Incredible Technologies started selling slot machines in 2011. Little more than a decade later, IT is a known commodity, having proven that a company famous for its amusement machines—Golden Tee Golf is the most well-known—can compete on slot floors with the largest household-name slot companies.
Over the past three years, including the difficult Covid shutdowns, IT has re-evaluated how it develops slot machines to appeal to particular audiences of players. According to Dan Schrementi, the company’s president of gaming, IT’s game development staff has made a thorough study of player segments, and the game features and mechanics that have appealed to them on the floors.
“This company right now is more focused than it’s ever been on being successful for our customers and for our players, but also for our staff,” Schrementi says. “Our G2E show message for the year is ‘Focused on the Win.’ I’ve worked here 20 years, so I’ve seen the company go through different phases of life. But the word that we kept walking away with was ‘focused.’ It’s us telling the world we had to update our playbook for the stage of evolution that we’re in now, the second stage—a more mature stage as opposed to a startup in gaming.”
The “win” that is the subject of the message is, first and foremost, “literally casino operator win,” he says. But it also means winning the player’s dedication with the style and features of the games themselves.
“Even though our customers love that we innovate, right now the market’s gotten much more competitive, with companies really investing in product management and strategy,” Schrementi says. “So, we’ve changed the way we’re making games. Our No. 1 focus for our customers is to make sure we’re always providing them with the best possible games to create coin-in and bring them ROI.”
IT has initiated a new game development strategy and process, including adding talent to the team, with the goal of creating what Schrementi calls “true player design.” The team’s research revealed that the most popular games in the market target two types of players, and identified characteristics appealing to those players.
Under the category of “Entertainment Player”—identified as an often transient or tourist player—successful games are designed for a smaller wallet with extended time on device. According to Schrementi, that means developing games with lower volatility, a lower threshold for win celebrations, more animation and audio, and “trending” or market-driven features (hold-and-spin, pot bonuses, etc.). It also means advertising the games’ features and brands in flashier retail packages.
Under the category of “Avid Player”—defined as the local, return player—successful games are designed for a larger wallet, with higher payout opportunities. To serve this player, IT’s game development team has focused on creating “stickier” games with higher volatility, simple audio and animation, market-driven features, and a higher threshold for win celebrations. (“We don’t celebrate the wins unless we know for sure it’s a big number because nothing will irritate an avid player more than that,” says Schrementi.)
Applying the Principles
How IT’s development staff has applied this research will be on full display at the company’s G2E booth, starting with its new for-sale cabinet, the Prism Element. Priced competitively with the landmark motorized Prism VXP launched two years ago, the Prism Element features a 55-inch 4K portrait monitor with the same oversized button panel as the VXP.
The game library for the Prism Element will focus on the high-frequency avid player.
“It’s building off of the established Prism platform that we launched with Prism VXP, but taking a more focused approach,” says Kelsey Reish, product marketing manager for IT. “It encapsulates everything we’ve been talking about with development and strategy and puts it into hardware.
“There’s no motor element in this cabinet. It’s a much more simple presentation, but that’s intentional. We’re also pairing it with some really interesting signage. The Edge end cap is compatible and the Element Banner on top is an addition that’s game-controlled.”
This summer, the company rolled the cabinet out on test at select locations, with inaugural titles Lotus Link and Treasure Lock.
Lotus Link, with base games Soul of Egypt and Spirit of Prosperity, features a three-pot bonus mechanic in a perceived persistence collection feature. “As you land scatters on the reels, they’ll fly up and make the pots grow,” Reish says. “Then, at any random time, one, two or all three can pop with their corresponding scatters. Each title has different features within the Lotus Link Lock & Spin feature. It’s testing really well; we’re really excited to see it go nationwide.”
“We’re off to a really good start on our test banks with these, trying to stick to the plan, testing them secretly before we fully announce their launch to the world,” says Schrementi. “We’ll know that they’re proven before we bring them to a show. We’ve got that with Lotus Link and Treasure Lock for sure, and we’re in the midst of testing other themes.”
One of those other themes is Treasure Lock Emperor’s Gift. “This has a three-pot or three-ingot bonus feature,” Reish says. “The pots each enhance the Lock & Spin hold-and-re-spin feature, with multipliers, a Spin Saver feature that takes the Lock & Spin meter back to three spins, and a jackpot wheel feature. As with other games of this nature, the player can randomly trigger one, two or all three of the enhancements.
“It is a simple game, but it has features and trends that are working. We’re listening to what players want and watching the market,” says Reish. “Three-pot games are very successful, so we’re offering them in a couple of different formats.”
“Treasure Lock is another game with great earnings on our initial test banks,” says Schrementi. “A lot of these games are being designed with us trying to decide what not to put in them, which is not in our DNA as game designers. That three-pot feature is a whole new dynamic of an experience for players. But if you play them a lot, they really are a simple and different level of anticipation because you’re watching the reels along with the pots that give a chance to win on any spin.”
Also on test this summer was the Hold N Gold game family. “This has combined some of our best-performing titles in the Ultra Rush, Dragon Rush and Ultra Rush Gold game families,” says Reish.
“Those were all very successful titles on other platforms like Infinity and the VXP. We’ve taken those best elements and put them into Hold N Gold.”
Hold N Gold has a three-spin persistence feature. “Little acorns or fireballs—triggering symbols for the hold-and-spin feature—will drop down from the piles above, land on the reels, and stay for three spins, giving the player a better chance to land all six scatters to get into the bonus feature,” Reish says. “That was present in Ultra Rush Gold and Dragon Rush, and players really seemed to enjoy that.”
Two other games designed for the new cabinet are pegged for release in Q4. Stack Up Pays: Island Riches features Progressive Free Games which accumulate when colored surfboards land on the reels. Two golden boards and one colored board trigger expanded reels on the ways-to-win game. The ways to win change on each of 10 free spins.
Different-colored boards offer hundreds of expansions during the free-spin round, including some that facilitate 300-plus expansions. “You can open up 100,000 ways to win on a single spin, which is pretty fun,” Reish says. “We’re really excited to get this one out there on test. It speaks to our development team. We asked them for a trending feature, and they said, ‘We’ll take that, but we’ll make it better with our own little twist on it.’ We’re excited to see how players react to a variation of what’s already known.”
3 Doves, the other coming release on the Prism Element, is another pot-collection game with scatter symbols adding to three baskets above the reels. Enhancements for the free-spin bonus include removal of all but top-paying symbols, expanding reels, and “Player’s Choice,” which offers increased ways to win or fewer spins with higher pays.
Finally, one special product being released with the Prism Element is the Big Win Leaderboard. This takes all wins of 100 times the bet or more and records them on an overhead leaderboard. There are no initials or names on the list, but players will be able to compare their wins with those on the list, and are notified on their game screens when their own wins reach the leaderboard.
“Leaderboards have been done in gaming before,” Schrementi says, “but the difference here was when we sat and challenged ourselves, we asked, ‘What does a gambler who plays on our avid player series really care about?’ Well, they need to know that these games hit jackpots.”
The release of the Prism Element certainly doesn’t mean IT is abandoning the Prism VXP. In fact, the unique form factor—a 55-inch portrait display with a commercial-grade motor that allows it to rise and lower in concert with game events—is just coming into its own. It’s the perfect cabinet to please entertainment-based players; transient gamblers can’t help but notice it on the slot floor.
There were a few kinks to work out of the system when it was launched two years ago, but last year, IT’s game developers began to utilize the moving monitor to maximum effect with games like Power Push, which uses the motion factor for a realistic coin-pusher game mechanic, and more recently, with the games Dragon Rush and Mega Money Catch.
Dragon Rush features a giant, flying dragon and a perceived-persistence pot feature triggered by golden eggs for a three-spin-cycle hold-and-re-spin event. Mega Money Catch uses the moving screen to reprise one of the company’s inaugural casino games released in 2011—and uses it to great effect in a revival of the interactive bonus in which the player touches the big screen to catch cash bills as they fly through the air to rack up credits.
The moving screen also has been perfected as an attract-mode feature, rising and lowering in a “wave” effect to catch the attention of passersby.
“We are still innovating on this cabinet, and we have a lot of opportunities with it,” says Reish. “It’s starting to find its footing, and we’ve
really learned a lot. It’s still a very special product.”
“The Prism VXP has a footprint now of about 2,000 games in the field,” adds Schrementi. “We know this cabinet still has a great earnings potential, because it’s unique, and it looks great—it’s finally gaining momentum. We’ve got four proven themes rising on the Eilers performance reports with a roadmap of more to come.”
Among the upcoming titles to be launched on the Prism VXP is Drumming Lion, to be previewed around the time of G2E. Drumming Lion will feature a cash-on-reels feature and utilize the VXP’s expansion capabilities for free spins.
Entering the ETG Space
One of the latest developments for Incredible Technologies is its move into the electronic table game space with Grand Crystal 2, the first ETG designed exclusively for Class II markets.
At press time, the inaugural ETG in the series, True Pick Roulette, was live at seven properties in Washington state, with more on the way. Per play station, True Pick Roulette has been performing at 1.7 to two times house average since its March introduction.
The unit, comprised of eight play stations around a physical wheel, uses bingo math in a patent-pending 38 ball call/single-ball-release system. The player experience is no different than a Class III roulette table.
“We’ve made a lot of hay with this,” says Schrementi. “We definitely got the attention of operators with the product. It’s in Washington, where they are trying to approve Class III ETGs. If you were to ask any of our customers in the seven Class II locations where it’s placed if they want to remove this if Class III is approved, the answer is going to be no.”
Washington is just one area of expansion for IT. “We’re always looking at new states, but we’re in most of them except for Missouri, which is still on the list of consideration,” Schrementi says. “Europe has been a great expansion for us, in France. That’s been one of the highlights of 2023. We’re looking at some Latin American moves as well, but right now, we’re trying not to stretch ourselves too thin as we focus on our new message.”
That message, of course, is to “focus on the win,” and the company is off to a great start. “Going into G2E this year, it’s the start of our new evolution as a company,” Schrementi says. “We no longer want to be the company that gets from zero to 3 percent market share. We’re a company that has 20,000 games in the field, and is included in the consideration set of all our competitors.
“There’s no shortage of tough competition right now, so the focus has been getting our games and our products and our people ready, and our new playbook together to be a company that can compete in a more mature market—and basically to start Chapter 2 of Incredible Technologies.”