Perhaps it’s a reflection of society itself, but the notion of social networking is finding its way onto the casino’s slot floor in the form of group play machines.
Technology has fueled social networking, whether it’s used in smart phones, texting, tweeting or Facebook. And technology has advanced group slot play.
Grouped slots create interaction and a shared experience for the players. More than one player participates in the base game or bonus game.
For some events, players may even work together to achieve a common goal or award, and for others they may compete against each other.
IGT introduced the group play concept with its Wheel of Fortune Super Spin, and was first to market with a competitive group play featured in Star Wars Multi-Level Progressives.
"Group play changes the game dynamic," IGT Product Manager Will Foster said. "It’s no longer one-on-one, player-versus-game. There’s a shared feeling of the experience. The entire bank can be competing for one goal, or players can be in competition with each other. In a group, you all share in a win. It’s kind of like a football game."
IGT unveiled its latest group play series, The Amazing Race, at the recent G2E gaming expo in Las Vegas. The 5-reel, 50 payline game has a 300 credit maximum bet, and features IGT’s most advanced technology. Reel symbols animate in eye-popping 3-D on multiple LCD layers, and the four-slot bank of machines features IGT’s new "sound chair," which has a built-in stereo, surround-sound audio system.
Foster said adventure is the key ingredient in The Amazing Race’s slot experience. The bonuses are modeled after the challenges on the show. Voiceover and video of the show’s host, Phil Keoghan, help guide players through the game.
"IGT has taken the group play experience to the next level with The Amazing Race multi-level progressives Challenge Video Slots," Foster said. "Just like in the Emmy Award-winning reality TV show, players compete in a Ticket Challenge and continental race from destination to destination."
In the Ticket Challenge group play bonus, players "dig" through the pile of sand searching for the tickets. As the timer counts down, the ticket value decreases but accumulated credits increase until the ticket is discovered.
In the game’s group play bonus round, each player is awarded five free games in which players accumulate miles and credits, advancing them in their continental race.
Players reaching each destination win its corresponding progressive and five additional free games toward the next leg of the race.
And for added entertainment value, there is the Around the World Instant Bonus, which occurs randomly during base game play. A plane flies around the spinning earth, rewarding a multiplier and bonus credit value, which is applied to any line wins from the current base game spin.
At G2E, IGT introduced two other group play games, House of 9 Dragons and Super Nova Blast.
House of 9 Dragons is a 5-reel, 50 payline game with a 200-credit maximum bet, and offers nine progressive levels represented by a multi-colored dragon.
Super Nova Blast includes three, 5-reel, 30 payline games with a 100-credit maximum bet, and features five in-house progressives.
The common thread among all the games is that players enter the bonus rounds together, and win together.
"Players are more diverse than ever," Foster said. "We’ve got all demographics coming into casinos – young, old, male, female, Gen X, Gen Y. Not all players are the same anymore, and IGT has … the best games to match and reach every demographic out there."