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The buzz has been building about Bally Technologies' Michael Jackson: King of Pop slot machines ever since it gave the casino industry a preview at Global Gaming Expo in Las Vegas last November.
Now the game is ready for distribution, as ballyhooed in a concert-tour mimicking poster touting "Worldwide Rollout 2012" on the outer cardboard roll and "Now Playing" on the poster itself.
There's also an answer to a question readers often have asked me: What happens when a game designed as a wide-area progressive is placed in a casino that won't or can't use such systems? Wide-area progressives link games at different casinos, with the top jackpot mounting with each wager on any game on the link.
In some jurisdictions, such as Indiana and Illinois, wide-area progressives are illegal. When those markets get the King of Pop, it'll be with a slightly different version than the wide-areas.
Both versions will include multiple bonus events spotlighting the King of Pop with video, graphics and songs including "Beat It," "Bad," "Smooth Criminal," "Billie Jean" and "Dirty Diana." All games are five-reel, 25-line video slots with a 320-coin maximum wager.
The wide-area progressive will be a penny game, while the non-WAP version will be available to casinos in 16 credit denominations, from 1 cent to $500. The top award on the WAP will be 40 million credits, while on the non-wide-area game it will be 1 million credits. Naturally, that top jackpot will be harder to get on the wide-area games, at once per 45,662,500 plays versus once in 3,796,875 plays on the other version. The top jackpot event is triggered when five Top Award symbols appear either on or within one position above or below the center payline.
There will be a slightly higher hit frequency on wide-area games. Players will get at least some payback on 40.97 percent of spins, versus 39.21 percent on the other games.
Having tested King of Pop at the expo, I can tell you the experience is a thriller. It's on Bally's V22/32 cabinet with a 32-inch vertical top box. On top of that, there's a wheel, and you use Bally's U-Spin format to touch the screen, give the wheel a big spin and see which bonus you've landed. The wheel can give you bonus credits, or take you to one of six bonus rounds themed after Michael Jackson songs, including "Bad," "Beat It," and "Billie Jean."
Songs used on the game were remastered, and with speakers in the back of a special chair, the music just pops out in rich Dolby 5.1 sound.
Dance moves are integrated into game play. In the "Smooth Criminal" free games bonus, the music video is overlaid on the reels, and at a cymbal clash Jackson will halt, point --- and the indicated symbol will turn wild. During the base game, Jackson's image will moonwalk across the screen at random times to add wild symbols.
At the end of a bonus round when a golden statue of a bandolier-clad Jackson rises in the top box, you'll know you'll have been through an entertainment extravaganza.
At the expo last fall, the crowds didn't want to leave the test version of the game.
"After we demo it, they say, 'OK, that's great. Can we just stay here a while?' It's a reminder of what a truly remarkable artist he was," said Jean Venneman, Bally's vice president of product marketing and licensing.
MUSIC, MUSIC, MUSIC: Bally has gone musical in a big way. Michael Jackson: King of Pop is joined in show-stopper territory by Grease, based on the hit movie musical and using the images of stars including Olivia Newton-John and John Travolta.
Grease is on a double-play format, with two fields of five reels on the screen, and 25-paylines on each field. That gives a total of 50 paylines, but divided across two different sets of reels.
There are six bonus events. The one players seem to have the most fun with is the "You're the One That I Want" bonus, with free games on both sets of reels. I find myself watching the video rather than the reels.
And coming later this summer is the Beach Boys slot machine. It's a five-reel video slot with five bonus events that puts the iconic kings of surf music and their sounds on center stage. Songs include "Fun, Fun, Fun," "I Get Around" and "California Girls" --- just the thing for nostalgic good times all summer long.
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 email@example.com.