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Slot trends

15 March 2011

When a slot machine innovation is successful, it quickly brings new spins on the idea — or at least imitators. If the new spins and innovations are successful, you have a trend on your hands.

We're in an age of innovation at the slots, and also in an age of trends. Let's take a stroll through the slot aisles and see what trends we can spot:

**Hands-on experiences: Touch screens have been incorporated into video slot play since the late 1990s, but on some modern games the hands-on portion is much more than touching an icon on a screen to launch a bonus event. Bally Technologies has its U-Spin games, such as Cash Spin. You touch an on-screen wheel to spin. Keep your finger on the wheel, and move it up or down to move the wheel in either direction. Drag your finger and the wheel fast and let go, and you get a long, fast spin. Go slow, take it easy, and the wheel spins slowly. And while your virtual wheel spins on screen, the top box wheel spins at the same speed, showing the same numbers.

Or maybe you'd like your hands-on play to come through a joystick. Aruze offers Paradise Fishing, where you get the full feel of landing a big fish through a joystick that represents the old fishing pole. In a deep-sea bonus event, when a big fish strikes your line on the screen above, you can feel the tug and fight on your fishing rod.

The hands-on experience makes you feel involved, in control, even while the random number generator does its stuff.

**Choose your volatility: Incredible Technologies, which just started rolling games into casinos last year, is banking on slots with a difference. On games such as Money, Fish Store and Cars, you can touch the screen to choose "Win Often," "Win Steady," or "Win Big" — another way of saying low, medium and high volatility. Game play and graphics are the same regardless of you choice, but you're deciding whether you want frequent small payoffs, less frequent payoffs but a better chance at a big pay, or something in between.

There's a similar choice to be made in Bally's Hot Spin. In the U-Spin bonus event, you can touch a single bar for the lowest volatility, with the most frequent bonus events and the lowest totals on the wheel. Touch a Wild symbol instead, and watch the numbers on the wheel change as the game shifts into the highest volatility level. Of you can choose 5-bar or various 7 symbols to pick a level in between.

Do you want a lot of chances to spin the wheel, or do you want the chance at a really big jackpot when the wheel comes up? You get to choose.

**That's entertainment: Company-generated themes that resonate with the public are pure gold to slot manufacturers. Whether it's Jackpot Party for WMS, Double Diamond for IGT or Blazing 7s for Bally, games that require no licensing fee but still keep the players coming back are a designer's dream.

Still, some of the biggest, flashiest, trendiest games around are those that license names, images and themes from TV, movies and board games. Wheel of Fortune has served IGT well over the years, as has Monopoly for WMS.

In the current generation of games, IGT has an attention-getter in Hangover, based on the hit comedy film. It's a multilevel progressive, with levels named after movie characters Alan, Phil, Stu and Doug. Movie scenes help introduce the bonus events, with clips and animation built around iconic movie images including the tiger, the chicken and dentist Stu's tooth. And if you squirm a little at the bloody tooth, well, it just puts a little extra bite in the game for the movie fans.

WMS also goes back to the movies with a new iteration of its popular Wizard of Oz games, The Great and Powerful Oz. You choose a character — you can play as Dorothy, the Tin Man, Cowardly Lion or Scarecrow as you journey to meet the Great and Powerful Oz. In the community bonus, during which each player gets seven free spins, the wizard appears on the screen over the banks ahead and awards enhancements to the reels. If you're playing as Dorothy, you'll want to hear the great and powerful one boom out, "I WILL GRANT YOU RUBY SLIPPERS WILD!"

**Playing together: WMS Gaming has been a leader in community-style, win-together slots for years. The latest wrinkle is called Collaborative Gaming, in which player decisions affect each other's bonuses. First up is Monopoly Bigger Event Big Money Spin. Land on Boardwalk during a trip around the board, and you're a hero to your neighbors.

Every slotmaker is involved in community-style games, whether it's IGT's Dark Knight, in which you can compete either as Batman or the Joker in an animated race through Gotham City, or Atronic's Deal or No Deal Join 'N' Play, where Howie Mandel is the on-screen host as everyone looks for the best deal from the banker.

The community concept has been so successful that virtually every slotmaker — WMS, IGT, Bally, Atronic, Aruze, Multimedia Games, Konami and others — tries to put a new spin on the line every year. It's the stuff trends are made of.

Recent Articles
Best of John Grochowski
John Grochowski

John Grochowski is the best-selling author of The Craps Answer Book, The Slot Machine Answer Book and The Video Poker Answer Book. His weekly column is syndicated to newspapers and Web sites, and he contributes to many of the major magazines and newspapers in the gaming field, including Midwest Gaming and Travel, Slot Manager, Casino Journal, Strictly Slots and Casino Player.

Listen to John Grochowski's "Casino Answer Man" tips Tuesday through Friday at 5:18 p.m. on WLS-AM (890) in Chicago. Look for John Grochowski on Facebook and Twitter @GrochowskiJ.

John Grochowski Websites:

www.casinoanswerman.com

Books by John Grochowski:

> More Books By John Grochowski

John Grochowski
John Grochowski is the best-selling author of The Craps Answer Book, The Slot Machine Answer Book and The Video Poker Answer Book. His weekly column is syndicated to newspapers and Web sites, and he contributes to many of the major magazines and newspapers in the gaming field, including Midwest Gaming and Travel, Slot Manager, Casino Journal, Strictly Slots and Casino Player.

Listen to John Grochowski's "Casino Answer Man" tips Tuesday through Friday at 5:18 p.m. on WLS-AM (890) in Chicago. Look for John Grochowski on Facebook and Twitter @GrochowskiJ.

John Grochowski Websites:

www.casinoanswerman.com

Books by John Grochowski:

> More Books By John Grochowski