Cutting-edge progressive jackpot technology is sparking a slot machine evolution on brick-and-mortar gaming floors across the U.S. and around the world.
Indeed, at a growing number of gaming facilities, the space that was once reserved for the latest licensed or exclusive standalone slot games is now taken by linked progressive slot concepts. More and more customers are demanding a linked progressive game experience, operators are complying and moving these machines to showcase areas on the slot floor—and it’s a trend that shows no sign of slowing anytime soon, and to which manufacturers are responding with a constant stream of new product.
“We’re seeing progressive slots that combine linked and standalone jackpots, progressives linked across banks of themed games, games featuring linked and mystery, must-hit jackpots and new and exciting play mechanics that can trigger the jackpot award,” said Mark DeDeaux, senior director of slot products at AGS. “Some of these games can even award multiple progressives on a single bonus spin.”
This flood of new progressive product not only satisfies consumer demand, it offers promotional advantage to operators.
“Progressives allow casinos to expand their gaming marketing messages,” said Kathleen McLaughlin, vice president of marketing and product management for Novomatic Americas. “There are so many popular categories of progressives for players and with each type varying marketing focus.”
For example, one new concept that is gaining traction among the jackpot-seeking group of slot players is the must-hit-by progressive, also known as a mystery progressive. These games add excitement to the play experience because the jackpot must pay by the displayed value, and their interest grows as the jackpot gets closer to that amount.
In addition to appealing to gamers dreaming of a large jackpot win, linked progressives are also proving popular with players who seek volatility, thanks to increased hit frequencies for jackpot amounts that seem believable and realistically attainable. Over time, players have become increasingly interested in winning lower achievable progressive prizes with occasional chances to win larger jackpot prizes. “Many of today’s most popular progressive slots don’t offer large frequently hitting jackpots, but rather more frequent-hitting smaller jackpot awards that keep the levels of excitement and anticipation high,” said DeDeaux.
Progressive technology is also offering some advantages to suppliers, such as the ability to group a family of similar games into a seemingly single package, creating a greater customer-attracting presence on the slot floor. Constantly evolving progressive slot cabinets are also helping to generate new game hype and interest from potential players.
“New cabinets make the biggest impact when they uncover new ways to deliver strong content,” said Greg Colella, vice president, games product management at Konami Gaming. “Fresh cabinet types and specialty formats help expand the possibilities for delivering jackpot bonus experiences to players. With the growth of portrait-oriented game cabinets and large-screen displays, players can enjoy new kinds of jackpot events and bonus mechanics.”
With new hardware trending towards larger screen sizes, progressive awards can be more predominantly displayed and become a more active and relevant part of certain themes. The larger screen sizes can also provide game designers with a grander creative opportunity for incorporating progressives into new game mechanics.
“Merchandising on slot cabinets also adds to the appeal of progressives, with integrated media, visual displays, celebratory audio, and game-synchronized jackpots that envelop the player in the play experience and add attraction across the casino floor,” said DeDeaux.
Casino operators seeking the marketing draw created by large jackpots and frequent-hitting smaller jackpot alike, continue to reserve space on the floor for progressive slot machines. What follows are the latest innovations in progressive game play and system technologies from a few of the large slot manufacturers.
AGS got its start in the Class II tribal gaming market, where progressive jackpots were an important way to drive excitement in games that were powered by an electronic bingo-based math model. Class II games have become more sophisticated over the years to the point where players can barely recognize the difference between a Class II and Class III games anymore. But DeDeaux remarked that AGS learned early, through its experience as one of the leading slot providers to the Class II market, that linked progressives drive high levels of player engagement.
“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 DeDeaux. “One of our most well-known products in this space is Xtreme Jackpots, and one of the reasons for its continued success is that it works on almost any AGS slot cabinet, which means there are more games on the progressive link driving the jackpot higher. Our game developers have also built-in some incredible win celebrations to complement our fast and frequently hitting jackpots, which adds to the excitement.”
When looking at AGS’ game portfolio, the majority of the company’s games feature progressives. At G2E, AGS will be unveiling two new slots cabinets, and its new Orion Rise, which at eight-feet tall in a dual-screen platform, is the perfect cabinet to highlight multi-level progressives. “We offer it with these incredible LED ‘totem-style’ displays that can be synchronized with gameplay to really celebrate the progressive wins,” said DeDeaux.
On the Orion Rise, AGS offers an exciting wheel surge feature highlighted by five wheels on the large top screen. When the bottom wheel spins, the player can win one of the five progressives or credit awards along with a spectacular visual experience.
“We’re also excited about our first foray into curved cabinets with our new Orion 49C, featuring a 49-inch, ultra-HD, curved LCD display, digital topper and our trademark starwall lighting design,” said DeDeaux. Like the Orion Rise, the Orion 49C is designed to celebrate wins with game-synchronized LED lights. One of the game families that is launching for the 49C, Majestic Riches, offers an exciting jackpot feature in which the player collects firecrackers and fills up a reel to win the associated progressive.
The company also plans to unveil its Jackpot Reels titles at G2E, which add a new dimension to the hold and spin play mechanic—each reel is associated with one of the five progressive jackpots; if the player fills up the row, they’ll win the credits and the associated jackpot. The company also believes that its Lucky Stacks family will be a big draw at the show, with stacking symbols that award progressives and a choose-your-own volatility free games feature that offers the player a choice between more spins or added wilds.
Everi has created successful games for local area and standalone 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 in 2018 and the great gypsy king Zoltar in 2019, both on the company’s Player Classic mechanical cabinet. A large percentage of Everi’s newest video themes also incorporate progressives in a variety of ways.
The company believes its high-denomination three-reel mechanical games with progressives dominate the industry. Recent successes in this category are Super Jackpot and Willie Nelson. The company believes these games succeed because of their simple game play, frequent anticipation, enticing upside, familiar mechanics and clear pay tables.
Everi plans to showcase its “enormous” premium mechanical bank Zoltar and the Grand Wheel series on its Skyline Revolve mechanical top box offering along with a number of other exciting progressive products at G2E. Jackpot Rush on the Empire MPX cabinet features a climbable progressive ladder that is triggered by a single symbol landing during a unique base game event. Two new Wicked Wheel themes will be shown that incorporate the company’s proven mechanic where the lowest progressive prize is removed if the player picks a certain symbol, guaranteeing one of the larger progressives is won. These are just two of the many titles planned to be showcased at G2E that feature progressives.
Konami’s progressive game offerings include a number of proven applications—spanning standalone to linked, and beyond. “We began with a la carte standalone and linked progressive games, which are designed with the compatibility to combine with a strong library of base game themes,” said Colella. “Games like Quick Strike, Pirate’s Loot and Jackpot Streams have achieved incredible popularity with this format and allow operators the flexibility to take their players’ favorite slot themes and add an extra level of excitement.”
Konami’s latest release in this category is Treasure Ball, featured on Konami’s big-screen Concerto Opus and KX 43. Treasure Ball can be recognized by its large globe of round mystery prize balls, which players can redeem and reveal during the bonus. As a unique attract feature, Treasure Ball’s long-tailed dragon character periodically flies across all connected screens simultaneously with incredible effect. In addition, Treasure Ball can combine with many KP3+ base games, including Lion Carnival, Cobra Hearts, Sparkling Roses and more.
Konami also designs integrated progressive jackpots within select game series. These can be standalone progressive titles, as in the case of its proven Star Watch series and with the company’s new Dragon’s Law SeleXion package. Built-in progressives can also include linked progressive product, with games like Ba Fang Jin Bao and Chili Chili Fire Boosted Wins & Wilds. All of these games showcase symbol-driven linked jackpot events, designed to drive player interest and attention toward specific bonus feature opportunities.
“Konami’s development expertise extends to community-style linked progressives as well, which allow players to jointly share in the excitement of a linked bonus event,” said Colella. “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 Konami to pioneer a multi-station progressive called Titan 360—a massive three-ton, 10-foot tall attraction.”
Konami’s Strike Zone has become a popular method of progressive jackpot delivery. 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 were the first progressive games premiere this mechanic. Dragon’s Law Rapid Fever is among our latest Strike Zone games to feature a symbol-driven progressive jackpot mechanic.
Among Konami’s most anticipated new titles for KX 43 is a symbol-driven linked progressive series called Fortune Mint, with coin symbols that transform to random multipliers and jackpot symbols when appearing in a highlighted section of the reel frame. Fortune Mint is recognizable by the giant glowing coin that shimmers across the upper part of the screen. It features three progressive jackpot levels, including a $10,000+ Maxi. Launch themes Fu Gui You Yu and Fu Xing Gao Zhao are landing at G2E 2019 with custom pod and sign display options for both KX 43 and Opus.
Konami’s proven Opus machine also provides a look at some of the industry’s most promising progressive games. Treasure Lounge includes progressive jackpots and a novel play mechanic that doesn’t involve traditional spinning reels. When the player hits spin, various Tiki symbols rise onto the screen in five columns of random height. Any columns which are tall enough to reach the credit prize symbols displayed in the upper part of the screen then claim those rewards.
Konami’s SYNKROS casino management system offers casino properties a variety of options for system-delivered bonus events—including progressives—that allow players to experience floor-wide jackpot games from any equipped machine, regardless of manufacturer. The company also allows casino properties to create and configure their own custom progressive games using the system-delivered progressive functionality of SYNKROS Progressive Management (SPM). Seamlessly integrated into SYNKROS, it provides multiple configuration options spanning standard pay table progressives, mystery triggered progressives, carded mystery-triggered progressives and multi-game/single-game cabinet specifications.
“Konami is focused on building bonus events and special features that award jackpots in ways that are engaging, memorable and interactive,” Colella said. “Whether it’s an entertaining brand extension like Chili Chili Fire Boosted Wins & Wilds, or a brilliant Asian-inspired series like Ba Fang Jin Bao, Konami is delivering entertainment that’s fun and unique for diverse player demographics.”
From progressive links such as Fort Knox and Party Time to the most successful slot theme of all time, Wheel of Fortune, progressive slots have long-been an integral component of IGT’s product portfolio. “Our leadership in wide area progressive technology has differentiated IGT for many years, and our Wheel of Fortune, Powerbucks and Megabucks games continue to lead in awarding life-changing slots jackpots,” said Michael Brennan, vice president product management for IGT.
Progressives are not just limited to the company’s premium portfolio however. IGT leverages progressive jackpots in many ways: bolt-on progressives, mystery progressives, linked progressives, progressive free games, video poker progressives and beyond. IGT also leverages its WAP technology to enable non-monetary jackpot prizes such as the guitars that players can win while playing IGT’s Blake Shelton and Adam Levine games on the CrystalCurve ULTRA cabinet.
For IGT, the introduction of jumbo cabinets such as the Megatower cabinet with Wheel of Fortune games is an example of pairing exceptional hardware with a great theme and captivating gameplay to drive play. Technological advances in hardware such as 4K displays and enhanced lighting and audio continue to increase the attractiveness and performance of these games on casino floors. IGT houses many of its most successful MLPs on the CrystalCurve cabinet; one of IGT’s top-performing cabinets. In the stepper category, IGT added a jackpot meter to its S3000 Classic cabinet that enables the company to promote progressives on classic IGT mechanical reel games.
Games with progressives will reportedly account for a significant portion of IGT’s G2E portfolio. An entire section of its booth will include five banks and nine unique progressive concepts. “We’ll be demonstrating a variety of MLPs such as Takes the Cake 2 / Candy Bars 2 [they’re on the same link], Dragon Lights and Fortune Coin Boost that build on proven IGT game themes and mechanics, yet introduce new experiences for the player,” said Brennan.
IGT has links across the portfolio including Red Hot Tamales Jackpots on S3000 and Cash Link Deluxe, a sequel to Wheel of Fortune Cash Link that brings even more focus to jackpots and progressives.
Novomatic Group of Companies established Novomatic Americas in order to bring state-of-the-art Novomatic gaming equipment to the North American and Caribbean markets. Novomatic Americas leverages the design, market research and experience of both the Austrian group’s R&D department and Mount Prospect studios, to create market-specific products that are tailor-made for North America.
This year at G2E, Novomatic Americas will focus on progressives with several links: Thunder Cash Link, Money Party Link, Samurai Beauty, Pay Day and Dragon Hits. The company’s products continue to evolve and so has its progressive offerings.
“Matt Ward and our development team understands players are drawn to the values in the progressive meters,” said McLaughlin. “Our goal is to ensure the player can find their perfect progressive game by using dynamic visuals and audio to inform neighboring players of hits and progressive awards. It is important for players to shop a floor and identify their progressive top award from over 10 feet away. We focus on highly visible graphics with a good value proposition and a dynamic entertainment experience.”
Novomatic Americas will feature entertaining progressive products at its G2E booth. The company also plans to continue to provide proven math models with exceptional game mechanics and graphics. “Novomatic Americas will continue to bring new, engaging progressive links that are new and exciting to market, because we are in the progressive game to stay,” said McLaughlin.