IGT reinvents the Wheel once again with “Wheel Of Fortune Triple Extreme Spin”
by Frank Legato
Players never seem to get tired of the Wheel.
Wheel Of Fortune, the remarkable slot game franchise begun with the fortuitous decision in the mid 1990s to take a roulette-wheel topper (a gimmick already tried by a rival slot-maker) and turn it into a fortune wheel along with the theme of the world’s most popular game show, triggered the first revolution in themed slots. After the first reel-spinning version of the progressive slot debuted in late 1996, slot-makers across the world came up with game-show, TV and movie themes to go along with the reel-spinning.
But Wheel Of Fortune has survived them all.
Since players first heard that familiar audience chant—“Wheel…of…FORTUNE!”—come out of a slot machine, its manufacturer, Reno-based International Game Technology, has released sequel upon sequel, in video, reel-spinning and hybrid versions, and with every new version, the original concept seems brand-new.
So it is again. The newest version of Wheel Of Fortune takes the player’s love of spinning that wheel and multiplies it by three. “Wheel Of Fortune Triple Extreme Spin” cuts a stunning figure by using the “Center Stage Duo” format—two slant-top machines with the manufacturers’ new “MegaFX” surround-sound chairs—in front of an eye-catching display of three mechanical wheels, each a different size. Two of the wheels are made of credit awards; the other displays multipliers up to 10X.
The base game also is a first in the Wheel Of Fortune series. Based on the popular “Siberian Storm” video slot, the game is set up in IGT’s unique reel interface with three spaces on each of the outer reels, four spaces on reels 2 and 4, and five spaces on the middle reel. It’s called “MultiWay Xtra,” and one of its benefits is that a wager of only 50 cents activates all the features. Wins are paid as scatter pays, with 720 potential winning combinations on every spin.
“We keep trying to push the envelope with development concepts for Wheel Of Fortune,” says Boris Hallerbach, IGT’s senior manager of product management. “Obviously, this has been a super franchise for IGT, and one of our heritage brands that we keep improving on. This is the next step—it takes the grand experience of physical wheels into the Center Stage Duo format.”
Hallerbach notes that players will find the Duo setup in many more locations around a given casino than was possible with the original Center Stage series, the format for last year’s “Wheel Of Fortune—The Experience,” a mammoth setup that requires a whole wall. “This version packs the impressive ‘wow,’ with those three wheels, into something we can use at many, many casinos,” he says.
The three-wheel setup is the brainchild of Joe Kaminkow, the IGT vice president in charge of the main MegaJackpots design studio who has conceived of many of the slot-maker’s most famous games. According to Hallerbach, Kaminkow started sketching out a three-wheel setup five years ago, but the Center Stage Duo format finally allowed him to place the concept into its best-working presentation.
IGT did use a setup with three video wheels in the original Center Stage format with the massive 103-inch and 70-inch video monitors, but this is the first time the company has tried it with physical wheels akin to the original Wheel OF Fortune.
“What this game really does nicely is to bring the excitement of spinning the physical wheel back into the Wheel Of Fortune product library,” Hallerbach says.
The base game itself contains its share of surprises. The Siberian Storm base game pays both left-to-right and right-to-left for symbol combinations on adjacent reels, and includes stacked wild symbols that create the occasional huge credit win. But there’s also a compelling base-game bonus that uses miniature versions of the familiar fortune wheel.
Three or more scatter symbols on the reels transform into miniature wheels. The little wheels all spin at once, and the values on the pointers are added together for a bonus award.
“The fun part is that as you move from left to right across the reels, the wheel values get larger,” Hallerbach says. “So, you’re rooting for some of those scatter symbols to appear on reels 4 and 5. These are exciting little wins.”
The game goes into full throttle when three or four bonus symbols land on the center spots of the reels to trigger the main Triple Extreme Spin Bonus. Custom light sequences on the wheels and on the frame of the LCD bonus screen in front of them synchronize with blaring sound and vibrations in the chair—suffice it to say you know you’ve hit the bonus.
After your adrenaline gets pumped from that familiar audience cheer, you are presented with a screen of envelopes from which to pick. (Your number of picks corresponds to the number of scatter symbols you landed.) Picks reveal diamond pointers corresponding to each wheel—red and blue for the two wheels with award values; yellow for the multiplier wheel. With the pointers in place, all three wheels spin, and the accumulated values on the pointers go for the bonus award.
The multiplier pointers are added together to multiply the credit awards on the other wheels. You can get all multipliers in the envelopes as well. In that case, a single pointer on the larger award wheel gives you the amount to be multiplied. You can get anywhere from three pointers to a maximum eight pointers in all.
“The three wheels give you that ‘wow’ factor,” says Hallerbach. “Like the effect you get when casinos place a ‘Big Bertha’ machine on the floor, the wheels provide a high-visibility attraction. But when they sit down, they’ll find out that the base game is one of their favorites. Once players start feeling the ride of this game, it’s going to stick with them.”
The first placements of Wheel Of Fortune Triple Extreme Spin were slated for mid-December in some of the Native American casino jurisdictions. By this month, the company will launch its full nationwide release. The game will reside on IGT’s MegaJackpots “Money Madness” link, with a top progressive line jackpot resetting at $500,000 in Nevada. That jackpot may vary in other jurisdictions.
Hallerbach says the company is looking at developments of other games using the three-wheel hardware, including higher denominations and a low-denomination reel-spinning style.
Those are all in the future, though. For now, players are going to want to get familiar with this version of the venerable Wheel.
After 15 years, banks of Wheel Of Fortune in all of its various incarnations are still causing players to line up for spots at a game.
Says Hallerbach, “I think you’re going to be waiting in line for this one, too.” •
|WHEEL OF FORTUNE TRIPLE EXTREME SPIN
Five-reel scatter-pay video slot; hexagonal reel setup; primary-screen and second-screen bonus events; mechanical wheel bonus; penny denomination (selectible denomination on non-progressive version)
PAYBACK % RANGE
AVERAGE HIT FREQUENCY
Progressive: Varies by jurisdiction ($500,000 reset in Nevada)
Non-Progressive: 100,000 credits
AZ, CA, CO, CT, FL, IL, IN, IA, KS, LA, MI (tribal), MN, MS (tribal), MO, ND, NM, NV, OR, SD, WA, WI (Individual approvals pending at press time)