As long as there have been progressive slot machines, game makers have stamped their own personalities on them.
You think of big jackpot games, and there’s International Game Technology with Megabucks and its MegaJackpots line. For rapid-hit progressives, Bally Technologies was right out front with Blazing 7s. And with the move to video slot machines, Aristocrat was an innovator in multi-tiered progressive video slots with its four-level Hyperlink, introduced to the United States 11 years ago via Cash Express.
“As the Blazing 7s company, obviously progressives are just part of our DNA,” said Bally Senior Director of Game Development David Schultz. “And what a great place to come from as a game design company. It pretty much informs everything when we make a design decision.”
Aristocrat Vice President of Gaming Operations Dallas Orchard explained his company’s focus on easily obtainable jackpots. “We definitely pride ourselves on progressives and we pride ourselves on giving the players value,” he said. “It’s not just layering progressives on games to allow a different price point. We take pride in our progressives being an achievable part of the game, and balancing the experience of the game.”
But no manufacturer wants to be boxed in by its innovation. And in efforts to appeal to multiple-player segments, Bally and Aristocrat have moved into progressives with bigger jackpots, IGT has multi-tiered games, and game makers including Spielo International, Multimedia Games and Konami Gaming are putting their own spins on the progressive format.
GOLDEN TOUCHTake Cash Express Gold Class, an update of the Cash Express system that still has 1,200 units in the field after 11 years. It’s on Aristocrat’s Viridian wide-screen cabinet and uses popular base games including More Hearts, More Chilli, Buffalo and Pompei, with 50 Lions and Geisha near regulatory approval. The four-tiered, quick-hit Hyperlink remains from the original, along with the railroad theme of the bonus events, but Gold Class layers on a fifth progressive level, one that starts building from $9,500.
“Gold Class means you’re in first class, you’ve upgraded and you’re now sitting in a private carriage, if you like,” Orchard explained. “It comes in the form of a triangular-type topper that sits on top of the box and takes you on a journey around the world through well-know bullet trains. Once you get into that bonus, basically, you get your spins on the main screen, and if you get three train symbols in line with each other, you progress through each one of those stages. There are six stages in total, and the sixth stage is the Gold Class.
Aristocrat points to Gold Class in a category of “Extending Great Innovations.” Under “Establishing New Innovations,” Orchard pointed to Superman The Comic Series, not a progressive per se, but a game he sees as belonging in the big-money progressive space. Players wagering from the 50 cent minimum are forced to bet up to $5 to play the Superman game, with a top jackpot starting at $50,000 with a 50-cent bet and incrementing proportionately to $500,000 with a $5 wager. Hit the green buttons, and you’re on the Lex Luthor game, with jackpot increments from $500,000 at $5 on up to $2.5 million at $25.
“We know this has never been done before,” Orchard said. “Because of the jackpots involved, it’s being lumped into the wide-area space. The math was extremely complicated, to get it across those 10 different bets.”
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TIERED APPROACHAt Multimedia Games, Smokin’ Hot Jackpots features an 11-tier progressive with classic three-reel, high-denomination styling. Along with the 11 tiers is the Progressive Heat Up feature where a fire behind each jackpot level grows in intensity as the pot nears the theoretical hit level.
“In the past, progressives accounted for less than 20 percent our games,” said Brad Johnson, Multimedia vice president of product management. “Moving forward, the plan is to grow that number to over 50 percent. In general, the player has moved from wanting that life-changing jackpot to being more interested in the progressive jackpots they feel they can win that day.”
Along with Smokin’ Hot Jackpots, the High Rise series that debuted in November 2011 and includes Moneyball, remains an important part of the progressive mix. High Rise currently features nine titles, and Multimedia plans to add a title every other month.
ZOMBIES ADVANCEMichael Brennan, product marketing manager, North America, for Spielo International, suggested that the linked bank of eight to 30 games with four-level linked progressives has fallen out of favor at many North American casinos. However, he said, “We’ve also seen how an attractive two-level progressive overlay with hit ranges can still drive-up core game performance. From our perspective, we want to bring the focus back to progressives and the players that appreciate and ‘chase’ these, both in our core and premium product lines.”
Among new Spielo products, that includes Cash Eruption, Deal or No Deal Join’N Play, Return of the Sphinx, and three games under a license with PopCap: Plants vs. Zombies Gargantuar; Plants vs. Zombies Backyard Showdown; and Zuma.
“Cash Eruption has three progressives that are not only guaranteed to hit by a certain amount, but they also have a good chance of being multiplied,” Brennan explained. “After a progressive win, players have a solid chance of that progressive being doubled, tripled, or even multiplied by 5x. It’s a ‘cherry on the top’ approach that can make a nice win even nicer.”
The PopCap games have unusual methods of increasing the progressives. On the Zombies games, the base value of each progressive is multiplied by a player’s bet amount. “There is no better and more tangible way to show value for betting up than by multiplying the progressive reset value by the bet multiplier,” Brennan said.
ATTITUDE ADJUSTMENTAt Konami Gaming, Senior Director of Marketing Matt Reback calls Jackpot Streams “the latest innovation in stand-alone progressive technology.” Players make an adjustable ante bet to be eligible for the progressive, which can be layered on most of Konami’s library of base games.
Players choose how big to make their antes. The higher the ante bet, the greater the chance to trigger the progressive.
The top box features a video representation of the old “pusher” games, adding a nostalgic touch. When the progressive event is triggered, the game randomly drops themed jackpot tokens corresponding to one of the four levels onto the pool of virtual coins that are pushed toward the winning receptacles. If a coin is pushed into a jackpot receptacle, the corresponding progressive is awarded.
“Previously, when an ante bet was required, the stand-alone progressive ante bet level had been matched to the base game bet level,” Reback said. “Players can elect to play their base game with the same experience they expect on a non-progressive machine, while contributing as much or as little as they like toward the added progressive game. This also provides operators with flexibility as the payout for the progressive game can be set independently from the base game.”
That’s one more fresh twist in the approach to progressives, one more tool in the expanding kit game makers use in designing appealing games.