International Game Technology PLC (IGT) was built on video poker. According to the company’s website, in 1979, Si Redd and Sircoma (the former company that later became IGT) introduced its very first game patent—a single-game family video poker title called Fortune 1 Draw Poker. Fast forward to 1981… video poker had become the most popular new slot game in casinos, and IGT introduced the concept of video poker bundling with its release of the Game King multi-game.
The company has been innovating in the video poker space ever since. For example, IGT has always believed players are inclined to try out and enjoy new gaming concepts, and in 2002 the company developed a game based on a new patent which used a sixth coin to fund a bonus, which became Super Times Pay Poker game. According to IGT, Super Times Pay Poker game was, and still is, a phenomenal success and it proved that if a feature was compelling and occurred frequently enough, players would pay for it.
The company used the same coin formula for several games, until the next big title: Ultimate X Poker. The concept behind the Ultimate X Poker game was earning multipliers on winning hands, where the multipliers are awarded on the next hand. The challenge was to fund this bonus feature properly, which meant being able to charge five extra coins per hand. IGT was convinced that this was a bonus players would be happy to fund. As a result, Ultimate X Poker game reportedly still is the fastest growing game the company has ever developed.
To talk more about the companies trends that paved the way to their successes, IGT’s Darnell Johnson, director video poker product management, took some time to answer questions from Slot Management & Marketing Contributing Editor Joan Mantini on the company’s observations, involvement and integrations in the video poker market. What follows are his responses:
Can you describe the typical poker machine player?
JOHNSON: Video poker players are typically quite loyal to that genre of gaming. In many instances they are more change-adverse than other types of casino patrons, and they often have more frequent and longer player sessions than slot players enjoy. This trend is not new; we’ve seen video poker players exhibit these tendencies for many years and IGT takes these behaviors into consideration when developing our video poker product roadmap and go-to-market strategies.
How have poker machines evolved over the years?
JOHNSON: IGT’s video poker portfolio has significantly evolved over the years—both with hardware and the content. As an industry, we’ve made meaningful progress since the early days of small displays and eight-bit graphics. Today, IGT video poker content is available on a range of our leading hardware solutions including the CrystalSlant 27 cabinet that features HD graphics, a mobile device charging port and an ergonomic design. IGT also offers video poker content on large-format cabinets, upright hardware with mechanical wheels in the top box and a highly versatile bartop portfolio.
IGT’s continued leadership in the video poker space can also be credited to our continued content innovation. For example, IGT leverages multipliers, tournament experiences, multi-hand games and more to keep our game content fresh and engaging to players who seek new video poker experiences.
How are current casino/gaming trends effecting poker machine play?
JOHNSON: In my experience, general casino trends have not had dramatic impacts on IGT’s video poker customers. I think this phenomenon goes back to the loyalty of video poker players; they tend to be genre purists who stay loyal to their favorite video poker titles and paytables.
What advantages do poker machines give to players over playing poker at the tables?
JOHNSON: Video poker and live table games offer entirely different player experiences in my view. Video poker offers a more intimate, private experience that players can enjoy at their own pace. Additionally, less experienced poker players often gravitate toward video poker, as it affords an environment where game familiarization might be more comfortable.
Where do you see the future of poker machines within casinos?
JOHNSON: IGT is optimistic about the future of the video poker market and its associated growth opportunities for our customers. This is a segment of our business where we have established and maintained market leadership for many years. We realize however, that we cannot become complacent with our innovation strategy or lose sight of our customers’ and their players’ needs.
What new IGT video poker products are you most excited about?
JOHNSON: IGT’s video poker roadmap has many things to be excited about. Our recent game releases include Fire Poker, Multi-Strike Platinum and, my favorite, Lucky 8s Wheel Poker. Lucky 8s Wheel Poker is an innovative theme that features a mechanical wheel in the top box and has Asian-themed bonus events—something unique for video poker. I am also very optimistic about our large-format, multi-hand games that deal up to 100 hands at a time on our Poker XL cabinet. We are also now leveraging player-favorite poker brands such as Ultimate X and Super Times Pay in our keno portfolio to create really dynamic games such as Ultimate X Keno and Super Times Pay Keno.
IGT displays video poker-based keno machines at ICE London
IGT’s video poker business is not limited to casinos within the U.S. Indeed, video poker has proven to be a popular gaming machine concept in select markets throughout Europe, Asia and other areas of the world.
Building on the company’s video poker leadership, IGT demonstrated several new video poker games at last month’s ICE London exposition—the largest and most well-known international trade show in the gaming industry. At the event, IGT showcased many of its successful video poker concepts, including the latest version of the wildly popular Game King suite.
Along with Game King, IGT displayed Ultimate X Keno and Super Times Pay Keno, keno games that leverage popular IGT video poker game mechanics. According to press materials, the new Ultimate X Keno game applies multipliers to a higher hit frequency paytable for a fresh take on the player favorite Four Card Keno game. Much like the poker version, Ultimate X Keno multipliers are card-specific, with the results of each card determining the multiplier applied to that card on the next game. This keeps multipliers between 2X and 12X appearing on one or more cards nearly every draw, creating non-stop action and excitement. Players must play all four cards at a minimum of eight credits total, driving coin-in even at lower denominations.
The new Super Times Pay Keno game is a Four Card Keno enhancement in which random multipliers of between 2X and 5X can appear anytime during the first half of the draw. Unlike other keno products with bonuses, Super Times Pay Keno uses a fifth coin bet to prevent lowering the base paytable, giving players fair paybacks even when the multiplier isn’t triggered. A single credit bonus bet qualifies all four keno cards to be eligible for the Super Times Pay multiplier, giving four card keno players maximum action at a comfortable bet level. Multiplier feature triggers twice as often on keno, keeping players engaged.
Ainsworth creates poker-like bonus feature for slot games
At G2E 2018, Ainsworth Game Technology offered casino operators and industry insiders a sneak peek at a unique piece of its innovative game development efforts. The new game—Cards of Cash—offers slot fanatics a fun card-based bonus feature that enables players to build hands to win a standalone progressive jackpot.
In the base game, players can win all the classic slot game line wins and a free games feature on a 50-line, 250- or 500-credit max bet configuration. The added fun comes during the Card Feature. Players have the opportunity to pick three cards from a deck that appears on the main game screen. Depending on the hand players pick, they win bonus prizes, credit awards or advance levels all the way up to a life-enhancing Progressive Jackpot.
“Cards of Cash makes a great addition to casino floors, especially when placed on end caps and areas around table games or video poker sections,” said Mike Trask, director of product management and marketing for Ainsworth. “It offers both slot players and video poker players a different experience.”
Card of Cash is scheduled to hit U.S. casino floors this summer. The game will be available on Ainsworth’s A640 and A560SL Noir portrait cabinets.