Digital Technology Making Old Slot Machine Games New Again

Written By Drew Ellis on April 20, 2022

Nostalgia plays a big role in everything related to pop culture.

That’s certainly no different in the world of retail casino gaming, especially with slot machines.

Though the development of game technology has grown leaps and bounds over the last couple of decades, older games still find a way to stay relevant.

While stepper slots may largely be a thing of the past, the themes behind them still find life.

What is old, can become new again.

Here’s how some of your favorite games from the late 90’s or early 2000’s still can be found on casino floors across the state.

Keeping stepper slots relevant at Michigan casinos

The old stepper slots were pretty straight forward. You had three mechanical reels and limited coin denominations. Just put in your coin, pull the reel and hope for the best.

In today’s world, the stepper slots have converted to a digital format with more denomination options and more playing lines available to the users.

The game in itself remains the same, but the user options have grown exponentially.

“A manufacturer like IGT has started to port over a lot of their older classic titles. When I say older classics, I’m talking about games like Haywire, Coyote Moon, White Orchid, Wolf Run, stuff like that. They’ve now ported those games over with the same style, but on the newer cabinets,” Gary Fagone, Director of Slot Performance at FireKeepers Casino Hotel, said. “So now, those games have larger screens and bigger pay fields. With some of those games, they’re doing the same traditional max bets and coin lines, but then also introducing some of the newer, higher bet features as well. A lot of these games back in the day, 250 credits was the max bet. Well, they still have that available, but they’re now offering 400 and 600 credits to kind of stay current.”

With the upgraded format to today’s style working for IGT, other manufacturers have jumped on board as well, including Aristocrat.

“(Manufacturers) are bringing back some of these other titles and retooling them for high limit rooms,” Fagone added. “An example is Aristocrat. We just installed a game specifically called High Limit Pompeii and High Limit Buffalo. They’re the traditional Buffalo and Pompeii games, just denomed (denomination) up to a mid-denom. So now it can be a nickel, dime, or quarter-style game, but it’s still that traditional math, of being a nine-line game. That’s where they’re trying to stay current, but bringing back some of that older math and game style.”

Killing two birds with one stone

Games can’t stay current without current technology.

The shift to digital consoles (cabinets) was also important to keep the longevity of classic slot games.

“We theorized several years ago that new games do better than old games. Not just new in terms of theme, but new in terms of the actual physical, mechanical, technological reliability of the game,” Steven Senk, VP of Slot Operations at FireKeepers, said. “New games are, they’re more stable, they don’t require as much repair. If it’s a video, it’s less strain on the eyes. So, in general, new beats old.”

The new technology has been important for the manufacturers as well, as they are always looking for ways to get casinos to purchase new and upgraded equipment.

By restoring old games to a new format, it’s a cost-friendly venture for the manufacturer, as they aren’t having to focus on a new theme, just new hardware.

“I think it’s taken a while for manufacturers to figure that out,” Senk said. “Some of these manufacturers have a large library at their disposal, where they’re going back to porting up some older themes that were successful. It’s a true porting, as it keeps the game in honor of what the theme was when it was first released, just with some more options for the player. It’s not a completely different game. Maybe it has a little bit sweeter of a bonus round or something a little bit different, but it’s generally not reengineered. The manufacturers are looking for the new reliability, the compatibility, the features, the updates of the new hardware, because they want to sell us new hardware. But, they’re finding that they don’t have to reinvent the wheel to do that.”

Slot machine cabinet performance drastically improved

As Senk noted, shifting to more digital cabinets has been a positive step for the industry and casino floors.

The longevity of the machines is a little longer, with fewer minor issues along the way. Older, mechanical machines struggle to reach a five-year lifespan. Digital cabinets, meanwhile, have the capability of going for a maximum of seven years.

“Hardware, it costs us money. The player may not care if it’s on the new cabinet or the old one if they liked the game. But, for us, we’re very big on this – the game has to operate. We have standards that we want every button to work, every light to work,” Senk said. “Different casinos may have different opinions on this, as some may not have the budgets to have the newest cabinets. They may find ways to make the old ones work. Supply chain issues notwithstanding, by the time a cabinet gets five years old or so, even if they still make that style of cabinet, that particular cabinet is probably ready to hit the skids. Just from a maintenance standpoint, you kind of try to keep them fresh about every five years or so. Seven years max.”

While the cabinets can perform at a high level for five years, that’s not stopping manufacturers from trying to make advances more frequently.

In today’s day and age, five years is a long time. Technology advancements can make something border on becoming obsolete in half a decade.

“Cabinet hardware, it’s all about money. Manufacturers, they’re always trying to come out with something bigger, better, and flashier to try and incentivize the casino to buy that new cabinet,” Fagone said. “There’s a new cabinet about every two years from each manufacturer.”

Michigan online casinos continue growth, expansion

Older game themes have found their way to online casinos as well.

White Orchid and Wolf Run are among some of the names you can find around Michigan’s 15 online operators.

With Michigan setting another record for online casino revue in March 2022, expect to see more of the classics looking to transfer to the online product as well in some capacity.

On Monday, the Michigan Gaming Control Board reported that Michigan had $131.7 million in online casino revenue for last month. That was a new record by nearly $10 million.

It also marks the fourth consecutive month Michigan has tallied over $120 million in online casino revenue.

With 10 of the online casinos in Michigan adding to their game count since January – as well as a 15th operator launching in Eagle Casino & Sports – the revenue and available games should continue to increase.

Photo by Shutterstock
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Drew Ellis

Drew Ellis has lived in Michigan his whole life, and has been writing professionally for the last 21 years. Ellis has covered anything from youth baseball in mid-Michigan, a top-25 college football program, and pro sports in the Detroit area. Always keeping busy, Ellis also has over 10 years of experience in covering sports betting, handling all major sports.

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