The Fusion of Video Games and Bonus Slot Machines

Slot machines featuring second-screen bonus games burst onto the scene more than two decades ago; and since the early days of bonus slot machines in the 1990s, arcade and video games have had a subtle, and sometimes not so subtle, influence on these popular casino games.

This is natural, of course, as casual, non-wagering games ranging from arcade favourites like Pac-Man to Nintendo games like Super Mario Bros. to today's modern app games like Candy Crush Saga share some of the same features with slot machines. And while direct ports of popular video games into video game slots is still rather rare, it is sure to increase as Generation X begins to enter the prime of their gambling lives.

Despite the relatively small amount of crossover video game slot machines, bonus slots can be seen to have adopted many ideas from their casual game cousins. This comes directly from the fact that some of the pioneers of the video slot and bonus machine started their careers as pure video game designers and executives.

The WMS Gaming slots boss who oversaw the creation of ground-breaking titles like Jackpot Party and Reel 'Em In and who now heads the innovative Leading Edge Design, Larry DeMar, had previously worked in the video game and pinball department of Midway Games. Similarly, the video slot business at IGT owes a lot of its innovation to Joe Kaminow, who had been an influential designer at Sega Pinball in the 1980s.

Though it's rather rare to see video games translated directly into bonus slot machines, the first years of the 21st century saw Bally Technologies take a stab at directly incorporating video game concepts into its bonus titles. These games not only appealed to slot players' retro sensibilities, but introduced the concept of using skill to obtain a larger bonus.

Featuring bonus screens similar to Pong or Breakout, players could actually control the action, with better players likely to claim larger bonuses. While the ideal situation was to win the biggest bonus through skill, even people who hate video games could still win as there was an option to allow the computer to play the game and award a bonus at random.

Other video slot titles based on video games have experienced various levels of success. Staying with the 70s/80s retro theme, in 2014 IGT released Centipede, with a skill-based second-screen bonus based on the classic arcade and home platform game. As with the original game, the bonus sees the player try to destroy an evil centipede by choosing which segments of the centipede to shoot at. If the player is both skilled and lucky, he can blow up the entire centipede and advance to an additional, more difficult level with higher bonus possibilities and more monsters.

Konami has also attempted to relive its glory days by releasing a video slot based on its immensely popular arcade and console series Contra. Called Neo Contra, many of the visual elements of the original games are there, including the legendary extra lives Konami code which helps the players in the video slot gain more chances during the bonus round. While packed with explosions, helicopters, and fun, the game does not actually incorporate any skill elements into it.

GTECH has attempted to tap into the younger, social gaming generation by introducing two bonus slot machines based on video games from Pop Cap Games, Bejeweled and Zuma. In the original Bejeweled video game slot, players can choose a skill-based bonus where they have to use strategy to connect jewels of the same types, though the sequel to the game dropped the skill-based bonus screen.

In Zuma, the bonus screen sees players take control of the titular frog hero, Zuma, and fight against the evil boss. There is skill involved in this title as well, as the boss moves across the screen forcing players to react to the movements and time their attacks precisely.

In an attempt to cater to the retro video game crowd without actually having to directly port a famous video game, Multimedia Games has created $pin-Up$, which is based on the racy calendars of yesteryear. There are two bonus games, one a simple pick'em bonus, while the other is a more complicated free spin bonus which has been slightly influenced by video games in that you can collect more spins by popping balloons with virtual pins. The more balloons popped, the more you win. But don't let the interface fool you, it's a completely random bonus game with no skill needed whatsoever.

About The Author

Journalist and author John Grochowski is one of the foremost experts on casinos in America. He writes a syndicated weekly gambling newspaper column and he is a frequent contributor to gambling magazines, websites, and radio programs. His books include the best-sellers The Slot Machine Answer Book and The Casino Answer Book.

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