Slot makers cash in on TV, movie themes

Jun 11, 2002 7:14 AM

Heading to a casino to play slots? Be prepared for many of the machines to resemble the listings in your TV guide. In addition to perennial favorites such as Wheel of Fortune and Jeopardy! (both of which come in spinning reel and video slot versions), you could find The $1,000,000 Pyramid, The Price Is Right, I Dream of Jeannie, and The Addams Family.

Moreover, an I Love Lucy game is attracting attention, and there are dozens more in various stages of development.

Entertainment themes are not confined to just TV, either. The movies weigh in with Austin Powers, The Pink Panther, Creature from the Black Lagoon and others. Recently premiered is Diamond Cinema, which comes in three games celebrating the Golden Age of Hollywood: Marilyn Monroe, Ingrid Bergman-Humphrey Bogart, and James Dean.

In the music industry, the charts are topped by Elvis, but you can also Catch A Wave with the Beach Boys. A Sinatra game ”” featuring Frank Sinatra’s voice and songs ”” was recently released. In the celebrity/personality category, Regis’ Cash Club has recently joined Dick Clark’s Censored Bloopers, American Bandstand and the Richard Petty Driving Experience.

So what makes these kind of games so popular?

Joe Kaminkow, IGT’s vice president of game design, says several factors are at work.

"We are, first of all, in the entertainment business, and we see slot machine games as the mini-movies showing at your casino multiplex," says Kaminkow. "Playing slots is not just about wagering. Players also want to have fun, be amused by the bonus rounds and, yes, they hope to win."

Familiarity is another reason IGT has developed games drawn from popular culture. "We’ve found that players identify with many of these themes," Kaminkow says. "They like the show or the performer and transfer some of this affection to the game. Think of Barbara Eden as Jeannie, or Regis Philbin. People like them and want to play their game."

Just recently, IGT introduced games that take theming slot machines even further. Two of the games are based on products: Harley Davidson, drawn from the legendary American motorcycle, and Spam, the all-purpose canned meat.

"These brands are perceived to be icons in their respective fields. They conjure up clearly understood images, and we have just extended the brand into slot machine games," Kaminkow explains.

Popular board games are also showing up as slot machines. IGT showed Game King Checkers, Othello, Bunco Nights and UNO at a recent industry trade show, and all will soon make their way to the casino floor. There’ll even be a Magic 8 Ball machine in the future ”” but no promises about the accuracy of its predictions!

JOE KAMINKOW ”” IGT’s premier game designer.