The subject of mathematics has always fascinated me. Every aspect of our planet has some mathematical attribute, and seemingly random events can often be predicted and explained mathematically. The study of casino gaming, most notably slot machines, is especially fascinating. As much as the mathematical theories can be used to describe game play, the human aspect is just as interesting. Extremely complex statistical formulae can describe human reaction to various scenarios. In fact, some social situations are keenly suitable for slot machine design.
Deal or No Deal, the increasingly popular television show, was developed by the Dutch production company Endemol International B.V. and was first aired in the Netherlands in December 2002. The U.S. show, produced by NBC, debuted on Dec. 19, 2005, and was an instant hit. Featuring 26 cases with beautiful models, energetic contestants and the ever-popular host, Howie Mandel, the show has a great recipe for success. It is now shown in over 50 countries.
The game itself has sparked much research into mathematics and psychology alike. There are myriad formulas attempting to replicate the offers made by the banker. It is a study into expected value, probability, risk assessment, decision-making and how average people deal with difficult—and possibly high-reward—decisions.
A study by a team of economists published in the American Economic Review (Vol. 98, No. 1, March 2008), researched the show among Dutch, German and U.S. audiences. They found that contestants are less risk-averse, or even risk-seeking, when they see their expected winnings drop. According to the report, “Deal or No Deal has such desirable features that it almost appears to be designed to be an economics experiment rather than a TV show.” They also found that despite large differences in the amounts at stake, players appear to evaluate amounts in relative terms, for example, in proportion to the initial average, and not in terms of their absolute monetary value. This makes the game perfectly suitable for a slot machine, where players often deal with game outcomes in credits, rather than dollar amounts, and often find the entertainment value of the experience just as important as the monetary experience.
ATRONIC released its first versions of the slot machine, Deal or No Deal Red and Deal or No Deal Blue, in early 2005. The Red and Blue versions had different volatility levels, appealing to varying types of players. The existing Red and Blue versions were tweaked and released as a Rapid Hit Link, which was offered as a premium leased title in 2006. More than 1,000 of these are still currently installed. Since then, ATRONIC and SPIELO have continued to work on Deal or No Deal, releasing a stepper game in both 3- and 5-reel versions; DOND The Show™, which can be either a stand-alone or linked progressive; The Banker’s Wheel™ core game; and What’s Your Deal™, a unique product with no reels on the Titan™ cabinet.
Now, they’re releasing their first linked community version of the game, with a completely new math model, more features, more bonus rounds, and the popular host, Howie Mandel.
JOIN’ N PLAY
DEAL OR NO DEAL Join’ N Play is a fully-themed entertainment experience, providing exciting group play, relying upon individual player strategy and offering a compelling multimedia package. With a guaranteed community bonus for qualified players, an innovative multiplier sixth reel, the max-bet-activated Howie Jackpot, and three base-game Mystery Bonuses, Join’N Play is rich with features, challenges and surprises that every player will find irresistible.
The base game offers a 243-ways-to-win payline configuration and a wagering range from 50 cents to $2.50. As wagers increase, the more qualifier cases appear on the reels, with the sixth reel multiplying qualification cases.
The community bonus, set to initiate at preset time intervals, sees players who have collected enough golden briefcases through the base game join the community bonus event. There is an on-screen countdown clock to inform players that the bonus round is approaching. This encourages heightened levels of play as everyone attempts to collect at least 18 briefcases before the bonus round begins. Multipliers are awarded for each set of 18 cases. With 18 cases, the bonus amount is multiplied by one, 36 cases sees the bonus amount multiplied by two, etc. A special multiplier offered on the unique sixth reel allows additional golden cases to be collected. Cases can also be awarded through strategic decisions made by the player in the three Mystery Bonuses.
Base Game Mystery Bonuses
The Banker’s Offer game is a mini-version of the briefcase bonus round, with only one round. Take or Risk presents players with briefcase offers that the players can accept, or risk the award for other mystery briefcases. Build Your Win offers players three cases, each revealing one digit. Players must strategically arrange the digits to create the largest win.
Community Bonus Features
Join’N Play is designed to appeal to diverse player types. The time-on-device entertainment player will enjoy the collection of cases in the base game, knowledge of when the bonus game is initiating, the frequent fun Mystery Bonuses, and the familiar Deal or No Deal briefcase bonus. The competitive big-win-seeking gambler will enjoy betting up to get more qualifying cases, chasing a high multiplier, and the challenge of the bonus round as they go for the highest win, coupled with the opportunity to change their case at the end. The game makes best use of the brand’s volatile gambling and social aspects.
When the community bonus round starts, each eligible player selects one of the 18 golden briefcases shown on the giant wall of five 46-inch LCD monitors. All of the players’ selections are displayed. Some cases are then randomly opened to reveal their hidden amounts. Next, the banker appears, offering all players a credit amount based upon the hidden amounts in the remaining cases.
Just like the television show, players select “Deal” or “No Deal.” The bonus round continues with cases being opened and banker offers made until all players either take a deal or play until the end to open their case. As the round closes, players have the option of selecting a remaining case or staying with their originally chosen case. The players’ selected cases then open and the individual credit amount is multiplied by the player’s own multiplier. Final results, by each player’s name, are ranked on the large LCD display. The final bonus choices provide further excitement to the players, keeping them in the game until the very end.
“Join’N Play is unlike any other product we’ve developed in ATRONIC’s history,” says ATRONIC Americas COO Ken Bossingham. “One of those ‘firsts’ is capitalizing on a celebrity image as the ‘face’ of a product, and Howie Mandel is a household name that evokes instant recognition in players and non-players alike. He also personifies the spirit of fun and intrigue that’s associated with the DEAL OR NO DEAL brand. Thanks to the connection Howie has with players, our customers will get great value from the license, and we’re reinforcing our full commitment to the brand.”
The latest Deal or No Deal game is an evolution that takes advantage of the latest technology and offers a wealth of new play, appealing to the widest range of players. The community bonus game brings people together socially, yet allows them to compete against each other to see who makes the best deal. And, coupled with the popular and amiable personality of Mandel, this game is sure to be a success. I recently had the opportunity to speak with Mandel about Deal or No Deal, the television show, the slot machine and his career.
JW: What do you see as the secret to Deal or No Deal’s popularity?
HM: The popularity is based upon its simplicity. You don’t have to be a rocket scientist to figure out how to play the game. For the television show, the audience is from 8 to 88. It’s a perfect game for a casino where it’s truly a game of luck and timing and guts. Anybody can play it, so when you walk by that machine, it’s hard to pass up and not play that game. It’s a very understandable game that translates to every culture, every language, and that’s why it is a worldwide brand.
JW: What surprised you the most about the Deal or No Deal television show?
HM: Each individual game is a surprise because you never know how people are going to react. In the actual game, somebody would come up and tell me that they’re in debt, that they’ve never owned a home, they have three children and no insurance and then they would get an offer for $200,000 and adamantly—without even giving it a thought—go, “No Deal.” It took every ounce of strength to not want to, you know, wring their neck and go, “You idiot, take the money. It’s a guarantee.”
JW: They get offers for a lot of money with no safety net and it comes down to all or nothing.
HM: And you know what? That’s why it’s the perfect game for a casino.
JW: What is your most memorable experience on the show?
HM: It was my very first experience on the show. I had no idea what to expect. It was a show that I had turned down three times before I, well, before my wife said, “You idiot, take the deal,” and she’s been saying, “I told you so,” ever since. I really didn’t see the value in the show and how it held up for a full hour. The first moment when I walked out I will never forget. Karen Van was the contestant. I saw her children and her family and she said that things were tough and it’s the first time that it became real and I realized that the show was about people. It was a surprise to see how engaging that the show was for me, as the host, and also to the audience when it became real. So much so that throughout the years as it’s played, psychologists and New York Times financial columnists have studied people’s risk-taking and it’s been an interesting from so many points of view.
JW: Who or what has been the biggest inspiration in your career?
HM: My wife.
JW: Good answer!
HM: Good answer (laughs). I don’t know if she’ll read a casino magazine, so I don’t have to answer that, but the truth is, and especially with Deal or No Deal, I was ready to quit the business and she was the one that told me to take the deal. It not only rejuvenated me for Deal or No Deal, but everything else that I’ve done after that.
JW: Well I’m glad that she talked you into it.
HM: And so am I. She’s just a little bit smarter than I am in seeing the value of things.
JW: What do you see in your future?
HM: I don’t know. I live in the now and I’m happy to be part of Deal or No Deal. And here I am five or six years later. I don’t think about what could happen or what might happen, I just enjoy every moment for now.
JW: Is there anything you haven’t done that you would like to do?
HM: This is my first foray into casino games. This is thrilling, new and exciting. I spend half of my life in casinos anyway, whether I’m doing stand-up or visiting or going to concerts or dinner. I like the atmosphere of casinos, so to be involved in a game like this is a whole new frontier after 35 years in the business, and I hope that it’s just the beginning of a new area for me to enjoy myself in.
I’m excited about this new game. I know that Deal or No Deal has existed in other games before. I have fun in casinos sometimes just wandering up behind somebody who is playing the game. And I’ll ask them verbally, right there—up until now it has not been me on the machine—so I’ll stand behind them and go, “Deal or no deal?” and more times than not they’ll just turn around and say, “Please, sir, just leave me alone, I’m playing here.” They have no idea it’s me and I’m just bothering people. It’s nice, rather than bothering people, to be included in the game play and helping them along.