Successful Progression in Progressive Slots
The lure of life-changing progressive slot jackpots continues to draw patrons and increased play to the brick-and-mortar casino floor
It’s no secret that the progressive slot machine concept continues to reign supreme with game machine players and operators in all types of casino environments.
The reason: progressive slot concepts give players the opportunity to win big and to chase after big jackpots while allowing the casino operators to run various promotions tied to these progressives or jackpots. For an avid player, progressive slots are exciting because the win amount typically escalates quickly and frequently and in some cases it can reach life-changing amounts.
This popularity is not lost of slot manufacturers, many of whom are building additional engagement between the game and player, creatively delivering that something extra casino patrons typically look for today. Thanks to these efforts, casino operators can now offer a mix of progressive entertainment options and new jackpot experiences that will keep their players coming back for more, which drives play while substantially increasing win-per-unit.
“Our customers tell us that IGT’s progressive games elevate player excitement and on occasion create ‘jackpot frenzy’ on their casino floors,” said Kurt Larsen, vice president premium game studios for International Game Technology PLC (IGT). “Seasoned players pay close attention to jackpot meters and climbing progressives through multiple channels—trips to the casinos, social media, online forums, etc.”
For these reasons, slot manufacturers often find that progressive slots are among the most sought-after titles in a gaming library, and in response are integrating the technology into more and more games.
“To meet the needs of both the operator and the player, progressives are now a configurable option in most games,” said Abhinay Bhagavatula, vice president, engineering and products for Eclipse Gaming. “But the common trend is about how the progressive pays out. For instance, how frequently they payout and how fast they build to drive the player excitement. Many of the slot manufacturers have developed various math models which better engage players and make them part of the progressive experience. In addition, the design of the game has changed substantially in recent years, so there is a lot more integration between the game features and how they tie to the progressives.”
“Every few years we see different play mechanics and math models become a trend in the industry,” added Mike Trask, director of marketing and product management for Ainsworth Game Technology. “It’s always evolving.”
IGT’s Larsen agrees the math model is core to a progressive slot’s ultimate popularity. “The quality of the game math and the play experience remain IGT’s top game design priorities and, in my view, are the greatest influencers of a theme’s success once the game is deployed,” he said.
In addition to game math, advancements in signage and display technology are also adding fuel to the progressive slot machine fire by innovatively showcasing jackpot accumulations, allowing players to shop for value based on progressive jackpot size. Also trending in progressive slots are integrated symbol-driven progressives, which can be a key attraction for today’s players.
“There’s a very powerful element of excitement and anticipation in each spin when players can see the special symbols reeling across the frame as progressive meters tally higher and higher,” said Steve Walther, senior director, marketing and product management for Konami Gaming.
These are just two examples of new progressive slot technology trends. Below are a few of the top slot providers and their latest innovation in progressive game play and system technology.
AGS got its start in the Class II tribal gaming market, where progressive jackpots may have been considered an important way to drive excitement in games that were driven by an electronic bingo-based math model. The company learned early, through its experience in Class II, that linked progressives drive high levels of player engagement.
One of the company’s newest innovations in progressive game play is called Xtreme Jackpots. This is a multi-level linked progressive system available across most of its slot cabinets to give players more frequent awards and more explosive jackpots with a variety of game styles, bet levels and volatility.
“We use strategically cycled attract messages and celebrations during gameplay that periodically burst across the game screen to showcase the jackpot totals, game play and bonus feature,” said Andrew Burke, senior vice president, slot products for AGS. “When one of the jackpots hits, there’s even more excitement with a special win celebration message that explodes across the game screen—creating a community-style experience that players can share with other players. Xtreme Jackpots has been so successful for AGS and for gaming operators that we are building it into most of our new game titles.”
AGS always features the jackpots on the top display, so they are highly visible not only to the player, but toanyone walking by or looking across at the games. “Our visuals always have a strong tie-in to the game theme; for example, if our game is Asian-themed, then the progressive visuals will utilize an Asian-style font and a symbol consistent with the theme of the game,” said Burke.
The U-shaped starwall lighting on the company’s Orion cabinets adds player attraction as well. The 498 game-controlled, full-color LED lights are synchronized with game play including progressive jackpot celebrations.
The portfolio available to gaming operators from AGS includes everything from standalone progressives, which increment with play on a single device, to local-area or near-area progressives that link games within a casino to create larger jackpots, to wide-area progressive systems which link slot games from multiple casinos to create large and often life-altering awards.
“At AGS, we have been successful in the local-area progressive space, where we capitalize on ‘achievability’ to link more games to a single progressive for more frequently and faster-hitting jackpots,” said Burke. “Our first product in this space is Xtreme Jackpots, and one of the reasons for its success is that it works on almost any AGS cabinet, which means there are more games on the progressive link driving the jackpot higher. While the jackpot increments at $10,000, it typically hits in the $30,000-$40,000 range which is a large award on a local link.
“Our game developers have also built-in some pretty incredible win celebrations to complement our fast and frequently hitting jackpots, which adds to the excitement.”
At G2E, the company plans to showcase the Fa Cai Shu, Kingdom Cash, and Diamond District series of progressive slot games for its Orion Slant platform, along with numerous new Xtreme Jackpots titles including Money Temple Xtreme Jackpots and Bonanza Blast Xtreme Jackpots—and many other new titles featuring high-frequency and achievable progressive bonuses.
AINSWORTH GAME TECHNOLOGY
Ainsworth offers a variety of standalone and liked progressives. “Historically we have been successful deploying mystery progressives in combination with our popular core video slots games,” Trask said. “We are also known in the high denom space for ‘Hit Before’ progressive jackpots. These progressives alert a player that a jackpot must hit by a certain amount. As the amount grows, casino operators will see some pretty big increases in coin in. In high denom areas, often our ‘Hit Before’ products will be among the most popular on a casino floor.”
In the Class III space, nearly every game Ainsworth produces has an option for some kind of progressive jackpot. However, perhaps its biggest innovation comes in the Class II world with AnyBet, which was named one of the Top 20 Most Innovative Gaming Technology Products by Casino Journal. AnyBet is a first-of-its-kind progressive technology. This brand-new two-level, non-max bet mystery progressive launched in the Class II market in late 2017. With AnyBet, players can win life-enhancing progressive prizes at any bet level during play. Players are awarded a set number of progressive cards based on their bet level. The higher the player bets, the more chances they will have to win the progressive prizes. Today AnyBet can be played on more than 60 unique game themes on Ainsworth’s A560, A560SL Noir and A600 cabinets. The links can be installed across multiple cabinet styles, areas or the casino and even separate properties. Plus, the AnyBet progressive meter can be displayed on game toppers, a variety of sign packages, or a combination of both.
In terms of visual components, on any game, the window appeal of a game is going to be vital, as are the graphics and sounds players experience during a game. Ainsworth has reportedly made great strides in this area over the past couple of years, particularly with the opening of its U.S. game design studio to augment the work done by the company’s team in Australia. Also, with its relationship with Bandai Namco, Ainsworth has access to artwork to produce a game like PAC-MAN Link.
“The PAC-MAN brand has been huge for us,” Trask said. “PAC-MAN WILD EDITION and PAC-MAN DYNAMIC EDITION were both standalone progressive games and were among our most successful of the past year. We will be following up with PAC-MAN Link. The combination of an appealing brand, tremendous artwork and at the chance to win life altering jackpots will always draw players.”
The PAC-MAN Link series will reportedly lead the content debuting on the EVO cabinet. The Link series offers four games, each of which stars one of the famous ghosts—Inky, Blinky, Pinky and Clyde. In addition to a progressive jackpot, PAC-MAN Link gives players the chance to experience one of the most recognizable figures in arcade game history when PAC-MAN makes appearances on screen to help players win.
Eclipse has always offered games with configurable progressive options.
The company’s products have continued to evolve and so have its progressive offerings. Many of its products include multi-level progressives and it generates a lot of anticipation for the player with its mystery must-hit-by progressives, which have reportedly been so popular that the company is re-inventing the mystery feature with a completely new interface on its new platforms.
In a typical game with progressives, the higher-level progressives are hit only when being played at max bet. “We’ve come up with an exciting new way to play for progressive jackpots: our new Anyline progressive series—which will debut at G2E and is patent pending – allows the player to hit any of the nine progressives while playing at any bet level, even the minimum bet,” Bhagavatula said. “And we have also spiced up the games in this series so that each of the nine progressives are directly tied to a specific win line in the 9-line game—so a player can hit any line at any bet to win any of the progressives. This creates a thrilling game for all players to chase any of the progressives playing at any bet level.”
The company’s new Anyline progressive, Xingyun Denglong, is built on its new game platform which enables high quality graphic designs and an enhanced visual experience. Utilizing visually stunning floating Chinese lanterns during the free spin bonus engages the players. In addition, the progressive visuals are animated and repositioning as progressive jackpots are hit, thus better immersing and engaging the player as they chase the progressive.
The company has also updated its game platform to a state-of-the-art technology, architected for scalability. “We have also developed our own independent progressive controller that can be utilized in any bank configuration and to support local area and wide area progressives in Class II, Class III and Washington X2 markets,” Bhagavatula said.
Some of the company’s most popular multi-level progressive games include Big and Bad: Into the Woods, Bank Rollin’, Big and Bad: 3 Wild Pigs and Sweet Shots.
Everi has created successful games for local area and stand-alone progressives for decades with titles such as Mega Meltdown, Double Jackpot Gems and Super Jackpot. The company launched its first ever Class II wide area progressive (WAP) in 2017 and expanded its WAP offering to include Class III with Willie Nelson on the company’s Player Classic mechanical cabinet in 2018.
Some of Everi studios’ recent progressive game-play innovations include:
- Various specific methods of bonusing that offer the ability to upgrade one-by-one from one progressive tier to another, treating a multi-tier progressive like a ladder that the player ascends for larger prize values;
- Fill the entire reel array with matching reel symbols (“all match”) to win a corresponding progressive tier (a different tier for each different eligible reel symbol);
- Multi-card version of all-match feature that provides the possibility of hitting multiple progressives in the same play via filling multiple different reel arrays with different matching symbols; and
- Conventional match-three progressive picking game with a new possibility in the pick array that, when picked, eliminates the lowest-remaining progressive tier (and corresponding pickable symbols) from the game, eliminating the possibility of the least desirable remaining outcome of the bonus.
Everi understands players are drawn to the values in the progressive meters and will play, or not play, a game based on those values. The company’s goal is to ensure the player can find their perfect game from several feet away so it designs the art to make the values a clear, easy read. It also employs dynamic visuals and audio to inform neighboring players when a progressive is awarded.
Everi plans to debut new titles on its Class III and Class II WAP network including Penn & Teller and Casablanca on the company’s new, mechanical reel cabinet Skyline Revolve. This new form factor features the manufacturer’s first mechanical wheel top box uniquely designed to sit on top of its Player Classic 3.0 cabinet.
Progressive slot machines have long-been a cornerstone of IGT’s product portfolio and an area of differentiation for the company. IGT pioneered wide-area progressives (WAP) with the Wheel of Fortune and Megabucks game families, and the company continues to expand its WAP portfolio with new TRUE 3D and TRUE 4D titles such as Wheel of Fortune 3D and Ghostbusters 4D.
IGT’s progressive portfolio extends beyond just WAP games however, supporting a full library of premium standalone progressives such as The Goonies and Harley-Davidson slots, and a growing library of multi-level progressives for the CrystalCurve cabinet with titles such as Fort Knox, Fortune Gong and Golden Goddess.
“IGT applies its expertise in progressive game development beyond the Premium segment,” Larsen said. “We offer bolt-on progressives for our core titles, omni-channel progressives with our Powerbucks solution in Canada, cross-platform online wide area progressives in New Jersey and many more games that leverage the excitement of progressive gameplay.”
For IGT, the presentation of all its slot games is important. “We recognize that we could develop the greatest game of all time, but if it is not attractive to players and doesn’t stand apart in a sea of other slots, it may not realize its full potential” Larsen said. “Specific to our progressive portfolio, we want a game’s jackpot values to be highly visible and easy to comprehend from a distance. Additionally, we strive for a presentation that makes it very clear to players which jackpot they are vying for. We believe we can also enhance the ‘curb appeal’ though attractive overhead signage, especially with our multi-level progressives. At G2E we’ll showcase some of our new, more sophisticated merchandising options for several of our segments, including our progressives.”
For more than two decades, IGT’s popular Wheel of Fortune slot theme has entertained players in countries around the world and made more millionaires than any other slot in the industry. IGT has created more than 200 versions of the storied theme and continues to incorporate new innovation into this player-favorite theme. “In my view, the success of Wheel of Fortune slots can be attributed to a variety of factors, but some reasons that rise to the top are: the iconic ‘Wheel-of-Fortune!’ wheel bonus, the authentic brand experience that it delivers and most importantly, players know it is the industry’s go-to game for million dollar-plus jackpots,” Larsen said.
IGT’s plans to feature dozens of progressive products across multiple product lines at its booth at G2E. In Premium, the company plans to introduce a second Wheel of Fortune 4D game—Wheel of Fortune 4D More Money, to complement Wheel of Fortune 4D Featuring Vanna White. It will also introduce new Wheel of Fortune content for the CrystalWheel + Stepper and MEGATOWER cabinets. “We are also excited about our expanded portfolio of multi-level progressive games,” Larsen said. “We’re extending the base game libraries for Fortune Gong and Fort Knox, and introducing the Golden Goddess and Jurassic Park Trilogy series.”
Additionally, the company plans to feature Money Storm on the S3000 cabinet, new content for the CrystalDual + Stepper cabinet, pop culture-inspired progressives for the CrystalCurve ULTRA hardware, and of course, a few surprises that will debut at the show.
Incredible Technologies (IT) works very hard to make progressive bonuses exciting and keep its math within certain parameters to ensure players enjoy themselves.
One of ITs first ventures into progressive features was Crazy Money II—which has been on casino floors for years and continues to perform well. The company stated that it learned an important lesson with that game in that you can’t solely rely on the magic of a progressive meter to create a good game, it’s all about the math. The unique progressive bonus feature is one facet to its success, and an important one, but the rest of the game has to be just as powerful.
The company continues to add progressive titles to all of its product lines. From its proven performer, Infinity U23, to its newest form factor, Infinity V55, IT has created new progressive game families and built upon the foundation with existing families. The Power Wheel feature family debuted at G2E 2017 and is producing performance with titles like Heat ‘Em Up Power Wheel and Fate of the 8 Power Wheel, which features six levels of progressives that are awarded through a fun and frequently-hitting wheel spin.
Letting players easily recognize whether or not a game has progressives in it at first glance is a huge advantage, according to the company. Its patented Simple Sign Kit with its Infinity U23 cabinet displays game trailers overhead that advertise whether the games on the bank have progressive features. Also, its Infinity Skybox displays progressives high above the game on the vertical 55-inch monitor with features like Sky Wheel or Sky Reels and can easily be seen from across the casino floor.
Crazy Money Deluxe has been one of the company’s best performing titles. The progressives can be linked to other Sky Wheel games in the bank, encouraging more play as the progressives grow even faster with less liability to the operator. The progressives are won in the Sky Wheel bonus, making the wins a huge event for all players and casino patrons to watch.
The company plans to bring new progressive titles for all of our product lines to G2E 2018 as well as debuting its first-ever multi-game, Incredistars Money, at the show. This new product allows players to play three of the company’s iconic Money games at once. Money Rain, Money Roll and Crazy Money II are stacked on the Infinity V55 monitor. Players can play one of each title or choose to play three of their favorite one. Each individual title has its own smaller linked progressive, as well as a huge Grand linked progressive.
Konami’s progressive game offerings reportedly include a number of proven applications—spanning standalone to linked and beyond.
The company began with a la carte standalone and linked progressive games, which are designed with the compatibility to combine with a library of base game themes. Games like Quick Strike, Pirate’s Loot and Jackpot Streams achieved popularity with this format by allowing operators the flexibility to take their players’ favorite slot themes and add an extra level of excitement.
“Our team also advanced the development of community-style linked progressives, which allow players to jointly share in the excitement of a linked bonus event,” Walther said. “Our debut releases in this category included Beat the Field and Top Track, which cultivate an added energy and excitement for players from the community-driven feature. That allowed us to pioneer a new multi-station progressive called Titan 360, with a three-ton, 10-foot tall frame and unique mechanical bonusing unit at the center.”
For the past four years, this community-style progressive machine has been an attraction at casinos across North America.
In the spirit of Titan, Konami plans to soon debut its next advancement for the multi-station progressive space: Crystal Cyclone. Similar to its proven predecessor, Crystal Cyclone connects individual video slot stations around a mechanical bonusing ring for optimal thrill and excitement. Players have the opportunity to enter the progressive jackpot game, releasing brightly-colored balls race around a lighted roulette-style track.
In addition, Konami develops integrated progressive jackpots within select video slot games. These can be premium titles, as in the case of its latest Castlevania themed slots, which showcase the progressive bonus a central feature to the game. These built-in progressives can also include standard core product, like Star Watch Fire/Magma, Cai Lai Si Ji, and Money Galaxy, which feature a varied mix of player-favorite progressive features.
Konami’s Strike Zone has reportedly become one of the top new bonus features this year. The Strike Zone is a special reel area that players are invited to expand in order to increase the odds of winning select bonus events whenever certain symbols land within its borders. As players increase their bet, the Strike Zone immediately expands to reflect the player’s added investment toward extra bonus opportunities. Star Watch Magma and Star Watch Fire are Strike Zone games that include progressive jackpots and have achieved incredibly strong performance. These single screen game themes for Concerto Crescent and Stack allow players to increase the Strike Zone by entire reel strips from left to right, up to the entire frame. Any random prize symbols that land in the Strike Zone instantly award a credit prize or a wheel spin bonus with guaranteed Mini, Major, Mega, or Maxi progressive jackpot.
The industry has also seen strong demand for progressive games with a “what you see is what you get” mechanic. These games give players the instant satisfaction of watching their awards tally higher and higher as they collect a series of multiple prize symbols. Konami’s Money Galaxy linked progressive series features this type of “Stick & Spin” play mechanic. Throughout primary play, any three or more bonus prize symbols appearing with a wild symbol on reel five trigger the Money Galaxy feature. Those positions become fixed while the remaining positions transform to independently-spinning reels, for up to three rounds of collecting credit symbols and progressive jackpot awards, up to the ultimate linked Maxi jackpot. Thunder Arrow is another new linked progressive series with a “Stick & Spin” mechanic. In this game series, the bonus feature begins with instant credit prizes and progressive jackpots already fixed across the reel frame. Blank symbols and glowing target symbols spin behind the prizes, sending arrows flying whenever a target lands and awards a corresponding prize. This all-new series its set to be featured at G2E 2018 on Concerto upright and Slant.
Konami is also bringing new engaging formats to the casino sector that are unlike anything else available to market. “One such example is our award-winning Fortune Cup mechanical horse racing game, which has achieved sweeping expansion across North America,” Walther said. “Not only does it feature the industry’s most advanced technology in its category, Fortune Cup includes the option for a three-level progressive jackpot chance. This gives players the opportunity to aspire to serious potential jackpots, including a $20,000 Maxi.”
Crystal Cyclone is another unique community-style Konami progressive game, with several video slot stations surrounding a physical ball-drop bonus ring. Players have the opportunity to enter several different bonus game events involving brightly-colors balls that race around a central lighted roulette-style track for multiple random credit prizes and progressive jackpot awards.
When it comes to visual appeal incorporated into the company’s latest progressive games, Konami is focused on communicating added player value. “When players make an added investment toward a bonus chance, it is important to reinforce the resulting rewards and benefits,” Walther said. “For example, during G2E 2018 Konami is showcasing a new Reels Up linked progressive that visually unlocks increasing bonus reel spaces or wheel spin wedges as players increase their extra bet. Series debut titles like Vegas Rise and Expanding Egypt are focused on tangibly demonstrating to players how higher bet amounts provide greater value. This series is exclusively available on Konami’s new 43-inch 4K Ultra HD cabinet, called KX 43. It is making its industry debut at G2E 2018.”
Konami is bringing a broad variety of original progressive game developments to G2E 2018 across every cabinet type. KX 43’s exclusive game library is filled with a mix of integrated standalone and linked progressive game developments. Games like Vegas Rise, Diamond-izer, and Ba Fang Jin Bao will be showcased on the new video cabinet with top game play mechanics and bonus features for today’s players. Konami’s new 65-inch 4K Ultra HD Opus machine will debut a unique linked progressive called Treasure Ball, which rewards players with mystery jackpot prize balls in greater numbers and sizes as they increase their bet. Konami’s popular Dragon’s Law game will also be flying into Opus with new progressive jackpot opportunities, along with many more.