2006 Global Gaming Expo Report - Part 2

12 December 2006

As revolutions in gaming go, Mr. Monopoly walking his dog down a video screen might not sound like it's on the cutting edge.

After all, we've had popular video slot machines for nearly a decade now, ever since WMS Gaming started to hook customers with Reel 'Em In in 1997.

But this was different. Mr. Monopoly --- the board game icon those of us of a certain age remember as Rich Uncle Pennybags before the character was renamed several years ago --- was walking his dog down the street on the fringes of the slot machine glass. At the center were five reels. Good old mechanical slot machine reels, the kind that used to dominate slot floors before the great video takeover. Real reels, as it were.

What Waukegan-based WMS Gaming was showing at its booth at the annual Global Gaming Expo, Nov. 14-16 at the Las Vegas Convention Center, was something new, different and, yes, revolutionary. WMS calls it Transmissive Reels, one of a triad of innovations that claimed center stage at the booths.

The game was Monopoly Super Money Grab, the first of what WMS expects to become a long line of Transmissive Reels game. Had it merely been a matter of adding a little cool animated scenery on the glass in front of the reels, it would have been a nice touch, but hardly revolutionary. But what's transmissive about this glass is its ability to transmit to the viewer/player full animation to bring bonus rounds to reel-spinning stepper slots.

In Monopoly Super Money Grab, when the player advances to the bonus round, the reels darken, and the glass becomes a full video touchscreen, with rich graphics and fully interactive for bonus play.

Slot manufacturers have made other attempts to layer the bonus experience onto reel-spinning games. The rise of bonus games started in the mid-1990s when Anchor Gaming devised Wheel of Gold, which put a tower with a bonus wheel atop regular slant-top reel-spinners. International Game Technology licensed Wheel of Gold, and morphed it into the ever-popular Wheel of Fortune slots. WMS put bonus events on reel-spinning games with its orange Dotmation screens in games such as Piggy Bankin' and the original Jackpot Party. Other manufacturers, notably Bally Technologies, have melded the video bonus and three-reel play experiences by adding a full video screen in the top box, above the spinning reels.

But with Transmissive Reels, WMS melds the reel-spinning and video bonus experiences into one cohesive, interactive package. That's something that would not have been possible until WMS started down a new technological road five years ago. There were problems with its old gaming platform --- a programming flaw allowed a few players in the know to force pays and build credits on some games. WMS moved to rebuild confidence in its product and expand what it could do with the technology at the same time.

The result was the CPU-NXT2 game platform, a technologically advanced system that supports graphics and sound far beyond what most could have dreamed five years ago.

At G2E, WMS was proud to emphasize its tri-innovations made possible by the high-tech boost. In addition to Transmissive Reels, Community Gaming and Sensory Immersion Gaming took their places as part of the coming out party for all the behind-the-scenes work of the last five years.

For those who can remember all the way back to a year ago, I wrote about the initial Community Gaming and Sensory Immersion products after G2E 2005. Back then, Monopoly Big Event (Community Gaming) and Top Gun (Sensory Immersion) were in an inner circle booth within a booth, accessible only to those guided by WMS. This time both products were front and center, ready for the world to see.

Monopoly Big Event, which has already reached casino floors in Nevada, is a win-together play experience, with all eligible players at a bank of machines taking a trip around the Monopoly game board overhead when the community bonus comes up. All win the same base amounts, but there is a multiplier based on bet size, speed of play and length of play --- making a minimum bet per line, I moved up to to a double bonus with fast, steady play.

Top Gun, of course, is based on the 1986 film starring Tom Cruise. It is a true sensory immersion with Bose speakers in the back of the special chair. As you pilot the fighter jet in the bonus round, soaring, turning, doing barrel rolls to target bonus amounts, the screen shakes and the jets' roars swirl around you. There have been upgrades since the test version I reviewed last year --- in a bonus round within a bonus round, you can find yourself going one-on-one with another fighter.

Plans are afoot to extend the new high-tech lines. Top Gun should be out within two months, to be followed by "The Wizard of Oz." In the Transmissive Reels world, John Wayne's image has been licensed for Duke It Out, still more than a year down the road. Expect the titles to grow with operator interest and player excitement. With WMS' three innovative lines, this revolution starts with three steps.

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.

Related Links
Global Gaming Expo (G2E) 2006

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 fscobe@optonline.net.