Are 'Wheels' coming off?

Mar 18, 2008 6:00 PM

By David Stratton | IGT’s Wheel of Fortune slot machine has been the reigning king of casinos for nearly a decade, based on its popularity and the revenue it generates.

But other manufacturers have slowly closed the gap.

At the height of its popularity in 2002, 38 percent of slot managers said Wheel of Fortune was their casinos’ top game.

But last year that number shrunk to only 11 percent – still more than any other game, but only a few percentage points ahead of Aristocrat’s Pompeii at 7 percent.

Aristocrat, in fact, had five slots ranked in the Top 15, based on Goldman Sachs’ annual survey of North American slot managers.

They include the aforementioned Pompeii, Sun and Moon, 50 Lions, Whales of Cash and Mr. Woo.

WMS also had a strong showing with its Monopoly Big Event and Monopoly Super Money Grab, as did Bally’s Hot Shots.

Here is the complete list of the top 15 slots:

• Wheel of Fortune (IGT), Pompeii (Aristocrat), Wolf Run (IGT), Hot Shots (BYI), Monopoly Big Event (WMS).

• Monopoly Super Money Grab (WMS), Sun and Moon (Aristocrat). Coyote Moon (IGT), Top Gun (WMS), Quick Hits (BYI).

• 50 Lions (Aristocrat), Whales of Cash (Aristocrat). Blazing 7’s (BYI), Fort Know (IGT) Mr. Woo (Aristocrat).

Those who play slots regularly may wonder what happened to their favorite slots, such as Double Diamond, Red, White and Blue, Monopoly, Triple Diamond and Reel’em In.

 These games were consistently among the most popular in the late 1990s and early 2000s, but beginning around 2002 began to lose favor with the fickle slot-playing public.

 As far as new games on the horizon, there’s an air of uncertainty among most casino slot managers.

According to the Goldman Sachs survey, in the previous three years, one to three new games typically appear with double-digit responses as to what slots the managers feel will be the most popular.

But in last year’s survey, the answers were more evenly distributed with no single game dominating.

The two top slots this year were both WMS games. The Wizard of Oz, a "sensory immersion" game, has been cited by the company as being its most successful trial ever and that has shown to be a strong possibility given the results of the survey. Super Money Grab also appears to be a very popular game in 2008.

As far as manufacturers expected to produce the future’s most popular games, IGT is still the industry leader with a 33 percent response rate, up from 27 percent last year. WMS also had a strong showing as survey respondents mentioned its games 27 percent of the time, up from 21 percent last year.