On the Fringes: New games are popular, but emerging technologies change slot machine play Frank Legato, CDC Gaming Reports · November 29, 2018 at 9:00 pm This space shone a spotlight on many of the very best new games presented at the Global Gaming Expo last month. But concentrating on the games alone isn’t enough to comprehend the changes that are coming to the slot floor. Dig deeper, and you’ll find technology on the fringes of the new games themselves that is gradually changing the way we view and play slot machines. Here is a lineup of prominent examples: The e-wallet: Scientific Games, Everi Holdings, International Game Technology and others presented versions of what is the inevitable next step in funding slot-machine play. The e-wallet will also record that play for slot-club points. It should be a no-brainer that 20th century technology of mag-stripe cards for earning club points for play should be shown the door. Equally, while kiosks and cash-out tickets are certainly miles ahead of filling coin buckets and lugging them to a redemption booth, the e-wallet is miles ahead of having to find a kiosk. In general, the new systems let players create a mobile deposit account for play, and have it linked to the player’s club account. You walk up to a slot machine, tap your mobile phone on a reader, and your club account is activated. Then, download credits from your deposit account directly to the machine. After play, you download any winnings back to your mobile account. The next step in the evolution, of course, will be to enable credits to be downloaded from debit-card or credit-card accounts. The technology has been available for years, but regulatory concerns in the various jurisdictions have put sort of an invisible injunction on its progress. The reason, of course, is responsible gaming concerns. Regulators have normally wanted to make it as difficult as possible to tap bank accounts once a player runs out of cash — many still have laws on the books requiring ATMs to be a certain distance from the slot floor. However, regulators in many jurisdictions are beginning to realize that removing a step or two from the process of funding slot play would not spell the end of responsible gaming, and that the digital alternative provides a safe, secure system to go forward with completely cashless slot play. Slots for two—or more: IGT, Scientific Games, Konami Gaming and others are producing large-format games equipped with two spin buttons, along with a bench that allows a couple to cozy up together to enjoy a game. These are increasingly popular and lend a kind of socialization to the slot experience that has not been there in the past. But other games are specifically designed for two or more. Gamblit Gaming’s Model G and TriStation formats place three or four players around a game in standing positions, to compete in skill-based contests on Pac-Man, poker and other games. Scientific Games’ PRIZM game table hosts a roulette game, stud poker and soon, a Monopoly game accommodating several players around a gaming machine. In short, slot machine play is no longer necessarily a solitary experience. Video poker specialties: Avid video poker players have consistently rejected games that have fancy bonus features, for one reason—they know how to find the games with the lowest house edge, and in the past, any bonuses — wheel spins, extra payouts for certain hands, etc. — were paid for by taking something away from the full-pay schedules. This year, video poker leader IGT came out with a suite of specialty video poker games with one thing in common — the bonus features are paid for with an extra buy-in — normally modest, like a max bet of six units per hand instead of five. This gives video poker purists a new reason to try specialty games that offer extra bonuses, without detracting from the standard full-pay schedules that they normally play. Slots on the bar: Speaking of video poker, that game has always been the main fare on bar-top gaming machines. This year, Aristocrat Technologies, in response to customer requests, produced a bar-top machine that features its most popular multiline video slots, starting with the uber-popular Buffalo franchise. 3D and more: As noted last month, IGT’s TRUE 3D and the new “4D” have added incredible new experiences to slot play, from 3D images that are remarkably authentic to midair haptic technology that allows you to physically interact with the game. Add to this IGT’s “PowerSight” technology, which allows a player to affect a game by looking at it — fixing a gaze on a certain screen area to choose an icon in a picking game or reveal a hidden bonus — and slot play takes on a new dimension. As noted last month, don’t forget the new Bond game from Scientific Games that produces a 3D image the old-fashioned way by employing the century-old Pepper’s ghost technique, revealing a shooting game inside a secret chamber in the cabinet. It’s a brave new world out there. Projection reflection: The slot-makers are always coming up with new ways to display images for both bonuses and regular game play. Aruze introduced Ray Vision, a new type of slot bank that uses projection mapping to create a 3D picture across a top screen that conforms to the shape of each cabinet. The projected images on the top screen are used for bonuses, jackpot celebrations and attract sequences. The same projection imaging technology is being applied to electronic table games. Lucky Roulette is a modified version of a previous Aruze product called Virtual Roulette, in which projection imaging provided the entire visual, including the spinning roulette wheel. Lucky Roulette uses a real roulette wheel, with a real ball, with projection imaging available for side bets, spin history and other messaging. Aruze is using projection imaging for other ETGs, and for the Omni-Table, a generic table game that uses projection imaging from underneath to present the layout of any specific game. Edge wedgy: Another unique display technology comes from Incredible Technologies, which introduced the V55 Edge, a 4K LCD video wedge between games in banks, each a full digital video screen. It gives a bank a compelling look, and when placed in a sawtooth configuration, the video screens provide a perception of privacy that is not possible with a bank of machines configured in a straight line. Comfy chairs: Slot machines were originally a stand-up affair, but when the first slot stools came out, they were essentially bar stools placed in front of the game. Chair suppliers evolved casino seating, but slot manufacturers have more recently taken care to keep players comfortable in front of the games, with ergonomically designed seating that works with advanced sound systems to create an immersive experience. The ultimate in this type of seating design comes from the V.I.P. Lounge, produced by Novomatic. This is essentially an easy chair placed in front of an immersive game, with the spin buttons embedded at the end of the arm rests. It’s like playing a slot machine in your living room.