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When you're hot you're hot, and multi-level progressive slot machines are hot. Slots with mechanical reels, long in a cooling period, are hot again. And casinos expect server-based gaming will heat up fast.
Those are among the casino industry trends slot manufacturers worked to enhance with their new products introduced at the Global Gaming Expo in Las Vegas. Expect to see more of these in the coming year:
Multi-level progressive jackpots: Aristocrat Technologies started this trend several years ago with its Hyperlink games, starting with Cash Express. We've seen the popularity rise with IGT's Fort Knox system and WMS' Jackpot Party progressives.
At G2E, every major manufacturer was showing multilevel progressives. Aristocrat, naturally enough, showed a number of multi-level progressive games, including the Millioni$er SCX, which puts a four-tiered jackpot onto games with five mechanical reels. That's a big step --- multi-level progressives grew from video slots.
IGT showed a couple of its new multi-level progressives on its AVP widescreen units, using a wider, high-resolution video monitor for extra fun with the graphics. Wheel of Fortune Multi Level Progressives were visually striking, with two widescreen video monitors and a bonus wheel at each machine, and a display up top showing both a big wide-area jackpot and a four-level progressive, with purple, blue, green and red jackpots. On a spin of the bonus wheel, the player can have up to eight pointers, and can win two of the progressive awards at once. The other new widescreen progressive, Indiana Jones, features the logos and Harrison Ford image of the hit movie series along with one big jackpot and a four-level progressive on a 25-line video game.
Atronic has high hopes for the Game of Life, its new five-level progressive. The bonus round involves a trip around a Game of Life board. Progressive award levels are placed throughout your trip on the board --- the farther you go the bigger the progressive award you can win.
Mechanical reels: IGT, WMS, Bally --- nearly every major slot manufacturer was showing games with spinning reels, with five reels being the format of choice. Bally Technologies, with its Alpha Elite series, says that any of its five-reel video games can also be applied to five-reel mechanicals --- hence, a five-reel mechanical version of S&H Green Stamps, previously introduced in video.
Bally added five-reel mechanicals to its Playboy line with Playboy Free Games. In addition to the five reels, there's a video top box that adds an entertainment factor during the game's free spin feature. Players can win up to 50 free games, and while the reels spin on the free games down below, the video top box changes pictures among 25 Playboy Playmates. Any player who might be bored during the free spins has a little extra scenery up top.
Konami Gaming moved to add some excitement to three-reel games with its line-less 27 Ways games. That's right, lineless. There are no paylines. Symbols form winning combinations across the reels, regardless of their position on the reel. Bells at the tops of reels one and two and at the bottom of reel three form a winner, even though they don't line up across a payline. That leaves 27 Ways to win.
Communal gaming: Giving players a chance to win together creates extra excitement --- as any craps player knows. WMS, with Monopoly Big Event, and IGT, with Wheel of Fortune Super Spin, have shown that a little camaraderie is fun at the slots, too. This time around, IGT showed The Price Is Right Cliff Hangers multi-station game. Three slant top machines sit under a single mechanical Cliff Hanger display that they share for bonus rounds. When you advance your Cliff Hanger toward the top of the mountain, it's not just on your screen. It's on the big display, for all to watch.
A.C. Coin, known for its creative use of top boxes in its Slotto and Big Roller-style games, joined the communal gaming trend with Super Slotto Celebration. The lottery ball top box of regular Slotto games is applied to a giant center dome. Eight players sit around the dome at IGT five-reel Double Diamond games, and when the Slotto balls start popping, they catch eyes from a wide area of the slot floor. The unit is 25 percent smaller than Wheel of Fortune Super Spin, perhaps making it a viable option for smaller casinos as well as the giants.
Downloadable and server based-gaming: For the second year in a row, every major manufacturer showed systems that will allow casinos to load games on to machines from central servers. The systems include some backroom management aids that the general public will never see. You'll be able to watch games change, especially if regulators in your jurisdiction make sure the changes must be transparent.
You won't see the data collection that's important to operators, nor some little features like the possibility of games offered on the terminals on casino floors being tailored to the individual preference, keyed to your player rating card. Such things are coming sooner rather than later, with server-based gaming tests already having been conducted in Nevada and Iowa.
Listen to John Grochowski's "Beat the Odds" tips Saturdays at 6:20 a.m., 2:50 p.m. and 7:41 p.m. and Sundays at 8:20 a.m., 2:50 p.m. and 10:42 p.m. on WBBM-AM, News Radio 780 in Chicago, streaming online at www.wbbm780.com, and to his casino talk show from 7 to 8 p.m. Saturday on WCKG-FM (105.9), streaming at http://1059freefm.com.
This article is provided by the Frank Scoblete Network. Melissa A. Kaplan is the network's managing editor. If you would like to use this article on your website, please contact Casino City Press, the exclusive web syndication outlet for the Frank Scoblete Network. To contact Frank, please e-mail him at firstname.lastname@example.org.