2008 Global Gaming Expo, part 6

13 January 2009

The computer age of slot machines has given game designers the opportunity to set their imaginations on the loose. But the bonus events and game features that designers dream up requires sufficient computing power to bring the ideas to game screens.

So it is at Aristocrat Technologies, which in 2007 introduced its new Gen7 game platform. At the 2008 Global Gaming Expo in Las Vegas, Aristocrat allowed Gen7 to strut its stuff, to show what it can do in marquee games including Jaws and the new video version of the Sopranos.

Jaws, based on the 1975 movie thriller, was the star of the Aristocrat booth, with that ominous, two-tone cello and bass line from the movie music playing as the reels spin, luring visitors to the game.

The base game is a five-reel video slot with a free spin feature. Bonus features are all Jaws-themed — Golden Jaws, Shark Hunter and Feeding Time. Players get a chance at a four-level progressive jackpot through a Jaws dice feature, which is a trip around a video game board, with your boat trying to land on the same space as Jaws. If you catch the shark, you can win a progressive.

There are a lot of nice touches related to the theme. Sitting on top of the machine is a buoy on waves. During regular play, the waves glow blue, but when the player goes to the bonus round, they turn blood-red. The button you push to spin the reels has an embossed shark tooth.

In such a feature-rich game, Aristocrat needed the power of the Gen7. Gen7 also allowed Aristocrat to bring out a highly interactive video version of the Sopranos.

Last year, just to get the hot theme to market quickly, Aristocrat brought out the Sopranos in a reel-spinning version. Now designers have gone back and adapted the characters from HBO's megahit into a highly interactive video game. Now players can interact with Tony, Chrissy, Walnuts or other characters in the crime-syndicate team.

Without Gen7, nice video games based on Jaws and the Sopranos would have been possible. The extra power makes them special.

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Over at the Atronic booth, one attention-grabber was Stargate SG-1, with a theme licensed from the world's second-longest-running TV science fiction show. SG-1's 10-year run is second only to the BBC's "Doctor Who" in its original 26-year run.

Despite its long run, Stargate isn't as universally known among non-sci-fi fans as, say, Star Trek. When it interviewed slot players in focus groups, Atronic found that only about half had heard of Stargate, but even the ones who hadn't heard of it had a good time playing the game.

There were two versions on display, a video game and a reel-spinner. Atronic makes good use of the Stargate, whisking you through space in bonus events. On the video version with a 52-inch plasma Stargate over the bank of machines, there are three game themes, each based on a character from the show. All link to a four-level progressive jackpot. On the reel-spinning version, there are three main reels plus a fourth bonus reel, where locking in the Chevrons can take you to the Stargate at the top of each machine.

Stargate has loads of potential, but the biggest star at Atronic remains Deal or No Deal. Atronic locked up licensing for the theme years ago, when the game show was a European hit but had not yet been seen in the United States. That foresight has been paying off ever since.

At G2E, there were several new games based on Deal or No Deal. In this series of reports from the expo, I've already mentioned a community-style game as well as Deal or No Deal: The Experience, with a "choose your volatility" bonus feature. Another version was shown on Atronic's jumbo Titan slot cabinet, an oversized unit meant to be an eye-catcher. This one is for those who don't want to spin the reels, but skip straight to the bonus round. It's ALL bonus event — the whole game is based on cash-bearing suitcases.

And speaking of TV/movie themes, Atronic isn't the first slotmaker to see the entertainment potential in the Three Stooges. ShuffleMaster had a slot machine featuring the comedy classics several years ago. Now the license belongs to Atronic, and the Stooges are back in a video slot using plenty of film clips on a three-level progressive. Every 6.5 spins, you get an expanding wild symbol — a Stooge who expands vertically to fill all three positions on a reel, dancing while acting as a wild symbol in all three positions. Winning combinations frequently trigger film clips — line up the pie symbols, and get ready for a little whipped cream on the face. (Not on yours, of course.)

Related Links
Global Gaming Expo (G2E) 2008

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.