2011 Global Gaming Expo, part 4

3 November 2011

Bally Technologies has given slot players many creative, fun ways to play over the years, from the classic Blazing 7s three-reel games to the U-Spin games where you drag your finger to spin a wheel on the screen, games that are among the hottest in casinos today.

What Bally hasn't done a great deal with is licensed, branded slots, and pop-culture themed games that have been a stock in trade for top competitors International Game Technology (Wheel of Fortune, Star Wars and many more) and WMS Gaming (Lord of the Rings, Wizard of Oz).

In October at the 2011 Global Gaming Expo, the casino industry's annual Las Vegas showcase, the sounds of "You're the One that I Want" and "Beat It" rang through Bally's booth with the introduction of the new Grease and Michael Jackson: King of Pop slots.

"We were really looking to increase our brand portfolio," said Jean Venneman, Bally's vice president of product marketing and licensing. "It's not an area we had really been in in the past. We wanted to make sure we picked a couple of strategic brands that really hit the [slot-playing] demographic and we could create a lot of interesting games out of. We felt that Grease hit the mark on that."

Grease, based on the hit movie musical, is a wide-area progressive, meaning that in states where it is legal, machines in different casinos can be linked to the same jackpot. There are two playing fields on the screen — two sets of five reels — in a penny game with a 60-cent minimum wager. Reel symbols are chock full of movie imagery, and there's music and video featuring John Travolta and Olivia Newton-John.

There are an number of bonuses, but the event everyone wanted to see was the "You're the One that I Want" free games. The stars wooed each other in the "Grease" showpiece video in the top box, a scaled-down video played atop the spinning reels on the main screen, and speakers in the back of the game's special chair contributed to a surround-sound effect.

"This one has been fun to watch people play," Venneman said. "They seem to be more focused on the video than on the actual game. And everybody has fond memories of the first time they saw the movie, or that they thought that Olivia Newton John was amazing, or John Travolta."

A few yards away, crowds gathered around Michael Jackson: King of Pop. It's on a new 22-32 cabinet, with a 22-inch video monitor on the main game and a 32-inch vertical screen up top for musical bonus fun. On top of that, there's a wheel, and you use the U-Spin format to see what bonus you're going to get. When the wheel spins, you could just get bonus credits, or you could get into one of six bonus rounds themed after Michael Jackson songs, including "Bad," "Beat It," and "Billie Jean."

"You'll see a lot of big pictures of him, clips, videos, things like that," Venneman said. "The base games uses a lot of scenes from videos."

Jacko's dance moves are integrated into game play. In the "Smooth Criminal" bonus, the music video is overlaid on the reels, and at a cymbal clash Jackson will halt, point — and the indicated symbol will turn wild. At the end of a bonus event, a bandolier-laden Michael Jackson statue image rises in the top box, as golden as your bonus award.

The crowds didn't want to leave.

"After we demo it they say, 'OK, that's great. Can we just stay here a while?' It's a reminder of what a truly remarkable artist he was," Venneman said.

Away from the movie and music beat, new Bally games included Skee Ball, with an arcade game feel. It uses that touch, drag and let go technology that has been so successful for Bally, but instead of spinning a wheel, you're shooting skee balls, trying to land them in the circles with the greatest value. As you collect points, you get tickets, then go to the arcade counter to make picks from toy shelves. The toys you pick reveal your bonus.

New is the Curved product line. They're video slots, but with a curved surface that gives them a mechanical-reel look. "But because they're video, there's so much more we can do graphically and from an animation perspective," Venneman said.

I tried the Curved game Moon Goddess, where three moons took me into the bonus round. During the bonus, you collect moons, and on the last spin they drop onto the reels as wild symbols. Collect enough moons, and it'll lead to some big wins.

And for something completely different, there was Total Blast. It uses Bally's iDeck, where the button panel is a touch screen. In the bonus round, you touch the screen to fire shots at alien spaceships on the main screen. I was using both hands, all fingers and both thumbs, running back and forth along the deck to fire as many shots as possible. A Total Blast? Yep.

Related Links
Global Gaming Expo (G2E) 2011

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.