Community-style slot gaming has been with us long enough to show it has staying power, whether you date its beginnings to A.C. Coin’s Road Rally game in 1996 or something more recent, such as WMS Gaming’s Monopoly Big Event in 2006.
Nearly every slot manufacturer wants to be part of that market today, but it’s a category that’s evolving in different directions as game makers prepare to show their latest entries line this October at Global Gaming Expo at the Sands Expo Center in Las Vegas.
At International Game Technology (IGT), Director of Product Management Ryan Griffin says its communal games are all about players winning together.
“You’ll see that we absolutely at IGT do not believe in competing communal experiences,” Griffin said. “We’re about a more co-operative, communal, friendly environment where it’s me and you vs. the house. ‘I don’t want to compete against you. I don’t want to fight against you. I get enough of that in real life. How about you and I join up and take down the house.’ That’s the mentality we strive for.”
WMS Gaming, on the other hand, has had success with win-together games such as Monopoly Big Event, had a big hit with the competitive element in Reel ’Em In: Compete to Win, and tried all-out players vs. players competition in Pirate Battle.
“Community gaming through the years has kind of evolved a little bit,” said Phil Gelber, WMS vice president for game development. “Between ourselves and our competitors we’ve put a lot of community game products out there, and player preferences have changed a little bit in the last year or so. The trend has gone a little more toward having a community element but also having an individual pursuit.”
That’s something other manufacturers have picked up on. At Spielo International, a success with its first community game, Deal or No Deal Join ’N’ Play, Product Marketing Manager Mike Brennan suggested that after the rush of the last several years, the demand for communal games has matured, and is a segment in which Spielo has become competitive. “The community games market is changing,” he said. “We’re finding players want their own wins. They still enjoy the community event, but they want their own wins in their own games.”
Community slots have their own audience, but game makers agree there’s no clear demographic breakdown such as younger players vs. older players, or men vs. women.
“The player profile may change slightly regarding the community games, but our experience is that the demographic categories aren’t that much different,” said Steve Walther, chief marketing officer at Aruze Gaming.
Still, Gelber noted a difference in audience for community games vs. standalones.
“We’re definitely aware there’s that player who thinks ‘I want to play my individual machine and not be bothered by any of this hoopla,’” he said. “But then there’s the player who’s looking for the interaction, who wants to play together with their friends, and those are the people we design the community games for.”
And when G2E rolls around, manufacturers will be showing off their latest products to attract those players who want the communal interaction:
SPIELO INTERNATIONALBrennan said Deal or No Deal Join ‘N Play has been its most successful game to date, but there have been some tweaks in Join ‘N Play 2, making its debut at G2E. Part of it has been ramping up individual awards with four bonus events in the base game, on the individual player screens.
The community suitcase bonus, in which all qualified players get to choose a video suitcase holding credits and accept or reject deal offers from the Banker character, occurs on a timed basis. Players collect suitcase symbols during regular and individual bonus play to qualify.
“Everybody loves the community bonus, so in Join ‘N Play 2 we’ve made it even more frequent at once every eight minutes,” Brennan said. “We had questions about that in the first game. Operators were afraid that once players qualified they would sit there and wait for the suitcase bonus. That’s not what happened. We feel we built enough value and entertainment into the individual events that players want to keep playing.”
WMS GAMINGWith a long list of titles in its Community Gaming line that include Press Your Luck Big Event, The Wizard of Oz: Journey to Oz, and Star Trek Battlestations, WMS this time is turning to The Game of Life under its contract with Hasbro.
“We just launched it, and are going to be rolling it out fully at G2E,” Gelber said. “There’s an individual pursuit called the Game of Life paytable. Inside the community Game of Life feature, there are individual pursuits as well. Adding that individuality back into community gaming is kind of where we are today.”
“The Game of Life has four community bonus features,” Gelber added. “One of them is Speed Spins, a quick spin bonus where everyone moves together along the board, but there’s also an individual pursuit element. It’s much like the board game, where pick your career-‘I want to be a doctor,’ ‘I want to be an athlete,’ ‘I want to be a lawyer.’ As the big event triggers, if the lawyer gets called, the ones who picked lawyer win more than anyone else. That’s something like what we did with Reel ’Em In: Compete to Win, where everyone had their own fish.”
INTERNATIONAL GAME TECHNOLOGY (IGT)Griffin said the big push is behind IGT’s new Connected series, which will debut with four games: Wyland; Hot Roll Community; Little Green Men: Cosmic Blasters; and Fast Hit Progressives.
“The Connected Series are composed of a new hardware configuration for IGT,” Griffin said. “We took our Universal Slant and then we took a 32-inch LCD, and we laid it on its side in landscape horizontal position, and we put three of the units together as one. We joined those units together so they become three 32-inch screens and become one palette. Those three units now become the communal atmosphere for the games we’re going to debut at G2E.”
Each of the debut games has its unique features. Griffin said Fast Hit Progressives are the industry’s first five-reel mechanical slots with a community bonus. When one player wins one of the top three progressive levels, players to his left and right also get half the jackpot amount. Hot Roll Community features the Hot Roll dice rolling bonus. When three players go to the bonus event, all keep rolling until all three seven out. And Little Green Men: Cosmic Blaster is a Reel Edge game with an element of skill in the community bonus as players man the joysticks and pursue the aliens through space.
But it’s Wyland, featuring the images of famed marine life artist Wyland, that Griffin says really shows off what Connected can do. In the communal bonus, he said, “We use those three 32-inch LCDs as one palette that is sitting above the three Universal Slants. All of a sudden you are submerged in this underwater scene, and it’s literally derived from Wyland’s artwork. So you’ll go past humpback whales and you’ll go past dolphins, like you’re swimming through a 3D environment, like you’re snorkeling or scuba diving.”
ARISTOCRAT TECHNOLOGIESAristocrat’s first community-style game, Crazy Taxi Fare 4 All, received GLI approval in August and its first three installations were made by the middle of the month. Both Crazy Taxi, based on the popular Sega console game, and Caribbean Treasure, a pirate-themed game with three community features due to hit the market in early 2013, will be on display at G2E. Crazy Taxi has four community mini-features and three community three community features where players work together to collect jackpot points to win jackpots.
Both community games will launch with Aristocrat’s new iChair, with surround sound and rumble effects.
“Aristocrat’s community gaming experience is focused on the end reward for our players,” said Siobhan Lane, director market strategy, gaming operations for Aristocrat. “While we aim to deliver a collaborative, shared experience throughout the game, we feel it’s most important to ultimately provide a thrilling experience for the player. One way we deliver this experience in the Crazy Taxi product is by creating achievable jackpot values.”
KONAMI GAMINGWith its new Super Series progressive bonusing game to be unveiled at G2E, Konami Gaming aims to extend the community experience across the slot floor.
“This new, multi-level, multi-themed, floor-wide progressive community bonusing game can be won by any carded patron playing on any slot machine on your floor at any time,” said Clark A. Warren, director of systems sales and marketing for Konami. “Whenever a random Super Series game is triggered, carded players have the chance to win by matching their five personal code numbers, which the player is able to select and change at any time before the game begins, to the Super Series numbers.”
Super Series includes four progressive game themes: the stock-car race Thunder Track; airplane race Mustang Mayhem; Mayan temple adventure Tomb Treader; and the lottery-style LotABucks.
ARUZE GAMINGAmazon Fishing, which debuted at G2E 2011 as a follow-up to Paradise Fishing, is one of two community-style games ready for release this year. The other, ready for a G2E 2012 debut, is Rich Life. That one places two players in a head-to-head competition called the Versus Event.
During the randomly triggered Versus Event, the decisions that one player makes have an effect on the outcome of the other player,” Walther explained. “There’s a ‘Turning Point’ in the game where the player selects to take a ‘steady road’ for lower volatile game options, or a ‘bumpy road’ for higher volatility. If the player makes it all the way to the goal in the individual game, they are awarded a chance to win a variety of credit awards through the spin of a wheel.”