By David Stratton
Last week, slot makers unveiled their latest — and nosiest — electronic games at the annual Global Gaming Expo (G2E).
The slot exhibits, which were lost to some conventioneers because they were isolated a floor above the regular G2E exhibit hall, were a blurry mixture of the latest gaming technology and pop-culture icons.
Using celebrities, TV shows or motion picture themes in slot design is nothing new, but manufacturers this year upped the ante with some of show business’s biggest names.
Bally Gaming had Baywatch babe Pamela Anderson on hand to promote a special edition Playboy slot machine, while Australia-based Aristocrat enlisted the help of international soccer legend Pele to help hype his new slot.
The world’s largest slot maker, IGT, countered with Ann-Margret, Drew Carey, Paul Rodriguez, Max Baer (Jethro from the Beverly Hillbillies), Elvira — Mistress of the Dark and a pair of World Wrestling Entertainment personalities.
But perhaps the biggest stir in the exhibit hall was created by Clint Eastwood, whose famous "The Man With No Name" image from A Fistful of Dollars is featured on a series of WMS Gaming slot machines.
Landing Eastwood was quite a coup for WMS, whose CEO Brian Gamache said the megastar tested in the top two or three of all the icons that gamblers wanted to see on the casino floor.
In addition to the "Spaghetti Western" line of slots, WMS also introduced eight new game themes, including expansions to Monopoly’s wide area progressives and the company’s first-ever penny denomination progressive game.
Among WMS’s new Monopoly versions are four new mechanical reel games. Like its video counterparts, the new reel Monopoly games feature compelling bonus rounds. One of them allows players to randomly select a corner of the Monopoly game board and then roll the dice to move to a property on that side of the game board, resulting in a payout. Rolling doubles awards the player a second roll of the dice.
Industry-leader IGT unveiled a phenomenal 170 new slot and video poker games. Among the highlights were new theme games: Indiana Jones: Raiders of the Lost Ark, Viva Las Vegas and Back to the Future.
Other intriguing IGT offerings include:
”¡ Fort Knox: a new penny progressive slot with multi-level mystery progressives that are interactive bonus rounds.
”¡ Wheelionaire: a new linked progressive with a million-dollar top prize.
”¡ Elizabeth Taylor’s Dazzling Diamonds: a series of slots that dispenses jewelry in addition to regular jackpots.
”¡ New video poker games, including Kenny Rogers, Triple Play Poker, Five Play Multi-Strike Poker and Pick A Pair Poker.
Perhaps the one IGT game that generated the most buzz was its new Wheel of Fortune Superspin, a nine-player bank of games configured around a single, large Wheel of Fortune wheel.
The world’s second largest slot maker (behind IGT), Aristocrat, focused its G2E efforts on low denomination games in a display titled "Lots and Lots of Penny Slots." Topping the list of new products were two new wide-area progressives and the U.S’s first 50-line video slot machines.
One of the progressive links is named for Zorro — the masked avenger and superhero. The game features four second-screen bonus rounds in addition to four levels of progressive jackpots. The top progressive award pays the linked jackpot.
Aristocrat also unveiled a new line of advanced video slots including Big Ben, the world’s most famous clock. The 25-line game features individual progressive jackpots that are displayed on-screen, free bonus games, scatter payoffs and mystery prizes to build excitement.