Just over a decade ago, Incredible Technologies, a successful amusement game supplier based in the Chicago suburbs, decided to make room in its plant for the development of casino slot machines. Much of that plant was dedicated to production of Golden Tee Golf, the legendary tavern and arcade golf game that had been its bread and butter since the 1980s.
This year, Golden Tee production is being moved out of the Mount Vernon, Illinois plant. Slot production has taken over, and there’s simply not enough room for the engineers to park.
Golden Tee, of course, is not going anywhere—IT is creating a dedicated plant for the game, which is still ubiquitous on the bar scene and has found new life as an esports game, with world-championship events held the past two years at the Orleans in Las Vegas.
But IT’s slot business is quite a story nevertheless. Only 11 years after the launch of its first slot game at G2E 2008, the company’s games are showing up regularly in industry surveys of the highest-performing slot games in the business.
“Our footprint is growing consistently,” says Caitlin Harte, director of product marketing for Incredible Technologies. “Our sales goals are really lofty. We’ve had year-over-year growth since 2015, which is crazy. We’re still high on the Eilers reports—we still feel like we’re the little guys, so it’s fun to see how the industry is responding to us.”
The industry is responding because players are responding. Harte credits that to the game introduction regimen instituted by Elaine Hodgson, the company’s co-founder, president and CEO.
“Elaine does not let us bring content to the G2E show that isn’t out in the field and proven, and performing well,” Harte says. “We pride ourselves that we bring a lot of new content, but it’s also available at the show, for sale, with earnings to back it up.”
This year, IT’s booth at G2E will feature around 50 cabinets, with dozens of new titles, and for the most part, ready to ship right after the show. But the hardware on which those games reside will be a major emphasis. Since launching the Infinity V55 core cabinet at G2E two years ago, the company has been developing new ways to present it—all designed to capitalize on the best features of that cabinet, which features a 55-inch, flat-screen 4K vertical full-touch monitor, the largest screen on a core cabinet in the industry.
At spring’s Indian Gaming Tradeshow, it was the Pinwheel.
The Infinity V55 Edge Pinwheel is is IT’s unconventional answer to a standard carousel configuration. Game cabinets are separated by IT’s unique Edge monitors, 4K LED displays of customizable high-definition graphics, each angled in what the company calls a “Sawtooth” configuration to create a unique configuration that offers players privacy and service employees easy access.
At G2E, IT will launch more hardware in the form of new versions of the V55, dubbed the Infinity Pilot and Infinity Summit.
The Pilot is a premium cabinet, for lease only—the company’s first lease-only product. It is designed to give the player an immersive experience by flanking the main 55-inch vertical monitor with two 29-inch displays—“58-inch monitors that have been cut in half,” Harte says. The effect is cinematic, creating what is almost a private chamber for the player.
“It creates an individual gaming space—like a stall, almost—where a player would feel really comfortable,” Harte explains. “It eliminates the ‘middle game syndrome,’ that we found can hurt games’ performance; it’s kind of like the middle airplane seat that no one wants to sit in. This cabinet creates a little more elbow room—a much more comfortable experience, and completely immersive.”
The Infinity Summit is designed as a new core cabinet, although Harte describes it as “premium core.” This form factor places a 4K high-definition monitor on top of the main 55-inch display, angled down toward the player.
“Where the Pilot is more horizontal, taking up a wider space, the Summit is capitalizing on the overhead space over Infinity V55,” says Harte. “We’ve become known for releasing great core cabinets, and then building on them using innovative, unique structures to add monitors, to create new form factors out of that. We did it with U23 cabinet, where we built upon that and made the Skybox. Now we have the V55, which is our core cabinet, and we added an overhead monitor to create the Summit.”
As with the Pinwheel configuration, IT is presenting innovative ways to group the two new cabinets, with configurations the company calls the “Dogbone” and the “Gear.”
The Dogbone configuration uses the Edge monitors in back-to-back banks of games. In a six-pack setup, the Edge monitors flanking the end-cap games create the shape of a dog bone for the entire bank. The Gear setup creates a carousel bank with space in the middle.
“Dogbone is our answer to back-to-back setups, and the Gear is like a gigantic carousel for someone who wants a centerpiece on their floor,” Harte says. “It is designed to really get attention. We’ve seen a lot of places that have started to have feature sections in their casino, either right when you walk in or smack-dab in the center, where they have all their leased product. We think this will be a good option for that section.” It will serve as the centerpiece of IT’s booth at G2E.
IT will launch inaugural games for each of the new cabinets. On the Pilot will be Crazy Money Double Deluxe, a new version of Crazy Money Deluxe, a hit game in what IT calls the “money family.”
The original Crazy Money established itself as the company’s flagship brand. As is IT’s practice, it has repeated the main game mechanics of the original in sequels. All of the “money” games have the familiar game interface of various bill denominations as reel symbols. They also all offer the central feature of the theme, the “Money Catch Bonus,” in which players touch the screen to “grab” flying dollar bills, revealing credit values behind each bill.
IT launched its tall Infinity Skybox cabinet in 2015 with the second game in the series, Crazy Money Deluxe. That was followed closely by the Infinity Super Sky Wheel, which used the adjacent 55-inch flat-screen monitors in a bank to form a giant common display for a wheel bonus. The Pilot’s featured game, Crazy Money Double Deluxe, builds on all those features.
“Our strategy often is to use the in-house brands to launch new form factors, and Crazy Money has been our bread and butter for a lot of years,” Harte says. “Crazy Money Double Deluxe uses all of the game play mechanics that players liked in Crazy Money Deluxe. The original is our most popular and highest-performing Skybox title. This uses a similar math model; we took all of the game play features players like with the wheel-spinning, and added a second wheel.
“Because what’s better than one wheel? Two wheels.”
The two wheels are displayed on the outside flanking monitors. “Where the Skybox cabinet had that huge wheel overhead, with the Pilot we’re bringing those wheel features down, right in the player’s line of sight, and they’re constantly turning,” says Harte. “It really makes use of the 4K gaming space.”
Enhancing the experience is the frequency of the wheel-spin bonus, which occurs around once every 45 spins. “That really keeps the player engaged, especially with this form factor,” Harte says.
The Summit cabinet is being used to launch a new game family called Roller Wheels. The main game mechanic is based on the hit IT game Money Roll, with the reels presented as a scrolling sheet of currency. “That was one of the most popular titles we’ve ever had,” says Harte. “We decided to upgrade it. We took the elements that players liked about it, and then added a wheel, and added a progressive.” As with the Crazy Money title, the bonus wheel spins with great frequency, an average of every 45 spins.
In keeping with the supplier’s M.O., both cabinets and the launch games were already out on field trial at press time. According to Harte, after 45 days, Crazy Money Double Deluxe on the Pilot was averaging around 2.8 times house average in revenue at four locations.
Roller Wheels on the Summit is averaging nearly two times house average in five locations, Harte says. “All the initial earnings we have coming back on these two form factors are really encouraging,” she says. “By the time we go into the show, we’ll have more titles out on test.
“It’s different than some of our competitors who bring cabinets you won’t have on your floor for another year. We really pride ourselves on the fact we’re able to get these new products out and tested, and will be at G2E for sale, ready to go, ready to ship right after the show.”
Ramping Up the Library
Aside from the two big cabinet/game launches, IT is using the big show to launch titles that will add to the product pipeline of the company’s other form factors. That includes new game families for the Skybox and the original Infinity V55.
On the Skybox, the company will highlight its new “SkyTower” game family with Flamingo Fire, which takes advantage of the tall vertical top monitor with the ability to “unlock” up to four additional reel sets, each spinning toward one of four progressive jackpots.
Scatter symbols trigger a progressive bonus in which the bottom reel set is cleared of all symbols except blanks, progressive symbols and keys, which must be collected to unlock each progressive level in the SkyTower. Once a level is unlocked, the progressive pieces can accumulate to collect multiple progressive awards in a single event.
A second launch title, Lady of the Tower, features a similar progressive bonus event.
“We’ve kind of taken a back seat on Skybox for about a year, because the current titles have been performing so well,” says Harte. “Now, as competition is increasing in that product segment with the big overhead monitor, we decided that this was the year to refresh it.”
On the Infinity V55 is Spirit Link, IT’s first game family featuring a hold-and-spin bonus event. On these games, scatter symbols trigger the spin of a wheel to determine a number of “Spirit Link Spins.” The main screen clears to reveal a reel set of only blanks and Lady scatters. Players then collect scatters for credit awards and keep their eyes peeled for scatters that land next to each other. When that happens, the player can touch them on the screen, after which the symbols grow in size and credit awards.
If the player fills the screen with scatters, it triggers a progressive wheel bonus. (The progressive bonus also is awarded randomly as a mystery event.) All progressives are available at any bet level.
Launch titles include Dance of the Dead, inspired by the Mexican Day of the Dead holiday; and the Asian-themed City of the East.
“Spirit Link is our first swipe at a hold-and-spin game, a feature we now put in the same category as a wheel,” Harte says. “It’s a feature players know and recognize. Spirit Link takes the familiarity of hold-and-spin and adds beautiful art that really pops on the 4K monitors.”
As with the new cabinets, IT is making Spirit Link available in the unique bank configurations like Sawtooth and Pinwheel.
Meanwhile, IT continues on its growth path, with game development in four Chicago-area studios, plus two in Las Vegas, each with its own team of engineers and game designers. The company recently promoted Dan
Whelan, one of its lead game designers, to the position of vice president of development. “He’s really taken on the task of keeping everyone communicating and open, and sharing ideas,” Harte says.
“The year has been really exciting. We have more employees than we ever had, close to 250. Our Las Vegas office is up and running, and those studios are creating their own game content. We’ve expanded into Canada. The product is performing really high; our bank configurations and Edge content are getting us a lot of attention, which is getting us better bank placement.”
The small size of the company, she adds, gives designers an advantage. “Because we’re so small, we can be really nimble when we come out with new product,” she says. “We can respond to feedback immediately and design something for a particular market.”
Harte says company officials appreciate the opportunity for growth that has been afforded by the operators. “We’re obviously very happy that our operators are still in support of little guys,” she says.
“Although, perhaps we aren’t so little anymore.”