Bally Technologies and WMS Gaming share common ancestry, born of Chicago pinball stock. And for the last few years they've shared a corporate roof after Scientific Games acquired WMS in 2013 and Bally the following year.
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With two gamemakers that have given so much to the slot industry under the same corporate umbrella, it was only to be expected that innovations and themes from each would sometimes merge.
That's happening in a game you'll be seeing this year, Monopoly Hot Shot, with three video reels and nine paylines on Scientific Games' new TwinStar V75 cabinet. The cabinet features an elongated 75-inch curved, ultra-high definition 4K resolution display.
Monopoly games have been a huge success for WMS under its license from Hasbro since the late 1990s. Bally's Hot Shot play mechanic has resonated with players nearly as long. In Hot Shot slots, symbols on the video reels include small images of spinning reels of different games. When you get at least three of those small reel sets, the reels spin on each and give you the chance at winning spins within the spin.
On Monopoly Hot Shot, those games within the game are Action 777, Luxury Diamond Line and Triple Diamond Go. Players always eagerly anticipate the onscreen bonus on Hot Shot games, but on the large TwinStar V75 screen, those extra reels really pop.
As for the Monopoly side of things, a trip around the game board on top is always a highlight. It launches when Scottie dogs land on the reels.
As you roll the dice in a trip around the board, there are extras such as multipliers when you land on a railroad, a credit refund when you land on a utility or tax spaces, a pick'em feature when you land on Chance, Community Chest or Free Parking, even a giant payoff for landing on Go.
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On top of all that, Monopoly Hot Shot features a wide-area jackpot that links games at multiple casinos, as well as three local progressive levels linking games within the host casino.
Bally and WMS both are descendants of Bally Manufacturing, a Chicago firm that started its rise in the 1930s with the iconic Ballyhoo pinball game. Bally Manufacturing became Bally Gaming and later Bally Technologies.
Among popular slot machine favorites from Bally have been Blazing 7s, with its rapid-hit progressive jackpots and eye-catching 7s in flames symbols; the Betty Boop line of games that were among the first to successfully use licensed, themed characters; Michael Jackson, King of Pop; and, of course, Hot Shot games.
Along the way, Bally bought another maker of amusement games and equipment, Midway Manufacturing, in 1958. Bally merged its pinball and arcade division with Midway to form Bally/Midway Manufacturing, then later sold that division to WMS Industries/Williams Electronics. Under WMS ownership, Midway Games produced iconic games including Mortal Kombat and NBA Jam.
From that Bally-Midway-WMS industries lineage, WMS Gaming arose in the 1990s. At first, WMS gained entries to gambling markets with video lottery terminals, but by the mid-1990s was ready to move into casino markets.
WMS was early to the party with bonusing games and gave the slot industry a creative boost with the three-reel bonus slot Piggy Bankin' and on video with Reel 'Em In, Jackpot Party and both mechanical and video versions of Monopoly. It's been an innovator in community-style games and immersive games such as Top Gun and Wizard of Oz with special effects chairs.
With both Bally and WMS under the Scientific roof, some cross-pollination was going to happen. Monopoly Hot Shot looks like a fun blend of ideas.
Look for John Grochowski on Facebook (http://tinyurl.com/7lzdt44) and Twitter (@GrochowskiJ).