themes that have become huge game families.
That fact has led to one of the newest trends in the slot world—themed slot areas. There are not that many, and the ones that have been launched have relied on the popularity of a single slot family to draw customers to a customized area.
Gaming supplier AGS has its own famous brand, and on Nov. 16, the supplier became the latest to partner with a casino to create a customized slot area with a theme celebrating a popular brand.
Welcome to Hog Heaven. The 33-game slot area can be found at Miami’s Miccosukee Casino & Resort, and the theme celebrated by the dedicated area is one that has been a mega-hit for AGS.
Just in case the slot-zone name hasn’t clued you in already, that game is Rakin’ Bacon!, one of the first games to popularize the pot-collection style of game feature. It was first launched in 2018, within months of a few other now-famous games that pioneered this style of feature.
The “pot” in this case is a fat, golden piggy bank—with a cash symbol on the side and a cute little top hat on the piggy’s head—that becomes fatter as special coin symbols land on the reels. The animated piggy makes faces, oinks if you touch it on the screen, and keeps getting fatter until it bursts to trigger a progressive picking bonus.
Players loved it so much AGS began doing sequels, starting with Rakin’ Bacon Deluxe in 2021, which added an expanding reels feature to the free-spin bonus in a ways-to-win game, and added a “boost” symbol to the progressive pick bonus that instantly grows the prizes when unveiled.
AGS has been adding many of the most popular game features of the day to new versions of Rakin’ Bacon!, a game family which this year grew to five titles, with the launch of the games Rakin’ Bacon! Sahara and Rakin’ Bacon! Odyssey. There are around 3,100 Rakin’ Bacon! machines out in casinos.
A Star is Born
While individual features may vary, every version of Rakin’ Bacon! features that golden piggy as the main draw. In fact, a few years ago, AGS officials gave the character a name.
“We let employees submit and vote on a name for the pig,” says AGS Chief Marketing Officer Julia Boguslawski. “We had some top contenders, but I’m still mad my ‘Duke of Pork’ and ‘Notorious P-I-G’ didn’t get picked!”
What did get picked?
In the newest versions of Rakin’ Bacon!, Cornsquealius is the game’s mascot and host—the face of the game brand,—not only in merchandising but in the games themselves. Along with his new name, Cornsquealius is much more animated, appearing to add extra games or additional wilds to the free-spin feature.
In the Odyssey and Sahara titles, the free-games feature takes place on an expanded reel set, beginning with six rows of symbols. Every time a harpoon medallion lands during the feature, the reels expand, up to a maximum of 10 rows. At the full expansion, there are 7,776 ways to win on each spin.
(Rakin’ Bacon Sahara has the piggy character in a pharaoh’s headdress.)
“Rakin’ Bacon! really stood out in a lot of different ways,” says Mark DeDeaux, AGS general manager and senior vice president, slots. “What we feel like players really enjoy about the game is that it has the pseudo-persistence with the pig growing, which triggers the progressive features. And then it also has very popular free-game features. While those things aren’t really revolutionary in any particular way, we know that players really like those types of features.
“But what we feel is different and most intriguing for a player with Rakin’ Bacon! is that it has an abundance of five-of-a-kind pays. This almost acts as another thing that players can chase after—not just the pig feature or the free spins. There are enough five-of-a-kind pays to really keep the players going.”
DeDeaux says AGS will continue to add new games to the family, with new features capitalizing on the types of features players are demanding while keeping the basics of the earlier games intact.
“What we’ve changed that makes the game very fun to play is in the free-games feature, where we have these expanding reels,” says DeDeaux. “And as you get the harpoons that expand each individual reel, when you collect a second one on any reel that’s already expanded, you get either additional free games or you get additional wilds.
“Cornsquealius starts to do all of these magic tricks to the outcome of that feature.”
Cornsquealius, in fact, is making these games more fun for the players. “The really big change in the game is making Cornsquealius more engaged with the actual features themselves,” DeDeaux says. “Cornsquealius actually turns around and moons the players during that free spin feature. So we just want to enrich the character of Cornsquealius. We want to make him more playful and engaging in the actual features, and in the outcome of the features.”
DeDeaux says AGS is planning to introduce one or two Rakin’ Bacon! titles per year going forward. “We want to take the players that we know really like Rakin’ Bacon! and give them the Rakin’ Bacon! experience, but with some new game-play mechanics,” he says. “So, our future Rakin’ Bacon! games will include some hold-and-spin, cash-on-reels style versions of the game. And we also want to expand and introduce Mr. Cornsquealius to people that like three-reel style of games.”
As the game family and its fan base continue to grow, AGS is aiming to promote special spaces in casinos dedicated to the game. Hog Heaven at Miccosukee is the first of those.
Welcome to Hog Heaven
Cornsquealius is prominent in Hog Heaven, in which 33 of the most popular AGS slots, including multiple Rakin’ Bacon titles, are wrapped into a brightly lit slot area with LED billboard-wrapped entrances and wall art depicting Cornsquealius floating through the air. At one side is a neon selfie wall, a floor-to-ceiling mural depicting the heavenly floating pigs.
“The idea behind Hog Heaven was to create a fun environment for players at Miccosukee to enjoy their favorite games and introduce social elements like a selfie wall to keepsake and share their experience at the property,” says Boguslawski.
“Hog Heaven is the result of marketing, sales and product management, talking about different strategic campaigns we can do to help elevate our brands. Obviously, Rakin’ Bacon! is such a successful one for AGS, but also with our customers, the casinos. When (operators) say they are taking more games, they like to explore if there is something that they can do on their property that is really exciting, and really something new for the player.”
Boguslawski says AGS will be able to do more dedicated areas like this because the company now offers such a variety of content. “Hog Heaven is a dedicated player room with all AGS products at Miccosukee,” she says, noting that designing spaces with a fun atmosphere is a chance to show off the creativity of the design team. “We try to think outside of the box when it comes to design. This is pretty evident if you’ve seen our booth at G2E [the industry trade show] each year; we’re always trying to come up with a fun theme. Where I think we really excel is trying to dream up something that’s really cool-looking.
“And it’s also an opportunity to celebrate the pig, and create more fandom around Cornsquealius.”
She says the selfie wall is a big part of that. “People love to document what they’re doing and where they are, so when players are in the room and see Cornsquealius on the wall, there is a selfie station where they can take a picture, and post it. The property loves that type of engagement.”
The overall design, she says, is to offer the player an “immersive, elevated experience. The whole feel when you’re in the room is really, really good. It’s very creative, and different than anything else that I’ve seen out there. So, we’re excited about players feeling they’re surrounded by their favorite pig, and then giving them a lot of opportunities for them to share pictures and share their experience while they’re there.”
Boguslawski says AGS and Miccosukee will be watching the buzz created by Hog Heaven closely. “This is our launch site, if you will,” she says, “so we’re excited to see how successful it is. What type of engagement are we getting on social?” AGS also will be garnering feedback from Miccosukee on how much play the Hog Heaven machines get.
Then, of course, the company would possibly look to replicate that success at other locations. “We do have interest from a couple of other properties on something similar to this,” Boguslawski says. “These branded rooms are becoming a popular concept, so because we’ve got enough content, characters and compelling visuals, we can do this a number of different ways depending on what the property wants.”
“Hog Heaven as a room concept is one approach,” adds DeDeaux, “but what we are seeing with some customers is more of a clustering of the Rakin’ Bacon! games in sections of their floor.
“They’re creating their own little section of the floor that features more of the different versions of Rakin’ Bacon! That’s something players should be looking for across the country, especially as we’re expanding and adding more new games.”
Hog Heaven is one new concept in this overall effort. “We didn’t want to just put a bunch of AGS games in a room,” says Boguslawski. “We want to be very intentional in creating a unique experience for players, and immerse them into the games.”
As for the Rakin’ Bacon! franchise, it will continue to grow, not only in casinos, but online, as several versions of the games can now be found in online real-money and social casinos.
“The beauty behind building this brand, purely from a player experience standpoint, is what you keep and what you change,” DeDeaux says. “Our game design teams are really dialed into maintaining the math as much as possible, and the key features.”
So, expect Cornsquealius to appear in more new versions, and in different outfits. At one recent trade show, he showed up as a rock ’n’ roll pig.
You guessed it. They called him Piggy Stardust.