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Scientific Games: New Era

The modern era of Scientific Games begins with a mind-boggling display of games

Scientific Games: New Era

Much has been written over the past year concerning the mega-merger that created the new Scientific Games, and the end-to-end supplier that resulted—incorporating famous brands from Bally to WMS to Shuffle Master to Barcrest—along with their convergence with interactive and lottery divisions, and the rest of what has been an unprecedented story in the industry.

But the Global Gaming Expo is where all the abstracts of the story meet the real world.

The Scientific Games display at G2E—two stories, 26,000 square feet—will be a showcase for what is a remarkable collection of game design talent from the legacy companies. “When we look at our development organization, we have more than 700 employees making slot games,” says Allon Englman, vice president and design chief for Scientific Games. “I like to say the sun never sets on SG game development.”

The statement is true. Scientific Games now has development studios in Las Vegas—the company’s manufacturing hub—along with Reno, Chicago (the WMS hub), Manchester in the U.K., three in India, one in China and two in Australia. There also are satellite studios in San Francisco, Arizona and elsewhere—more than  40 game design studios in all.

“It’s a tremendously large development organization, which is very world-focused,” says Englman. “It allows us to do things like take games that are working in Australia or Asia or the U.K. and bring them to the U.S., and vice versa.

“We’ve got a very robust talent pool, with a tremendous amount of experience in game development, and we’ve really worked hard in the past year to integrate the former Bally and WMS sides.”

Scientific Games’ first G2E as a combined entity will reveal just what a diverse supplier the company has become, post-merger. While there will be scores of individual Bally- and WMS-branded games on display in the cabinets that have brought the legacy companies success over the years—the Pro Wave, Pro Curve, V32 and the rest from Bally; the Wave, Gamefield xD and others from WMS—the company’s G2E display also will unveil the first combined cabinet, the TwinStar.

The TwinStar is the first cabinet from Scientific Games to house both Bally and WMS content. A dual-screen cabinet with twin 24-inch displays and a 22-inch virtual topper, the TwinStar provides a different feel for both Bally and WMS content.

TwinStar also features a new version of the award-winning iDeck button pad, with a 40 percent larger area for player interaction, which typically includes not only the standard wagering buttons but joystick-like functions and other unique interactions between player and game.

The full HD digital topper will be offered in two distinctive styles. Both versions include chrome details, improved sound and edge lighting.

Englman says deciding the titles to serve as the launch brands for the TwinStar was a nice problem to have. “We’ve got probably 10 internal brands, which are the best known in the industry, all the way from Gold Fish to Quick Hits—an unbelievable amount of riches,” he says.

In the end, the cabinet will house the best of the best from both former companies. Launch titles include legacy games Gold Fish, Quick Hit, Kronos and Zeus, along with new games Quick Shot, Steam Dream and Hot Blooded.

For the new cabinet, legacy titles like Quick Hit have been augmented with new features—such as the ability to win multiple progressive jackpot on one spin, and multiple mystery bonus events.

Englman notes that while the games will be presented on the same hardware, each will retain the look and feel that Bally and WMS players have grown to expect. They also will retain the features that made them famous—the much-copied symbol-driven multiple progressives of Quick Hit, the high hit frequency and low volatility of Gold Fish and Zeus.

Meanwhile, all of the popular legacy platforms from both Bally and WMS will continue to host new content, and all will be featured at G2E. There will be 10 new titles launched on the Bally Alpha 2 operating system, and 23 new games on the CPU-NXT3 format, which drives the former WMS Blade and Blade s23 cabinets.

One of the top legacy cabinets being used this year is the Bally Pro Wave, the cabinet featuring the vertical concave monitor that Englman says has become a staple on casino floors.

Brand Party

Heading up Scientific Games’ G2E lineup will be the largest collection of licensed brands the show has ever seen. “We’ll have 19 licensed themes at the show, which is the strongest showing by one company of licensed product, ever,” says Englman.

Two of those brands are being kept under wraps until the show. Englman will say only that they will be major events for the industry. However, it’s hard to imagine them making a bigger splash than the titles revealed for this article, headed by a new premium title on the Bally Pro Wave, “Monty Python and the Holy Grail.”

Based on one of the most beloved comedy films ever—and perhaps the best-known work of the highly regarded British comedy troupe—the Holy Grail slot makes the most of the funniest scenes from the movie.

Fans of Monty Python and the Holy Grail will not be disappointed, from chuckling at the names of the two base games—“Killer Bunny” and “Black Knight”—to the signature bits throughout. For instance, as the reels spin, the audio background consists of the fake hoof sounds made by King Arthur’s deputy as his troop pretended to be on horseback. (If you haven’t seen the film, watch it—you’ll get it immediately.)

Bonus rounds are hilarious. Free spins are accented by footage of the Black Knight’s ill-fated battle with King Arthur (it keeps going back to clips that find the knight’s bravado continuing despite losing just about every limb), or the Killer Bunny chasing the knights (“Run away! Run away!”), or the sentry of the French fort flinging animals at the troupe.

All of this, of course, is meaningless if you haven’t seen the film. But fans of the legendary comedy will not be able to get enough of this one. (The bonus trigger? The “Holy Hand Grenade,” naturally.)

Another high-profile brand this year is Michael Jackson Icon. The third game celebrating the late King of Pop resides on the Bally Pro Wheel cabinet. Background reel-spinning music is provided by “Don’t Stop ‘Till You Get Enough,” the hit song from Jackson’s 1979 debut solo album. Features include a wheel bonus and a mystery free-spin event in which the reels expand to six rows of symbols. One of the main bonuses is built around the song “Leave Me Alone,”

Jackson’s defiant song and video addressing the tabloid press that hounded him his entire career.

Other new branded games make full use of each of the game platforms popularized by legacy Bally and WMS games.

The Bally Alpha Pro Theatre cabinet, the movie-style setup equipped with the Pro Sound Chair, hosts a game that combines Bally’s popular Playboy series of games with the sights and sounds of global music star Pitbull. Called Playboy Don’t Stop the Party!, it is a progressive video slot featuring Pitbull with an

assortment of Playboy Playmates.

The game features four hit songs from Pitbull, popular play mechanics, and a five-level progressive jackpot, including a wide-area progressive award on the Bally Cash Connection link.

The Bally Pro Series V22/32 format, which features a 22-inch main screen under a 32-inch vertical top screen, hosts one of the most popular recording artists of the past several decades with the Cher Live video slot.

The game’s bonus events feature Cher performing five of her most popular hits. The V22/32, like the Alpha Pro Theatre, is equipped with the Pro Sound Chair, so the audio is concert-quality. A “Concert Wheel Bonus” awards credits and one of five free-spin bonuses, each tied to one of Cher’s hits— “Believe,” “Turn Back Time,” “It’s in His Kiss,” “All or Nothing” and “Strong Enough.”

The Blade cabinet from the former WMS gets in on the brand party as well. On the Blade Stepper, equipped with a 42-inch curved top-box LCD, is Margaritaville, featuring the music of Jimmy Buffett. A three-reel, low-denomination game, the slot features six bonuses, forming the basis for lots of Buffett hits, concert clips and crowd shots depicting devoted “Parrott Head” fans.

Two more high-profile brands—Caddyshack and The Rocky Horror Picture Show—are featured on the WMS Blade video cabinet.

Caddyshack mines the best comedy bits from the 1980 comedy starring Chevy Chase, Bill Murray, Ted Knight and Rodney Dangerfield. The slot features seven bonus events tied to characters from the film, and includes clips of the movie’s most memorable moments, from the battle between Murray’s golf-course groundskeeper character and the groundhog (watch out for the gopher bombs) to Dangerfield’s hilarious bits attacking Knight’s stodgy country club president.

The Rocky Horror Picture Show features clips from the cult-classic movie, five “Time Warp” base-game features, and a wheel that awards credits, four jackpots or a free-spin bonus. “This game will have players doing the Time Warp again and again,” comments Englman, “and includes many of the famous songs to keep players singing along.”

Other new branded slots include The Wizard of Oz: Not in Kansas Anymore and Elvis Lives, both on the WMS Gamefield xD cabinet; Friends: I’ll Be There For You and Titanic Heart of the Ocean on the Pro Theatre; The Flintstones on the WMS three-reel mechanical; and Cheers, on the Bally V22/42 Dual Wheel cabinet, a game that makes the most of the funniest moments from the long-running series.

There also is a new Iron Man slot on the Bally Pro Series upright—a unique seven-reel primary game in which two reels are wild on every spin, and the wild reels change position with every game.

Homegrown Brands

All of those licensed brands will be accompanied by a huge lineup of proprietary brands utilizing the wealth of legacy formats making up Scientific Games.

One of the highlights this year is Sons of the Dragon, a local-area progressive on the S32 slant cabinet that allows the player to win several progressive jackpots at once. “You can win the jackpots up to 80 times,” says Englman. “You can win the same jackpot quite a bit. This one’s over the top.”

Also on the S32 is a reprise of the hit Money Burst series from WMS. One of the most popular WMS game mechanics in its history, Money Burst provides two, two-symbol reels connected to all other reels to produce high line wins. It was originally introduced with Dean Martin’s Dance Party, a game that is still earning revenue on casino floors five years after its launch. In the new iteration of Money Burst, a progressive element is added to the mix.

Also highlighted this year is Jackpot Vault, which reprises a popular feature of WMS games in Australia called “All Up.” With this game mechanic, the player can make an extra wager to purchase higher-paying gold symbols. With the gold symbols activated, the pay table values rise.

Among the other new core games to be launched at G2E are Miss Universe, Green Machine, a reprise of the popular WMS stepper Hot Hot Super Jackpot, and a complete lineup of the signature stepper games of Barcrest, the Manchester, U.K.-based slot-maker Scientific Games acquired from IGT prior to the Bally acquisition.

The Barcrest games are distinguished by their simple-to-understand, arcade-style top-box bonus events, in which lights flash behind images of dollar bills or credit amounts, usually to the backdrop of cheery music and a cheesy game-show-host announcer.

New Barcrest titles include Triple Golden Cherries with Sprinkles and Easy Money.

Shuffling the Tables

The Shuffle Master brand is represented this year not only with new slot games for the Australia market, but games, side bets and systems related to the table side of the business.

Twelve proprietary Shuffle Master table games will be displayed at G2E, highlighted by DJ Wild Stud Poker, Fortune Asia Poker, Flushes Gone Wild and Picture Perfect.

DJ Wild is a player-versus-dealer poker game with five wild cards—four deuces and one joker.

Scientific Games will showcase several Shuffle Master progressive table games incorporating its enhanced Game Manager 2 software and Nexus Command hardware.

Several e-table games also will be featured, including TableMaster Fusion, Fusion Hybrid and Fusion Auto Roulette.

Headlining the segment Scientific Games now calls Electronic Table Game Solutions, or ETS, will be a new TableMaster Fusion e-table called Playboy Bonus Blackjack. It is a blackjack game featuring a community slot-like bonus round, with video Playboy Playmates as the dealers on a high-definition, 75-inch display and on 22-inch wide-screen player-terminal monitors featuring touch-screen betting for multiple side bets.

On Fusion Hybrid, which connects up to four live-dealer games with electronic betting terminals, Fusion Auto Roulette brings traditional roulette to a fully configurable, live-action, electronic layout.

System Strength

Of course, no G2E staged by Scientific Games would leave out new innovations from Bally Systems. This year, one of the highlights is DM Wagering, a new application for the Bally Elite Bonusing Suite (EBS) that enables players to wager on secondary casino games without leaving their machine.

Players can use credits from their base-game credit meter to purchase tickets for additional games. The first game available for DM Wagering is a lottery-style game called Casino Lotto. Casino operators can offer two different types of lottery options with DM Wagering’s Casino Lotto: instant results for un-carded and carded players, or scheduled results for carded players only.

Bally Systems also will offer demonstrations of BetVIEW, a secondary wagering application that generates incremental revenues while adding to the player experience; and BallyVIP, a comprehensive customer relationship management module designed to offer faster service to casino customers.

Also on display will be the Bally Servizio suite of mobile service solutions; version 13 of the company’s core systems products including ACSC, SDS, CMP and Business Intelligence; and the new InSite site controller for operators with multiple locations, featuring a user-friendly interface.

Finally, Scientific Games will demonstrate Tournaments Express, a stand-alone tournament system designed to offer slot tournaments on more than 100 different cabinets from various manufacturers, which easily converts revenue-producing games to tournament games and back.

But the big news, as always, will be the games, and this year, there are more than ever before.

“There’s been a lot of noise over the past year or two around the merger, but this show is going to display the true power of the new Scientific Games,” says Englman. “From  hardware to software, games, licensing—all aspects of what a slot machine company does—we’re going to show the power of this company.

“We’ve only been together 12 months, and this is what we’ve done. Wait until you see what it looks like next year.”

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.