“There’s a reason Wheel of Fortune has consistently been voted the most popular game by players,” the narrator’s voice boomed through the speakers as past images of Wheel of Fortune flashed across the screen. “There’s a reason it’s stood the test of time. There’s a reason the Wheel of Fortune brand will bring more value to your floor than any other machine—jackpots, baby, jackpots!”
With over $3 billion in jackpots, $14 million as the largest jackpot paid, a $1 million jackpot every seven days, one life-changing jackpot every 44 hours and 954 millionaires created in 19 states, it’s no surprise that Wheel of Fortune is one of, if not the, most popular slot games on casino floors today and throughout the past 20 years.
When IGT originally approached Sony, the licenser of Wheel of Fortune, two decades ago, “there really wasn’t a practice of using externally licensed brands from Hollywood, or from other consumer product areas, for slot machines,” said Joe Sigrist, vice president, global product development and operations for IGT. “So this was really one of the first attempts at using a licensed brand for a slot machine. We did the first couple of games and it really struck a chord with players right from the start. The success we’ve seen over the past 20 years was really just built upon the original success of the initial games and it’s been an incredible ride.”
The success of the game can not only be attributed to its jackpot frequency on casino floors, but also to the household name created by the original game show. Trademarked as “America’s Game,” Wheel of Fortunehas been on the air since 1975, with over 6,000 episodes, and has earned numerous Emmy wins and nominations. The show itself has awarded over $200 million to winners throughout the years and $5.4 million to charity.
Wheel of Fortune the slot game has been in casinos since 1996, debuting over 200 games over the years. The games have consistently been voted the most popular slot by players for the past 15 years, drawing crowds in with the spinning of the wheel and its popular chant, “WHEEL...OF...FORTUNE!”
“You’ve got the anticipation of where the wheel will ultimately stop, on top of that we’ve added the large life-changing jackpots that have always been a part of the games we’ve developed,” Sigrist said.
Over the years IGT has brought various types of Wheel of Fortune games to operators and players. The franchise began as mechanical-reel games, and has quickly branched out to video slot and community-style play games. The latest slot game, presented at G2E this year on the CrystalCore 42-inch immersive cabinet, is Wheel of Fortune Jackpot Paradise. About the new games, Sigrist said that, “in all cases we integrate the jackpot, the chant, the spin of the wheel. We continue to use those elements and combine them in ways that create diversity and different types of games for different players.”
When it comes to the slot games, Sigrist said that the new CrystalCore platform is a game-changer for the franchise. While reminding attendees about the importance and prominence of the brand on casino floors at G2E, IGT presented its new platform displaying the cutting-edge features that will be brought to the classic game. “It’s high-definition graphics, incredible sound and the ability to bring video clips,” he said. “In Jackpot Paradise we have Vanna White custom video that helps players understand and get excited about the game. Over time, we’re excited about bringing more and more interesting aspects of games based on the hardware.”
Now after signing a new agreement with Sony, Sigrist said the plan is to continue investing more into Wheel of Fortune to build on the brand. The new contract has extended the terms of IGT’s rights and brought the new Wheel of Fortune social casino game to the company’s online platform, DoubleDown (www.doubledowncasino.com).
Sigrist said that IGT has only scratched the surface, and they plan on rolling out a drumbeat of new Wheel of Fortune games, including those that are familiar to brick-and-mortar players, as well as new games designed specifically for internet gaming that incorporate skill-based gaming. “With our social casino DoubleDown and our recent deal with Sony, we now have the ability to develop and launch games [online] to reach social players,” Sigrist said. “We just launched our first game [Wheel of Fortune Double Diamond, in September] which has been doing phenomenally well. Over the next few months we’re going to be launching additional Wheel of Fortune games on DoubleDown.”
With all the talk about skill-based gaming coming to slot machines, Sigrist said that’s where he sees the franchise going. “We believe given the game show aspect of Wheel of Fortune, bringing the skill elements of the game show into the slot games, is going to be very exciting going forward.” To build on the recent success of Wheel of Fortune Double Diamond, IGT’s latest land-based game, launched in early November, Wheel of Fortune Triple Extreme Spin introduces new bonuses and gameplay straight from the floor to a desktop or mobile device.
“In general, Wheel of Fortune is one of those unique properties that have an incredible long life,” said Sigrist, “People not only love to play it, but our game designers, after having done over 200 games over the years, still love building games for WOF. There’s something magical about the brand that kind of excites people, and that is very unique not only in gaming but within popular culture.”