Editor’s note :This is the first in a series of features touching on new slot products or technologies that promise to have substantial impact on the slot gaming industry.
Almost from the moment IGT’s first REELdepth video slots were installed Labor Day weekend at the Grand Casino Mille Lacs and Grand Casino Mille Lacs, the games started to prove their worth.
“REELdepth is hugely popular on our floors with our players. It’s got all the good things that you can do with a video but with the appearance of a stepper,” slot executive Robert Allen said in an interview not long after the games’ installation.
It’s something that will stand the test of time, especially as the industry moves toward server-based gaming.
“It’s a good investment. For us, the game has everything we need to go into a networked environment,” said Allen, corporate vice president of slot operations for Grand Casinos, which operates the casinos for Mille Lacs Band of Ojibwe. “It’s got an infinite number of options so that we can invest in these games and not worry.”
The technologyREELdepth video slots use Multi-Layer Display technology licensed through its partner, California-based PureDepth. The MLD technology uses a layering of two or more liquid crystal displays (LCDs) to create the visual effect of true depth without the use of 3-D glasses. It is the same technology that produces multilayer maps of war zones and drives visually enhanced images using real depth for Samsung and Sanyo LCD displays.
Ryan Griffin, manager of IGT Standard games, said the technology promises to revolutionize casino slot floor operations.
“What we’re able to do with that technology is create the feeling of actual depth between one LCD to the other, so images appear to be jumping to the front,” Griffin said.
IGT’s Winners Choice Multi-Game slots with MLD are available on IGT’s AVP machines. The patented MLD technology with IGT’s “Reel Flex” feature allows the player to view and play their favorite games by switching from a three-reel to four-reel to five-reel to video reel to poker within seconds - all on the same AVP machine. A player also can switch to and from a nonprogressive feature to a progressive feature by choosing another game on the same AVP machine.
“Players no longer have to search the casino floor for their favorite game,” Griffin said.
“For the first time a player can sit down and at the touch of a button they can go from a three reel to a four reel or a five reel or to a video game or a poker game. That’s why it’s such a big, big game changer.”
He noted the virtual slot reels in REELdepth games realistically represent the look, sound and feel of the older IGT ‘legacy’ mechanical reel counterparts, giving players an immediate comfort level.
MLD technology also lets casino operators change games without having to convert to expensive and time-consuming reel shelves, physical reel strips, button panels, inserts, pay table glass, and game software. It also eliminates the need for in-machine third-party progressive meters and progressive controllers, because it has the capability to display up to three digital meters in the top box.
The MLD technology allows players to toggle from game-to-game offering different math models on the same AVP machine – something its competitors’ multigame products don’t offer. And IGT offers a huge library of game choices, giving operators unprecedented flexibility, Griffin said.
REELdepth on Winner’s Choice Multi-Game slots is offered on IGT’s new G MLD and S MLD machine models, using MLD technology. All games in the REELdepth line are ready for server-based gaming today, but operators do not need a server-based system to run the games or the unique 3-D technology.
“When you put that into a spinning reel cabinet, it actually portrays actual depth so it mimics to players what that actually looks like on a mechanical reel. You get this true representation of a mechanical spinning reel,” he said. “It looks, sounds and feels just like a mechanical reel.”
Only now, Griffin noted, the mechanical reels can come to life in 3-D, so reel symbols can become animated, enhancing the experience for the player.
But the technology yields much more than that, Griffin noted.
It’s different, he said, from competitors’ multigame products because while those allow players to play different games, the math models don’t change. “That experience for the player is the same as what they had before. They’re just playing different themes.”
With REELdepth, he said, “you can load up any and every type of experience a player or an operator wants. It really opens up some unbelievable opportunities,” Griffin said.
Theoretically, he said, some 150 games could be placed on each machine, but operators will keep the numbers low initially as players get comfortable with the technology. “They’ve never had that capability before. Let the players learn there are more games and let them get used to the offering for the first time.”
Griffin noted that, while the technology can do incredible things now, its power will be even greater once server-based gaming takes root.
“The numbers we’re getting back so far have been very, very promising,” he said. “It almost is a pre-sb solution right now. The MLD technology is such a perfect companion to sb.”
Griffin noted that IGT is committing at least 10 percent of its development to MLD. “That’s how excited we are about the technology, based on the numbers. If this does what we think it can do and what the initial numbers are showing, the replacement cycle this could be phenomenal.”
And even operators who are not yet ready to abandon mechanical spinning reels can start investing in the new technology because “every spinning reel that we develop today can run on MLD technology,” Griffin said.
And, he noted, IGT is working on providing marketing to players in the top box of the games to help familiarize players accustomed to mechanical spinning reel games to the REELdepth model.
The players accustomed to the mechanical reel games aren’t always used to the menus and options available on video models, according to Ed Rogich, vice president of marketing for IGT.
Rogich noted REELdepth captured slot executives’ attention at the Global Gaming Expo.
“The reaction to the MLD was overwhelming. We’re excited about the early reception to it as well as the early performance on it,” Rogich said. “We look forward to getting more games on the field.”
Griffin was equally excited. “Even though times are very tight in our industry, this is proving to be one thing that operators have told us that they need to have.”