A look back at some of the gaming machines that garnered attention

Despite a pall cast by the tanking economy, the 2008 Global Gaming Expo seemed to weather the storm.

In fact, many exhibitors even said G2E proved a good show for them.

Thousands of gaming executives from around the globe attended the three-day  November event, which featured more than 750 exhibitors, keynote addresses by industry leaders, an extensive conference with 150 sessions and more, including the G2E Training & Development Institute, G2E Leadership Academy, all-new Casino Design, F&B at G2E, and Entertainment Arena at G2E and Retail Promenade at G2E.

While no attendee figures were available at press time, the event’s turnout did seem off compared with previous years, but manufacturers said they were still pleased with the amount of foot traffic they were getting.

Some said it paid to get a little creative with how you do business.

 “We are being very creative because of the state of the market right now,” Ryan Griffin, product manager for standard products at IGT, said. “We are being very flexible if they don’t have the capital to make those purchases. We’re trying to make things work in this environment.”

Here are a few of the highlights from the major manufacturers’ new slot offerings.

IGT touted REELdepth, which Griffin calls a game changer for the industry and a home run for IGT.

 The product uses PureDepth’s MLD, or ”Multi-Layer Display technology, that gives IGT’s REELdepth games their three-dimensional look and allows for flexibility never before offered on a slot product.

An operator can offer a REELdepth game that mimics a reel stepper, complete with the look and sound of physical reels and then switch to another screen to change it to a video slot or video poker game.

“You can have a three-reel game, four-reel game, five-reel game all on the same machine,” he said.

Griffin noted that the technology can significantly reduce downtime, because conversions can take place with a touch of a button, or a machine can go from no progressive to a progressive. All of that is now instant at the touch of a button,” he said, noting even more innovation will be possible as server-based technology is adopted.

Among WMS Gaming’s strong lineup of innovative products  was the community gaming product Reel ’Em In Compete to Win, WMS adds an element of competition to the shared bonus event. The bonus round is a fishing derby, and everybody wins bonus credits. Each fish is assigned a point value, and when you see a big-value fish swim onto the plasma screen overhead, the anticipation builds as players wonder if it’ll bite, and whose fisherman will reel it in. The player with the most points at the end of the round not only wins the accumulated credits but also gets an extra bonus reward for winning the derby.

Aristocrat’s booth featured the showpiece game Jaws. Based on the shark-attack film classic, Jaws is immediately recognizable as the bass line from the movie music sounds during play. The base game is a five-reel video slot with a free spin feature. Bonus features are all Jaws themed, with Golden Jaws, Shark Hunter and Feeding Time. Players get a chance at a four-level progressive jackpot through a Jaws dice feature, which is a trip around a video game board, with your boat trying to land on the same space as Jaws. If you catch the shark, you can win a progressive.

At Bally Technologies booth, one of the most intriguing innovations was its Blazing 7s Multi-Slot, which puts reel-stepper games in a multigame format.

It is similar to a Bally Game Maker, which has multiple video games, but instead of video, the games are three distinct reel products.

The Multi-Slot features Blazing 7s Free Spin, Blazing 7s Scatter, and Blazing 7s Wild. It’s not the reels that change; it’s the way the reel combinations are applied to payoffs. Those 7s can bring players free spins on a separate set of reels in the top box, or can pay big as scatter pays in the main game, or act as wild symbols to create extra winning combinations.

Konami Gaming built on the success of its Advantage 5 games that feature full-sized symbols on a five-reel-spinning format.

Along with the full-sized reels, Advantage 5 incorporates an LCD screen in the top box that can be used to display progressive jackpots or for video bonus rounds. New titles include Thailand Fantasy, African Diamond: Jewel of the Wild, Gold Frenzy, Secrets of Egypt and Challenge of Perseus.

Konami also featured an innovation on both reel-spinning and stepper formats: Mirror Reels. In a bonus round, different reels reflect each other -- reels 2 and 4, or 1 and 5, will have the same symbols in the same rows, giving players a head start on winners anytime those symbols fall into place on the other reels.

Atronic showed off its new Stargate SG-1, both in video and on its new Passion Plus five-reel format.

The video Stargate, based on the long-running science-fiction television series, uses a large display of the space-jumping gate over three game themes. It features a five-level progressive jackpot, and a side bet on a chance to go to the Stargate.

Cadillac Jack displayed some of its newest Class III offerings. They included a number of 50-line games with themes including Tiger Magic and Wild Ninja. On each, a credit buys two lines, so a 25-credit wager can cover all paylines. All are free-spin type games, with higher volatility than the second-screen bonus games in Cadillac Jack’s portfolio.