The Progressive Party

As sure as bettors chase jackpots, so linked progressives will continue to prosper.

Linked progressives mirror human nature itself.

As the jackpot lure blazes through stages of stand-alone, in-house and wide-area multistate casino gaming, it reflects the three words found deep in the heart of many gamblers: more, more, more.

The dream of a life-changing score fuels an entire industry sector. And while the gambler’s vision of a monster win hasn’t changed, the process feeding it has. Vendors, suppliers and operators have enlivened the chase, bringing excitement to several tiers of the jackpot quest.

That’s the long-term secret sauce for this market segment.

While players balance how much of their bankroll to assign to the big jackpot quest—the increased number of machines reduces the odds of hitting— gaming’s big suppliers provide the vehicles for the attempt. Their products are increasingly imaginative.

 

Aristocrat: Lightning Strikes

Jon Hanlin, vice president of commercial strategy, gaming operations for Aristocrat Technologies, has helped orchestrate the company’s march through some linked progressive eras. The last four years have been dynamic, from the debut of Lightning Link in 2015 to Dragon Link in 2016 to the forthcoming release of Dollar Storm.

“We can drive a very interesting player experience at Aristocrat,” Hanlin says. “We have some jackpots that can be life-changing and some that can award $50,000, so you can pay off your car or student debt. We also have multi-site progressives (like in Nevada and New Jersey) which can go well over $1 million.”

Dollar Storm, Emperor’s Treasure, Caribbean Gold, Egyptian Jewels and Ninja Moon are the next evolution of two top performers, Lightning Link and Dragon Link. Dollar Storm will introduce a lower-cost, fast-growing and more rapid hitting MSP starting at $50,000 with an average jackpot amount of $110,000.

The signage package will be introduced with the next generation of industry-transforming LED animating signage and sound with the storm intensifying the higher the MSP climbs.

Dollar Storm follows the success of Dragon Link, which Hanlin considers “Lightning Link on steroids.” This is a slot bank of four games, with a grand jackpot banner listed atop the machine. It incorporates the best of the in-house and stand-alone progressive dynamic. Dragon Link also contains the hold-and-spin bonus, perhaps the magic ingredient championed by Lightning Link.

When a player hits six or more of the 15 symbols on the machine, three free spins are triggered. Any additional symbols trigger three more free spins. Players can win the grand jackpot if they fill up all 15 spaces or collect the additional amounts determined by the bonus spins.

“Lightning Link was the best game released in a decade,” Hanlin says. “I call it a jackpot delivery system—it’s a way, through entertainment and gambling, of enabling players to feel that the more they bet, the better their chances are for big return. It’s been fantastic and well-received. You show the player where the chase is, where you’re going up to, and that you have the math and the chops to deliver.”

The game caught on like wildfire, to the extent of spawning Lightning Link Lounges, banks of anywhere from 20 to 100 machines.

“This game has revolutionized the industry so much, that’s why we keep coming out with new titles,” Hanlin says. “With the lounges, you also have the chance to localize this in one space. As you walk up to the bank of four, every minute somebody is in that hold-and-spin bonus situation. It drives that excitement and winning environment. It gives our casinos a chance to liven up areas of the floor. ”

 

Konami: Onward, Upward

The market niche is spiraling upward.

“Linked progressives will be a growing sector, commanding more casino space in North America,” says Steve Walther, Konami’s senior director of marketing and product management. “It’s become more and more appealing and almost a baseline for what needs to be offered in high-performing products. We’re focusing our resources to take advantage of a changing trend.

“We’ve been reaching a critical mass lately, with more of the popular games and progressives becoming mainstream products,” he adds. “The game mix is growing. We’ve seen stand-alone progressives, mystery, must-hit, even symbol progressives. There is an increasing number of ways to engage players.”

Roll out the propositions. Walther says player preferences change every few years based on economic conditions, and these times are comparatively prosperous.

“When we were looking at the financial crisis a few years ago, we were interested in helping people extend time on device with bonuses that looked achievable,” he says. “With the economy rebounding, people now want bigger jackpots.”

Walther notes an interesting contrast between on-site proprietary and multistate wide-area dynamics. While they both work well, on-site has the reinforced effect of someone seeing another player hit or returning after a couple hours to see the bonus amount has changed, indicating there’d been a winner.

The company’s award-winning Synkros casino management system offers casino properties a variety of options for system-delivered bonus events—including linked progressives—that let players experience exciting floor-wide jackpot games from any equipped machine, regardless of manufacturer.

Konami offers a number of products in this sector.

Treasure Ball is a one-of-a-kind linked progressive game available on the Concerto Opus cabinet. Inspired by the surprising fun of retro coin-operated toy capsule machines, it’s recognizable by its large globe of round mystery prize balls, which players can redeem and reveal during the bonus.

When placed in a bank configuration, Treasure Ball has a surprising attract feature in which the dragon flies across all connected machines in gigantic fashion, with a striking roar. This linked progressive game combines with almost any KP3+ base game, including Lion Carnival, Dragon’s Law Twin Fever, and Chili Chili Fire.

Fans of Konami’s proven Solstice Celebration Xtra Reward game can now enjoy it in 4K with Solstice Celebration Triple Sparkle. This game amps up the popular original with a new symbol-driven progressive jackpot chance delivered through a modified Sparkle Feature called the Triple Sparkle Feature.

Whenever framed Action Stacked Symbols undergo a third transformation, players can win a Mini bonus, Major bonus, Mega progressive, or large Maxi progressive starting at $10,000.

Reels Up is among the linked progressive launch series on Konami’s KX 43 machine. Games in the series feature Reels Up arrow symbols across all reels. Whenever the arrow symbols appear across reels 1 and 2, it causes reel 3 to expand upward for the chance at various bonus events, depending on the base game. Reel 4 and reel 5 also expand up if arrow symbols appear on additional consecutive reels. Konami’s Reels Up series spans four original base game options: Vegas Rise, Mayan Times, Expanding Egypt, and Hong Kong Lights.

 

Everi: Well-Covered

Everi continues emphasizing progressives in the gaming side of its multi-faceted operations.

Two premium offerings are its Super Jackpot Series, a popular linked progressive made up of its nine-line mechanical games library, and its Willie Nelson licensed titles.

On the standard for-sale side, Everi recently introduced linked, banked themes including the MoneyBall Series with a cascading reel presentation, Fu Stacks, which features a persistent-state element, and Lazer Lock, offering multiple progressive pools and player-selectable multi-denom options.

In late 2018, the company introduced Lightning Zap Jackpots made up of three distinct games, five linked progressive tiers, and three volatility options to attract a variety of players.

What’s driving the rollouts?

“For the player, frequently hitting jackpots of various sizes are attractive,” says Jesse DeBruin, the company’s senior vice president of gaming operations. “Multiple games that feed up to ever-increasing meters make it more believable and realistically attainable for the player—as if they’re working towards recognizable jackpot pattern hit levels.

“For the supplier, linked progressive products enable them to package together a family of similar games, which tends to make them more attractive and stand out among the rest of the floor, simplifying the decision-making process for the player of where to place their bets.”

Everi plans to feature a number of new for-sale linked banked themes on its Empire MPX (“E43”) cabinet including the MoneyBall Series, Fu Stacks and Lazer Lock, a unique offering utilizing multiple progressive pools and a player-selectable multi-denomination option. Legendary country singer-songwriter Nelson is behind the newest installment of the E43 game series for the premium segment of tribal casino floors.

“We continue to pay close attention to the linked-progressive space through industry and customer reports,” DeBruin says. “Based on Eilers reports over the past year, it’s clear there’s been significant growth in linked progressive products, as top-performing games tend to be associated with families of linked progressive offerings. We’re seeing no signs of this trend slowing and believe the potential for future growth remains strong.”

 

IGT: A Line for the Link

Michael Brennan, vice president of product management for IGT, likes how this market sector is performing.

“The linked progressive segment is ever-evolving,” he says. “For IGT, we continue to balance proven market trends with innovations such as progressive free games and different progressive payoffs. We also continue to innovate in this area with incremental innovation such as new game mechanics and math models, as well as more disruptive innovation such as PowerSight Technology and TRUE 4D.”

Brennan says Cash Link has exceeded expectations.

“Some of our customers report players lining up to experience IGT’s Wheel of Fortune Cash Link,” he says. “The title is elevating player excitement on casino floors across the U.S. with its compelling new Cash Link feature. We have introduced four Cash Link base games themes—our customers know the game is supported with a content roadmap that can extend the longevity of the game on casino floors.

“In addition, our latest Asian-themed stepper game, Dragon of Fortune, features a progressive pick that elevates player excitement by enabling players to win more than one progressive with a single pick.”

Wheel of Fortune offers the original wheel that players seek for a trusted slot experience. The proven Cash Link component builds anticipation on every spin as players watch gold coins collect on the reels before landing the triggering symbol on reel 5.

The Second Chance feature keeps the action alive by offering players another shot at a wheel spin or credit wins if a Cash Link symbol doesn’t appear the first time.

The wheel bonus features multiple pointers that can award credits, free games and up to three progressive jackpots. Players can win up to 200 free games, generating excitement and creating multiple chances for the Cash Link award.

The Jurassic Park Trilogy video slots feature Jurassic Park, Jurassic Park: The Lost World and Jurassic Park III. The trilogy targets low-denomination jackpot players who are fans of the Jurassic Park brand and enjoy new interactive bonus features. The five-reel, 40-payline games feature a linked multi-level progressive with an operator-configurable cost to cover of 40 or 75 credits and a 5X or 10X configurable maximum bet. Players initiate the Jurassic Park Trilogy Jackpot Bonus when bonus symbols simultaneously land on reels 2 and 4 or when they collect bonus symbols on reels 2 and 4 through the persistence feature.

Jurassic Park Trilogy Jackpot Bonus is played on a DNA game. Players are shown an active game board with each bet change, encouraging higher bets for better jackpot odds. Jurassic Park video slots feature the Wild Stack Multiplier Feature that awards up to a 5X multiplier when a full wild stack lands on one or more reels.

Jurassic Park: The Lost World features the Wild Stack Attack Feature that awards full wild stacks on up to all five reels when a full wild stack appears naturally on one or more reels. Jurassic Park III features the Wild Stack Respin Feature that awards up to three re-spins when a full wild stack appears, locking the original and any subsequent wild stacks for each respin.

 

Scientific Games: Strong from Near or Far

Scientific Games offers an impressive lineup both in the near-area and wide-area progressives realms.

On the near-area progressive front, Jin Ji Bao Xi is the company’s top linked game in Asia and is the follow-up to the hugely successful Duo Fu Duo Cai linked game series. The series is launching with two game themes, Rising Fortunes and Endless Treasure. The games include two levels of required near-area progressives that are won in the Jackpot pick bonus or randomly during the Free Games Bonus.

The internationally successful Du Fú Du Cái series began with the beloved original 88 Fortunes game. Since then, other games have been added to this series that showcase the player-favorite features of this original game, as well as exciting new features.

All the games showcase beautiful Asian imagery, four levels of progressive jackpots, unique free games bonuses, and the beloved Fu Bat Jackpot Feature starring the famous Fu Babies. In the Fu Bat Jackpot feature, players pick to match three of four Fu Babies symbols that correspond to one of the four levels of linked progressive jackpots.

Lock It Link is an engaging series built around the Lock It Link game mechanic. SG currently has 13 successful Lock It Link games, each featuring the Lock It Link feature, two levels of linked progressive jackpots, and other exciting bonus features.

The Ultimate Fire Link series showcases fast-paced progressive games that give players an exciting slot experience. They’re built around an action-packed bonus mechanic, the Fire Link Feature, a lock-and-spin feature on an expanded reel set. During the feature, players can be awarded multiple progressive jackpots. There are currently six games in the series that offer multiple line and denomination configurations and feature four levels of linked progressive jackpots.

On the wide-area front, Reel Adventures and Cash Connection are jurisdictional WAP links on which popular games are linked, including those based on the James Bond series, Monopoly, The Wizard of Oz, Willy Wonka and The Lord of the Rings—Rule Them All. The reset amount is $200,000 for Reel Adventures and $400,000 for Cash Connection.

“Linked” is a good concept for progressive jackpots. Maybe forever. As long as human beings want to financially hit the ball out of the park, this segment is expected to thrive.

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Casino Connection Sports Editor Dave Bontempo is an award-winning sports writer and broadcaster who calls boxing matches all over the world. He has covered the Philadelphia Flyers in the playoffs, as well as numerous PGA, LPGA and Seniors Golf Tour events, and co-hosted the Casino Connection television program with Publisher Roger Gros.

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