Progressive slots remain a hot concept for casino floors
There is nothing monolithic about the modern casino slot floor.
Indeed, the ongoing technological evolution in slot machine mechanics and game play, combined with the continuing diversification of the slot player base, has led to gaming areas that house machine concepts old, new and revolutionary; everything from traditional three-reel mechanical slots to the latest video format cabinets, slick licensed games to proprietary Asian-themed slots, skill-based arcade style entertainments to games based on virtual sports and virtual reality—the panoply of game choice is truly endless.
But through all these changes and additions to the slot floor, one thing has remained constant—slot patrons continue to search out and play progressive-style games above all others, a trend that shows little sign of abating, according to observers. When it comes to progressive slot games, the attraction of winning lower, more achievable prizes combined with the chance to play for large jackpot prizes remains as popular as ever.
“One trend we are seeing in the field is that players are more inclined to play a progressive game if the progressive values presented are perceived as achievable to the player,” said Loren Rosenberg, vice president, product and market strategy for Everi. “Conversely, operators desire lower exposure for these types of games so are calling on suppliers to lower the top reset progressive. To address this, we are beginning to offer progressive games that fit these wants, such as our Jackpot Alert banked series that is tailored for those players that prefer a single achievable progressive that is meaningful to their play experience.”
Simply stated, progressives continue to provide an extra boost of excitement that players can anticipate and celebrate. “They help build additional engagement between the game and the player looking for that ‘something extra,’” said Greg Colella, vice president, games product management for Konami Gaming. “By offering a mix of progressive entertainment options and new jackpot experiences, casinos keep customers excited and engaged on the casino floor.”
Linked progressives have been around for decades, but today’s symbol-driven mechanics are allowing the category to create some new unique and creative features and experiences. Other new play mechanics are also boosting progressive appeal.
“In recent years, linked progressives that feature player-selectable denomination games have made a splash, enabling players to take their gambling to the next level with higher bets without letting the top award get out of control,” said Rosenberg. “In addition, progressive pick bonus, operator configurable bet levels and special pick features that eliminate the lowest progressive tiers are trending.”
Players have grown to expect progressives available at any bet. “Popular linked games have set the new standard, and many manufacturers have adapted to make those big progressive awards available to all players, even those betting the minimum credit amount,” said Caitlin Harte, director of product marketing for Incredible Technologies.
Overhead signage and secondary screens incorporated into progressive slot cabinets have proven themselves critical on a slot floor as well. As cabinets grow taller, standing out and being visible across the floor is harder to achieve. What better way to advertise a game than by showing the potential of a huge progressive award? Integrated signage solutions, like Incredible Technologies’ Infinity Edge, create a cohesive bank look and provide an additional space to casino operators looking to add a game that will stand out. “Topper monitors did the trick a decade ago, but as monitors grow brighter and cabinets get taller, 4K signage or unique bank configurations stand out on an ever-crowded slot floor,” Harte said.
To meet the demands of the evolving progressive slot player’s expectations and help casino operators attract these players to their gaming floor, slot manufacturers are continuously integrating new technologies and games into their progressive slot gaming portfolios. What follows are some of the latest progressive game updates from some leading slot manufacturers.
The ability to chase and hit progressive jackpots tremendously enhances player excitement and interaction with the game, especially when the prizes escalate quickly and hit frequently, according to Eclipse Gaming.
The design of the company’s progressive games has changed substantially in recent years, so there is a now a great deal of innovation and integration between the game features and how they tie to the progressives. So while progressives have been standard in the gaming industry for many years, Eclipse is bringing new innovations to a proven feature by increasing the number of jackpots and hit frequencies.
“Eclipse has incorporated many new features into its games, including pick games and wheel bonuses, which award progressives and create an entertaining experience for our players,” said Orrin Edidin, president and chief business officer for Eclipse Gaming.
Progressive slots are reportedly among some of the most sought-after titles in the Eclipse game library, giving players the opportunity to win frequently as they pursue multiple progressives. For example, the company recently launched Cash Lanterns, the first theme in its Anyline Progressive series. What makes Anyline Progressive innovative are the nine rapidly growing progressives—each one tied directly to one of the nine pay lines in the game, as well as a top-level progressive which may be awarded from any line. With many progressive levels, especially when operators bank these games together, players are enticed by high hit frequencies and the number of progressive jackpots tied to the individual pay lines.
At the upcoming NIGA show, Eclipse will showcase Jackpot Spins High Roller and The $ Vault, two new games that feature multiple progressives. Jackpot Spins High Roller offers stacked wilds and a unique, horizontal prize wheel that drops up to three progressive jackpots and various credits into activated chutes on the reels below, taking progressives and wheel games in an entirely new direction.
The $ Vault is a classic three-reel game offered in both a one-line and a five-line versions. Players are challenged to land three bonus symbols—each which unlocks one of the three locks on the vault door—to reveal the riches inside. When all locks are activated the player enters the Wheel Spin bonus for the chance to win all three progressive jackpots off a single wheel spin.
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. It 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 gypsy king Zoltar in 2019, both on the company’s Player Classic mechanical cabinet.
A large percentage of Everi’s newest video themes also reportedly incorporate progressives in a variety of ways including the recently launched licensed titles The Mask, based on New Line Cinema’s 1994 comedy, and The Karate Kid, based on the feature film franchise that debuted in 1984, on the new Empire DCX cabinet.
Everi recently introduced Wicked Wheel Panda and Wicked Wheel Fire Phoenix on its new Empire Flex cabinet that features the unique 243 Ways to win feature, enabling players to win progressive jackpots at any bet level. Like Smokin’ Hot Stuff Wicked Wheel game, both games feature a progressive pick bonus that removes the lowest progressive value and a wheel bonus with multiplied credits and progressives.
“Smokin’ Hot Stuff Jackpot Respins on the Empire MPX cabinet presents a unique take on our popular lock-and-respin feature that uses mini games that add another layer of excitement,” said Rosenberg. “Jackpot Alert on the Core HDX cabinet is a bit different as it presents a single, achievable progressive. In sum, these games enable players to win attainable progressives in creative, exciting ways.”
Everi believes its high-denomination three-reel mechanical games with progressives dominate the industry. Recent successes in this category are Super Jackpot and Willie Nelson. “We believe these games succeed because of their simple game play, frequent anticipation, enticing upside, familiar mechanics and clear pay tables,” said Rosenberg. Two of the company’s latest three-reel mechanical titles, Electric Triple Wheel and Blazin’ Triple Wheel, preserve these features, but with a twist to game mechanics that includes a multi-level wheel element.
“In the video segment, our games’ lock-and-respin features as well as progressive pick and wheel bonuses are popular among players which can be found in our new Asian-themed Wicked Wheel Series and Power Shot Series on Empire Flex,” said Rosenberg. “Our Cherry Bomb Series on Empire MPX features a ‘reel rush’ element that is triggered by five or more mini-reels, where mini games give players the chance for 2x-5x multipliers plus progressives. The Vault on Empire Arena presents an innovative community style play where players compete against each other on the bank for a chance to win any of four exciting progressives.”
The company plans to keep progressives a meaningful part of the math ride with its mechanical themes and continue to identify new and interesting ways to incorporate progressives into game mechanics on the video side.
“We don’t foresee progressive games going away anytime soon so we will continue to use operator and player feedback to inform product strategy and identify even more ways to creatively present progressive games with values that are perceived by players as both rewarding and achievable,” said Rosenberg.
Progressive slots have long been an integral component of IGT’s product portfolio and an area of differentiation for the company. IGT pioneered WAP with the Wheel of Fortune and Megabucks families and the company continues to expand its WAP portfolio with new True 4D titles such as Wheel of Fortune Wheel Mobile and Wheel of Fortune More Money. IGT’s progressive portfolio extends beyond WAP games with a library of core and premium progressive titles such as the market-defining Fort Knox theme and the Fortune Coin game.
“From new math models to larger-than-life merchandizing packages, the casino floor is ever evolving,” said Michael Brennan, vice president product management for IGT. “IGT leverages progressive jackpots in many ways: bolt-on progressives, mystery progressives, linked progressives, progressive free games, video poker progressives and beyond.”
Last year, IGT released Fortune Coin which has reportedly become a player-favorite among progressive enthusiasts and won Best Slot Game at the British Casino Awards at ICE 2020. The engaging title gives players the ability to boost progressives and win multiple progressives. IGT is releasing the next iteration of Fortune Coin with Fortune Coin Boost which builds on the success of Fortune Coin and takes it to the next level.
“We’ve seen player preference for the way a bonus jackpot is delivered change over the last several years,” said Brennan. “We’ve responded to this change by incorporating player-favorite game mechanics with new features that build player excitement. IGT’s Scarab Grand video slots is an excellent example of this approach. The game includes the frequently occurring, high-paying Wild Stays Charges, Then Pays feature along with the 10-game wilds feature that builds anticipation for an engaging gaming experience.”
Portrait screen cabinets are reportedly lending themselves well in the progressive space for IGT, and the company’s CrystalCurve gaming machine is no exception. At G2E, IGT unveiled its latest portrait screen cabinet with the PeakSlant 49 gaming machine. The news cabinet features a curved, 49-inch, ultra-HD display, a 13.3-inch Dynamic Player Panel and series of tech-advanced features such as a wireless charging port for personal devices. The cabinet is backed by a library of games and was shown for the first time with the progressive game, Scarab Link.
“IGT remains deeply committed to this product segment and we continue to challenge ourselves to come up with innovative ways to integrate progressives into the game play,” said Brennan.
“Over the course of 2020, the company has plans to release a host of progressive titles that promise to deliver unrivaled gaming experiences, engage players and drive growth for its customers around the world.”
Incredible Technologies (IT) first entered the gaming market in 2011 with a unique product catalog which included one of its first hit titles, Crazy Money, though it took a couple of years until the company introduced its first game with a progressive. In 2014, IT released Crazy Money II, the follow up title to the original, which featured a standalone progressive, something the company realized may attract a different kind of slot player to its games. Ever since, IT has continuously worked to improve the bonusing elements that surrounds the excitement of winning a progressive, by adding the option to link the progressive amounts across machines and promoting the large jackpots using integrated overhead signage such as the company’s Super Skybox display.
IT’s Roller Wheel game family debuted on the new Infinity Summit cabinet at G2E 2019. “The Money Roll and Jungle Roll titles are some of our first to feature progressives at any bet level,” said Harte. “The recognizable brand paired with a new cabinet and huge progressive jackpots have made the nationwide rollout a success. Roller Wheel titles are also player selectable multi-denomination, so players can switch their bet and denom around without having to worry about progressive award eligibility.”
The company’s two Roller Wheel titles feature a wheel bonus designed to hit frequently. The Roller Wheel is displayed above the main game screen to keep players’ attention on the reels and attract patrons across the casino floor. Once that wheel is triggered, it moves down to player’s eye level and can be spun for free spins, multipliers, jackpots and progressives. With bonus-within-a-bonus capabilities, players can see the potential for big wins and extended gameplay.
“We’re seeing success in video-linked progressive games with a fairly high hit frequency,” Harte said. “Operators seem to be steering away from WAP as more and more core games can integrate interesting progressive events. Hits like Lightning Link set the precedent and now players expect those high-frequency hit rates with attainable jackpot amounts. With this trend now having been around for several years, it has grown familiar to both player and operator. We are interested to follow along to see what the next big innovation will be for slots with progressive awards.”
IT is working to make progressive slots appeal to players at any bet level and any budget—the company’s progressives activate at any bet and multidenomination-enabled titles are a step in that direction. “Progressive awards on slot machines have been around for a very long time and we don’t see that trend going anywhere, but there is always room to innovate on a proven feature,” said Harte.
Konami’s progressive game offering includes a number of proven applications—spanning standalone to linked and beyond. The company began with a la carte standalone and linked progressive games. Games like Quick Strike, Pirate’s Loot and Jackpot Streams have reportedly 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 also designs integrated progressive jackpots within select game series. These can be standalone progressive titles, as in the case of the company’s proven Star Watch series and with its new Dragon’s Law SeleXion package. Built-in progressives can also include linked progressive product, with games like Ba Fang Jin Bao and All Aboard. All of these games showcase symbol-driven linked jackpot events, designed to drive player interest and attention toward specific bonus feature opportunities.
“There is a desire from players to observe how an increased bet amount translates to extra value and observable benefit,” said Colella. “Konami’s Strike Zone feature is a bonusing mechanic that has been particularly successful in communicating this to players.”
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.
“Among North America’s highest performing titles, Dragon’s Law Rapid Fever is a new Konami Strike Zone game with a symbol-driven progressive jackpot mechanic,” said Colella. Throughout primary play in Dragon’s Law Rapid Fever, an activated Strike Zone area is outlined in blue, which players can expand from right to left by increasing their extra bet amount. Randomly, during or after any spin, the long-tailed dragon flies down to the reels to scatter wild symbols packed with a fever of random bonus prizes, including credit awards, wheel spins and progressive jackpots. All prizes that land within the selected Strike Zone are awarded, while those that land outside the Strike Zone serve as regular wild symbols.
Among Konami’s latest top series on its big-screen Concerto Opus and KX 43 is Ba Fang Jin Bao. Konami has released its third title in the series— Joy of Riches—which can link to Abundant Fortune and Fortune Totems with various merchandising options.
“Another leading linked progressive title is Treasure Ball—also featured on Opus and KX 43,” said Colella. “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.”
Guests at NIGA 2020 can experience a linked progressive series based on the Silent Hill horror franchise, developed out of KONAMI HOLDINGS CORPORATION’s video game division. “We’re bringing characters, scenes and encounters from that world to a new gaming format, with multiple bonus adventures, progressive jackpots and an incredibly memorable Stay & Spin feature,” said Colella.
Two launch titles, Silent Hill Escape and Silent Hill Return, are among the debut series for an entirely new video slot cabinet by Konami, called the DIMENSION 49J. All Aboard is another linked progressive series premiering on this new cabinet form factor. All Aboard has reportedly demonstrated success across competitive Australian markets and is bringing its popular Stay & Spin jackpot feature to even more audiences. Both Silent Hill and All Aboard will be featured at NIGA 2020.
Konami has recently released a number of symbol-driven progressive releases for the 65-inch 4K Ultra HD Opus, including the Triple Sparkle linked series. Bringing back Konami’s Sparkle Feature from Solstice Celebration and Riches with Daikoku, this top series showcases a third symbol transformation for the chance at instant jackpot prizes. This year Konami is releasing several new titles in this series, including Mystic Moon Triple Sparkle. It includes the player-favorite Triple Sparkle feature and comprehensive multi-denom options.
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.
Konami 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, SPM provides multiple configuration options spanning standard pay table progressives, mystery triggered progressives, carded mystery triggered progressives, and multi-game/single-game cabinet specifications. Because SPM can launch progressives to any slot machine on the floor with no additional in-machine hardware required, operators have the flexibility to deploy linked progressives to the exact banks or specific standalone machines, up to the entire floor.
“Konami is focused on building bonus events and special features that award jackpots in ways that are engaging, memorable and interactive,” said Colella. “Whether it’s an entertaining brand extension like Dragon’s Law Boosted or a brilliant Asian-inspired series like Ba Fang Jin Bao, Konami is delivering entertainment that’s fun and unique for diverse player demographic.”
When it comes to WAP, Scientific Games features its Reel Adventures and Cash Connection as jurisdictional WAP links on which some of the company’s most popular games are linked, such as the James Bond, MONOPOLY, The Wizard of Oz, Willy Wonka, and The Lord of the Rings series.
The 1,000,000 Degrees link is exclusively a Class II WAP link. The link was launched by Bally in 2008 with the successful 1,000,000 Degrees game, which continues to be a popular theme. “This year SG is revitalizing 1,000,000 Degrees with the launch of MONOPOLY Grand on the link, exclusively for the Class II market,” said Damien Greig, executive director of product management at Scientific Games.
Many of Scientific Games’ most successful game series feature near-area progressives designed to boost the excitement level of these products, according to company press materials. Game series with progressive features include:
- Quick Hit—The series has decades of proven performance and a library of player-favorite themes.
- Duo Fu Duo Cai—The internationally successful Duo Fu Duo Cai games series began with the original, 88 Fortunes game. Since then, other games have been added to this series that showcase the player-favorite features of this original game, as well as new features. All of the games showcase Asian imagery, four levels of progressive jackpots, unique free games bonuses and the Fu Bat Jackpot feature starring the famous Fu Babies. In the Fu Bat Jackpot feature, players pick to match three of four Fu Babies symbols that correspond to one of the four levels of linked progressive jackpots.
- Jin Ji Bao Xi—Jin Ji Bao Xi is the company’s top linked game in Asia and is the follow-up to the Duo Fu Duo Cai linked game series.
- Lock It Link—Lock It Link is a series built around the Lock It Link game mechanic that has proven to be a hit with players everywhere. SG currently has 13 successful Lock It Link games, each featuring the Lock It Link feature, two levels of linked progressive jackpots and other exciting bonus features.
- Ultimate Fire Link—This series showcases fast-paced, progressive games that are built around an action-packed Fire Link feature bonus mechanic, which is a lock-and-spin feature on an expanded reel set. During the feature, players can be awarded multiple progressive jackpots. There are currently 10 games in the series that offer multiple line and denomination configurations and feature four levels of linked progressive jackpots.
- Ultra Hot Mega Link—Ultra Hot Mega Link is the next evolution of the hit Ultimate Fire Link series, with themes like Amazon and India showcased on the TwinStar Wave XL and TwinStar J43 cabinets. This new series includes the Ultra Hot Mega Link feature that stars a new Ultra Hot Fireball symbol that adds credits or a mini jackpot to up to five other unlocked Fireballs around it.
In addition, some recently launched new titles will soon be offered in single-level, WAP configurations. This list of games includes:
- Dancing Drums Explosion—Dancing Drums Explosion, showcased on the TwinStar V75 cabinet, offers players the chance to win a life-changing WAP jackpot as part of SG’s WAP links. This game features a Free Spins bonus where players choose from five free game scenarios with expanded reels and the famous Fu Babies bonus where players pick to match three Fu Babies that correspond to one of four jackpots. In Dancing Drums Explosion, these bonuses are taken to the next level when triggered by gold symbols. If a Gold Drum symbol is part of the Free Game Bonus trigger, the reels expand for up to 32,768 ways to win. If the Fu Babies Bonus trigger includes a Gold Fu symbol, the jackpots upgrade to Gold jackpots and the Grand jackpot transforms into the Explosion Jackpot, a booming WAP jackpot.
- Bier Haus-Oktoberfest—The recently launched Bier Haus-Oktoberfest on the large-format TwinStar V75 cabinet, includes all of the Bier Haus features, now with bigger expanded reels, and bigger jackpots with the chance to win a life-changing WAP jackpot. There is also a new Bigger Mugs feature where a number of gigantic wild Mug symbols will spin and land on the reels, increasing the chance of a huge win.
- 5 Treasure Explosion—Building on the momentum of Dancing Drums Explosion, 5 Treasures is back, and now offers the chance a life-changing WAP.
Scientific Games also continues to experiment with new progressive-style features. “SG is incorporating new, innovative cabinets, such as our new TwinStar J43 Motion Wheel cabinet that allow players to physically spin a wheel for a truly interactive game experience,” said Greig. Other new progressive concepts include 3D-rendered characters that interact with the bonus, which was first included in The Wizard of Oz—Munchkinland, and new innovative game mechanics, such as the new Drop & Lock mechanic featured in the company’s new games Drop & Lock—Sweet Tweet and Drop & Lock—Deep Sea Magic. The mechanic is an evolution of the player-favorite Lock It Link mechanic.
Looking to the future of progressive slots at Scientific Games, the company predicts innovation in new game mechanics and the opportunity for bigger and more frequent jackpots as the links expand and the number of linked games increase.