All Slot Machine Games – You can play a slot machine in Las Vegas before you reach the baggage claim: there are small casinos in each terminal of McCarran International Airport. When you pick up your rental car, you can stop for gas and play slots at a convenience store. And that’s just before you get to your hotel-casino, which – if it follows the current situation – dedicates about 80 percent of its game board to slots, and only 20 percent in table games.
Bally Technologies, one of the world’s largest manufacturers of slot machines, is headquartered 3 miles south of the Strip. When I visited Bally in mid-March, Mike Trask, the company’s chief marketing officer, went into the company’s showroom to play some games. Compared to the cacophony of the casino floor, the Bally showroom is monastic, the lights low and the room quiet except for the soothing hum of two dozen hibernating consoles.
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It celebrated its 20th anniversary last year, and the company hopes to tap into some of that nostalgia. “That guy, that girl who watched every episode of
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I sat in front of the unit, and Trask touched a symbol in the upper corner of the display, selected a box on the display that would guarantee I would receive a bonus round, and told me to press the spin button. I did, and a song of the show was played, the NBC sextet smiled at me from their youth, and five songs of signs – a Central Perk decal, a guitar, screenshots of characters – rolled under the screen. . of the
Bally assembles all of its machines in a factory building adjacent to its gaming facilities and stores behind its Vegas headquarters. Last year, Scientific Games, Bally’s parent company, shipped more than 17,000 new units. When I visited, the store’s walls were lined with hundreds of newly assembled slot machine shells, showing black business outside and jutting dashboards.
A sign attached to each minister indicated his destination: Oklahoma, Washington, Michigan, Canada. Only a few are chosen for Vegas casinos, a sign of the expansion of the country and the world. Scientific Games acquired Bally last year for $5 billion. At that time, 23 states allowed gambling, a highly taxing industry, to immediately invest in bank accounts.
But the expansion of gaming generally means the expansion of slot machines — the modern casino often gets 70 to 80 percent of its revenue from slots, a stratospheric increase since the 1970s. when slots are available 50 percent or less. New York, the latest state to introduce gambling, does not allow gambling, and Pennsylvania, the third largest gambling state in the country after Nevada and New Jersey, only allows table games in a change in its law. And increasingly, the innovative systems and technologies already developed for slot machines – including payment processing and monitoring systems – have gained admiration in Silicon Valley.
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In the studio, Trask and I went to a ProWave cabinet, a design released by Bally in mid-2014 that features a 32-inch concave screen, similar to a Samsung TV. curved. Trask said that putting the same games on curved screens increased the game 30-80 percent. I asked him why. “Good idea; that’s for sure,” he said in a tone that indicated as good a choice as any. Game designers are charged with invoking the ineffable attraction of electronic gaming – developing a simple and permanent system, a mechanism that draws and holds players in a perfect circle of difficulty and the fee that keeps them in the chair for hours. , their pockets slowly but surely undone. As we stood on the gaming floor, Trask told me about the floor of the MGM, home to 2,500 machines and hundreds of different games. Trask’s mission, as he sees it, is simple: “Our job is to get you to choose our game.”
The prototypical slot machine was invented in Brooklyn in the mid-1800s – it’s a big banker and uses real playing cards. Inserting a nickel and pressing a lever dealt the cards in a small display window, and depending on the poker hand revealed, a player could win items from the factory installed the machine. In 1898, Charles Fey developed the Liberty Bell poker machine, the first true slot with three tracks and a cash payout. Each song has 10 symbols, giving players a 1-in-1,000 chance of hitting the 50-cent jackpot if three Liberty Bells line up. The three-reel design is printed in bars and has become a casino standard, but for decades casinos have considered them to be less than low – temptations for women of table games. So the casinos stuck with the table games, and the slots were relegated to the side.
That began to change in the 1960s, when Bally introduced the electromechanical slot machine. The new rig allows players to put in a lot of money on a single bet, and the machines can increase the jackpots and give smaller wins, but more often. A multi-line game has been introduced: in addition to the usual competitive line, players can win with diagonal and zig-zagged combinations. New designs have sped up the game and breathed life into a stagnant industry.
William “Si” Redd, the bolo-wearing Mississippi native who oversaw some of Bally’s new projects at the time, was instrumental in that renaissance. “The player came to win,” he said, “he didn’t come to lose, [so] hurry up, give it back, please. Running fast, because It’s more voluntary.” In other words, the new machines have lowered the volatility of the slots – the game play for the frequency with which a player has big wins and losses.
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The casino floor of the Boulder Club, in the early 1950s. Courtesy of the University of Nevada, Las Vegas
In the 1970s, Redd left Bally and founded another game manufacturer that was renamed IGT. IGT specializes in video game machines, or video poker. Video poker machines can be designed to have low volatility, paying players less on more hands. And the video games that made them so exciting, turned them into a huge success: people lined up to play the first machines, and the ability of the game to command the full attention of the player for hours called the “crack cocaine” of gambling. .
“If you take $100 and play the slots, you get an hour of play, but video poker is designed to give you two hours of play for that $100,” Redd said at the time. , teaching game designers to stretch. the time it takes for a poker machine to drain a player’s money.
Redd also received a patent for the newly invented Random Number Generator, which sets the number behind the reels and allows players to control volatility. A modern slot machine, at its core, is nothing more than an RNG that goes through millions or billions of numbers all the time. When a player hits the spin button, they are just stopping the RNG at some point. Everything else besides that – the music, the little games, the real twists and turns, Rachel, Monica, and the rest of the team taking care of you – is the dress code. window to keep you spinning.
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IGT makes 93 percent of the world’s video poker machines and is the largest manufacturer of video games in the world. His
The franchise covers every type of slot machine – tracks, curved screens, and large installations with large physical growth. When I visited their Las Vegas offices, I asked Jacob Lanning, IGT’s vice president of product management, what a good game is. “If you can imagine that, you’ve got a job,” he said. Trask told me something similar: “If we know what the best game is, we’ll keep making that game.”
One may not have discovered the Platonic ideal of the slot machine, but certain principles have bound most of the games. First of all, there is an aesthetic difference: the colors are close to the original or pastel, the franchise must be registered, and the game sounds are in the main key. Now, the multi-line winnings introduced by Bally have become unprecedented: new slots offer players over 50 and sometimes 100 different winning combinations – many without of lights, sounds, and celebrations, more than the usual and extravagant toys. it is difficult to know whether one has won or lost.
To keep players entertained, all slots rely on the same basic psychological principles discovered by BF Skinner in the 1960s. Skinner is famous for an experiment in which he placed pigeons in a box to give them a pellet of food when they press a lever. But when Skinner changed the box so that the pellets came out in regular clicks — a system called variable ratio reward — the pigeons pressed the lever more often. Thus was born the Skinner box, which Skinner compared to a slot machine.
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The Skinner box