A new crop of games debuted in November at the Global Gaming Expo in Las Vegas, giving slot executives a closer look at the latest and greatest slot machines and technologies available. What follows are highlights from the major slot manufacturers who exhibited gaming machines at the annual G2E



Aristocrat Technologies

Throughout G2E, slot executives could be seen circling the Jaws game that was the centerpiece of Aristocrat’s offerings. Based on the shark-attack film classic, the Jaws base game is a five-reel video slot with a free spin feature. The game also features the distinctive bass line from the “Jaws” movie’s theme.

Bonus features are Jaws-themed – 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.

 “Bringing that anticipation sound [of the Jaws theme] obviously translates well into a gaming product,” said Doug Fallon, Aristocrat marketing director. “What we did was actually really look at our product packaging for that particular product, take the unique steps, the small things like the physical button has an embossed Jaws tooth on it. Water with a buoy sitting on top of the machine glows blue. And when you hit the feature round it changes to red, the buoy moves and goes off, and the bells ring and everybody knows you’re in the feature.”

To offer such a feature-rich game, Aristocrat needed the power of the Gen7 platform introduced last year, Fallon noted. Gen 7 also allowed Aristocrat to bring out a highly interactive video version of the Sopranos.

“We did the Sopranos quickly as a stepper last year to get it to market, but now we’ve really done true justice to the product with in the video display,” said Sean Evans, vice president of sales. “By putting the Sopranos in the Gen7 for the first time, we’ll be able to run clips from the show. So in our interactive second-screen features you’ll actually be talking to Tony Soprano or hearing about Chrissy or Walnuts. For sufficient power we needed that Gen7 platform.”

Another Aristocrat highlight is its Hit the Heights game, designed around a Chinese fireworks theme. It’s a game of big sights and big sounds, with a 40-inch topper above the LCD top box to bring multiple levels to the bonus round as the fireworks take the players around a prize wheel and up a prize ladder.

“We’ve created four unique base games, and each base game has its own feature that incorporates free games, making symbols wild, dice and/or wheels,” Fallon said. “So there’s a lot of interactivity there. And they all share this Hit the Heights feature. When you trigger that feature, you get to choose your own fireworks and create a prize wheel, and as the fireworks go round the edge of the prize wheel, the prizes increment. If you happen to land on that ladder, you get a fireworks jackpot sequence where you sit back and relax and enjoy your wins as they explode in the top box and you gather your points and your prizes.”

Players World by Demand gives Aristocrat a multigame, multidenomination product line for the first time, with low line counts for 25-cent, 50-cent and dollar video games on four popular Aristocrat themes – Big Red, Super Bucks IV, Fa Fa Fa and Black Panther.

“It’s a four-game multipack where players can choose between 25, 50 cents and a dollar, four different math models, four different game plays,” Fallon said. “It really targets in that video high-denom sort of player. You can play as little as 75 cents on it or as much as $15.

“We’ve taken that and introduced it in a brand extension of Millioni$er called MegaMillioni$er. That product now is going to be a million dollar jackpot start up in GLI, and it’ll be a $2 million jackpot in Nevada. We’re putting that out there with a four-game multigame package, and what’s also really unique is that we’re integrating that package with our new RFX stepper product. Under that same link you can have our video product or the RFX stepper.”

Jackpot Royale, with a two-level progressive jackpot, has its own little multigame, multidenomination spin for nickel, dime and quarter players. When you choose a denomination, you’re also choosing a number of pay lines, with more pay lines at lower denoms.

Two games, Flight of Fancy and Polynesian Pearl, give a video take on nudge features, incorporating rising balloons or falling pearls into free games.

Atronic

Deal or No Deal is always a star at the Atronic booth, but this year the company also went for a further push into the cosmos with 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. Each theme is based on a character from the show -Jack O’Neill, Samantha Carter and Daniel Jackson. There’s a five-level progressive jackpot, and a side bet on a chance to go to the Stargate. In the TV series, the metal-ring Stargates are have nine “chevrons” placed equally around the circumference. In the video slot, the chevrons are the keys to the five bonus events.

“We’re real excited about Stargate,” said Atronic’s Mike Brennan. “We had a little focus group and we realized that only about half the people in the focus group had heard of the brand, but they still wanted to play because it’s a brand that’s real conducive to bringing out the creative juices of our design team. The Stargate itself, how many things can you do with it, the whole science fiction, escapism theme?”

The reel-stepper version is one of initial themes on Passion Plus 5.

 “It’s got five full-sized reels, a big user interface below the reels, a 32-inch top box that is self-merchandised,” Brennan said. “Two titles are available right away and two will be in  first quarter of ’09. Stargate, Deal or No Deal, Game of Life and Xanadu, which is a strong internal brand. They’ll have different features, with stacked symbols on Xanadu, for a more time-on-device friendly game.”

Atronic also offered new variations on the successful Deal or No Deal themed products.

One is Deal or No Deal the Experience, where the player has the option of settling for a middle offer instead of risking getting a low jackpot amount instead of the high one. Another is an all-bonus round game on the newly redesigned jumbo Titan cabinet. No spinning your reels here – the whole game is based on suitcase amounts.

And then there’s the Deal or No Deal community-style game, in which players go to the bonus round together, choose different suitcases, and see who winds up with the best deal.

“Deal or No Deal is almost the perfect community game title, because we have all this excitement going on,” Brennan said.

 “Unlike the other community games, to become eligible, there’s the bonus guarantee countdown,” he said. “…to qualify, you have to collect a prize, you have to collect enough cases during regular play.”

Bally Technologies

One of the most intriguing innovations at G2E was the Blazing 7s Multi-Slot, and it’s fitting that it should be Bally bringing it out. Bally gave the casino industry its first multigame video units with the original Game Maker in 1992. Now it’s found a way to put reel-stepper games in a multigame format.

“It’s similar to a Game Maker, where you have multiple games on the video,” said Greg Colella, Bally director of product management. “Now you take that concept with the Blazing 7s Multi-Slot to allow three different unique slot games with the same reels, same reel mix.”

The Multi-Slot features three games: Blazing 7s Free Spin, Blazing 7s Scatter, and Blazing 7s Wild. What changes isn’t the reels, its the way the reel combinations are applied to your payoffs. Those incendiary 7s can bring you 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.

Another big innovation from Bally is DualVision, a new take on community gaming - what if your preferred community is two people? It comes with a bench wide enough for two, and two sets of video reels on the wide, Cine-Vision style screen. There’s just one bill validator, though. Spouses, friends or significant others play from the same pool of credits, though they can wager different amounts on each spin. Game play is independent - each player gets his or her own results. But when one triggers a bonus, both play a bonus round. Should both trigger a bonus at the same time, winnings are doubled.

“Whoever you decide to play in the casino with, whether it’s your husband or wife, friend or what have you, you both can sit down and play the same slot machine,” Colella said. “You can really kind of have a unique experience and still have a cooperative element for both of you.”

Bally also devoted attention to the player desire for “significant wins,” wins worth at least a minor celebration of the moment. Different games hold out the possibility of frequent significant wins in different ways – a four-level progressive in Goldbeard’s Treasure, and through free games in Jason, part of a family of Greek Heroes games.

Power Strike, the first game in a new Power Platinum line, is designed for casinos that want to include a car or some other big-ticket item in the jackpot. The math of the game includes the value of the item in the top jackpot, with the rest of the pay schedule allowing for the overall jackpot amount. And flexible graphics bring a picture of the prize right into the pay table.

Colella said Bally also strived to bring a consistent look and feel to its games though its Easy View interface, making sure elements such as the bill validator, spin buttons and credit meter are in the same place on each game.

In addition, Bally created a win profile to target a range of pays within its standard video product. “It moves our math model to a much more volatile math model, but it’s really an area where our product line had not been in the past. Many of our other products were really more of a time on device kind of game. These are much more volatile. And you’ll see that there’s a lot of consistency and standardization as far as the packages that we’ve done as far as common sounds and celebrations when they go to the bonuses.”

Cadillac Jack

Cadillac Jack emphasized its Class III offerings at its booth. Those games 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 pay lines. All are free-spin type games, with higher volatility than the second-screen bonus games in Cadillac Jack’s portfolio.

“They’re a little higher volatility than our standard games, with higher volatility math,” said director of game development Jared Torres.

Though the versions on the expo floor were Class III, Torres noted that the themes would also be available in Class II and Mexican bingo versions.

Alongside the 50-liners were 20-line free-spin games, with $2 maximum bets on themes including Monkey in the Bank and Winnicus Maximus.

“What we’re really looking for is to hit the sweet spot in the California marketplace, which is a key market for us, a growth market,” Torres said. “And if you max bet on these games at a penny, they’re a $2 bet. And what we’re seeing right now in California is $2 to $3, somewhere around there are what they like to play for. These 20-line games, what they have are a scattered trigger and you can win up to 60 free spins with that trigger. In addition, there’s a wild in the base game that can increase your pay.”

While the higher-volatilty games were points of emphasis, Cadillac Jack has new time-on-device, second-screen pick’em bonuses on themes including Pirates Plunder and.Jazz Night.

Cadillac Cash, the wide-area progressive links for Native American and Mexican casinos, was shown in an updated version called Cadillac Cash Pump It Up. The original Cadillac Cash, in addition to a chance at a big wide area progressive, had a scatter reward and a free-spin bonus. Pump It Up adds a second-screen Pit Race and a High Octane Bonus with free spins and wild symbols that are locked on the middle reel, plus a multiplier. Torres says it can bring back 1,500 times the bet.

“You only get this one in every 1,000 times, so we don’t trigger it very often,” he said. “You have two other bonuses that are both 1 in 100, so on average you get one or the other 1 in 50 times.”

International Game Technology

IGT’s REELdepth product was a star in the company’s massive booth. A whole suite of games demonstrated the striking three-dimensional effects with games that mimic reel steppers, video-type slots and progressives.

“We think we’ve hit a home run with MLD,” said Ryan Griffin, IGT product manager of standard products.

“MLD” stands for Multi-Layer Display, the technology developed by the California firm PureDepth that gives IGT’s REELdepth games their three-dimensional look.

On games such as Diamond Fire, that means giving the game a reel-stepper look. Players who are used to the stepper-slot experience of watching physical reels spin can get the same kind of game play using REELdepth.

“Listen to the clicks,” Griffin said. “It sounds like a stepper slot. Feel the vibrations on the button panel. It has sounds and feels like a stepper slot.”

Then he touched the screen to switch to a main screen allowing for a change from the stepper-like game to a video slot.

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

 Among the choices were Indiana Jones and the Last Crusade and Magic Butterfly, with butterfly symbols that seemed to fly right out of the back of the display. When a butterfly lands on a reel symbol, the symbol turns wild, matching all others in potential winning combinations.

REELdepth is even being used to bring back classic IGT features, such as nudge symbols, where symbols above and below a payline nudge up or down into place, and Haywire, in which the reels randomly go into a free-spin mode with no telling when they’re going to stop. In Silver Hawk, a three-reel, 20-line game, the hawk flies from the back of the screen to the front, looming larger and larger in its 3-D image until lit triggers the Haywire mode.

Marketing full banks of machines under a common bonus concept was another point of emphasis at IGT. Griffin pointed to a bank of Greenback Attack games, where, during free games, reels turn green and players are awarded amounts shown on the reels up to $20. A quick-hit mystery top box bonus can award up to $100 in random winnings. With maximum bets, Griffin says the Attack feature occurs an average of once in 60 plays, meaning that somewhere on the bank of machines, someone is just around the corner from the attack mode going off.

Off the 3-D path, IGT introduced a four-in-one video slot called MultiPlay. Each set of reels is a traditional video slot display - five reels across, each displaying a column of three symbols. Displays are of equal size, each positioned in a quadrant of the screen.

In game themes including Golden Eagle, Cleopatra and Wolf Run, MultiPlay features a four-level progressive jackpot. Game play is independent – results on game 1 don¹t affect game 2, and so on– but a single push of the button starts all reels spinning. It is possible to go to the bonus round on more than one game at a time, and it’s possible to win all four progressives sequentially as you work your way through the four games.

Scavenger Hunt is a fun take on where technology can take us. There are a variety of game themes, but in each you’re trying to collect specific reel symbols for bonus rewards, going on a scavenger hunt through the game. And the player doesn’t have to complete the hunt in one session.

“We have you enroll in the game,” Griffin explained. “You print a ticket with a bar code. That identifies you. Then the next time you play, you start with that ticket, and the game remembers you. You start with your items already collected in the scavenger hunt.”

Collecting symbols in the hunt brings bonuses, so the ability to carry that collection forward, even at Scavenger Hunt games in a different casino, helps the player on the way to bonus rewards.

The community-bonus Star Wars game adds some extra thrills. The bonus event is timed - it goes off every eight minutes. So players just hurry through the game to try to earn bonus entries. The winner of the bonus event not only wins the Speeder Chase bonus, but also advances into a round of destroying enemy ships for a chance at the five-level progressive jackpots.

Off the beaten path a little in the IGT booth was Leading Edge Design’s Multi-Strike Triple Double Red Hot 7s. It’s the second time the Multi-Strike approach that has been successful in video poker has been applied to a slot game. Winner on one game brings a spin on a second set of reels with payoffs doubled, then multiplied again on third and fourth sets. That adds volatility to the slots. The first Multi-Strike slot game, Multi-Strike Triple Diamonds, was a very high volatility game that attracted a niche following, but was too wild a ride for other players. Triple Double Red Hot 7s is a gentler version, offering a little more time on device.

IGT remains the king of video poker, and the way I’ts extending that product is through features that attract extra wagers. In Dream Card, in Triple Play/Five Play/Ten Play versions for playing three, five or 10 hands at a time, the maximum wager is 10 coins per line instead of the standard five. The extra wager brings a randomly occurring Dream Card, which improves the starting hand to the best it can be. In Jacks or Better-based games, for instance, a starting hand of Queen-9-6-4 of mixed suits plus a Dream Card would turn the Dream Card into a Queen, so the player would have a pair of Queens before playing out the draw as normal. It’s a frequently occurring feature, dependent on the specific game – 59 percent of Bonus Poker Deluxe hands will include a Dream Card, as will 31 percent of Deuces Wild hands.

Konami

At G2E, the company showed it could build upon the success of its Advantage 5 game, which features full-sized symbols on a five-reel-spinning format.

“Advantage 5 has been a big success for us,” said marketing manager Leah Steinhardt. “So we’re showing five new titles this year.”

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. That’s a head start on winners anytime those symbols fall into place on the other reels.

In addition, it showcased community-style gaming with Beat the Field. It’s a four-level mystery progressive, on both reel stepper and video formats. The main bonus event is a horseracing run for the roses, with players allocated horses based on bet level. The winner in each race brings a progressive, while other players win consolation credits. Everyone wins something together.

WMS Gaming

Since the introduction of its Sensory Immersion line, WMS has taken the trend in different directions, including the thrill-seeking jet-fighter bonus round of Top Gun, and the gentler journey through a storyline of The Wizard of Oz. At G2E 2008, WMS continued in both directions with Dirty Harry: Make My Day and Time Machine.

“Dirty Harry is that thrill seeker, which Top Gun brought to a new level, and Time Machine is that journey, where people can go into the future and back into the past,” said WMS vice president of marketing Rob Bone.

In Dirty Harry, based on the popular police action films starring Clint Eastwood, the Dirty Harry slot machine takes you on a car chase through the streets of San Francisco, and you’re wielding Harry’s .44 Magnum to shoot down the crooks – and the bonus rewards Time Machine bonus events are more journey than thrills, as you’re catapulted into the past and choose your road through dinosaurs or ancient human civilizations, or are zapped into the future where you might find yourself in a world dominated by robots.

In Sensory Immersion games, player sit in a special chair that can rock, roll and vibrate, and is equipped with Bose speakers in the back to give the players a full sensory experience. Along with a Community Gaming line in which customers go to bonus rounds together, and Transmissive Reels, which can transmit video images on the clear glass in front of reels, Sensory Immersion has quickly become part of the foundation at WMS.

“Players are clearly voting with their dollars,” Bone said. “Wizard of Oz and Sensory Immersion have been a huge success for us. Transmissive and Community games have given us some of the best performance our company has ever seen. So whereas we hoped one or two of them would work, it’s clear to us that all three have worked, and now we’re commercializing Adaptive Gaming.”

Adaptive Gaming is a fourth line WMS introduced last year, with its three-in-one Star Trek slots. Collecting medals during play can unlock second and third game themes, and the games can let players pick up where they left off, remembering through WMS’ wide-area network. This year, WMS extended Adaptive Gaming by adding a fourth Star Trek theme, The Enterprise Incident.

Under its Community Gaming product, WMS went beyond the “everyone wins together” style that it debuted two years ago with Monopoly Big Event. In 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 gets an extra bonus reward for winning the derby.

In the community game Powerball Power Seat, when you get to the lottery-like bonus round, one player at the bank of machines is in the Power Seat. That’s a worthwhile position - the Power Seat player gets his or her bonus multiplied by 10.

“As we segmented Sensory Immersion, we’re also segmenting Community Gaming. So Monopoly Big Event was a communal game, Power Seat is a communal game where one individual gets an extra benefit. Reel ’Em In Compete to Win is a community with competitive gaming in it.

“We’re going to have future iterations of Monopoly, we’re going to have Goldfish [also refreshed at the expo in a Transmissive Reels version], we’re going to have multigame capabilities,” Bone said. “And then you’re going to see us, we already have, start to cross-pollinate, so you’ll see Community Gaming with Transmissive Reels, you’ll see Sensory Immersion with certain attributes and new technology.”

WMS mixes technologies, using Transmissive Reels and Commmunity Gaming together on the three-reel Monopoly Grand Hotel Big Event. There’s a bit of a competitive element, too, as players choose characters to cheer on during the bonus event.

Under a new Innovations series, WMS showed its own four-in-one game, with four sets of reels on one screen in Super Multi-Pay. A single button push spins four sets of reels, with players getting four separate results and four chances at bonus events. Each set of reels has five reels and 20 pay lines, so you have the opportunity to play 80 pay lines overall. One unique feature is that special wild symbols that occur on the first reel set then will be repeated on the others, and those on the second screen are transferred to the third and fourth, and so on. So in the theme Silver Sword, a sword on the upper left reels can set you up for winners through all four games.

There can be fun in chaos, and WMS finds it in Lucky Penny, a five-reel video slot in which just about anything can happen at any time. Penguins appear at random, waddling, gliding, even canoeing across the screen, changing symbols, creating pays and launching bonus rounds. It’s part of a new Bonus Bank series of games that feature what WMS is calling ARIA, for “Advanced Random Intelligence Algorithm.” There are trillions of possibilities - Bone said it’s unlikely you’ll ever see the bonus rounds play out the same way twice.

Big Event Poker is WMS’ bid to make a dent in the video poker market - a tough chores, given IGT’s dominance. This is a poker game with a community-style bonus event. For a two-credit side bet, players at standard video poker games have a chance at going to a bonus event that can be triggered by any player at the bank of games. There are five bonus events, including Big Event Four to a Royal, in which every player at the bank starts with four cards to a royal flush. Each then gets a random draw out of a separate deck of the remaining 48 cards – each has 1 in 48 chance at a royal.