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IGT

IGT moves forward with new cabinets, new markets, new games, and new R&D efforts to maintain market dominance

IGT

There is no product area at IGT that has seen idle time. For as long back as one can imagine, there has been constant research, game development and expansion of offerings in all product groups.

In hardware, IGT has spent the past year expanding its offerings in the Peak family of cabinets, starting with the PeakBarTop and continuing with the PeakSlant49, PeakSlant32, and Dynasty Peak Terminal. This year, the company is completing its new hardware offerings not only with new Peak cabinets, but new presentations for steppers, video poker, electronic table games, VLTs and historical horse racing.

The content utilizing these new forms continues to expand as well. New versions of longstanding hit game franchises will be found on the new premium video cabinet, while a new stepper cabinet will host a modern version of one of the classic slot hits of all time.

New games on PeakSlant32—a perennial top-performing candidate in the Eilers-Fantini monthly survey—and other hardware launched last year combine new concepts, themes and game mechanics with content that draws on IGT’s entire history.

Meanwhile, IGT as a whole has continued to move forward into new product areas, excelling in areas such as its cashless solution, the industry’s only turnkey e-wallet, Resort Wallet with IGTPay; its IGT PlaySports sports-betting platform, which fuels several of the industry’s top sportsbooks; and expanding business areas including historical horse racing, Class II, VLTs, and a rapidly growing interactive business in IGT PlayDigital that enjoys large shares of the markets in several states.

And this year, all those product categories have one game family in particular in common: the venerable Wheel of Fortune slots franchise. IGT is celebrating the 25th anniversary of the iconic title with new versions in just about every game genre. What has been arguably the most famous slot machine brand in history will be prominent in IGT’s booth at the Global Gaming Expo, to the tune of 27 units hosting 11 different Wheel of Fortune themes.

Nick Khin, IGT’s senior vice president and chief operating officer, notes that the company’s product development has not ceased since the last Global Gaming Expo, despite all the challenges of the last two years. He says overall game development has thrived in all game styles, but specifically mentions multi-level progressives as one of the areas of closest attention. “Over the last couple of years, we’ve been very focused on increasing and significantly improving our multi-level progressives offering, and we have dedicated significant resources and significant investment to that effort,” he says.

Development in this and other areas is being helped by amped-up research efforts. “We have expanded our test bank program, something we set up about five years ago that was focused on core (games),” says Khin. “We’ve now expanded that program to premium games—in particular, the multi-level progressives. Before we release those multi-level progressives to the market, they must go through and pass our rigorous test bank program.

“We’re giving our customers confidence and comfort that the games they are putting on their floors are games that are going to really perform for them.”

He adds that the multi-level progressives span premium and core game groups, for-sale and for-lease.

Form Factoring

Game development efforts these days at IGT are likely to begin with the hardware, with launch games for new cabinets tailored to the strengths of the hardware. Such is the case with the new Peak65 video game cabinet, which will debut at G2E with new titles for both Wheel of Fortune and The Price Is Right game franchises.

IGT spent several years creating new content for the “Crystal” series of cabinets, from CrystalSlant to CrystalCurve. The Peak65 cabinet enhances what could be called the “Peak” family of cabinets, which began early in 2020 with the release of the PeakBarTop, followed in late 2020 with the PeakSlant49 with premium content, then the PeakSlant32, featuring a market-first three 32-inch monitors, and continuing this year with core content on the Peak49 cabinet.

Peak65, with its imposing 65-inch 4K monitor, is the latest addition. The cabinet will launch with Wheel of Fortune High Roller, featuring a versatile wheel bonus that can include multiple pointers, progressive jackpot slices, multipliers and mystery bonuses.

The base game reprises the expanding reels mechanic first seen in the hit game Hexbreak3r. The reels expand with a “High Roller Arrow” that adds multipliers and extra pointers to the bonus wheel.

The new Wheel of Fortune title will be accompanied by a The Price Is Right title expected to be revealed at G2E.

IGT will have one more new cabinet to launch at G2E, with new games to match—these ones stepper titles in the new Diamond RS cabinet and format. Augmenting a stepper collection that is still growing on the core S3000 cabinet, the Diamond RS features a new generation of transmissive reels technology that allows a stepper cabinet to host multiple pay-line configurations on the same cabinet—essentially, a multi-game, multi-denomination mechanical reel-spinning slot.

“We are extremely proud of the Diamond RS,” says Domenico Pastia, IGT’s senior vice president of global product. “It is a good blend of technology, and it has the look that made IGT the indisputed leader in the stepper category over the last 30 years.”

Pastia says Diamond RS is the result of intense market research into what makes IGT steppers popular. “The design is really classic,” he says. “We created a custom top box that allows us to present a pay table at its best, because we felt that is what the players are asking for.”

The cabinet design also incorporated market research performed in 2019 by a team led by Roger Pettersson, senior director, core product and product marketing, to ascertain player preferences on the stepper side.

“As you know, IGT really grew up being a powerhouse in the mechanical reel/stepper market in the 1990s and 2000s,” notes Anthony Baerlocher, vice president of innovation and mechanical reels at IGT (and part of the 1990s team that created the original Wheel of Fortune slot machine).

“The S2000 is probably the best-selling slot cabinet in history, and we still have a lot of customers really holding onto those old cabinets, the old games—their players still have a passion for that look and feel.” IGT engineers and researchers, he says, sought to answer the question, “What’s the look, the feel that is an IGT stepper cabinet?”

Baerlocher also cites the pre-launch research for the Diamond RS as important in its development. “We spent three months, right before Covid hit, sending out our research team, doing ethnographic research… For the first time, we really jumped in and spent hours and hours walking around casinos with players, not asking what they did and didn’t like, but really just understanding what makes them tick, what drives them to the games that they play.

“That feedback really drove a lot of the final decisions on what this cabinet ended up looking like, and how it functions.”

On top of checking off all those player preferences on IGT steppers, the Diamond RS distinguishes itself with its use of IGT Diamond Glass, which places a transparent video overlay on top of mechanical reels. “It’s not like the old transmissive reels—that technology has come a long way,” Baerlocher says. “Our own internal teams have done a ton of research maximizing the light that comes through, and the materials we use on the reel strip to get the images nice and crisp.”

To launch the new stepper cabinet, IGT has drawn on a franchise more than two decades old, the beloved stepper game Top Dollar. Fans have known that game by its original incarnation, a classic stepper with a carnival-style bonus played out by alternating lights behind cash symbols silkscreened on a glass top box.

The Diamond RS version is called Double Top Dollar.

“Double Top Dollar is going to be our premier launch title at G2E,” says Baerlocher. The key to its development, he says, was to use modern technology to recreate the feel of that traditional mechanical reel-spinner.

“I can’t tell you exactly what I told the producer of the game, but it was to the effect of, ‘Don’t mess this up,’” Baerlocher says. “So, they went back and found original files—all the original sound files, using the same color, the same MC calling out numbers, saying, ‘Yo, you’re a winner!’ We found the original files and digitally enhanced them.”

He says the sequence of the lights in the top box was recreated. “When you enter the bonus, the flashing sequences are all the same,” he says. “It comes up as close as possible to the original game.”

“I think it’s fair to say we’ve been very true to the brand,” says Khin. “And we have also not done anything to the math of the game. This plays the same way as the original.”

But the transmissive technology of the cabinet allows for multiple pay-line configurations in the same cabinet.

As Baerlocher notes, Top Dollar has been recreated down to the detail of even using identical reel strips, but thanks to the transmissive reels, those reel strips can present a five-line, six-coin version and a nine-line, 10-coin version of the game in addition to the basic single-line, two- or three-coin version.

“Now, you can actually enable all three of those games,” Baerlocher says, adding that you can set different denominations on each setup. “You might want to run the one-line as a $5/$10/$25, the five-line as a $1/$2/$5 and the nine-line is a 50 cent/$1/$2 denomination— all on the same cabinet, and let the player decide.”

The setup of Double Top Dollar is only the first such game using the transmissive technology for multi-game versions. “We’re doing that with a lot of our high-denomination games,” Baerlocher says. “At G2E, we’re going to have Double Gold, Pink Diamond, Double-3X-4X-5X Pay, Triple Gold Bars, and a couple more with that one/five/nine-line multi-game option. We’re lucky we have such a great library of classic titles to draw from.”

Building the Library

Of course, IGT’s augmentation of its game library is by no means restricted to launch titles for new cabinets. At G2E, the company will launch new titles for all legacy cabinets and game styles, beginning with that stepper style IGT mastered long ago.

“We’ve started a transformation of the S3000 product line,” Baerlocher says.

“About three years ago, we took a step back with the studio and really started reevaluating how we build our new games… We came up with a whole new set of ways to do math and present the games to the player that meets the needs of the 2020s, not the 1990s when I used to design a lot of the games.”

Naturally, the new stepper offerings include a new Wheel of Fortune title. On the premium CrystalWheel Stepper cabinet, Wheel of Fortune 2X Wild Diamond Spins features a three-reel, nine-line bet structure and an operator-configurable max bet of nine, 18 or 27 credits. The primary game features multiplying wild symbols that double or quadruple the win. The iconic bonus wheel, with up to three pointers, includes the top progressive.

New stepper games also abound on the S3000 and S3000 Jackpot cabinets. In the three-reel format for higher denominations, Wolf Run Respin brings the hold-and-re-spin mechanic to one of IGT’s oldest established video slot brands. The wild Wolf symbol on the center reel—it randomly nudges there—locks for a re-spin with a multiplier of 2X to 5X.

Lucky Golden Toad, another three-reel, high-denom entry, features a “what-you-see-is-what-you-get” pay scheme with a multiplying re-spin feature. Also designed for higher denominations is the five-reel, 15-line Triple Double Diamond Jackpots, with five or more multiplying wild symbols triggering one of five jackpots. Multiplying wilds also figure prominently in 4X3X2X Jackpot, a 15-line, 15-coin five-reel game; and Triple Double Diamond Jackpots.

Big City 5s, a low-denomination five-reel entry, features 10 jackpots, each tied to reel symbols. Five jackpot symbols on any of the 20 lines wins the corresponding prize, in the primary game or during up to 32 free games.

Video Versatility

Among the standout video offerings for this year is the premium Megabucks Mega Vault, which combines the extremely volatile program of the Mega Vault five-reel video slot with the Megabucks wide-area jackpot.

The game features free games with locking wilds and multipliers, offering frequent chances at successive big wins. Locking Megabucks sub-symbols in free games create a suspenseful Megabucks progressive chase.

There also is a persistent-state picking bonus that can be triggered at any wager, which guarantees a jackpot win and a shot at the top Megabucks prize.

The core video area for IGT this year offers up a mix of new games and revived classics on the PeakSlant49 and PeakSlant32 cabinets.

On the PeakSlant49 are three games that bring back classic IGT video slot themes—Wolf Run Eclipse, Da Vinci Diamonds Masterpiece and Stinkin’ Rich Skunks Gone Wild.

Wolf Run Eclipse features a five-level progressive with a top jackpot starting at $10,000. It also features stacking Wolf symbols in the base game, and a wheel bonus that awards credits, free games or one of the progressives.

Da Vinci Diamonds Masterpiece reprises one of IGT’s all-time favorite themes in a game featuring “Tumbling Reels,” with multipliers increasing with each tumble. It is a ways-to-win game in which the sizes of symbols change to increase the ways to win on each spin.

Stinkin’ Rich Skunks Gone Wild reprises the Stinkin’ Rich theme in hilarious fashion, in a 100-line game in which “Richard” the Skunk jumps down to the screen to add wild symbols. And yes, the Lynyrd Skynyrd song “That Smell” still provides the backdrop.

On the PeakSlant32 cabinet are more revivals of classic IGT video in Lucky Larry Lobstermania 4 Link and Super Sally Shrimpmania 4 Link.

Lucky Larry’s original “Buoy Bonus” picking event is reprised in the new version, along with a collect feature that can lead to three different bonus events, including a wheel feature.

Also on the PeakSlant32 are the companion games Green Lighting and Lucky Lighting, featuring cash-on-reels jackpots.

On the premiuim side, WuWu Coins Link on the PeakSlant49 features a hold-and-re-spin event, Lock & Respin, in which the player has three-spin cyles to land coins to trigger fee spins and wild symbols. Additionally, Money Mania Cleopatra, with sister game Money Mania Pharaoh’s Fortune, are on a unique progressive link with a top wide-area static jackpot of $100,000 and a secondary wide-area progressive resetting at $4,000.

The game utilizes a player-selectable bet structure that starts at a 75-cent minimum and allows for a max bet of up to $37.50 to appeal to players with different bankrolls. Jackpot levels rise with the bet. The Money Mania Jackpot Bonus utilizes a unique innovation on the Lock & Respin mechanic combined with a ladder-style bonus.

Also on the PeakSlant32 are the companion games Lucky Lightning and Greek Lightning, 576-ways-to-win games featuring cash-on-reels jackpots.

Video Poker

IGT continues to reinvent the video poker genre the company has dominated for decades, including, this year, a new lineup of hardware. In addition to the changing lineup of both traditional video poker and specialty bonus video poker on the PeakBarTop and older bar-top units, this year IGT launches the multi-game All Star Poker III platform on the CrystalSlant cabinet.

The new multi-game setup features 10 games, including the popular Powerhouse Poker, which awards bonus hands with multipliers on paying hands in exchange for a 10-credit per-hand bet; and Ultimate X Bonus Streak, which, for an extra per-hand ante, awards multipliers that apply to a pay table hand and stick for a random number of hands.

A new version of Powerhouse Poker—Powerhouse Poker Plus—is offered on the CrystalCurve cabinet; and on the Cobalt 23 cabinet is 3 Way Action, which allows players to bet on three ways to win on each hand—the five-card dealt hand, the five-card hand on the draw, and a seven-card hand that adds two cards from the remaining deck.

Other specialty games apply simple bonuses that are easy to understand and to appreciate. In Lucky Suit Poker, the player picks a “lucky suit” at the start of a hand and receives a multiplier of up to 12X whenever the first card dealt matches the suit. In Super Triple Play, a one-credit ante doubles the pay for four of a kind.

Branching Out

IGT continues to improve its other expanding product areas. Its electronic table games portfolio, anchored by the new Dynasty Peak Cabinet, accommodates multi-game content bundles and a library of innovative side bets for baccarat, roulette and blackjack.

At G2E, IGT will launch its Concurrent RNG multi-game software, which enables players to play multiple games simultaneously and increases the rate of play.

IGT also will display a bar-top application in which players can pause from video poker or slot games to place sports wagers using the IGT PlaySports platform.

The company also has expanded its Crystal Betting Terminal, previewed two years ago as a sportsbook terminal at which players could place a wager and watch the contest at the same station. IGT is launching a new version that adds casino games to the terminal.

“We have spent a lot of time further developing that product,” says Khin. “The product that you’re going to see at G2E will have slot content and poker content on it, as well as the sports betting content. This was always our vision of having a product that a sports bettor could sit at—they could watch the game, they could play sports, but they could also play slot games and and poker, if they so wish.”

Rounding out IGT’s trade show display will be new products in the VLT, Class II and historical horse racing genres—all of which are in growth mode for the company.

IGT is the top VLT provider in Canada, and No. 1 performer in many U.S. opeator markets as well. In Class II, the company is steadily growing its footprint. “We’ve been putting a lot of focus and attention on Class II, and it’s starting to really show,” Khin says. “This was an area we identified as a huge opportunity for us.”

In all, two years after the last Global Gaming Expo, IGT is ready. “It’s been 24 months, and we’ve been hard at work,” Khin says. “We’ve been preparing for this G2E for quite some time.”

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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