How Video Poker gained a reputation for “cocaine” in gaming.
In the 1970s, Redd left Bally Technologies to create another gaming company that is now known as IGT. It specialized in the development of video game machines known as Video Poker. These machines were even less volatile so that players could win only small sums of money. The interactive features of Video Poker made them even more attractive, leading to the huge success of these games: players lined up in front of the machines and when the first ones were installed in casinos they spent hours sitting in front of the screens, so very quickly these machines gained a reputation as “cocaine” for players.
“If you have $100, you can spend about an hour playing regular slot machines, but our Video Poker machine is designed to give you 2 hours of play for the same amount of money,” said Redd. The game designers went about developing them in such a way as to extend the time it takes for the video poker machine to empty players’ pockets.
Redd also acquired the patent for the new random number generator (RNG), which computes all the calculations so that the volatility of the game can be controlled. A modern slot machine has essentially the same RNG that generates billions of combinations. When a player presses the ‘Spin’ button it simply stops the RNG at a certain point. Everything you can see on the screen, hear, the music, the mini-games and the design of the reels – is there to keep you pressing the ‘Spin’ button.
The total percentage of Video Poker machines produced by IGT is 93%; at the same time, it is the largest producer of Slot Machines. The Wheel of Fortune franchise covers all types of Slots – reels, curved screens and various other features. During our visit to Las Vegas, we asked Jacob Lanning, vice president of product management at IGT, what makes a game good. “If you figure that out you have our best job offer,” he said. “If we knew what the formula for the perfect game was, we would keep producing it over and over again.”
While no one can say what the perfect game is, there are some operating principles that are built into most games. First, there is a certain aesthetic uniformity: under the rules of franshising all colors must be primary or pastel and soundtracks must be written in a major chord. However, the multi-line machine prizes introduced by Bally Technologies are not always easy to come by: modern slots offer more than 50, and sometimes even more than 100, different winning combinations – this is too much information and without the corresponding lighting, sounds and congratulations most new players, and even the more experienced ones, would have no sense of having won or lost.