Multimedia Games doesn’t fit the usual slot-manufacturer mold. Most slot-makers are based in Nevada; Multimedia is headquartered in the college-and-blues town of Austin, Texas. All but a few slot-makers produced traditional games first and then moved into Class II electronic bingo; Multimedia helped to invent the modern Class II machine before venturing into Class III markets.
For most slot manufacturers, a tournament system is an afterthought. For Multimedia, it’s the year’s hottest product.
Multimedia Games has succeeded in breaking into an increasing number of Class III jurisdictions by virtue of a wealth of engineering talent—a steady supply is at hand at the local University of Texas campus—plus seasoned gaming talent led by CEO Pat Ramsey, a former Harrah’s executive, and including veterans like Mick Roemer, the longtime slot executive who is senior sales VP.
What that has meant for the past several years is a parade of engaging and entertaining video slots released not only in the company’s traditional markets like Oklahoma and California, but in a growing collection of traditional Class III markets as well. “In our standard video games, we’re seeing a lot of success,” says Brad Johnson, vice president of product management and marketing.
“Our hit percentage on casino floors is a lot higher than industry averages. Our ‘Carnival in Rio’ game has been a top performer wherever we’ve placed it. Our Side Action games have been top performers since day one.”
Meanwhile, a new game series based on a particular high-top cabinet style has been a major hit for Multimedia. The High Rise series of premium video slots, launched last year with the game “One Red Cent,” has grown steadily in popularity with players and operators. “This was a game we thought had lots of potential, and it has lived up to everything we thought it would be,” says Johnson.
High Rise slots feature the highest top box display in the industry, a concept that has caught on big with the success of the first group of High Rise games. “Casinos started with two or three units, then moved to four and five, six and eight,” says Johnson. “Now, casinos have a couple of banks of our High Rise units.”
The high top box and unique, carnival-style lighting effects and bright bezel lighting “drew players to our games,” Johnson says, “and the games themselves were gambler-type games that really stood apart from other games on the floor. They really hit the mark with the customer.”
Roemer adds that the company’s Class II business has continued to grow right along with the new Class III games. “The Class II market for us is still extremely good,” he says. “We do a great deal of business with Native American tribes, and that Class II product is very important to them. To maintain their sovereignty, they want to keep Class II even as they mix Class II and Class III products on the floor.
“Multimedia was really the inventor of the Class II game in its current incarnation, and we’re very proud of that.”
Multimedia will be showing the new generation of all these game styles at the Global Gaming Expo, but no single slot machine has generated as much buzz for the company over the past year and a half as a product which will officially be launched in its fourth generation at G2E—not a slot, but a tournament system.
TournEvent started life as a tournament module within a server-based slot system Multimedia was marketing, but improvements and innovations added to the system made it unique among tournament controllers and extremely popular with operators.
Banks of Multimedia slots equipped with TournEvent can instantly be switched between revenue and tournament mode like some others in the industry, but the extras Multimedia has added to the system make it stand alone. Cameras in every machine beam video of participants to a leaderboard while the tournament is in progress, making them “stars” as the tournament progresses. A master of ceremonies hosts the contest. A side game called “Pop-N-Win” occurs during the tournament, in which balloons float up player screens—touch the screen to pop the balloon, and boost your score.
In short, TournEvent has transformed slot tournaments from robotic button-slapping into something actually fun for the players.
At G2E, Multimedia will introduce more innovations as it presents TournEvent 4.0. Among the improvements in the new version is “Jump to First,” a random feature in which, at any point during a tournament—even the last few seconds—the “Money Man” character can appear on one player’s screen to boost that player’s score to first-place in the standings. “It means no one is ever out of contention in a tournament,” says Roemer.
Another improvement is a second score-boosting side game. Called “Crazy Carnival,” the new game is more intense than the balloon game. Based on shooting gallery-style carnival games, it is faster, more challenging and much more rewarding in terms of boosting the score. TournEvent 4.0 also has new operator features like an upgraded user interface to make it easier and more efficient to run tournaments; a bulk import and player-card swipe feature that makes it easy to identify players by name without having to type in the names at the start of the event; and a team feature, allowing the operator to split contestants into teams and compute team scores either as a collective team score or as the top single score among team members.
There also is a new base game for the TournEvent system (there are several event-specific base games used for the contests). The new game is called “Candy Shop.”
As Multimedia introduces the industry to the new TournEvent features, it will be wrapping up its second statewide tournament using the system. Called “TournEvent of Champions,” the events began last year with a successful statewide contest in California. Eleven California casinos held satellite events, and 13 finalists were each awarded a five-night vacation for two aboard Celebrity Cruises’ Millennium Wine Tour Cruise from San Diego to Vancouver. The final contest, which crowned California’s “No. 1 Slot Player,” was held onboard.
This year, Multimedia reprised the statewide event in Washington, with the finals slated for G2E week at the Venetian in Las Vegas. (Some of the preliminaries will be held in the Multimedia booth.)
One of the company’s goals for G2E is to sign up casinos for next year’s big event—a National TournEvent of Champions. (For information, visit www.tourneventofchampions.com.)
Multimedia’s new games in all categories for G2E launch a campaign the company has dubbed “Play Louder,” which is a reference to the excitement to be generated by all the new play features in the company’s game lineup.
General enhancements to the cabinets and peripherals will help that effort. The company is launching the next generation of its standard video cabinet, “Player HD,” which adds a horizontal light bar to the presentation for extra colors in the display. Larger, 23-inch LCD monitors add to the visual effects, and ergonomic player controls, padded armrests and a premium sound system round out the features. A new slant-top also has all the enhancements.
Among the top games Multimedia is launching at G2E are follow-ups to the mega-hit Carnival in Rio, using the same attention to detail and lucrative features that made the game popular. “Wild-A-Go-Go” uses the newly festive cabinet to convey the ’60s go-go theme, and it has the same popular feature of wild symbols growing into wild reels—represented by the dancer, whose image covers the reel in a silhouetted live-action video, filmed with professional dancers the same way as the dancers in the Rio game. Only this time, instead of Latin dances, they’re doing the Pony, the Monkey, the Swim and the Jerk.
Another game to concentrate on stacked symbols, stacked wilds and wild reels is “Safari,” which Clint Owen, executive producer for game development, identifies as another descendant of Carnival in Rio. “A huge part of the payout for this machine is in the bonus game,” Owen says, “thanks to the stacked symbols and stacked wild symbols.”
Other featured games in the standard video segment include “Starry Night,” an ode to the earliest days of motion pictures. In a nickelodeon-style picking bonus—players pick stars for multipliers—the animation includes images reminiscent of early films like 1902’s classic A Trip to the Moon, along with mystery features such as a fairy princess with a magic wand to change reels to wild reels.
Other new video slots introduce new play features for Multimedia. The 50-line “Desert Sky” features “Straight Shot Multipliers,” in which the reels slow down in anticipation before awarding one of several multipliers for base-game wins, up to 10X. “It gives players something to watch for besides the stacked wilds,” Owen says. The trippy “Wild Pixies” introduces a feature called “Sticky Stacks.” During the free-spin round, pixie characters turn into wild symbols, and they remain in place on the reels for the remainder of the free spins. That applies even to an entire wild reel.
Each new video slot, in fact, seems to have a special feature added to enhance the base game. “Emperor’s Fortunes” includes the “Chance Enhance” feature, in which a wild reel or multiplier symbol on the side applies to every spin, and to all free spins. “Wild Tornado” has the “Flippin’ Wild” feature, which randomly turns several symbols wild for one spin.
“Good Luck Charm” features a “Pick Your Luck” bonus in which the player picks a good-luck charm that serves as a wild symbol (all charms are wild during free spins). Mystery features include “Lady Bug Mystery,” in which a lady bug crawls across the screen after a losing spin to award bonus credits, or after a winning spin to award a multiplier.
Other games add entertainment to the reel-spinning through side games and special free-spin features. “Summer Days” debuts the “Scratch-Off Tickets” side feature, in which the Side Action screen automatically scratches off a prize space while the reels are spinning, periodically awarding a bonus. The higher the wager, the more scratch-off tickets earned.
The new Side Game feature joins games out in the marketplace already with Side Game features such as a five-card stud poker hand that plays out during every spin.
Most of Multimedia’s video slots have free-spin bonus events of some type, but some games, such as “Flash Point,” are designed to assure large wins in that free-spin event. In Flash Point, the player is awarded 10 times the bet—$50 at max-coin in pennies—just for triggering the free games. Re-triggering the free games on a free spin wins 20 times the bet; a third free-game trigger yields 100 times the bet—heralded by a flashing light show and vibrating screen.
“Bank Heist” uses the same principle, but awards mini-events with every free spin—picks from vaults, wild symbols and multipliers.
High Rise, High-Denom
Multimedia also will use G2E to launch new games in what has been its hottest series the past year—High Rise. One of the games leading the category will be “Smokin’ Hot Jackpots,” a high-denomination reel-spinner (a three-reel, five-line stepper designed for dollars) which features an 11-tiered progressive jackpot, with all jackpots hit through simple reel combinations.
There are five non-progressive wins and 11 progressive wins in the pay table.
“Ice On Fire” applies the same concept to a six-tiered progressive jackpot, in a traditional three-reel, single-line stepper. According to Roemer, higher-denomination games such as these are filling a void in the marketplace. “‘Mega Meltdown’ (the sequel to Washington hit “Meltdown”) has been doing phenomenal numbers,” he says. “The three-reel stepper has been a great product for us. The smart player will know that a higher denomination means a looser slot, and a more volatile game. And if you’re a real player, that’s more fun. If you can hit $1,000 or $5,000 on a reel-spinning slot, it makes your night.”
The High Rise series also has been a big hit in the low denominations—refreshes to the popular “High Rollin’” game and “MoneyBall,” with its pinball/pachinko-style bonus over a “money tree” in the top box, will both be prominent at the show.
“High Rise Hotel” is another new High Rise game, with a ladder-style top-box bonus that yields bet multipliers. The bonus picks send the player up the ladder in the top box. “This has a unique skill game in the top-box bonus,” says Owen. “Players can control the direction of the ball as it launches into the display.”
Roemer says Multimedia’s G2E collection is designed to display all of the company’s strengths as designers of games and, of course, tournaments. “We make games that are easy to understand and fun to play,” he says. “We’re pretty excited about what we’ve got coming. This will be our best show ever.”