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Traditional reel-spinners survive and adapt

By Frank Legato

Slot machines these days take on many forms. Giant curved screens face players in curved chairs, forming a cocoon that immerses them in the game. Other giant-screen slots offer intense video graphics on a screen approaching cinematic size, in front of dual-play benches.

Then there are the scores of dual-screen and portrait-style video slots, parts of game families that check all the pot-collection and hold-and- spin boxes.

But amid all of this, we still have traditional-style slots, with mechanical spinning reels and five-coin bets. Three-reel setups with five or fewer paylines, with bars and 7s and multiplying wild symbols, have survived the decades by adapting and modernizing.

Those familiar base games are augmented by multiple progressives, video bonuses on monitors over the reels in hybrid platforms, and many modern variations of reel-spinning cabinets—each bringing modern conveniences and advanced features while carefully maintaining the look and feel of a classic reel-spinner.

Slot suppliers like Light & Wonder, IGT and Everi are masters of the genre. Each has its own reinvention of the classic reel-spinner.

Light & Wonder, of course, traces its lineage to Bally, which pretty much invented the modern reel-spinner. The company’s latest reel-spinning cabinet, the Landmark 7000, hosts a revival of one of legacy Bally’s most legendary games in Blazing 7s 2X3X5X. It takes the famous Blazing 7s slot and its multiple “7” combinations and adds a flood of multiplying wild symbols.

Then there’s the Landmark 7000 Transparent cabinet, which brings back what used to be called “Transmissive Reels” by legacy company WMS—a transparent video overlay on top of mechanical reels to display animation, multipliers and other special features. The technology has vastly improved since the WMS days.

IGT is another company that uses its own legacy to constantly reinvent the classic reelspinner. For decades, its S2000 mechanical-reel cabinet defined what a reel-spinner looked like, with classics from Double Diamond to Red, White & Blue cementing their brands in our minds. Wheel of Fortune started on an S2000 cabinet.

Recently, IGT has seen a renaissance in reels, with new cabinets that bring the S2000 look into the 21st century. There was the S3000, and more recently, the Diamond RS, featuring its own “transmissive”-like technology, called “Diamond Glass,” designed to look like traditional slot glass, but allowing a reel-spinning cabinet to host multiple payline configurations on the same machine—essentially, a multi-game, multi- denomination mechanical reel-spinning slot.

IGT classics including Pinball, Double Top Dollar and others have been launched on the cabinet. This year they’re rolling out the DiamondRS 27, a shorter version that looks just like the classic S2000.

Everi has mastered the reel-spinning genre since it was Multimedia Games, before the merger that created the present-day supplier. Everi reel-spinners are among the hottest slots on the market right now, from traditional game styles to games like Cash Machine, with numbers instead of reel symbols adding up to cash awards.

Everi reinvented its reel-spinning group with the Player Classic cabinet, and more recently, the Player Classic Signature. These brought features like player-selectable multi-denomination choices to the reel-spinner. The Player Classic Signature ups the ante, with wider reels than the original Player Classic, and full-spectrum color lighting enhancing the spinning reels. The digital display above the reels includes the traditional pay schedule, while payline configurations light up to show players how they have won.

These three suppliers have been a fairly exclusive club as far as a continuously growing library of classic reel-spinners. But that doesn’t mean others won’t move in that direction. Even Aristocrat, that master of the video genre, has launched a new reel-spinning cabinet this year. Called the Marquis, it is a premium three-reel mechanical cabinet topped by a large bonus wheel.

Aristocrat launched the cabinet with Overtime Cash, one of a group of six NFL-themed slots being launched under a license from the National Football League. Overtime Cash is a three-reel, nine-line, 10-credit stepper game.

That 10th credit is essentially an ante wager that activates a great feature of the game, the “Interception Feature.” Randomly, the game will “intercept” a losing spin and turn it into a winning spin.

The cabinet also incorporates a video monitor, which shows game footage from the player’s favorite team during the reel-spinning.

It remains to be seen how far into the reel-spinning genre Aristocrat will dip its toes. But as with Light & Wonder, IGT and Everi, one common denominator rules: These are new slots, but they look and feel like the classics. They’re the way we remember them. Only better.

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