By David Stratton | As the slumping economy continues to take its toll on the gaming industry, casino operators have become more proactive in reshuffling their slot floors to ensure a mix of the most appealing games available.
As a result, the average lifespan of a slot machine on the casino floor has been shortened.
Casinos have also begun scrapping "participation" slots, in which they share the revenue with the manufacturer (this will be the topic of an upcoming report in GamingToday).
Among the new games with particular player appeal have been slots with bonus rounds and multi-screen features often in penny denominations which add to the players interest through interaction.
Casinos have also been increasing the number of "community" slot games, in which players share the winning experience with other players seated at a common carousel.
The concept sharply deviates from the traditional model, in which players sat in a chair looking at a screen, usually having little interaction with people pushing the spin buttons next to them.
But that is changing with the push by slot manufacturers to make games with communal rewards. Giving players a chance to win together creates excitement, the type seen at table games, where players often whoop it up and carry on as if in some atavistic fertility ritual.
Among the first in this new generation of shared gaming experiences were the Monopoly Big Event and Press Your Luck games from WMS Industries, in which all qualifying players enter a bonus round and win as a group.
Casino operators are finding that translating that concept to slots is increasing their revenues. Players tend to stay longer when theres that type of camaraderie.
IGT (International Game Technology) has jumped into the group-play pool with the popular Wheel of Fortune Super Spin, which features double-seat chairs in front of a gigantic wheel, much like the one on the TV show on which the game is based.
Also new in the series is IGTs eBay, a game carrying a theme based on the famous Internet auction website. The eBay game features a bank of five machines linked to a large, overhead unit that contains five 42-inch LCD video screens.
Those big screens double as giant reels in the bonus round. All eligible players on the bank go into the bonus round at the same time for 10 free spins on the big reels.
And the latest in the Indiana Jones series, the Well of Souls game made by IGT, offers a shared bonus of progressive jackpots that are triggered at certain levels of play on the bank of games.
Players get 10 free spins with a random multiplier, and at the end of the spins, one wins the progressive jackpot. For instance, depending on the casino, progressives are triggered at a low of about $15, up to nearly $1,000. The top progressive, which requires betting the maximum permitted, can top $100,000.
The game adds more interest with movie clips from Indiana Jones films.
Based on their popularity and performance, expect to see more of these games rolled out in the future.