Nov 19, 2007 4:27 AM

In the 21st century, technology is the name of the game and that theme was underscored last week at the annual Global Gaming Expo (G2E) in Las Vegas.

Companies that exhibited their latest offerings, including giants such as IGT, Bally and WMS Industries, displayed products that had a keen focus on tracking and interacting with casino players, communal and competitive slot games, and some of the most visually appealing slots ever produced.

Throughout the expansive G2E exhibit hall, there were dozens of displays in which new wide screens, plasma displays, backlighting on slot reels and other technological marvels were incorporated into the myriad of electronic gaming machines and systems.

Here is a rundown of the some of the innovative products that will soon be debuting on the casino floor (next week GT will report on poker and table game products introduced at G2E).

International Game Technology (IGT)

Industry-leader IGT unveiled its latest generation server-based gaming technology, which is designed to allow casinos to better interact with slot players through bonusing, contests and promotions.

In addition to providing the opportunity for changing the machine’s game menu and denomination through a central server network, server gaming can provide "instant win" capabilities for players. This and other features will be communicated via a small rectangular LCD screen built into the machines.

One of the possible applications is a bonus program in which players receive a postcard from the casino indicating they’ve been granted a bonus, which can be accessed on the machine by punching in a code number.

The system would also allow operators to market "expiring inventory" to the players. For instance, if a production show or concert is only 50 percent sold out, the casino can market discounted on free tickets to the slot player right on the machine.

Communal game was also a huge theme at IGT, continuing with the products such as Monopoly and Wheel of Fortune introduced last year.

On display was a smaller version of the IGT Super Spin (five positions instead of nine) with a vertical wheel that backs up against a wall.

IGT also introduced a Star Wars game in which all of the machines can be linked and the players can compete against each other in the bonus round.

For instance, when the bonus round begins all of the active players ride against each other through the Ewok Forest.

On the jackpot side, IGT will for the first time offer casino operators the chance to offer a two-level progressive. The casinos will be able to set the denomination and the payout, which will have a higher hit frequency.

These progressives were generally available only on a participation basis, but the new system allows operators to own the machines and not have to share revenues with IGT.

WMS Industries

WMS introduced a variety of new products, many of which played on the popularity of existing games such as Top Gun, Monopoly Big Event and Monopoly Super Money Grab, with added technological twists.

WMS’s Bigger Bang Big Event, for instance, combines the excitement of community gaming (several positions at a common carousel) with high-tech "transmissive" slot reels, which feature a video screen overlaying the spinning wheels.

Other communal games, The Wizard of Oz and Dirty Harry, further immerse players as their chair moves with different effects on the screen and the surround sound system.

Another WMS offering, Power Ball Hot Seat, features a bonus round in which the player triggering the bonus has the chance to win more money compared to other players in the round.

Bally Technologies

One of the most compelling products in Bally display was its Game Maker system. The slot can be automatically configured to show high denomination games during the day and lower denominations at night (or vice versa).

Other unique products include Bally’s Hot Shot bonus frenzy and its Power Progressives, which have seven levels of progressive jackpots along with three different bonus games.