What do Betty Boop, Blondie, Popeye, Rocky the Flying Squirrel, Bullwinkle J. Moose, Mr. Magoo, and Felix the Cat have in common?
For just about anyone who grew up during the 1960s, these names conjure up images of Saturday morning, sitting in front of a television with four or five channels, eating Sugar Pops or Sugar Crisps or Sugar-anything-else cereal and laughing hysterically at cartoons. And these were cartoons crafted with a mastery of offbeat comedy that was undeniably better than anything our kids will find on the scores of cable channels available to them here in the 21st century.
But in the universe of casino gaming, the names have one other important tie-in: They all are themes that have been licensed by slot-maker Bally Gaming and Systems to be transformed into slot games. Some of them have been on casino floors for years; others have been the subject of intense development efforts recently by Bally’s engineers, for introduction to the playing public at various times in 2005.
And this year, they all come together—in a new product group that promises to be one of the most popular stops for slot players across the country. Welcome to “Cartoon Jackpots,” the meeting place of every cartoon-themed slot machine that Bally has to offer. The place they meet is going to be the site of frequent big-money progressive prizes won through an incredible variety of base games recalling those Saturday mornings of your youth.
Bally, of course, has been doing cartoon themes since the late 1990s, in its “Thrillions” multi-site progressive network. Players have flocked to multiline progressive video slots in the Thrillions
link that have included the Betty Boop, Blondie, and Popeye games. The unique features of these progressive links have been multi-denominational play and the combination of different game styles, all linked to the same jackpot.
Players have found progressive jackpot meters inching up into the hundreds of thousands of dollars, with base games including Betty Boop, Blondie, and Popeye themes on traditional Bally reel-spinners. On the same progressive banks, they have found video slots carrying these cartoon themes in second-screen bonus events with classic Max Fleischer animation, or animated versions of the Blondie comic strips. Whether they wanted to play a nickel, quarter, or dollar slot, they could find them all on the same progressive link, and play their preferred denomination while shooting for the same bigmoney prize.
With its three original cartoon themes gaining popularity with players on progressive links in casinos across the country, Bally has spent the past few years collecting licenses to expand its base of games carrying the themes of classic cartoon series. Last year, the slot-maker introduced a game based on Jim Backus’ classic “Mr. Magoo” character. Then came a theme based on the cult classic “Felix the Cat.” Last fall came the introduction of several more cartoon themes: a series of Bally games based on the long-running “Rocky & Bullwinkle & Friends” cartoon series; one based on the legendary comic strip “Lil’ Abner;” and another based on the quirky superhero pooch “Underdog.”
Thus was born the idea to bring all the cartoon themes together under a single product umbrella, “Cartoon Jackpots.” “We launched the Betty Boop link five years ago, and added the Blondie and Popeye links to it,” explains Mick Roemer, Bally’s senior vice president of game development and sales. “As we saw the success of those products, we thought it would make sense to put them all into one common $100,000 progressive link. We started this effort nine months ago, placing all the Betty Boop, Popeye, and Blondie games online. We are now starting to add the additional characters.”
Greg Colella, Bally’s director of product management, adds that combining the various progressive links has distinct advantages for players. Since manufacturers cannot, by law, simply shut down progressive slot links with active jackpots—they must wait until someone has won the current jackpot before eliminating a progressive link—Bally is taking all the active jackpots for Betty Boop, Blondie, and Popeye and rolling them into one new link for Cartoon Jackpots.
That means the jackpots that had reset at $25,000 and $75,000 are being combined into what he estimates will top out between $160,000 and $200,000 when the combined link is complete. When the next big prize is hit, the multi-site Cartoon Jackpot will reset at $100,000. “Also, because we’re rolling all these jackpots together, the meter will move faster because the games are going to be all on one link,” Colella says. “In the short term, players will see the games they like with more money in the jackpot, with the meter spinning faster. For the longer term, they will see their favorite cartoon characters grow into interesting variations on a lot of different game themes.”