Reel-based games continue to play a central role in how today’s players experience slot game outcomes.

“As video slot product has evolved, new play experiences have emerged that are a departure from traditional reels,” said Steve Walther senior director, marketing and product management for Konami Gaming. “However, most slot machines currently in the market leverage slot reels as the primary game delivery method.”

And much like their video-based brethren, mechanical reel slot machines are adapting to constant technological advancements. For example, reel slots are now more active in delivering the latest game screen enhancements to the casino floor, including 4K Ultra HD resolution, allowing companies to showcase reel-based entertainment with enhanced game graphics and added depth for visual clarity with each spin.

“It’s an enhancement that pops from across the room and engages players that want to enjoy a captivating experience, with the popular game styles they recognize and enjoy,” said Walther.

New lighting features are also drawing attention to these games, as backlit reel strips have been proving to be a real success in recent years.  “Manufacturers have been getting much more innovative regarding their reel-style products with the usage of more vibrant lights and colorful reel strips with exciting sounds,” said Steven Slotwinski, chief technology officer at Eclipse Gaming. “These games have the same gameplay and feel as traditional reel-style slots but with a much more exciting punch.”

It’s clear that these ongoing changes have helped keep reel slot machines front-of-mind for many casino consumers.

“I believe that reel-style slots are just as popular now as they were 20 years ago,” said Slotwinski. “There will always be a place on the casino floor for them as new players tend to play this style of game due to its simplicity.  Also, players tend to play them for the higher volatility experience.”

Truth is, mechanical reel slot machines remain popular in all jurisdictions.  As long as there are slots, there will always be the players that enjoy the feeling of a reel-style slot machine.  “Having the feel of real physical feedback when playing slots gives players the feeling that the game is a truly random game and that no software is running the product, when in actuality it is,” said Slotwinski. 

Below you will see what a handful of the reel slot gaming manufacturers have been doing to help casino operators draw in players to the casino floor.

ECLIPSE GAMING

Eclipse Gaming primarily focuses on the Native American gaming market, as well as select commercial and international casino marketplaces. The company develops top performing games and innovative solutions that engage the audience and deliver measurable results for its casino, social and casual gaming partners, according to the company’s website.

Eclipse gaming has a variety of reel-style games that have proven to be quite popular.  Most recent titles, Super Slots of Cash—Bull Booster and Super Slots of Cash—Re-spin each add a unique re-spin feature to the base game (without requiring an additional wager) that retriggers the third reel following a close call for a second chance to win or to win bigger. Both reel games are giving players an innovative twist to the classic three-reel, one-line game with the introduction of the re-spin feature.

The Super Slots of Cash—Bull Booster features five Wild Multipliers appearing on the first reel which multiply the line win by 2x, 3x, 4x, 5x, or 10x. The top award is triggered by 10X Wild Symbol / Bull Symbol / Bull Symbol. A free re-spin of the third reel is awarded when the pay line is one symbol away from a win on the third reel and if there is no winning event using a symbol on the third reel.

Meanwhile, the Super Slots of Cash—Re-spin offers five wild multipliers appearing on the first reel which multiply the line win by 2x, 3x, 4x, 5x, or 10x. The top award is triggered by 10X wild symbol / symbol / symbol, and a free re-spin of the third reel is awarded when the pay line is one symbol away from a win on the third reel and if there is no winning event using a symbol on the third reel.

“We also have a few more in the development process that add additional entertaining features and will debut at G2E this year,” said Slotwinski.

IGT

Mechanical reel slots have been a cornerstone of IGT’s portfolio for several decades. The company’s leadership in this segment reportedly dates back to the S+ and S2000 gaming machines and was propelled with the introduction of the S3000 cabinet. Most recently, this position of strength is exemplified through new games such as the Dragon Fortune linked core game, IGT’s Class II and Class III games on the S3000XL cabinet, as well as the new Wheel of Fortune titles for the Megatower and CrystalWheel + Stepper cabinets.

 

Wheel of Fortune Gold Spin Triple Gold reel slot from IGT
The Wheel of Fortune Gold Spin Triple Gold reel slot from IGT

 

Dragon of Fortune is a multi-level progressive debuting spinning-reel release. This three-reel MultiWay game features 27 ways to win and is packed with player excitement including frequent base game features, a free games bonus and progressive jackpot action. Players can be drawn into the stacked wild symbol on the center reel. This symbol is the heart of the game and can initiate several big-win features from the base game or the free games bonus. During play, if only a portion of the stacked wild symbol lands on the top or bottom symbol position it may award a win multiplier of up to 88X and can also nudge to fill the entire reel. Also, if the wild symbol lands in the center position or nudges up or down to fill the entire reel, players may be awarded the progressive pick bonus. 

The progressive pick bonus can be randomly triggered during the base game or the free games bonus any time the stacked wild symbol lands or nudges to the center position on the center reel. Players choose one of three dragons—each dragon can reveal up to eight different prizes including bonus credits, multipliers, free games or progressive jackpots. Players can also win more than one progressive with a single pick. The free games bonus can be triggered from a qualifying base game spin, or through the pick bonus. Before the free games begin, players select their desired number of free games and associated multiplier ranges—the odds of hitting random multipliers, wild symbols, free games retriggers and the pick bonus are all increased during the free games, and every free game spin is a guaranteed win.  Additional free games are awarded when the green orb symbol lands on reels one or three.

Wheel of Fortune Gold Spin Triple Gold Slots is a three-reel, five-line stepper slot game that introduces IGTs new MEGATOWER gaming machine and comes with a 27-inch mechanical wheel. This wide area progressive (WAP) is available starting at the five-coin bet level, incentivizing higher wagers. In this game, tripler symbols are available across all three reels and when used in a win, will multiply the payout by 3x, 9x or 27x the normal pay. Players have the option of participating in the Gold Spin bonus wheel by wagering seven or more credits, and two wheel bonuses offer players higher chances of big wins.

The Gold Spin bonus game is triggered when the Gold Spin symbol lands on reel three. Players may be awarded the Wheel bonus with a 3x, 7x or 15x multipliers from the virtual wheel, giving them a unique gaming experience. The Wheel of Fortune Physical Wheel bonus also offers higher wins and is triggered when the SPIN symbol lands on reel three. This is the first large-format single Wheel of Fortune release and it pairs the most successful brand of slots with IGT’s biggest cabinet to date.

The Triple Gold stepper math model is a proven performer and, when combined with the Gold Spin game bonus dynamic, keeps players engaged in long play sessions. The 10-credit wager increases pays to provide a better base game experience and offers players the best chance to win the jackpot.  The WAP bonus can be won during the base game by landing a combination of Wheel of Fortune Triple Gold symbols on payline one. And to help draw attention to the game one the casino floor, it features enhanced lighting and displays, a black chrome finish, and themed sideplex panels create a sleek design.

KONAMI GAMING

Reel-based slot entertainment has been at the heart of Konami Gaming’s casino games business since it was established in 1997. The company has a proven track record in reel-based games, and it continues to be a major part of its global business.

Konami’s Reels Up series for KX 43 showcases an original mechanic that uniquely leverages traditional slot reels. Whenever Reels Up arrow symbols land on reels one and two, it causes reel three to expand upward for the chance at instant guaranteed awards, including progressive jackpots and random multipliers. Reel four and reel five also expand up to potential prize opportunities when arrows land in each of the preceding reels. The Reels Up linked progressive series is available across four original base game themes: Vegas Rise, Mayan Times, Expanding Egypt and Hong Kong Lights.

Ba Fang Jin Bao is another linked progressive series available for KX 43 that includes a reel-based primary game. Any time a gold ingot symbol lands on the reels, players have a chance at the progressive jackpot feature. When the progressive feature is triggered, 12 gold ingots appear across the screen, which players tap to reveal a corresponding progressive jackpot prize. When three matching jackpot symbols are uncovered, the player is awarded the corresponding jackpot amount.

This summer for the first time, Konami’s reel-based Dragon’s Law series is joining forces with its SeleXion multi-game technology for an entirely new Dragon’s Law Opus SeleXion pack in 4K Ultra HD. Dragon’s Law SeleXion showcases a pair of progressive jackpot games, each championed by the iconic long-tailed dragon first popularized on the company’s Podium cabinet. In Dragon’s Law Boosted, players can enjoy the familiar five-reel game or select the “BOOSTED” button to double the lines with double the reel frame. In addition to the random wild feature, Dragon’s Law Boosted has a random progressive jackpot chance, including a $5,000+ Maxi. 

The SeleXion companion title to Dragon’s Law Boosted is Dragon’s Law Rapid Fever, which showcases the Dragon’s Law mystery wild feature with high-reward potential. When the long-tailed dragon randomly flies down to the reels to scatter extra wild symbols, each wild includes an instant credit prize, wheel-spin bonus or progressive jackpot. Players can win multiple jackpots and/or wheel-spin bonuses in a single spin, and every wheel spin bonus is guaranteed a prize.

The company is incorporating new technologies into its reel-slot games with mechanics such as Konami’s Strike Zone, which is an original bonusing mechanic that is delivered through a traditional reel-based primary game to reward players for betting up the button panel. The Strike Zone is an activated area of the reels that players can 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, while the familiar reel-based delivery of the game is still maintained. Games including Star Watch Magma, Star Watch Jungle, Rising Koi, Hao Yun Lai, and Dragon’s Law Rapid Fever each reflect this balance between familiar slot reel mechanics and new bonusing innovation. 

 

Konami’s Thunder Arrow
Konami’s Thunder Arrow is a linked progressive series available in its Concerto Upright and Slant cabinets.

 

“The industry has also seen strong acceptance for games with a ‘what you see is what you get’ bonusing mechanic,” said Walther. These games transform traditional reel symbols into instant credit prizes, which become fixed when awarded while the remaining positions spin for the opportunity at additional wins. Konami offers this type of Stay & Spin bonus feature in games such as Gold of Tenochtitlan, Money Galaxy and Thunder Arrow. Thunder Arrow is a linked progressive series available now for Concerto Upright and Slant. In this game series, the bonus feature begins with instant credit prizes and progressive jackpot symbols already fixed across the entire reel frame. Blank symbols and glowing target symbols spin behind the prizes, sending arrows flying whenever a target lands and awards a corresponding prize. Players are awarded three spins at the start of the feature and each time a target lands, an extra spin is added back to the player to continue the feature until no spins remain.

“Creativity and good mathematics are key to the future success of reel-based slots,” said Walther. “Creativity gives players that memorable entertainment factor, and we’ll continue to see outstanding new concepts and iterations on how reel-based outcomes are delivered. However, the long-term success of a title is largely reliant on the game math and how it keeps players engaged over time.”