“This was an opportunity that when it was presented, I fought long and hard to get it for myself because of my affinity for the sport,” Wadleigh said. “The development of this game has been near and dear to my heart because I have been a lifelong fan of NASCAR.”
The end result of this love affair is the NASCAR progressive video slot machine, introduced at last October’s Global Gaming Expo (G2E) and set for a nationwide rollout starting this month. In addition to the video slot machine, Bally has created a NASCAR-themed event for the company’s systems business—a floor-wide, community event for its iView and iView Display Manager technologies called Virtual Racing NASCAR, which will be featured in its Elite Bonusing Suite of products.
“It has been as rewarding as it has been enjoyable to work with Bally Technologies on this amazing game and Virtual Racing product,” said Blake Davidson, NASCAR’s vice president of licensing and consumer products said in a prepared statement. “Our research tells us that we have good cross-over between race fans who are often also casino players, so translating the fast-paced excitement of our events to the thrill of casino play makes perfect sense.”<br><br>
The NASCAR video slot, which will be available on Bally’s ALPHA 2 Pro Series V22/32 cabinet, plays on NASCAR fans’ affinity for certain drivers, offering players a lineup of racing royalty from which to choose—Clint Bowyer, Dale Earnhardt, Jr., Jeff Gordon, Kevin Harvick, and Jimmie Johnson. Players select their favorite driver and the game screens change to reflect that driver’s team colors and branding. While playing as one of these drivers, customers will enjoy audio and video of their favorite stars of the oval, delivered on a 32-inch vertical touch-screen display and a Pro Surround Chair.
The NASCAR slot features three high-octane bonuses: the Pit Stop Bonus, Burnout Free Games, and the U-Race Bonus. Fueled by Bally’s award-winning U-Spin play mechanic, as well as the new U-Race play mechanic, bonuses offer multiple awards and chances to advance, revving up excitement. The bonuses also combine with a chance at a life-changing progressive award on Bally’s Cash Connection wide-area progressive link, as well as a near-area progressive version.
The decision to base the NASCAR slot on popular racing personalities came early in the product’s development, according to Wadleigh.
“I pitched a couple of different concepts to NASCAR,” he said. “Both of us wanted something that was respectful of the sport and showed it in the proper light. What we eventually decided to do was feature the personalities of the drivers. From there, I designed the slot from the viewpoint of a NASCAR fan, and as a fan, what I would want first and foremast from the experience is to be able to pick my favorite driver and have the game reflect the look and feel of that person’s team and car. So we decided to feature five of the most compelling drivers in the sport, which happened to include Kevin Harvick, my own personal favorite.”
Indeed, driver personalities are so integral to the NASCAR slot concept that Bally made sure to secure the rights to use other NASCAR drivers as the game evolves and new iterations come to the market.
“Without going into too many details, the agreement we have with NASCAR is a multi-title deal and that includes a pool of drivers,” Wadleigh said. “The pool of drivers we have is very wide and it covers the major teams in NASCAR. We chose the drivers to use on the first game from NASCAR data such as recent winners of their Most Popular Driver contests and merchandise sales at NASCAR.com. Using this information going forward means it’s unlikely the same drivers will be featured in every game.”
In addition to popular drivers, Bally hopes to draw racing fans to the NASCAR slot by creating a completely immersive experience when seated at the gaming machine. The game chair is synched with a surround sound system to recreate a race experience once the game starts—the player hears cars zooming by left-to-right, authentic radio directions from the observers and pit crews, narration from long-time NASCAR announcer Eli Gold, and the NASCAR theme when a bonus race is won.
The ability to pick the driver of their choice and an immersive race experience may initially attract NASCAR fans to the NASCAR slot, but Bally executives realized that something more was needed to keep customers coming back for more.
“The NASCAR is a huge brand; you have weekly races that draw hundreds of thousands of people, not to mention the audience that follows the sport on television,” said Mike Trask, corporate communications manager for Bally Technologies. “It’s popular, and it is going to initially interest people. But to keep people interested and coming back it needs to a successful game. The brand will get them in the door, but we’ll keep them at the game with our Pit Stop, Burnout Free Games and U-Race bonuses. They are unique to the game and tied into the brand and are the kind of things we believe will bring in players for the first time and keep them coming back.”
Wadleigh also considered the intrinsic psyche of race fans when he designed the NASCAR slot play mechanic. “Racing itself is a universal theme and has natural competition,” he said. “And if you tie me down, I am going to tell you that gamblers are not cooperative; they are competitive.”
“To that end, the game is designed for players looking for an entertainment-based experience and those looking for the ability to win a lot of money,” Wadleigh added. “You have three different bonuses to appeal to the three different types. And by having three different bonuses, each set at their own approximate spin hit, it allows the player to get a bonus in one out of every 70 spins, which is really frequent.”
Spins and frequent hits are a good thing in the slot machine world. It is something NASCAR fans will need to get used to.