It’s safe to say that progressives have officially taken over the market. They’re everywhere, being added onto every game, and manufacturers are not only continuing to expand their offerings and add new technology and mechanics, but are striving to improve the entertainment factor as well as the jackpots.
Looking back, progressives used to be a premium recurring revenue product usually found on licensed products. This has undeniably taken a turn in today’s market however, as more and more games are adding progressive technology in order to draw in players with the temptation of a big win.
“[Progressive slots] used to be a very small section, operators used to use them as a differentiator,” said Eric Boese, chief game designer and vice president of game development for Cadillac Jack. “Now it’s so prevalent. It’s really blurred the lines when you see progressives all over the place. In terms of if it is a premium product versus a for-sale, at this point it really doesn’t matter. Players expect them, they love them, and it’s exciting to win. The progressives amounts are all over the place, you have to have them.”
A new change in today’s progressive slot market is the growing popularity of local area progressives (LAPs) and standalone progressives (SAPs) over the once popular wide area progressives (WAPs). A number of factors have been contributing to this change, according to manufacturers.
“The LAP market has evolved over the last few years in the sense that you have a greater variety of LAP game series reaching roughly the same game count in smaller sets,” said Steve Walther, director, product management, games for Konami Gaming. “Where you used to have banks of 12-plus games hooked up to one simple linked progressive, you now can have three different LAPs covering four games each, divvied across different areas. Basically, operators are reducing the size of their progressive banks and placing several different types of LAPs on their floor.”
Michael Brennan, director, casino product marketing for GTECH, agrees, saying it’s not only what players want, but it is what operators can afford. “I think that in the past year or so, there is an appetite for more traditional links and local area progressives,” he said. “But I believe the model has changed. Some links and Local Areas Progressives are being sold instead of leased, whereas in the past casinos were not able to purchase progressives from vendors – instead, they would run their own in-house progressive.”
These factors aren’t ruling out WAPs completely however. Although they may be shrinking in numbers, their jackpots are not shrinking in size, remaining popular among players. “They’re a smaller part of the floor, but they’re also the most competitive part of the floor,” said Phil Gelber senior vice president product development for WMS Gaming. “So as manufacturers, we tend to put more into the games, a lot more technology… those products tend to be a spectacle. The local area progressives, because the customers can buy a lot of them, tend to have more of a subdued look and to be driven a little more by the math of the game and is not as much of a spectacle product.”
Manufacturers are in agreement that they cannot see anything currently affecting the overall health of the growing progressive slot market. If anything, all of the variety now prevalent in the market is only contributing to its success and popularity among operators and players.
“Players today have so many options from life changing jackpots, to bank level jackpots, to in-game standalone progressives, to mystery progressives [another emerging trend],” said Ryan Cuddy, vice president game design and development for Video Gaming Technologies (VGT), a division of Aristocrat Technologies. “This makes the progressive slot market healthy and robust and only adds to the opportunities that exist for our company and future game development.”
Manufacturers agree that there are really two types of progressive slot players. The first are the players who typically enjoy video slots and play for entertainment. The second are the “pot chasers,” players who are after the life-changing jackpots, and are plugged in and paying attention to where and when progressives are hitting.
“Different progressives reach different player demographics,” said Walther. “There are some progressives with large or life-changing, high-dollar jackpots that cater more to entertainment-style players who will throw some money towards that jackpot hoping they win it big. Or there are lower progressive top awards with greater hit frequency that appeal more to the regular gambler who wants that extra pay-out potential or is looking to make their money go a little further on the floor.”
Cuddy goes further explaining that progressive games are evolving with the changing gaming floor, and therefore changing slot player. “What used to be a high-denom floor now has full variety of denoms, video, stepper, bonus top boxes as well as the many progressive types,” he said. “The additional segments of progressive offerings are driven by the change in player desires… the progressive slot market continues to evolve so it may change in the future, which only makes our jobs that much more exciting.”
The progressive slot market isn’t going anywhere but up, as it evolves to accommodate player and operator wants and needs for more and larger jackpots. It seems to be the community and achievement aspect of progressives are what everyone desires. “I think players have come to enjoy and expect those higher achievements where they can kind of share with players vicariously around them in the win,” said John Vallejo, vice president game development for the Scientific Games, Bally. “The celebration is there, and players around you can see and cheer and experience it with you. That’s a big element that people enjoy and I think you’ll see that driving more and more progressives.”
The following is a rundown of the new and exciting progressive slot machines and mechanics designed to heat up casino floors.
Aristocrat acquired VGT, a leading provider of predominately leased Class II gaming machines for the tribal gaming market, in 2014. VGT manufactures both mechanical and video Class II gaming machines.
“This is a big strategic initiative for VGT this year,” said Mike Smith, director, product management for VGT. “We’ve had challenges with our progressive product in the past but having Aristocrat’s technology behind the WAP will be a big part in what makes VGT successful in this space.”
VGT debuted Mr. Money Bags Easy Money Jackpot, their first WAP product, at last month’s NIGA show in San Diego. The platform offers the chance for life-changing wins on player-favorite titles including Mr. Money Bags, Hot Red Ruby, Lucky Ducky and Crazy Cherry. The play of these games is virtually the same as the core game with the progressive added on top.
“And we’re really excited with our approach to the WAP because it is somewhat unique,” said Cuddy. “We’re offering a life-changing jackpot of $250,000 and an achievable frequency [hitting approximately every month]. The games look great and we’re looking forward to our customer’s reaction.”
The new multi-level Mega Money LAP is available exclusively on Genesis, Cadillac Jack’s next generation dual screen game cabinet, according to company press materials. Mega Money Maker creates excitement with winning combinations of Mini Game bonuses linked to five rewarding multi-level progressives
Available for WAP and LAP, the Cadillac Cash progressive features multiple game themes linked to a common wide or local area progressive jackpot. Cadillac Cash spotlights new titles highlighting innovative bonus features and technological advancements, which create a memorable gaming experience for the player.
As for new mechanics, Turbo Boost, which debuted at G2E 2014, is an added boost to the base game’s potential with the addition of mystery progressives. “What we feel sets it apart from other mystery progressives is that we have a lot of fanfare involved,” said Boese. “Rather than just doing this slow climb like at typical progressive, every once in a while it will boost the amount like a turbo, with an exciting presentation in terms of graphics and sound.”
Debuting at G2E 2015 will be the new Streaming Jackpots and Stringing Stacks, married with progressives, according to Boese. These new features will be a nod toward the trends of symbol-driven jackpots and progressive amounts.
According to Brennan, their best-selling and most successful multi-level progressive product on the market right now is Sphinx 3D. It is the first title on the new True3D product line, utilizing patented, award-winning 3D display technology exclusively designed for GTECH for the industry.
“Even though it’s really all about the 3D and technology, there is a mechanic where the more you bet, you can target the progressive bonus and you have more chances to win multiple progressives. Mechanics like this are definitely attracting the player that bets more and likes to gamble more,” said Brennan.
Another popular product that has been out for just over a year is Zuma, an Aztec-inspired progressive. The slot features an innovative, industry-first moving ball track surrounding the reel. The track is a win-triggering component that increments the three-level guaranteed-to-hit pots, or triggers five unique, colorful power frogs that place wilds on the main game base screen. According to Brennan, this unique incrementation (making the progressive increment an entertaining distraction) creates a critical visual cue that draws in the players and keeps them engaged.
When it comes to the future of progressives for GTECH, “We’re excited about having access to all the technology, skillset and long history of progressive success that IGT has exhibited,” Brennan said.
INTERNATIONAL GAME TECHNOLOGY (IGT)
International Game Technology (IGT) is no stranger to the ins and outs of the progressive slot marketplace.
“Progressive slots remain an extremely critical piece of our business both domestically and internationally,” said Joe Sigrist, vice president of global product development and operations for IGT. “We continue to grow this game category by matching great game content with exceptional hardware and cross-platform distribution. We align ourselves with popular brands and execute on an established licensing models.”
According to Sigrist the most popular IGT progressive slots are their Wheel of Fortune games. “The biggest key to the title’s longevity is its frequent life-changing jackpot payouts, but there is also something very special about the spin of the iconic wheel and hearing the magic words WHEEL-OF-FORTUNE bellowing from a game.”
Wheel of Fortune Wild Red Sevens Slots is the latest addition to IGT’s wide area progressive portfolio. Offering the perfect combination of the player-favorite wheel spin bonus and the Wild Red Sevens base game to elevate player engagement, the three-reel, high-denomination game is offered in both five-pay line and nine-pay line configurations depending on jurisdiction.
IGT has recently introduced some higher-volatility progressives, according to Sigrist. Among them is the Gong Xi Fa Cai video slot.
Konami has a wide variety of progressives, including standalone progressives, which are integrated within select game themes and are also a la carte. Compatible across multiple cabinets, they can be placed on top of most any of their base game products, according to Walther. Their linked products work the same way, but the add-on extended ROM style progressive is the most common. Games like Genie’s Power, Rapid Blitz Riches and Titan 360 carry extra jackpots awards above and beyond a strong library of available base games.
Konami’s best-selling progressive game is Quick-Strike, a SAP that runs over the top of nearly any Konami base game. “It’s extremely flexible to operators’ needs,” Walther said. “And it attracts those players looking to get a little more from their favorite video slots.”
Neo Contra is a themed slot with a four-level standalone progressive bonus. In this new game, an old style console controller appears before game play, and players that enter the Konami Code are granted four extra picks for more chances to reach the big progressive jackpot.
The Class III, five-tier, White Hot Progressive from Multimedia debuts on their newest High Rise Games Series, featuring a 37-inch video top box and top screen with spectacular animation and graphics. According to company press materials, as progressive amounts on the top screen get bigger and bigger, players will notice the fire underneath seems to get hotter and hotter, until it looks like the progressive amount is about to burst creating anticipation.
The White Hot Free Spin Bonus is triggered when three free spin symbols land on reels one, five and nine. Hot on the symbol driven progressive trail, players are prompted to choose one of the triggering symbols to award either seven, 10 or 15 free spins. Free spins can then be retriggered during the bonus round, giving players more spins to win.
With the acquisitions of Bally Technologies and WMS Gaming, it’s safe to say that the Scientific Games business has a large, progressive games base.
According to Vallejo, Bally’s bestseller in terms of progressive slots goes to Quick Hit Cash Spin. What sets Quick Hit apart is its frequency and speed. Cash Spin, featuring Quick Hit’s Cash Wheel Bonus, is a six level progressive that can award free games, a credit award, or the U-Spin jackpot with five Quick Hit style jackpots up for grabs.
Also popular from Bally is the new Betty Boop themed slot, Betty Boop’s Firehouse. According to company press materials the new five-reel, 30-line video slot, showcased on the Pro Series V22/32 cabinet has a ladder bonus, free games with interaction, and a flaming-hot wide-area progressive jackpot.
New on the WMS side is ELVIS Shake Rattling Reels progressive on their new Blade Stepper cabinet. The slot combines three visually unique player-selected interfaces, focused on the different eras of Elvis’s career, with the jackpots that mechanical players love, according to company press materials.
Another new slot is the Life of Luxury Progressive, bringing back a classic WMS game in multi-game format with five games, including a combination of classic, current and new content. In the Life of Luxury Bonus, each reel is assigned to a GEM symbol; if the GEM symbol lands on the reels, players then get to pick for a chance at a progressive.