End to End: Bally Technologies

Bally Technologies to dominate G2E floor with most diverse product range ever

It is fitting that the booth of Bally Technologies at this year’s G2E show is the size of a small casino, because it will offer just about everything that goes into a casino.

What Bally Technologies will look like after next year’s expected completion of its acquisition by lottery giant Scientific Games has yet to be determined, but what certainly will not change is the diversity and range of the manufacturer’s product portfolio, thanks in part to its own acquisition of the former SHFL entertainment.

Bally’s trade-show real estate—at nearly 26,000 square feet, it will be the largest exhibit at G2E—will be jam-packed with all styles of slots, electronic table games, table utility equipment and system solutions. Within that variety, though, is another entire world of variety within the slot space alone. Before there were any talks of mergers or acquisitions, Bally had been beefing up its game development capabilities. Today, with nearly 30 game design studios and some of the most talented engineers in the business, Bally can crank out an amazing volume of new game content.

The incorporation of SHFL added that former company’s Equinox cabinet and line of games, many of them already hits in Asia and Australia, as well as SHFL’s line of proprietary table games and e-tables. All that content goes into the product development mill at Bally, its design studios in a very healthy competition with each other to create hit slot games for casinos and for a variety of online, social and mobile channels through the Bally Interactive division.

G2E, though, is the annual showcase for casino slots, which is the reason for the casino-size Bally booth. The company is showcasing several new cabinets, including a theater-style setup, a new hybrid slant-top, and a 360-degree carousel spectacle.

The latter setup, called the “Alpha Pro Wave 360,” is a circular carousel of five slot machines with a dedicated dragon-themed game. Around the top of the carousel are five adjacent curved video monitors, on which animation related to the games travels around, stopping to award credits, wilds, multipliers and free games to individual games on the bank.

In the launch game, called “Dragon Spin,” an animated dragon travels around the circular monitor dropping mystery awards to the individual games, and stopping to display numbers of free spins when they are triggered by individual games.

Each of the new hardware setups is host to a new slot game, with several games hosting fresh licensed brands. Joining them are a broad range of new games presented in formats like the popular Alpha Pro Wave video cabinet.

The Alpha Pro Wave, with its 40-inch concave-curved LCD monitor, was one of the hits of the show last year at G2E, and Bally has used its versatility to spread the technology across many different standard game styles. “It’s the most universal cabinet we own,” comments Mike Mitchell, vice president of game development and engineering at Bally. “In same-title performance, the earnings are double on the Wave. It’s cool to look at, and every game we put on it, the player experience is better.”

“It’s our success story of the year,” adds Jean

Venneman, vice president of product management. “It continues to support not only the V22/22 and V32 video formats, but new Wave-specific titles as well.”

Lynda, Friends and Beards

One of those “Wave-specific” titles is one of Bally’s new licensed brands, “Wonder Woman.” Based on the campy 1970s TV series with Lynda Carter as the Marvel Comics Amazonian superhero, Wonder Woman, the slot machine, uses the Pro Wave to mine the classic TV series for everything from video clips to the cheesy, mock-serious theme song, which repeats at various points in the game.

The initial base games are “Wonder Woman Gold” and “Wonder Woman Wild.” Each of the games, designed by Michael Gottlieb in Bally’s San Francisco studio, features free-game bonuses, expanding wild symbols and a three-level progressive jackpot, available at any bet level.

Carter herself is expected as a featured visitor to Bally’s booth at G2E. (No, not in costume. Mitchell says that’s been a common question.)

Another new Pro Wave title is “Heavenly Riches,” a multiple-progressive game in the vein of the manufacturer’s hugely popular Quick Hit series. As in the Quick Hit games, five progressive levels are returned by scattered jackpot symbols—in this case, gold ingots. Five or more scattered ingot symbols return jackpots with resets ranging from $20 to a wide-area top prize. There is an extra “Red Envelope Banked Progressive” that is triggered by envelope symbols on the outer reels.

Two other new licenses are being used to launch the new “Alpha 2 Pro Series Theatre,” a two-machine presentation under a single 55-inch monitor. The individual machines are on the Pro Wave, but the configuration conveys a cinematic feeling to envelop players in the game, says Mitchell.

The new two-game cabinet setup will host heavyweight titles, in games based on the hit 1990s sitcom Friends and the current cable reality hit Duck Dynasty.

“Friends” is a progressive video slot featuring all the characters of the popular sitcom, which TV Guide rated one of the 50 greatest shows of all time. The bonus events are packed with video clips from the show’s funniest moments, and a wheel event awards credits or one of four free-game features. “There were 10 seasons, with so many funny moments,” says Venneman. “There is so much we can do with this theme.”

“Duck Dynasty,” produced in partnership with G2 Game Design, features six different bonuses based on the A&E reality show centered around the lives of Louisiana’s Robertson family and its bearded men, who struck it rich building a company based on patriarch Phil Robertson’s invention of the Duck Commander duck call.

Bonus features like “Miss Kay’s Turtle,” the “Duck Commander Wheel” and others draw from what is the most-watched reality cable TV show in history. Bally officials say they expect to host an appearance by some of the cast members at the booth.

Bally is launching its new V27/27 cabinet with several core video slots. The V27/27—the numbers reflect the two 27-inch LCD video monitors—is designed as a hybrid between a slant-top and an upright cabinet. The two monitors are easily viewable, and are positioned similar to the monitors on standard uprights like Bally’s  workhorse V22/22. However, the button panel is on a flat tabletop-style surface like a traditional slant-top.

“We’re getting away from the concept of a traditional slant,” says Venneman. “This new cabinet takes all of our core video and dual-screen library.”

Among the new games launching the V27/27 are “Ginger Wilde” and “Parfum Adore,” with companion games “Rebel Wild” and “Shadow Prince.”

Ginger Wilde wraps a mystery stacked reels feature in both the base game and free games around a theme featuring a mysterious female spy character—and of course, several wild-symbol features to go with the character’s name. Parfum Adore is Bally’s first four-by-six reel format, with six reels and stacks of symbols that sometimes cover more than half the reel strip. Free games feature “Super Stacks” exclusively, with symbols covering multiple reels for big wins.

Betty, Zoltan and the Blob

Bally’s numerous other cabinet styles are host to a wealth of new titles in every game category, including the slot-maker’s most enduring themes—like the still-growing group of video slots featuring legendary cartoon vixen Betty Boop.

The V22/32 cabinet, with its tall vertical top box and 1080p-resolution 32-inch monitor, is host to “Betty Boop’s Firehouse” and, appropriately, a ladder-style bonus. The top of nine progressives on the ladder is a wide-area progressive on Bally’s Cash Connection link. (The game also is available as a near-area progressive.) The Betty’s Blazing Tower Bonus takes players up the ladder toward the top prizes.

Another game in the Betty Boop franchise, “Betty Boop’s 5th Avenue,” features a cash wheel with seven triggers for the spinning, and the Betty character shopping in swank Manhattan stores with her pooch Pudgy.

Also on the V22/32—and on the Cash Connection wide-area link—is “Zoltan’s Fortune,” which uses several unique Bally game mechanics to transform the slot into a replica of an old-time fortune-teller machine. (Mitchell says the game designers took inspiration from the “Zoltar Speaks” fortune-telling machine at the center of the Tom Hanks film Big to create the game.)

The main bonus events create clever sequences based on Zoltan telling the player’s fortune, such as looking into his crystal ball for the player’s award. The “Look Into My Eyes” bonus has the player place hands on the interactive iDeck panel and mentally pick one of six cards. Zoltan pays a credit award after he ascertains the player’s card with an impressive bit of electronic sleight-of-hand.

The Zoltan game also introduces a new feature called “Walking Wilds.” When wild symbols land on the reels during free games, they will “walk” in any direction, expanding to create blocks of wild symbols that can cover reels.

The core V22/22 cabinet—in the unique “Hammerhead” configuration—is host to another new Bally licensed video slot, “The Blob.” Based on the 1950s sci-fi film, the game features campy bonus features with townspeople running to escape the growing alien blob. The “Growing Blob” feature awards higher bonuses the larger the alien becomes. The Blob is also connected to the Cash Connection wide-area progressive.

Exploiting Strengths

Several G2E launches are meant to capitalize on what Bally has had the most success with in the past, in both game styles and game groups. For example, the company is calling on its prowess in the traditional high-denomination reel-spinner in a new multi-game unit on the Pro Curve cabinet, the format that includes curved video reels to mimic traditional spinning reels.

“Playboy Club” is a two-game setup on the Curve, topped by a spinning wheel for bonuses. The two games are classic reel-spinners (with animation spicing up the spinning, thanks to the Curve video monitor) available in single-line or five-line setups. One is a three-coin multiplier; the other is a five-coin multiplier. Denominations start at quarters and go up to $20,000.

“We’re switching strategy on the Pro Curve from low-denomination, high-line games to high-denomination, low-line games,” explains Venneman. “Choices will include multiple line setups, and players are able to select the game, the line setup and the denomination.”

Both games in the Playboy Club machine have progressive jackpots, hit by lining up three “Quick Hit” symbols on the center payline.

The inclusion of the Quick Hit progressive brand and symbol is no coincidence. The Quick Hit progressive series has been one of Bally’s most popular. “It’s been an amazing brand for us,” says Mitchell. “We continue to hear from our customers that Quick Hit works, so we’re coming out with new brands, including the first core video Quick Hit games. It’s a question of exploiting our most popular home-grown brands.”

In fact, at G2E, Bally will introduce new Quick Hit titles that feature the best of other home-grown Bally brands. “Quick Hit Cash Wizard” and “Quick Hit Cash Spin” combine the Quick Hit symbol-based progressive feature with two of Bally’s most popular titles. “Quick Hit Twin Fire” combines the progressive feature with a bonus ladder and the mini-bonuses of “Hot Shot,” one of the company’s most successful titles of the past two decades.

Other home-grown Bally brands will appear on the V32 portrait-style cabinet. Among the highlighted brands will be “Diamond Winners,” “Blazing Inferno,” “Captain’s Gold”—featuring mystery “Super Symbols” that cover several reels—and Fu Lion, with the “Daisy Chain” wild feature that starts chain reactions to increase the number of wild symbols on the screen.

Fu Lion is one of several new brands tailored for the Asian market in what Venneman says is a new effort to create regionalized content—one group of games designed specifically for Asian markets, another group for European markets.

Finally, in addition to all these slot games, the enormous Bally booth will host the table-game innovations of the former SHFL entertainment and the latest advances of Bally’s industry-topping systems division.

The e-table section will feature the Fusion product line, including “Fusion Hybrid,” “TableMaster Fusion” and “Fusion Virtual Multigame.”

The Fusion Hybrid product connects up to four live-dealer table games with player betting terminals. Players can switch between and concurrently play baccarat, roulette and sic bo from the same terminal.

TableMaster Fusion features a high-definition, 72-inch LCD display with virtual dealers as well as 22-inch wide-screen player terminals with touch-screen betting, enhanced graphics and multiple side bets. At the show, TableMaster Fusion will feature blackjack and Three Card Poker. Fusion Virtual Multigame allows players to switch between roulette, sic bo and baccarat from the same terminal, increasing play with four different game options in one seat.

On the system side, one featured product will be “Take ‘N Play,” a system that allows casinos to offer mobile devices—tablets at first—to players who would like to take their play session away from the slot floor to other approved gaming areas.

Take ‘N Play allows the player to hold a tablet to the screen of a slot to have the current live game transferred to the mobile device, along with the credits. The screen of the machine goes gray to indicate that it is being played remotely. The player can then take the tablet anywhere within a resort that is approved for gaming, and continue the same game.

It’s just one other product on what will be a milestone display for the newly diverse Bally, incorporating more product ranges than any other current supplier on a larger stage than anyone else will offer at the trade show.

One could say it will be tough to beat, but considering the fact that Bally is in the process of being acquired by Scientific Games, many in the industry will look at this year’s amazing Bally lineup and wonder what new strengths will crop up for an even larger company next year.

Frank Legato
Frank Legato is editor of Global Gaming Business magazine. He has been writing on gaming topics since 1984, when he launched and served as editor of Casino Gaming magazine. Legato, a nationally recognized expert on slot machines, has served as editor and reporter for a variety of gaming publications, including Public Gaming, IGWB, Casino Journal, Casino Player, Strictly Slots and Atlantic City Insider. He has an B.A. in journalism and an M.A. in communications from Duquesne University in Pittsburgh, PA. He is the author of the recently published book on gaming, How To Win Millions Playing Slot Machines... Or Lose Trying.