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Best of John Grochowski
On a hot summer's morning, one of the coolest places I could be was at WMS Gaming's studios on the North Side of Chicago. There, Bill Pfund, WMS vice president of investor relations, and Jami Thornton, senior product marketing professional, were walking me through the latest and greatest video slot machine, Gone With the Wind.
It's all based on the 1939 Clark Gable-Vivien Leigh movie classic, chock full of video clips and bonus events that carry through the theme.
Thornton was demonstrating the Kissing Bonus. An image of Leigh's Scarlett O'Hara fills all three spots on the left-hand reel and Gable's Rhett Butler fills the right. In the pick'em game that followed, with a touch-screen full of heart lockets, Thornton found images of Scarlett and Leslie Howard's Ashley Wilkes for a concluding kiss.
I stepped up for a turn. In locket after locket, I found credit amounts.
"You're having a good round," Pfund said, and Thornton added, "Looks like he has the touch."
One touch uncovered Scarlett, and after a few more credit awards, there was Rhett. That was what we all were waiting for.
Scarlett and Rhett kissed, and kissed, and kissed some more. The longer they kiss, the more credits mount on the screen. Had it been for money, it would have been one very profitable smooch.
The Kissing Bonus and the Locket Bonus, which involves three top-box wheels, are showcase events in a showcase game that also features a wide-area progressive jackpot. It's rolling out first at Boyd Gaming properties in Las Vegas, along with its Borgata in Atlantic City. For Las Vegas visitors, the Orleans will get it first, with Sam's Town, the Suncoast, Main Street Station, Fremont, California and other Boyd properties to follow.
Gone With the Wind has an unusual reel configuration, with three symbols deep on the first and fifth reels, and four deep on the middle three reels. Rhett and Scarlett symbols pay on winning combinations reading both right to left and left to right.
And then there are those film clips. There are plenty of kisses in the movie, and plenty of variety on the slot machine. You'll hear Brett tell Scarlett, "You shall have the biggest and most vulgar ring in Atlanta," and "No, I don't think I will kiss you, although you need kissing, badly."
It works as a slot, and it works as entertainment as you hope for the biggest, most vulgar bonus this side of Tara.
MORE FROM WMS: Gone With the Wind is for players to enjoy now. A little farther down the road, WMS has something coming for video poker players, too, with its My Poker games.
My Poker will launch late this year at Stations Casinos in Las Vegas --- a natural tie-in with video poker players being an important segment of the Las Vegas locals market. Standard games such as Jacks or Better and Double Double Bonus Poker will be offered.
Provided the casino operator has the options turned on, players can choose game speed, brightness level, and card positions on the screen. You can choose from a number of card styles --- do you want a standard card look, western style, or a deck with big numbers and letters to make things easy on those with weakening eyesight?
You can make your choices as you play, or you can make them during free play online at WMS' Players Life site. Those used to Players Life at the slots know they can log on in the casino to retrieve features set online. Now video poker players will get the same treatment.
There are a couple of game wrinkles. In the 9-6 Jacks or Better game I was shown, straight flushes paid 55-for-1, or 275 credits for a five-credit bet, instead of the standard 50-for-1. That's not a huge difference, but it raises the game's payback with expert play from 99.54 percent to 99.60 percent.
A Winning Streak version is potentially a four-hand game that multiplies winnings as you go. A winning hand brings a second hand. If you win on the second, the first hand is pushed up the ladder and winnings are doubled, while the second hand gets a single payoff. A third win pushes the first two up the ladder, and a fourth provides the final step, so that first-hand winnings could be multiplied by 10, the second hand could be multiplied by five, and the third by two.
That differs from IGT's Multi-Strike Poker, a winning first hand is always worth a single pay, no matter what happens on any other hands. The pushing-up-the-ladder aspect is unique to Winning Streak.
Video poker is a market dominated by IGT, which has earned its hold on players' loyalties with consistently strong, playable games. It has no real competitors at the moment, with Sigma and Casino Data Systems out of business and Bally Technologies having not produced any new video poker in several years. But competition drives everyone to do their best, and casino operators would like to see WMS carve out a niche in the market.
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.