The big new game from slot-machine giant International Game Technology is Star Wars. It’s really, really big. As in 14 feet high, topped with a circular video display that’s about 20 feet in circumference, or seemingly as big as the Death Star itself.
But it will be in some casinos, and it will be impossible to miss. With no major breakthroughs in slot technology this year, manufacturers are showing their brawn.
Towering banks of slot machines with zippy video monitors, revolving marquees, mechanical attractions and digital sound drew throngs of neck-craning casino bosses at the Global Gaming Expo last week.
Slot machines in City casinos theoretically are restricted to 5 feet, 8 inches by the state Department of Community Affairs. The agency fears that taller slots block a patron’s view of the exits.
Casinos, though, can work around the regulations by placing them against walls or pillars or sometimes in a group that might as well be a pillar. In any event, some of the gadgetry atop today’s slots is optional, for decorative purposes only.
Another Bally slot is getting plenty of attention – in Russia, Europe and South America. That’s because the bonus feature on its Playboy slots shows the full magazine centerfold.
On a more wholesome note, IGT uses its “advanced video platform” to make Drew Carey and Pat Sajak appear to talk with gamblers as they play their themed slots. Each celebrity videotaped numerous remarks that a computer cues up according to the play situation.
Forget to press the bonus button and Carey’s head pops up with a snappy command, “It’s the blinking button – press the button!” Wait a little longer and Carey implores, “Would you please press the button!”
Branded slots are as popular as ever. New titles include Saturday Night Live, Laverne & Shirley, Gilligan’s Island, Garfield, Dilbert, M*A*S*H, Felix the Cat, That Girl, I Spy, Clue and You Might Be a Redneck If …
Mechanical bonus or decorative devices are a hot item on slots. Among the choices: a shotgun-toting Granny rocking atop IGT’s Beverly Hillbillies, 10 frankfurters popping up and down A.C. Coin’s Hot Dogs Deluxe, Chef Piggy ascending a tube in the bonus round of A.C. Coin’s King of the Grill.
WMS Gaming hopes to score with gambler comfort. Its ergonomically designed Bluebird slot cabinet has game buttons at elbow level, Bose stereo speakers and optional cupholders that can be attached at either the buttons or in the coin tray.
A young company called Cyberview Technology believes it represents the future of slot machines: a library of perhaps 100 games that can be downloaded from a central server to any of its futuristic slot machines at any time.
Cyberview’s library includes slot games from Sigma, Shuffle Master, Gametronics and, soon, Bally and Konami.
About 62 percent of senior gaming executives surveyed by the American Gaming Association believe the future of slot machines rests with downloadable games.
While casino execs spring for slot machines at an average of $10,000 a pop, there’s still room for a 49-cent gadget, a Santa Rosa, Calif., firm believes.
Jack Wright Advertising was plugging its Card Keeper, a patent-pending, tape-measure-style device that tethers the player to his or her frequent-gambler card in the slot machine. It’s a leap beyond the coiled, springy cords used today.