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Green Flag

NASCAR slots, Pawn Stars and Beach Boys head another mind-boggling Bally G2E lineup

Green Flag

Year after year, there are certain spots at the Global Gaming Expo to which attendees naturally gravitate. The Bally booth is one of them.

Over the past several years, Bally Technologies has done much to redefine the nature of slot machine play, from new play mechanics on the Alpha and Alpha 2 platforms to innovative cabinet presentations, to the unique way in which slot themes are conveyed.

 This year is yet another step in that evolution, as Bally arrives at G2E with another massive collection of new slot games, the most notable of which use the play styles and mechanics developed in recent years to super-charge some of the most compelling licensed brands the slot-maker has yet tackled.

It’s not just the licensed brands, however, that stand to turn heads at the Bally booth. New play styles and bonus methods lend interactivity to a wealth of proprietary titles as well. New Bally reel-spinners come in both five-reel configuration and traditional high-denomination, single-line three-reelers. New versions of old favorites give a boost to the workhorse Pro Series. And one of the new licenses stands to give a major boost to the iVIEW Display Manager networked slot setup.

“Our key message this year? Lots of new titles; a lot of new play mechanics,” says Dan Savage, Bally vice president of marketing, who rattles off the numbers: Alpha 2 Pro Series V22/22 cabinet—37 new titles coming out by July 2013, with 22 on display at G2E. V32 cabinet—23 new games at the show. Core video—60 new titles in the pipeline with 34 at the show. Pro Curve—28 new titles in the market by July.

The list goes on. According to Savage, all told, Bally will have 150 titles on display at G2E. But it all starts with the highest of the high-profile brands.

Racing Ahead

Bally is going all out with one of the most casino-friendly brands it has ever secured, that being a license from the National Association for Stock Car Auto Racing, better known to thousands of racing fans as NASCAR.

NASCAR fans will find what Bally calls a “who’s who of racing royalty” populating the NASCAR progressive video slot, which uses the V22/32 cabinet and Pro Series Sound Chair to recreate the sights and sounds of NASCAR and the Daytona International Speedway.

The V22/32 setup—a 22-inch main game monitor underneath Bally’s famous 32-inch vertical portrait screen—is perfectly suited for the racing bonus events, and the Sound Chair roars and vibrates with the engines of the cars belonging to five of NASCAR’s brightest stars. All game events are “hosted” by Eli Gold, TV and radio’s “voice of NASCAR.” The NASCAR theme song blares through the speakers during primary game play.

The player can pick any of the five featured NASCAR drivers—Dale Earnhardt, Jr., Jimmie Johnson, Kevin Harvick, Jeff Gordon or Clint Bowyer—before play. The driver’s bio pops up, and all colors and icons on the game change to reflect that driver’s team colors and branding.

The player’s NASCAR driver competes with the others in three bonuses. The “Pit Stop” bonus is a picking bonus in which the player seeks four “upgrades” for his driver’s car. In the “Burnout Free Games,” the back tire of the official NASCAR Bally car (they actually built one; it will be at G2E) serves as the “U-Spin” wheel, which the player touches and spins to reveal one of seven different free-spin combinations, each with different outcomes.

The main bonus, the “Green Flag Bonus,” is a NASCAR race in “real-time 3D.” The player gets to assume the identity of his driver and “drive” the car using a new Bally play mechanic called “U-Race.” The race plays out on the large screen in a 3D image of Daytona International Speedway, with the display following the car’s position on the track as the race builds to a finish. The top three finishing cars get the top bonus awards.

The slot machine itself, though, is not the end of the NASCAR license for Bally. “NASCAR is the first major licensed brand for Bally that extends across games and systems,” Savage explains. That means it will be the next “Virtual Racing” offering for Bally in the iVIEW Display Manager system, which currently enables floor-wide virtual horse races at several large casinos.

Virtual Racing in its current form gives all qualifying players in a casino (the casino sets a point or play time threshold for qualification) to choose a horse from a field, and a video of a horse race plays out both on game screens and on overhead monitors. Everyone picking the winning horse splits a cash award. In the NASCAR virtual race, players will select one of eight star NASCAR drivers—the five featured in the slot game, plus Matt Kenseth, Mark Martin and Martin Truex Jr.—and the race will play out on a virtual NASCAR track.

Pawns and Surf

NASCAR is not the only famous brand to which Bally is applying its inimitable style. Millions who watch A&E’s History Channel have become addicted to a show called Pawn Stars. It’s a reality show based in a Downtown Las Vegas pawn shop, and viewers love not only the banter among the shop’s owners—Richard “The Old Man” Harrison, his son, Rick Harrison, Rick’s son Corey and Corey’s friend, Austin “Chumlee” Russell—but the tough, back-and-forth negotiations with customers over prices for a variety of items brought in.

If you haven’t seen the show, Rick is the top negotiator, bringing in experts if he doubts an item’s authenticity, and never caving on price—to the occasional fury of customers who had anticipated a bonanza.

Bally has captured the essence of the show—which, by the way, is the No. 1 cable show in the U.S., South America and the U.K.—in a Pro Series video slot including themed picking bonuses and a top-box wheel. Similar to the NASCAR slot, the player starts by choosing his favorite character from the show.

That character is featured in the “Negotiation Bonus,” when the player selects one of five items to sell, then negotiates with the Pawn Star. The character even stops sometimes to consult an “expert” on the value of an item, which changes the bonus award. The wheel bonus yields 11 different prizes, including credit awards, multipliers and free spins.

All of the Pawn Stars cast members contributed video performances and audio for the slot. (The Pawn Stars, along with NASCAR star Clint Bowyer, will be among the dignitaries cutting the ribbon this year at G2E.)

The other branded theme mastered by Bally this year is one close to any Baby Boomer’s heart—“The Beach Boys,” with the legendary band and its music presented in a video slot. Several top Beach Boys songs, including “California Girls,” “I Get Around” and “Little Deuce Coupe,” are featured in the game, with picking bonuses designed to choose the record, and ample video clips of the band, circa 1964. The Beach Boys slot includes a bonus wheel that awards credits or “concerts” by the legends of surf music.

Home-Grown Video

The new licensed brands are joined at Bally’s booth by a huge collection of proprietary brands in all game genres, from new versions of the popular themes “Hot Shot” and “Cash Wizard” to new stepper games in both traditional formats and the hybrid Pro Curve cabinet.

The Hot Shot brand—which seized on the popularity of classic Bally reel-spinners by including miniature versions of the old games as bonus mini-games—is reprised in the “Dual Wheel Hot Shot Progressive,” a lease/participation game featuring giant twin wheels in a 42-inch vertical display. Bonuses include both the Hot Shot game-in-game feature and free games, in addition to the U-Spin wheels. The lower wheel is actually two wheels in one—free spins on the outer ring and multipliers on the inner ring—with the top wheel including five slices awarding 40,000 credits.

“Cash Wizard Tiki Magic” reprises the wizard theme with a Polynesian flair on the V22/32 cabinet, the top 32-inch screen featuring 1080p high-definition video. Tiki Magic introduces a play mechanic called “U-Drag,” in which the player drags objects from one section of the bonus screen to another.

Core for-sale video products include a wealth of innovations as well. In the V32 vertical cabinet, “Triple Trouble” features the familiar Bally devil character and “Blazing 7s” jackpot symbols in a three-reel setup. To the backdrop of the 1984 hit “The Heat Is On,” the player spins three 30-line reel sets. Open spots on the reels are randomly filled by wild symbols or jackpot symbols, and pays are randomly tripled. All free spins are 3X.

Other standouts in the V32 cabinet include “Pirate’s Quest” and “Sumo Kitty.” Pirate’s Quest uses the big vertical screen and the iDeck LCD button panel to introduce yet another interactive play mechanic, “U-Aim.” In the bonus, players use the iDeck to aim and shoot at pirate ships on the screen for one of three credit prizes. Sumo Kitty includes the “Hot Zone” stacking wild feature, in which wild “zones” float over the screen during both primary spins and free games to settle over groups of symbols and turn them wild.

The new V20/42 cabinet—with the 42-inch top-box display—is featured in a new Playboy-themed game, “Playboy Prize Ball.” The big top box is used here for a classic pinball game, replicating “Ballyhoo,” the 1932 pinball machine that gave Bally its name and launched the company.

Featured games in the standard Alpha 2 video series include “Hand of the Devil,” which features a free-spin round in which wild symbols are assigned a multiplier of up to 5X and one wild symbol locks. In the base game, every spin has a random chance of winning one of four progressive jackpots. In the mystery feature, a random suit is chosen and the player gets two choices from four face-down cards to match the suit for a progressive.

Also featured in standard video, “Spirit” is a Native American-themed video slot with beautiful artwork and a free-spin bonus; and “Majestic Stag” features free games with multipliers and a two-level mystery progressive jackpot.

Curves and Reels

Bally executives will tell you that they’ve never forgotten the classic reel-spinning genre that got the company where it is today. These days, the company can do more with the genre than in the old days, thanks to innovations like the Pro Curve cabinet, which features a curved video screen that replicates spinning reels but allows added features impossible with traditional steppers.

“We’ve talked before about the beauty of offering the mechanical reel experience while adding things you couldn’t do with traditional reels,” comments John Vallejo, senior director of game development at Bally. “In the high denominations, where you get the most discerning customers, we’ve been getting fantastic results with the Pro Curve.”

Mike Mitchell, vice president of game development, adds that every Alpha reel-spinner released in the past four or five years is available on the Pro Curve cabinet. “It allows us to offer high-denomination games with unique features—high-denomination with a little fun,” he says.

Heading the Pro Curve list at G2E will be the latest version of “Quick Hit,” the multiple-progressive slot that has barnstormed the industry with a simple formula—the more scattered Quick Hit symbols on the five reels, the higher the progressive award, from five symbols for an award resetting at $15 to nine symbols for a $3,000-plus award.

This version of the classic reel-spinner adds a video bonus feature—the spaces between the curved reels disappear for a picking bonus in which players pick tiles until they have three of the same bonus. Bonuses include 10 free games with locking wilds, 3X Pay, 2X Pay or “Quick Hit Fever,” which can lead to one of the progressives.

Other Pro Curve slots have similar video features superimposed on classic reels: In “Star Signs,” the player is invited to select his or her Zodiac sign, and the graphics and symbols change to reflect that sign. “Exploding Wilds” have a Zodiac Wild symbol on the reels bursting to create up to nine additional wild symbols. “Platinum 7s” is a traditional three-reel, single-line game with a re-spin feature—a wild symbol on the second reel causes the other two to re-spin. In the free-games bonus, a multiplier increases every five spins up to a maximum of 5X.

Finally, the traditional stepper group is beefed up at G2E with top titles including “Bonus Strike,” “Wild Encounters” and “Valley of Fire.”

In Bonus Strike, a three-reel, single-line slot designed for high denominations, the main feature re-spins the third reel to award a random line multiplier up to 10X, or the progressive jackpot, which resets at 2,000 credits.

Wild Encounters is a five-reel, 30-line stepper featuring stacked wilds and a “Wild Sweep” free-game feature in which wild reels sweep from right to left—at least one wild reel is included on each free game.

Valley of Fire, another five-reel, 30-line stepper, allows players to choose between three free-game scenarios—the Wild Sweep feature, a guaranteed two wild reels for every free spin, or “Locking Wilds” that remain in place for the rest of the free spins.

Borrowing an idea from its marquee NASCAR game, Bally has attached the slogan “Driving Innovation” to this year’s G2E lineup. Clearly, the slogan applies to much more than the racing game.

 

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 books, How To Win Millions Playing Slot Machines... Or Lose Trying, and Atlantic City: In Living Color.  

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