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Slot trends

Oct 15, 2002 5:45 AM

            In preparing for the “next generation” of slot players, manufacturers plan to continue with games that tap the nostalgia button in Baby Boomers, as well as trends toward video products and cashless gaming.

            “We’re not going to kill the Golden Goose,” said Joe Kaminkow, IGT’s vice president of engineering and design. “Our customers are captivated by video products which have never been stronger.”

            Kaminkow added that ticket-in, ticket-out technology, multi-denomination machines and lower denomination games (one- and two-penny games), have helped casinos maintain their bottom line.

            “Casinos are getting higher coin in, as well as more time on the device, which has helped bring their hold percentages back up,” he said.

            At last month’s Global Gaming Expo, IGT unveiled dozens of new slot games.

            Kaminkow said IGT’s new video Wheel of Fortune slot game is “a  glimpse of the future of gaming.”

            He added that new twists, such as mechanical bonus rounds attached to video slots, can enhance the playing experience.

            “Mechanical games are tough to conceive, tougher to design, and even tougher to implement,” he said. “But they create excitement and can help grow the pie of slot players.”

            Other manufacturers that have fared well with recognizable brands are WMS Gaming, AC Coin, Shuffle Master, Mikohn and Alliance Gaming.

            WMS pioneered the game board genre of slot machines with its wildly popular Monopoly line, and has also scored with games like Pac Man and Hollywood Squares.

            This year, WMS is banking on technological innovations, such as its new “bluebird” cabinet and high-powered computer unit.

            Larry Pacey, WMS’ vice president of game development, said the new egonomically designed cabinet includes innovations such as a bill feeder and frequent gambler card both at waist level, so players won’t have to reach too high; a 19-inch monitor instead of the traditional 15 inches, so people won’t have to squint; and reel-spinning buttons closer to waist level, again to avoid extra reaching.

            For AC Coin, its most popular game over the past two years has been Bewitched, based on the popular sitcom of the 1960s, according to Jerry Selig, executive vice president/general manager.

            “Customers gravitate to what they know, and Bewitched has been popular for decades,” Selig said. “If you have the right title, players will gravitate to your product.”

            Among AC Coin’s new games, Miss America and King of the Grill have a chance of duplicating Bewitched’s success, Selig said.

            Selig added that new games, such as Monkey Madness, are highly interactive, thus enhancing the player’s experience. The game features three sculpted hear/see/speak-no-evil monkeys spinning on top.

            Other innovations include Miss America, which has interchangeable body parts; Gold Rush with its dueling sculpted miners climbing a mineshaft; and Diamond District, with a spinning gem hopper filled with lottery balls on top.

            At Shuffle Master, its new Budweiser slot — shaped like a bottle of beer! — is the most high profile of its offerings. But other new games expected to do well include Rubik’s Cube, Hollywood, Bigfoot Monster Truck, Spider Man, The Incredible Hulk, and Sydney Omar’s Horoscope Game — a 15-line, 5 reel game developed in conjunction with IGT.

            Also making the most of the game genre of slots is Mikohn, which is releasing its Trivial Pursuit game, based on the legendary game that altered the face of board games. In fact, the new slot game coincides with the 20th anniversary of the board game.

            One of the most intriguing concepts to be introduced this year is Alliance Gaming’s Cash for Life series of slot games, in which lucky players have a change at a progressive worth $1,000 per week for life!

            “This is definitely something everyone can relate to,” said Mickey Roemer, Alliance’s senior vice president of sales and game development. “It’s a life changing award.”

            Cash for Life is a unique wide area progressive that will be featured on both reel-spinning and video platforms in a variety of themes. Moreover, players will be able to play for the top progressive across different denomination games, Roemer said.

            One of the first marquee games to be unveiled as part of the Cash For Life progressive links is based on the hit TV show, Concentration. Another new game will feature well-known game show host Bob Eubanks, and the Blue Brothers of Saturday Night Live fame.

            Finally, industry giant Aristocrat has some intriguing innovations of its own, which don’t necessarily follow the “branded” slot concept.

            “We think branding is important and can bring a lot of recognition, but it ultimately comes down to the game itself,” said Aristocrat vice president Kent Young. “The game has to have all the elements that will bring players back for more.”

            Young said Aristocrat’s new Cash Man concept fits the bill.

            “Cash Man is a mystery character who pops in for an extra spin, or an extra hit on the credit meter,” Young said, adding that another new concept, Reel Power, should captivate players because it doesn’t require symbols to line up.

            “Actually there are no lines, just symbols,” he said. “When the symbols land anywhere, the player can win.”

            A leader in video slot technology, Aristocrat is also releasing its new Mark VI platform that features increased computer processing power, 24 more memories, advanced bonus and graphic displays.

            Games on Aristocrat’s new platform include Geisha, Go For Green and Tiki Torch.