Last week’s Global Gaming Expo (G2E) was the casino industry’s premiere showcase event of the year, and taking center stage were the myriad of new slot games and systems unveiled by manufacturers.
As in previous trade shows, slot machines continue their trend toward greater technological advancements, such as 3-D graphics, high-definition video, touch-screen controls, stereo surround sound and X-box or Wii-type game features.
If there was a common thread among the new offerings, it would have to be games hinged to recognizable themes and pop culture, such as TV shows, notably game shows, as well as popular board games.
For instance, IGT introduced a new slot game based on the television series, "Sex and the City," which features characters, sound tracks and video clips from the show, all packaged in IGT’s revolutionary MultiPlay platform.
IGT even had one of the stars of the show, Chris Noth, meeting and greeting conventioneers at its sprawling G2E booth.
Another new IGT slot based on a TV show, "American Idol," is part of the company’s 3-D Center Stage series of slots, which includes a bank of machines linked together and underneath a massive, 102-inch HD television screen. The game includes clips of the show’s previous contestants, and the bonus round puts the slot player into the role of judge.
The Center Stage series also includes an enhanced Wheel of Fortune game in which the player can actually solve the word puzzle for additional bonus credits.
Added to IGT’s MegaJackpots series is The Amazing Race, based on the reality TV show, which takes group play to another level and Alice’s Adventures in Wonderland, a multi-play video slot with new progressive jackpots.
WMS Industries (WMS) tapped into the movie trilogy, "Lord of the Rings," for its latest Adaptive Gaming series of slots, which takes players on an epic journey based on the storyline of the motion picture.
Similar to the Star Trek series that preceded it, Lord of the Rings allows players to advance to different and more exciting levels, cease play and continue where they left off, even at another casino.
WMS also introduced a line of slots, The Wizard of Oz Ruby Slippers, and The Wizard of Oz Follow the Yellow Brick Road, which takes players on a visual adventure, accented by bonuses, free spins, re-spins, big wins, mystery-trigger progressives and a wide-area progressive jackpot.
Over three years ago, WMS created "community gaming" with its Monopoly Big Event linked slot machines. This year, WMS raised the bar with its Monopoly Big Money Spin Bigger Event, which features a super-wide, high-definition screen display, plus new ways to qualify for and trigger the Big Event bonuses. Also, for the first time, players can work together in the bonus round.
The Bally Technologies (BYI) booth drew a crowd when Playboy Playmate of the Year, Ida Ljungqvist, made a personal appearance to help launch Bally’s new Playboy slot, a statuesque, 6-foot-tall (the slot!) progressive game on Bally’s Elite V32 platform.
The Playboy slot was among Bally’s largest array of slots ever unveiled at G2E – more than 200 unique game titles and more than 300 total games for the Class III, Class II, server-system and video lottery markets.
A leader in the spinning wheel genre of slots, Bally is high on its new "Spinnation" series of spinning-wheel video and mechanical slots. These games feature a mystery or symbol-triggered spinning-wheel bonus top box which is always popular with slot players.
Some of the new titles in this series include Cash Wheel, Monte Carlo Royale, and both single and five-line versions of Cash Wheel.
Bally’s "Wheel" series also offers an industry first, Cash Spin, which features a spinning wheel on the top two-thirds of the video display above the mechanical reels. In the bonus round, the player actually spins the wheel on the touch-enabled screen, creating a new dimension of player control and interaction.
Multi-Media Games of Austin, Texas, unveiled a new line of 5-reel, mechanical slots, a new 3-reel mechanical, multi-tier progressive slot and an intriguing new "community" game, Slot Car Speedway.
Similar to Multi-Media’s popular Sport of Kings game, Slot Car Speedway is a high-tech, audio-visual experience, in which players compete in a 3-D race in real time, without a predetermined outcome. Players place their bets on one or more of the eight unique cars and every eight minutes the call to race sounds. Players track the cars racing around the course on the overhead display and receive a guaranteed multiplier of the bet based on race results.
Another slot based on racing – the four-hoofed kind – is an upgraded version of Sigma’s Derby. This enhanced version of the long-time favorite features individual consoles, full motion video, and win, place and show possibilities, along with exotic bets like exactas and trifectas.
Whether or when the new machines unveiled at G2E ever reach the local casino still remains to be seen. Most casino operators say they are mostly "just looking," and won’t do much buying until their balance sheets are in better shape.
Hopefully, that won’t be too far into the future. These new games just might be what casinos need to jump-start slumping revenues.