Are they reels? Are they video slots? REELdepth™ games are all that and more, says IGT’s Kurt Quartier
Server-based slot gaming has been heralded more times than a mediaeval king on royal progress. In the midst of all the trumpet blowing by commentators, though, it’s easy to overlook an important fact. Leading gaming equipment manufacturers such as International Game Technology (IGT) are constantly introducing technology innovations at casino floor level to enhance existing games and existing cabinet types.
In other words, their products are not only server-based ready but also packed with preloaded functions and content to an extent unthinkable only a few years ago. That’s thanks to the increasing sophistication of onboard processors and programming, plus in IGT’s case, its industry-leading glass screen technology.
IGT’s REELdepth™ games use Multi-Layer Display® technology, which enables what is essentially a video slot machine to look and behave like a traditional mechanical or semi-mechanical reel unit. It does this by giving a three dimensional appearance to what is in reality a flat glass screen.
IGT says REELdepth, which caused a buzz at G2E 2008 in Las Vegas last November, will be on show during G2E Asia 2009 held at The Venetian Macao in June.
“The REELdepth cabinet is a new technology—to take traditional reel slots, which are doing very well in Asia—into a server based world,” explains Kurt Quartier, Vice President, International Casino Markets.
The 3-D graphics that can be shown on IGT’s proprietary REELdepth™ glass allow display of anything from three- to five-reel games in a digital ‘virtual’ format that looks and plays uncannily like a traditional mechanical or semi-mechanical unit. Not only can the REELdepth cabinet deliver traditional looking games in a virtual way, but because it’s based on the latest video slot technology it can also support the kinds of additional video features and video bonusing not previously available on mechanical or semi-mechanical reels.
“In reel mode it behaves like a traditional reel machine, but when you trigger a bonus, the power of video comes into play, which technically speaking takes you into a whole different level of functionality compared to traditional reel games,” explains Mr Quartier.
“Previously, when people thought about reels, they used to think about the old three-reel, one to three coin multiplier slot games. They were pretty boring, you couldn’t do any bonusing, you couldn’t win any free games etc. With today’s technology you can do exactly the same sort of things on a reel as you can on a video. The next step is to take it into a server-based world where we can change the player experience,” he adds.
Technological and content development has already helped IGT win a wide range of industry awards, including Honourable Mention for Best Standalone Game in the Inside Asian Gaming – Supplier Awards 2009 announced shortly before the International Gaming Expo in London earlier this year.
“We recently released the REELdepth cabinet in the U.S. and the early figures are extremely encouraging,” says Mr Quartier.
“The product will be at G2E Asia and might even be released and in the field [in Macau] before then.
“We know that Asian players in particular like reel games. It doesn’t take players long to understand them and they feel they can trust them, though obviously as the industry ups reel games to 20 or even 50 lines they become more complex,” he adds.
When the display on an IGT REELdepth-configured unit is set to a reel game, the flat glass screen comes uncannily alive. The player would almost swear there were real metallic wheels spinning inside the cabinet. This remarkable optical and auditory illusion even stretches as far as recreating the characteristic ‘bounce’ of a suddenly stopped reel that dedicated slot players of a certain age will associate with the old semi-mechanicals.
“If you compare that to some of our competitors, several have made machines that can do something a little similar—with one major difference. What in effect they’ve done is similar to cutting holes into an LCD so that you can see the [mechanical] reel. But once you do that, you reduce the potential of the unit,” explains Mr Quartier.
“We, by contrast, can turn a three-reel game into a four-reel into a five-reel game. We can change it into a full video display as well,” he adds.
The fact the REELdepth cabinet can double as a display platform for orthodox video slot games dramatically increases the range of content that can be offered to players via one unit. Users of REELdepth units already have the option of selecting from a range of game content options preloaded onto the machines. Once the units are linked to receive downloads from a remote server, the player options will be even greater.
When REELdepth’s display flexibility is teamed up with server-based downloading and management functions, it will boost further the value proposition of the cabinet. Operators will have the ability to change the game mix to suit certain visitor demographics or to maximise appeal to players at certain times of day. This is especially important in making every penny work for the business during challenging economic times. The optical wizardry of the REELdepth cabinet is extended to a 3-D service screen displayed below the reels, which can be set up to advertise a range of price denominations.
“We think the business proposition of the REELdepth cabinet is already extremely strong and has got even stronger in tough economic times,” says Mr Quartier.
“People will always be looking for machines that are flexible, innovative and perform well across a range of functions. The Macau market may have slowed down a little, but the rest of the Asian markets have not. There are good opportunities here in the region,” he states.