Slots play is no longer a solitary battle between one man and a machine. Community games platforms, which first appeared nearly a decade ago, have expanded the battlefield to include multiple players versus multiple machines against each other in a quest of progressive jackpots—much to the delight of participants.

“The popularity of community slot games is growing rapidly, prompting more casinos to add such games to their slots floor,” said Robert Martinez, product specialist, Aruze Gaming America. “They appeal to players because first they intrigue players and then immerse them in interaction with other players while questing for a shared jackpot [which is usually much larger than normal]. Being able to experience some of the newest technologies also contributes to the current upward-swinging trend of community slots.”

“What makes community slot games enticing is how the software and hardware elements mesh together to create a shared community experience,” said Derik Mooberry, senior vice president of games at Bally Technologies.

Bally learned what players want from its first community concept, Dual-Vision games, which had two screens with a single bench on which two people could sit and play together, Mooberry said. Aimed at enabling couples or two friends to share the gaming experience, it was not a success—people didn’t like sitting that close to each other. But they did enjoy the competition of playing against other players and sometimes with them for a piece of the jackpot. From that germ came the modern community gaming concept, which has been augmented through the years with game software and add-on signage that highlights the growing prize, involves the participants, and celebrates the winners.

Bally now offers a broad selection of community games. These include community versions of its Mystery Bank slots line, which offers 3- and 4-level Mystery Jackpots. Housed in the Alpha Pro 22-22 Hammerhead cabinet, they come with four themed games (Vegas Mystery, Safari Magic, Golden Empire and Paradise Island, of which the latter two have 3-D animation and the last a Must-Win-By Jackpot). When one player in the “community” wins, he receives a celebratory event while other players can share in the winnings.

The community is expanded across hundreds of machines on a casino’s slots floor by Bally’s DM Tournaments’ Bonus Tournament product, which enables individual players the opportunity to compete in group events at their convenience. Some players are hesitant to participate in tournaments, but with DM Bonus, all a player has to do is come down any time of the week, put his player card in the machine, wager $20 on his favorite slot or video poker machine, and he gets to play the tournament game and post a score. Once the score appears on the leaderboard, the player can go home. After the tournament ends, players can return to the casino at their convenience to see if they’ve won. Players also can return during the tournament and resume play if they see they are behind on the leaderboard and post a new score if they do better.

Yet another community gaming option from Bally is provided by the Fusion line of products acquired with SHFL Entertainment last year. Providing numerous gaming options, Fusion comes in a fully electronic version, plus multi-terminal and multi-game configurations. All can be linked to virtual, hybrid and live games to provide a multi-game environment that can be played simultaneously.

The Fusion terminal features a space-conserving footprint, is built for modular configurability and is compatible with SAS, TITO and all known player tracking systems. The fully electronic SHFL Fusion Virtual offers players the option of playing up to four different games from one terminal. Available games include baccarat, roulette and sic bo, which can be played virtually (with or without a video dealer, or with a live dealer). Fusion Auto features a fully automated roulette wheel and custom lighting options, along with highly configurable terminal layouts. Fusion elements connect to live roulette and baccarat games, allowing casinos to capture overflow play during peak hours.

 

ENTERTAINING THOUGHTS

The community games player is also a different beast from the typical slot player, something Aruze gaming keeps in mind when designing its latest community concepts.

“Typically your player of community games is not your super-serious player but people who crave novelty and are looking for fun,” said Aruze’s Martinez. “Typically your larger, more tourist-focused casinos are more likely to have the newest and hottest community slots while the smaller, more local properties may tend to have more of your basic community slots that locals love to play. For those larger tourist-focused casinos, which have larger budgets and larger casino floors, having the newest and hottest community slot game is imperative to the performance of their games. Bright lights, interaction, camaraderie, shared (linked) progressive jackpot…what more could a player want?

“Community slots will ultimately help other surrounding games in the casino perform better for the operator as well,” Martinez added.

Aruze’s latest community slot game is titled Sinbad, which offers two players the opportunity to play alongside one another on a 22-inch video monitor with an LCD overhead community monitor. Sinbad offers normal video slot game play while also offering the opportunity to directly compete with an opposing player at random moments throughout your gaming experience.

Sinbad is based on the ancient Arabic tales of Sinbad the Sailor, who had fantastic adventures going to magical places, meeting numerous monsters, and encountering supernatural phenomena. Aruze incorporates all aspects of his adventurous tales in their G-Link community video slot. With over 50 different bonus features and events, this low-volatility game allows players to encounter a bonus event every seven spins which more often than not, results in a small credit award. The interactive game play of moving along a board, fighting monsters, racing down rivers, and flying birds are what make Sinbad stand out more than most games. If these bonus events don’t tickle a player’s expectations, the progressive jackpot sure can do so.

“One of the better aspects of Sinbad is that more often than not, there are multiple winners,” Martinez said. “Both players have the opportunity to leave each bonus stage with at least some sort of credit award. Sinbad does a great job of distributing credits based upon the outcome of each event; who was the winner and who was the loser, who chose a prize correctly and who didn’t.”

 

PLAYER’S CHOICE

A choice of two core games is offered in the latest community games concepts from GTECH.

Bejeweled has two unique bonus games, each with its own graphics and play based on either skill or chance. Community players earn eligibility for participating in bonus rounds by collecting badges. Then every time the timer clicks down 10 minutes a player competes for the bonus, with the size determined by how many badges are collected. A two-tier Community Bonus has risk elements as one moves a butterfly from flower to flower collecting gems, but losing all if caught by a spider.

Two different core games, which players can switch between via a touchscreen, are featured on “Deal or No Deal: In It to Win It,” where play is a variation of the popular TV game show. While the community bonus is triggered at the same time for everyone, some bonus rounds require eligibility, which is reached faster by the size of bets. Briefcase Bonuses help players win by providing sneak peeks within briefcases.

 

BIGGER AND BETTER

WMS Gaming launched its community slots gaming line some years ago with Monopoly Big Event. But big isn’t big enough anymore, prompting the company to launch Monopoly Bigger Event, which aims to create an even greater gaming and bonding experience among players.

Detailed graphics and multiple screens increase the participation among players. With the Electric Company Bonus all eligible players are awarded selection from a grid of 16 switches that illuminate credit values on the top screen, with the player getting the last value lit. In the Water Works Bonus, all players look for Mr. Monopoly in their pipes and are awarded the value on the pipe where he lands.  With the Railroad Bonus, a train appears on the top screen and chugs around encircling credits with the sum total going to players. In the Play the Board Bonus, players actually play the game with the four or six shared rolls they earn to move around the board collecting credit values and other bonuses.

Spinning wheels play a big part in the Wizard of Oz: Journey to Oz community game. There are eight different free-spin bonuses in the Wild Poppies and King of the Forest base games. And the mechanics become greater in the Bigger Event Bonuses where mini-wheels award credits, and when one lands of Glinda the Good Witch, the large community wheel on dual 52-inch overhead screens spins for credit awards or one of five possible character bonuses.

 

EXPERIENCE MATTERS

Providing players with a one-of-a-kind experience is a key underpinning to Ortiz Gaming’s new community games concepts.

“Ortiz Gaming’s community games are always designed to ensure that players have a remarkable experience, turning their entertainment experience into a synonym for happiness,” said Maurilio Silva, president of Ortiz Gaming. “But now we’re taking it to a new level with our Magic Pot and Sky Paper products.”

The Magic Pot is a surprise bonus that fosters player engagement by paying a dividend to each community-connected player when one of them hits the jackpot. To win the bonus, players need to be enabled with the Magic Pot logo on the game’s display. The bonus won is proportional to the bet and denomination played. As everyone wins together, players cheer for each other to win.

At the same time, the jackpot winner gets special notice through the Sky Paper feature that showers him/her with multicolored paper, flooding the space with excitement and making it a remarkable and unforgettable experience for players, Silva said.

Ortiz also has introduced some new bingo-based community games. Triple Bonus, based on Latin Bingo with its 3x5 card, allows play on up to four cards, with jackpots coming from filling a card’s 15 numbers with the first 30 balls coming from a virtual globe, with extra bonuses providing up to 10 extra balls, and a bonus a wheel that spins for additional credits and prizes. Goal Mania has a soccer theme with Latin Bingo cards that offers 17 prizes and a jackpot, a double-o prize, and a bonus game involving kicking a ball past a goalkeeper. Six Bingo plays on four American-style bingo cards where 44 balls are drawn a bonus gets seven additional ball draws, and a chance to win 10 prizes and the jackpot.