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Bally Technologies: Alpha to Omega

Bally rides the Alpha slot platform to record revenues

As rare as it is in these recessionary times, slot-maker Bally Technologies is expanding.
The oldest slot-maker in the industry has been opening new branches throughout Europe and Asia for the past year, spreading the gospel—and sales—of its hot Alpha operating platform to more and more new markets. Bally has been on a roll since the perfection of Alpha, logging record revenues of $900 million for fiscal 2008, even as some of its competitors struggled.
The Alpha platform has now been imported for reel-spinners as well as video, so that all Bally games going forward will be placed on the same operating system. Both reel and video slots now are available in all of the manufacturer’s unique cabinet styles, including the dual-cabinet V-20/20, the SC9 wide-reel stepper, the V32 vertical-monitor video, and the two signature wide cabinets, CineVision for video and CineReels for steppers. Bally’s game developers are now concentrating on creating content for the Alpha platform that meets all the needs of the company’s customers in casino operations.
In fact, the theme of this year’s G2E show for Bally, “Your Bally, Your Way,” reflects this renewed focus on tailoring products to the needs of the customer.
“We believe the way to distinguish yourself as a major slot manufacturer is to be customer-centric,” comments Gavin Isaacs, Bally’s chief operating officer, who adds that the perfection of the Alpha platform as the basis for all games going forward has given game designers the freedom to create. “It is a robust, stable and reliable operating system, which leads to a great flow of titles,” he says. “Having Alpha, we don’t have to go back and worry about upgrading our format for game development. We can allow these guys to get to their jobs and innovate. Instead of ‘Let’s launch this new platform,’ our designers can concentrate on meeting the needs of the market—a lot more content, fine-tuned to meet what the customers need and what they are asking for.”
The Alpha platform provides flexibility for both game designers and operators—games can be swapped out easily, even between reel and video. At this year’s G2E show, Bally’s customers will see plenty of both game styles.
According to Mike Mitchell, Bally’s vice president of game development, while the company’s reel-spinners have been its heart and soul for a long time, the Alpha platform has allowed a focus on video to bring that segment up to the traditional popularity of Bally reel-spinners.
“We’ve made a concerted effort over the past six months to retool our video elements,” Mitchell says. “The pipeline has opened up on video. We’re still managing our leading position on the reel-spinning slots at the same time, but we’ve had a determined focus on the video markets.”
Big Show
The focus on all product areas will be evident at the G2E show, where Bally’s booth—set up as the “road to profitability”—will showcase some 256 games, which includes 169 new game titles, according to Mitchell a 58 percent increase over last year’s display.
True to Mitchell’s word, 150 of the 256 game titles on display will be video slots, revealing new innovations that have been added as the company perfected its Alpha video lineup.
One of those improvements is the “Easy View Interface,” a standard look for all video slots that will provide consistent locations for game elements such as betting buttons, the credit display, the bill acceptor and pay schedules. “The by-product of this is that it allows us to let the developers concentrate on the game itself—making it fun, making it interesting,” says Mitchell.
Among the new looks in Bally video will be a series of banked packages—groups of games with similar math, and play mechanics, grouped together under a common bonus round that leads to a progressive jackpot. One of the first banked games is “Monkey Madness,” which features stacked wilds, free spins and a progressive jackpot.
Another of Bally’s new video series features a radical new way to play. The series is called “Dual Vision,” and the first game is “Two For The Money.” This is a two-player game, set up in a “his-and-hers” configuration with a two-seat bench in front of a wide screen. On the screen are two sets of video reels. Each player wagers independently, but both spin the reels at the same time.
The two players are actually partners in the bonus rounds. When one player triggers a free-spin bonus on his individual game, both players go into the bonus round at the same time.
Other highlights in Bally video include a new version of the hit game “Fireball,” the video slot that features blazing comets in the bonus round. This game is on Bally’s “V32” vertical cabinet, which scored a big hit two years ago with Bally’s video roulette game. The V32 version of Fireball places the blazing-comet bonus round across the long, vertical video screen for striking visuals. When the bonus is triggered, the entire long screen switches to a space-scape, and the player touches one of the blazing comets to reveal a credit award.
Bally is offering several new multiple-progressive games in the video format this year as well. “Cashburst” is a five-level progressive in a multi-game setup. Three different themes all offer the same five incrementing progressive jackpots. “We’re seeing a transition from stand-alone games to multiple games embedded in one chip,” Mitchell says. “This allows three different themes, which can be switched out by the operator without conversion kits.”
“Quick Hit Diamond” is the follow-up to the hot “Quick Hit Platinum” game currently in casinos. Various scattered symbols lead to one of five progressive jackpots, ranging from $15 to a top jackpot in the thousands. Quick Hit Diamond, like its predecessor, features a frequently hitting jackpot, that returns a progressive in the hundreds every few thousand spins, on average. This is another game that uses the V-32 cabinet, with video reels and the display of all four progressive jackpots all on the same screen.
Bally also is launching several new video progressive themes at the G2E show. “Power Progressives” is a new series of progressive slots featuring classic themes under a towering top box featuring a “bonus ladder,” the top rung representing the progressive prize. The first game, “Wild Rose,” will be a three-reel, 25-line stepper with a giant LED top-box featuring the bonus ladder.
Speaking of the “power” theme, Bally will offer a new series called “Power Platinum” that allows the casinos to alter the top prize to include merchandise. One of the first games is “Power Strike,” which allows for photographs of the top jackpot prize—a car, a motorcycle, a boat, etc.—to be incorporated into the pay schedule.
Rounding out the lineup of new progressives is Progressive Game Maker, which permits one progressive jackpot to apply to several games. In the video poker version, for instance, the same progressive royal flush jackpot will apply for Jacks or Better, Double Bonus Poker or any other poker game the player chooses.
New versions of Game Maker can also be purchased with an ancillary software product called “Game Maker Scheduler.” Operators can use this tool to pre-schedule game changes within the machine—a stand-alone version of capabilities normally associated with server-based gaming.
Reel Deal
As Mitchell notes, in addition to all the new video offerings, Bally is launching games at G2E that will re-establish its prominence in what has been its strong suit over the years—the classic reel-spinner. The slot-maker is releasing updated versions of several classic reel games like “Blazing 7s” and “Black & White” in the wide-reel Alpha platform with all the modern bells and whistles, in both three-reel and five-reel versions.
There is even a new giant reel-spinning format. Bally will display classic reel games in a jumbo cabinet with 15-inch reels (compared to the standard 9-inch). The big machine will stand eight feet tall, 40 inches wide.
There also are several completely new game groups in the reel-spinning genre coming from Bally this year. “PowerMax Reels” is a new and improved version of the “Frenzy” series, which was the Bally series of three-reel games with a fourth reel used for bonuses. In the PowerMax series, the games are three-reel base games with two extra reels. The three-reel base games employ multiple paylines, and the fourth reel includes bonus credits, free spins and other additions applied to winning combinations on the primary reels. The fifth reel includes all multipliers, which are applied to the already-boosted jackpots.
Another new reel-spinning series is the Bally take on hybrid reel/video games. “Transparent Reels” features a video overlay that allows animation to be added to classic Bally reel-spinners. Six different titles will be released in the new format this year, including some of the most familiar classic Bally slots.
Finally, Bally’s reel-spinning lineup will include the first stepper version of the Game Maker multi-game unit. Three different games—such as the various versions of Blazing 7s—reside on one game. When the player picks a game, the pay schedules, buttons and artwork on the face of the slot machine change. Everything changes but the reels themselves—the same basic symbols are used for the three different games.
In addition to the games, attendees can expect to find a good representation of server-based applications at Bally’s G2E booth, with demonstrations of various elements of the manufacturer’s “Networked Floor of the Future” program as well as the Download Configuration Manager, a joint-venture project with Aristocrat to download games to terminals from both manufacturers from a common server.
Isaacs says the strength of this year’s G2E lineup is a direct reflection of the development work Bally has been involved in for the past two years. “We are building on the success of the previous two fiscal years, and the retooling of our entire product line,” he says. “We’re excited about the coming year.”

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