Penny slots have
been the hottest gaming industry trend this side of poker, and at the
Global Gaming Expo in Las Vegas, leading slotmaker IGT wanted to make
sure I saw its hottest of the hot.
"You have to
see this," IGT vice president of engineering Kaminkow called out.
"You have great urban markets in Chicago and Gary. Isn't this a
great game for those markets?"
Kaminkow was talking
about the new Soul Train slot, based on the long-running TV dance show.
He cued up the bonus round, featuring an introduction by "Soul
Train" host Don Cornelius, with disco hits of the '70s and a dance
floor where animated characters with platform shoes and big hairstyles
strutted out their best 1970s dance moves. A crowd gathered to watch,
laughing and pointing, perhaps recognizing a bit of their younger selves.
He knew he had a winner in a segment that's becoming ever more important
in the slot machine market. Most players cover all the paylines ---
usually 15, 20 or 25 --- and enough bet more than one coin per line
that penny games earn more money per machine for the casino than quarter
games. Bet 20 coins per line on 25 lines, and that one-cent machine
is taking a $5 bet --- a pretty penny indeed.
To make penny games
attractive to players, most are more volatile than the nickel video
slots with second screen bonuses we've come to know and love. Penny
slots emphasize free spins and multipliers, and those free spins sometimes
yield wins of thousands of coins, making worthwhile wins possible even
at the low coin denomination.
Not all penny games
are on video. At the expo, IGT showed a line of games called Perfect
for Pennies. These are five-reel, reel-spinning games with themes including
Great White and King Cheetah. One cool addition: There's a volume control
feature. Operators can set maximum and minimum volumes, but players
take it up or down to their liking within those limits.
from IGT include two Star Wars games, The Empire Strikes Back and The
Dark Side. Both are 30-line games --- perfect for pennies. The Dark
Side game features a bonus wheel with alternating dark and light spaces.
It almost stops, but clicks back and forth momentarily between two spaces
--- if you get a Light Side multiplier, the round continues. A Dark
Side credit amount ends the round.
At the Bally Gaming
booth, Hot Shot, a penny game with a five-level progressive jackpot,
drew big attention. Available both in video and reel-spinning formats,
Hot Shot has an eye-catching launch to its bonus round. Among the reel
symbols are representations of Blazing 7s-bearing reels --- on the video
version, the reels within reels start spinning and build excitement
as they land on the paylines. It's designed as a quick-hit progressive
with a low "Blazing" jackpot that builds through the Double,
Triple, Diamond and Blazing Times Seven levels.
Atronic went the
penny route in introducing Miami Vice, a progressive video slot that
uses the imagery of the old TV detective show. The starting jackpot
is about $5,000 and should hit every couple of weeks, leaving a game
where players feel they have a shot to win. Among the symbols are boats,
palm trees, flamingos, "Miami Vice" stars Don Johnson and
Philip Michael Thomas, along with the letters M-I-A-M-I. It's landing
five of the letters on the reels that launches the progressive round
that can lead to the jackpot.
The penny market
is also the aim of the "Win One/Two Ways" 42-line games. Players
who bet both ways win on symbols reading either left to right or right
to left across the pay lines. In Mistress of Egypt, one game in the
line, the Scarab bonus allows players to choose their volatility ---
do they want to take a bonus that could range from 270 to 2,700 credits,
or take a higher guaranteed floor in exchange for a lower potential
A pioneer in penny
games and multi-tiered jackpots, Aristocrat Technologies introduced
its new double standalone progressive line, with titles including George
Lopez, Agassi and Zorro. In these dual-screened games, players don't
have to bet maximum coins to be eligible for the two-level progressive
jackpot. They just have to bet at least one credit per payline, and
also make a 10-credit ante bet. In the 25-line George Lopez game, that
means a 35-coin bet instead of the 500 that would be needed to bet 20
coins per line.
Penny games demand
more volatility than nickel games, and George Lopez, featuring the animated
image of the actor and comedian, provides it with both free spins and
a second-screen bonus. Images of Lopez can trigger up to 50 free games.
In the bonus round, players become eligible for either the "Major"
or "Grand" jackpot, with starting values of about $100 on
the Major and $1,000 on the grand.
For the penny player,
the competition among manufacturers can only mean added fun. So take
your pick --- get ready to ride the Soul Train, laugh with George Lopez,
follow the trail with Miami Vice or watch those 7s blaze.