In advance of the G2E rush next week, I got a sneak peek at Bally Technologies’ new slot machines today. These will be debuting at the Global Gaming Expo next week, and will be on casino floors in about six months.
To jog your memory, the big two machines at last year’s G2E for Bally were the Michael Jackson and Grease slot machines, which went on to some success in casinos.
There’s going to be about 300 machines on the floor, but here are a few of the ones that will most likely make the biggest waves. Two branded games, for me, are
the real standouts:
This game is based on the wildly popular History Channel show, and I think that fans of the show will like it. The stars of the show recorded original material for the machine, so during the bonus rounds players get to negotiate directly with them, almost face to face. And there are some pretty obscure items you can bring in—while I was demoing the game, I haggled over the credits I’d accept for the viewfinder for a rocket launcher. And it’s got that Vegas TV/casino symbiosis going for it, too,
File this one in the I-can’t-believe-it-took-this-long category: NASCAR has finally licensed a slot machine, and Bally’s delivered a game with a lot of interactivity that makes the most of the racing circuit’s buy-in. Five NASCAR drivers—Clint Bowyer, Dale Earnhardt, Jr., Kevin Harvick, Jimme Johnson, and Jeff Gordon—appear in the game, and players can select one of the five (or choose a generic NASCAR option), which dramatically changes the look of the game. The game will be a Wide Area Progressive with a jackpot starting at $400,000, so it’s likely that many players will be betting max credits on it.
What players might like, in addition to getting to play as one of the drivers, is that the racing bonus feature of the games shows cars whipping around Daytona Motor Speedway, and that the game is voiced by the drivers and legendary NASCAR announcer Eli Gold, and that it features the same music that accompanies NASCAR broadcasts.
Another game that will get some run is a Beach Boys title, which uses the sights and sounds of the group as it was in the 1960s; this is, like Grease, a nostalgia game, which should resonate with fans who remember the group's heyday. In the bonus rounds, players get one of five Beach Boys classics (“California Girls,” “Fun, Fun, Fun,” “I Get Around,” Little Deuce Coupe,” and “Dance, Dance, Dance”) while racking up the credits.
A few other games won’t get the same push as those top three, but I still think they’re ones to watch. The Hot Shot Progressive game, a variant of the popular Vegas Hits series, sits inside the biggest cabinet Bally’s has ever made: it uses a 22-inch and 42-inch display to combine the traditional play area with two oversized wheels activated in the bonus rounds.
Texas Dice is a fun game that extendes Bally’s uSystem (uRace, uSpin, etc) to dice; in the bonus rounds, players can toss dice to win credits.
Pirate Quest is a fun pirate game, with a uAim bonus round: players try to sink opposing galleons. It’s fun, but at this point you can be wondering if there are limits to how creative slot machine designers can get. After all, if you’ve got the capability to shoot, aim, or fire at something on a slot machine, it doesn’t take a genius to say, “Everybody loves pirates!”
But you haven’t seen what I’ve seen: a slot machine called Sumo Kitty.
I’ve got to admit that at first, I thought, big deal, another themed slot machine. But then I thought about it some more, and I decided that, more than the high-octane NASCAR thrills or gentle nostalgia of “Little Deuce Coupe,” Sumo Kitty was the category killer for me.
Because the fact that Bally has produced a game called “Sumo Kitty” that features, in its bonus round, the cutest little kitties you ever saw facing off in a sumo ring, mawashi swaying, means that:
A) A real live human being actually had a series of thoughts that started with “need a game theme” and ended with “sumo kitties.”
B) An entire organization exists that can make this idea a reality
C) There is apparently a large enough segment of the slot-playing public that’s open-minded enough to gamble on a sumo kitty-themed slot machines that said organization is fairly confident it will produce revenue
It’s easy to get jaded looking at new slot machines; after all, on one level, they’re just more creative ways to separate gamblers from their money. And everyone complains that so much of popular culture is blanched of real creativity and risk-taking—we’ve all complained about big-tent summer blockbusters, sequels of sequels, and retread TV shows. Is it possible that a slot machine company is the last bastion of real new ideas? Because I know I haven’t seen anything as far-out as sumo kitties on TV in a long, long time.