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Best of John Grochowski

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Slots let you choose volatility

16 February 2010

Whether you know it or not, volatility is one of the primary factors driving your experience whenever you play the slots. A high-volatility game will put more of its return in big jackpots, while a low-volatility game will give you a gentler ride, with more frequent small hits.

Slot manufacturers put out games with a wide range of volatilities, something players don't always understand when they choose a game.

There's a new kid in town among manufacturers — Arlington Heights, Illinois-based Incredible Technologies — that aims to give players a choice, with high, medium and low-volatility games all on the same machine. Players will start to get a look at the games in the next couple of months, with trials already scheduled in California and Indiana. If players like what they see and vote with their cash, you can expect other markets to follow.

The word "volatility" isn't used, but on each Incredible slot game, with themes including Money, Fish Store and Cars, the player is asked, "How would you like to win?" The player then can touch the screen to choose "Often," "Steady" or "Big." An animated top hat called the "Prize Guy" appears on screen to explain it all.

"We're just trying to peel back the layers of the onion so the player can see under the hood just a little bit. Not to the point where they're confused or intimidated," said IT director of development Larry Hodgson. "Just enough that they can say 'OK, I'm not a high roller, I'm more of a low roller kind of person, and so I can choose that play experience.'"

Bonus play is a little different here than on the video slots already in casinos. Potential bonus rewards accumulate during regular play. In the bonus round, you know the amount you're playing for, and if you don't win it all, it carries over to start the next jackpot. It's almost like a mini-progress.

In Money, for example, you collect coins during regular play. Each coin adds to the jackpot, with a dollar coin adding more than a quarter and a quarter more than a nickel. When five coins are collected, the bonus event starts. You can win it all, or part, with the rest staying on the meter for next time.

Paylines and payoffs are simple and easy to read. Three adjacent $10 bills on Money will give you a 30-credit payoff — 10 plus 10 plus 10 — multiplied by your wager size. Easy enough, right? It's easy enough to follow along the paylines, too — adjacent symbols form the lines. There's no going from the top symbol on the first reel all the way down to the bottom on the second to start a line.

Video poker players will find something to like in Incredible's products, too. For starters, there's a subtle reward. Play proper strategy for the hand, and there's a little chime, win or lose. More tangibly, there's ProTip — each winning hand brings a letter, and after "ProTip" is spelled out, the player can redeem to see an expert play on the hand of their choice. I'm curious to see if Magic Touch Poker with ProTip makes an impact. Roughly 95% of video poker machines in casinos today are International Game Technology products. Challenging IGT seems so daunting a task that other slot-making giants don't make video poker a major portion of their lines.

In Magic Touch Keno, with clever graphics showing balls dropping into numbered boxes, players are given options to Play Hot — numbers that have hit frequently in recent games — or Play Ready — numbers that haven't hit so often.

If you play coin-operated games in bars or restaurants, you've probably run across games from Incredible Technologies. Golden Tee Golf, a megahit online as well as in brick-and-mortar facilities, is the most popular game in history in terms of dollars played. Silver Strike Bowling, another tavern-market favorite, is another Incredible Technologies game. But as big as Golden Tee Golf has been and still is, especially online, the decline of game arcades has had an impact left IT looking for new markets. In casinos, there's opportunity for a company with a knack for designing player-friendly games.

It's taken four years of development, including time to meet licensing requirements and have product approved by Gaming Laboratories International, to get to the point that games are ready for the casinos. Now it's time for the next step, getting the games before the players, seeing what works and trying to carve out market share in a very competitive business.

"We want to look for those features that really resonate," said IT president and CEO Elaine Hodgson, "so that every casino HAS to have at least one bank of our games."

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:

The Craps Answer Book

> More Books By John Grochowski