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Slot makers showcase cornucopia of new games at G2E

Nov 25, 2008 5:08 PM
by David Stratton |

Just like previous G2Es, most of the 300,000-plus square feet of exhibitor space at last week’s expo were earmarked for slot manufacturers and their latest high-tech creations.

But "high tech" in 2008 has evolved beyond digital sound, laser graphics, touch screens and multiple-level bonuses.

The now buzzwords are transmissive reels, sensory immersion, adaptive gaming, 3-D reel depth, and artificial intelligence.

Slot makers are betting their cryptic concepts translate into "wow" factors for players and, indeed, there were plenty of compelling new games on display last week.

"Overall, Bally, IGT and WMS introduced strong new slot products and systems at 2008 G2E," said David Katz, an analyst with Oppenheimer & Co. "However, we don’t believe any company is introducing a ‘game changer’ and market share dynamics should essentially remain."

Here’s a rundown of the aforementioned manufacturers’ most interesting new products.

Bally Technologies

Bally unveiled 50 percent more new games than last year, including the debut of its new five-reel stepper slot, Blazing 7s Multi-Slot. This is one of the first in the industry to offer multi-game capability with three games from which to choose.

Stepper slots have always been a strong suit for Bally and they’ve strengthened their position on the slot floor with several new spinning-wheel products.

These include an "Instant Spin prize feature" top box, and a new Transparent Reels concept that allows for 3-D style video and animated displays taking place "over" the mechanical reels.

Tapping into players’ love for a Wheel of Fortune-like bonus, Bally unveiled a new Cash Wheel progressive slot with a Cash Wheel Instant Spin game that qualifies players for a wheel-based bonus feature.

For video slot players, especially those from the Baby Boomer generation, Bally unveiled enhanced versions of its retro-themed Skill Series Atari video slots – Breakout! and Pong – and another licensed title called Breeders’ Cup, a horse-racing themed game.

Bally has also added to its Playboy series of video slots and, for the first time, the games will be available for purchase by casinos rather than a participation agreement.

The company’s video slot portfolio also features new packaged game collections, such as the Treasure Series, Monkey Series and Wild Series, with specialty games such as 1,000,000 Degrees offering a wide-area progressive.

In addition to dozens of new games, Bally introduced its Live Rewards Tournament, a form of community gaming in which customers play from a series of stand-alone games or real-time tournaments, competing against other players.

Bally also introduced the next evolution of cashless gaming, the Bally Power Card. Similar to a gift card, the Power Card can be redeemed in slot play at any slot machine in the casino.

WMS Gaming

WMS has come a long way since introducing the wildly-popular Monopoly series of video slots more than a decade ago. Their new games, as well as the technology that delivers them to players, is certainly cutting edge, if not ground breaking.

For instance, the next generation of Star Trek games takes players where no slot has gone, thanks to WMS’s Adaptive Gaming technology. This allows players to unlock new bonus levels of play, then save their progress so they can continue at another time, on another machine and even in another casino.

"You can come back and pick up where you left off, in any casino from Atlantic City to Las Vegas," said Larry Pacey, WMS senior vice president of global products.

Another technology, Sensory Immersion Gaming, features a Time Machine game played in a surround-sound type of cabinet in which the player can actually "feel" the excitement through Bose audio and mesmerizing graphics.

The game’s time traveler story line, which can careen in virtually any direction at any time, is like a sensory roller coaster ride enhanced by artificial intelligence bonus features.

WMS pioneered the community gaming concept (multiple players at a single carousel) with its Monopoly Big Event, and now expands the technology with a new Reel Em In game, which players select from four characters to complete in a fishing contest for a grand prize.

If you’re not an angler, WMS community Power Ball Power Seat game selects one player as the Power Seat player and is rewarded with an extra award for added excitement.

Lastly, WMS premiered three new games in its popular Transmissive Reels wide-area progressive platform. These games combine the classic appeal of mechanical reel slots with the compelling visuals of 3-D graphics.

These games extend the Wizard of Oz line with two new Transmissive games that feature Glinda and Flying Monkey bonus rounds and new adventures for the "good" and "wicked" witches of OZ.

IGT

The industry’s largest manufacturer unveiled the greatest number of new titles, as well as system packages designed to deliver the new server-based gaming technology expected to begin appearing in casinos in two to three years.

Making its debut was IGT’s Multi-Play video slots, which have four progressive jackpots that can be won at once. The family of games includes well-known stars such as Cleopatra, Wolf Run and Lil’ Lady, plus new themes that include Hawaiian Sunset and Golden Eagle.

Among the new technologies displayed by IGT was its Multi-Layer Display, which features the layering of two liquid crystal displays (LCDs) that create the visual effect of true depth without having to use 3-D glasses. It also allows players to switch between spinning reel game play, video slots and video poker, all on one Reel Depth machine.

New Reel Depth games include Glitter & Gold, Magic Butterfly and 7s Storm.

In addition to slot products, IGT strengthened its grip-like hold on the video poker market with several new games. The most intriguing of the offerings was Quick Quads Poker, a fast-paced variation of the Triple Play game.

This version claims to offer double the number of quads (four of a kind) by combining the two unmatched cards in a three-of-a-kind hand into the fourth quad.

For instance, a three of a kind is turned into a four of a kind if the sum of two non-matching cards’ face values is equal to the rank of the card in the three-of-a-kind.

Budget conscious players will like this game because it only costs one extra credit per hand, which includes catching the extra quad on either the deal or the draw.

The game is further enhanced when 5-card quads are accompanied by an enthusiastic Quick Quads sound effect.

Another video poker game, Ultimate X Poker, offers a buy-a-pay wager that qualifies the player for bonus multipliers, from 2X to 12X, when the hand ends in a winning combination.

The value of the multiplier is determined by the pay schedule and is applied to any wins received in the hand in the next game.

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