What can you buy for a penny anymore these days? Well, not much. But slot players and operators are still placing their bets on lucrative penny slots at an increasing rate.
Operators and slot floors across the United States are continuing to carve out more and more space for penny slot machines. These low-stakes wagers began to pick up speed as players began to spend less on entertainment over the past few years.
Now, with new innovations and a new, rising market, penny slots have ascended to become the most popular denomination on slot floors around the world, presenting multiple ways to wager and win with players betting much more than a single penny on the games.
“Penny slots provide a variety of affordable options for players looking to experience game content,” said Steve Walther, director, product management, games, for Konami Gaming Inc. “Good game content drives player enjoyment and penny slots have become the most diverse content on the floor.”
According to manufacturers, penny slot game content has also gotten exceptionally better in recent years, adding even more excitement and flexibility to the products and slot floors. “Due to the flexibility of penny slot product, casinos are replacing higher- and mid-denom. product as ‘penny product,’” said Walther. “Even though the machines are based on pennies, the max bets and average bets can be higher than their nickel or quarter counterparts. Ultimately, this allows game designers greater flexibility in creating exciting new product.”
Richard Ditton, game designer, and executive vice president for Incredible Technologies, agrees with Walther, and said that by “…using a penny increment, the game designer can shape the play experience to accommodate the game graphics and targeted player.”
On the other hand, Ditton said that he doesn’t see the penny slot market increasing as far as floor space goes, but rather the replacement cycle picking up pace from a recent slowdown. “Slot directors have a limited budget and have to put their money where they believe it will have the best return. Updating their penny slots is becoming a better bet.”
Ditton broke this down simply and said, “The boring games will be removed from the floor and more entertaining products will take their place. Similar to the movie industry, the entertainment product will need to be updated constantly. A movie theater complex would not succeed by playing the same movies for years at a time. At the same time, some movies can be watched over and over again.”
According to Victor Duarte, global chief product officer, gaming, for International Game Technology PLC (IGT), the introduction of penny slots into the video slots market, “…Marked an important milestone, one that both suppliers and players were excited about,” he said. “From the supplier perspective, the biggest advantage to the penny slot segment is the ability to increase line counts within a game. With the extra lines and pay distribution options, suppliers can introduce many new game mechanics and take advantage of the extra line wins with in-game celebrations. Play mechanics such as unique wild behavior, stacks and mega symbols, persistent binding features, unique game set shapes and interesting progressive trigger mechanisms, are all readily incorporated into penny slots.”
When it comes to who is playing penny slots and contributing to their rising popularity, manufacturers are in agreement that what was once a stereotyped market is now becoming broader.
“While there are certain demographics that respond better to penny slots, the variety offered by these machines can appeal to many different demographics,” said Walther. “Where once slots were thought to target one demographic, you now see men and women of all ages playing together and experiencing a wide spectrum of great gaming entertainment.”
Ditton explained that it’s not just male or female or particular generations, it also has a lot to do with how much players want to spend. “The penny slot market serves people who do not have a large entertainment budget,” he said. “With the economy for the last seven years, people have had to cut back on their nonessential expenses and entertainment is one of the first expenses they cut. High rollers have continued to roll high. It appears that people are starting to loosen up their spending and returning to the penny slots.”
When it comes to who exactly they are, Ditton said that it is just a player looking for pure entertainment, rather than an age or gender. “The typical penny slot player has been described as a woman, aged 60 plus on a fixed income, but I believe that this is only true because that demographic has been targeted by the slot designs. To me, the typical penny slot player is anyone of any age who is looking for a controlled social environment where they don’t have to interact closely with any other people unless they want to.”
Therefore, the entertainment factor is the key for penny slots now and will be going forward. The market can bet that the complexity of the product, as well as the variety, will continue to evolve in the next generation of penny slot games.
Here’s a quick rundown of the latest penny slot products and news from leading suppliers:
According to Cody Herrick, product marketing manager for Ainsworth Game Technology, penny slots remain the majority of their business, manufacturing video penny slots over a wide range of brands including 40/50/100 line with mystery progressives, Quad Shot. Wheel Winner, Sweet Zone and ultimate choice brand. “We are continuing to design games tailored to our players wants to ensure that they have an enjoyable experience,” he said.
King Cat is the latest addition to join Ainsworth’s highly successful Sweet Zone brand. The Sweet Zone feature is triggered in King Cat when ‘Diamond’ appears in both Sweet Zones on reels two and four and the entire game array transforms to wild symbols. On top of that, any three or more scatters triggers eight free games with an expanded game array and wild multipliers that combine on reels two and four. During the free games feature, any two or more scatters will trigger five additional free games.
According to company press materials, Streaking Beast Tiger is a new video slot from Aruze with five reels and 243 ways to win. The penny slot’s Tiger Feature gets triggered when the feature symbols appear on three or more consecutive reels beginning with the leftmost reel.
Also new to Aruze, with the latest Innovator title, Mighty Lion penny slot. With a recommended has five-reels, 30 lines and is guaranteed to provide you with moments you just can’t miss. Bonus symbols appearing on three or more consecutive reels beginning with the leftmost reel triggers the Lion Bonus with multiplayer selection and 10 free games.
And get set for a “volcanic eruption of excitement” in the Cube-X Innovator penny slot titled Repeat 7s Magma, which according to press materials, features five-reels and five-lines of hot magma. The stepper offers traditional “7” and “BAR” wins while offering a Repeat Spin and a Repeat Bonus Upgrade. During the base game, any win that consists of three or more “7” symbols retriggers the Repeat Bonus. During the Repeat Bonus, the “7” win is randomly repeated and the “7” win combination may be randomly upgraded as well, resulting in the “Repeat Bonus Upgrade.” Special volcano erupting features are used on the top monitor to create anticipation, display big wins, and announce the Repeat Bonus.
According to Duarte, IGT’s penny slot portfolio is unparalleled in the industry. “We offer penny slot experiences for every player type in every regulated jurisdiction around the world. Our penny slots span from our for-sale products, to our premium product line and from IGT original content, to licensed themes,” he said.
IGT’s best-sellers and legacy titles for penny slots are Cleopatra and Wolf Run. Along with these titles, another top-rated and top-selling penny slot for IGT is The Ellen DeGeneres Show Video Slot, which Duarte says continues to have strong performance metrics in the U.S. since debuting at G2E last year. Inspired by the Emmy Award-winning daytime talk show, The Ellen DeGeneres Show, the delightful duo of games will put players in the middle of their favorite “Ellen” moments and have them groovin’ in their seats as they play for big jackpot payouts housed in their CrystalCore cabinet.
The popular SPHINX 3D, “is the perfect example of pairing industry-leading innovation with best-in-class hardware, a globally appealing theme and a classic penny slot play experience,” Duarte said. As part of their award-winning TRUE 3D product line, offering slot players from around the world rich, glasses-free 3D gaming experiences, the slot features an integrated eye-tracking system that detects player position and relays it to an internal 3D engine. The image is processed and displayed so that the ideal 3D picture self-matches the player’s precise line of sight, allowing freedom of movement in all directions.
According to Ditton, IT’s best-selling penny slots are Crazy Money and Money Rain. “Both of these games are just plain fun to play,” he said. “They have a fairly low cost to play and give you your full entertainment value. When we released Crazy Money at 15 cents a lot of slot directors said that it could never make any money at the level, but it has been earning strong across the country for several years. Our game play, graphics and sounds set us apart from the competition.”
According to company literature, Crazy Money is designed to be the most understandable five-reel video slot in existence. It features ClearWin Symbols – a simple game design where the sum of winning symbols equates to credits won. The Money Catch Jackpot bonus game is triggered when players collect five coins that are worth their weight in bonus credits. As money flies over the screen, players select bills they think will reap the most money.
Money Rain has a lucrative free spin bonus event, Money Reel with transforming symbols, and an unprecedented 25,000 ways to win with Scatter Ways. Money Rain also features IT’s patented Good, Better, Best Bet Feature, where players are encouraged to increase their bet level to increase the number of free spins that are awarded throughout the bonus event.
According to Walther, approximately 95 percent of Konami’s games sector includes penny slots and they are looking at how they can expand the penny segment into the mid-demon segment, for players who want to bet beyond traditional penny max bets.
The popular Podium cabinet has delighted players for over five years, according to Walther, with recently added Dragon’s Law finding instant successes on the cabinet.
Dragon’s Law is available in fixed 20, 30 or 40-line configurations with medium volatility and the ability to up to 20 free games. During the Dragon’s Law Feature, the Dragon crosses the reels and adds additional WILDs.
A new enhancement, according to Walther, is Symphonic 3D Sound, which has now been incorporated into their Neo Contra themed slots, with the latest being Soundbar Contra Mighty Warrior.
Sci Games is bringing their classic Life of Luxury brand back with the Life of Luxury Progressive, a five-level local-area progressive centered on the precious gems that players know and love, according to company press materials.
Featuring five base themes made up of classic and current WMS games, this rendition of the classic brand is unlike any other. It only takes one Life of Luxury symbol on the last reel of each base theme to trigger the Life of Luxury feature, where players are awarded a number of free spins and have a chance at each progressive. During the Life of Luxury Bonus, each reel is assigned a different gem beginning on the left, with the lowest progressive value, and moving to the right with the highest progressive value. Landing an OPAL, RUBY, EMERALD, SAPPHIRE, or DIAMOND symbol on reels one, two, three, four, or five (respectively) prompts players to select a jewel for credits or a progressive prize. By max betting, players are automatically awarded the progressive and have the chance to pick for additional credits.
The second theme to launch on the Blade s32 cabinet is Dragons Over Nanjing, which according to company literature, combines a unique dragon feature with a Free Spin Bonus, this 10-level standalone progressive with an Asian-inspired motif is a work of art.
A red, blue, green, purple, light blue or orange dragon may randomly appear on reels one-six. Any combination of two or more of these Feature Dragons landing fully on the reels awards the Dragon Boost Feature. It only takes one Dragon Symbol during the Dragon Boost Feature to trigger an additional Dragon Boost, which awards one of 10 progressives. But that’s not all – three or more scattered BONUS symbols award up to 25 Free Spins and 50x Total Bet in the Dragon Free Spin Bonus.
On the Bally side, Action Bank Black Gold on the Double is an action-packed title for the ALPHA Pro Wave cabinet that showcases classic free games and the exciting new Action Bank Feature, which can award the Action Bank Jackpot Match for one of five progressive levels, the Action Bank Free Games Feature, Hot Zones, or credit awards, according to company literature.
Along with that, the Quick Hit Winning Times Free Games Fever from Bally is a player favorite. It features the Classic Winning Times game with a bit more volatility, four free game scenarios and five Quick Hit style jackpots, this penny slot game keeps players coming back.