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Images rendered by marine-life painter will offer undersea experience on a slot19 November 2012
By Howard Stutz
His impression after viewing the new Wyland-themed machines inside IGT - International Game Technology's showroom on South Buffalo Drive last week?
"I'm really stoked. I think we put all our creative forces together and came up with one of the coolest games on the planet," said Wyland, 56, who dropped the use of his first name, Robert, many years ago.
Wyland not only high-fived all the IGT employees in the showroom, he hugged company Chief Executive Officer Patti Hart.
Wyland said the image of a giant sea turtle swimming up face-first on a 55-inch liquid crystal display screen atop two slot machines duplicates an encounter that divers hope to experience.
"You're really immersed in the underwater world and you don't even have to put on your scuba gear," said Wyland, who has been diving for more than 30 years and is a member of the International Diving Hall of Fame.
The Wyland slot machines were displayed in October at the Global Gaming Expo. The games, which are scheduled to be on casino floors nationwide by June, are part of IGT's MegaJackpots system.
IGT normally introduces about a dozen new slot machine titles annually.
The theme might seem odd for a slot machine industry that has been trying to break out after several years of diminished sales figures brought on by the recession.
But Wyland, who is a multifaceted artist, conservationist and educator, has a large following that IGT hopes to attract.
MegaJackpots Product Manager Joe Moore said slot machines featuring fish and other sea life are popular in casinos - and that's not a "fish story."
"It's twofold," Moore said. "Wyland fans can learn about our games and our players can learn about Wyland."
IGT receives royalties from casinos that use games within the MegaJackpot slot machine system. The manufacturer will donate a portion of the royalties generated by the Wyland machines to the Wyland Foundation, a nonprofit founded by the artist 19 years ago to educate children and families about the importance of healthy oceans and waterways.
Wyland said the programs have educated more than 1 million children through art and conservation messages.
"To me, this is the future of gaming," Wyland said. "You've put a cause behind the game. I love that IGT supports my nonprofit. They are truly a conservation partner in a unique way."
Hart said the manufacturer might consider a similar model for future game titles. The company said the idea allows the company to give money to a worthy cause through the gaming experience.
"During certain parts of the game, players can watch a video featuring Wyland explaining what the foundation does to support healthy oceans," Hart said. "Additionally, it creates opportunities for players to become more involved in the Wyland Foundation, if they choose."
Wyland came to Las Vegas last week for the annual Diving Equipment and Marketing Association convention at the Sands Expo and Convention Center. He also planned to take part in artist showings at his Las Vegas galleries Saturday at Planet Hollywood Resort's Miracle Mile Shops and Sunday at The Venetian's Grand Canal Shoppes.
Wyland first came to artistic prominence by painting life-size whales on the sides of buildings in the 1980s. He is recognized for his colorful paintings, sculptures and photography.
Through his foundation, Wyland known in the environmental community. He hosted "Wyland's Ocean World" on the Discovery Channel's Animal Planet Network, "Wyland: A Brush with Giants" and "Wyland's Art Studio," for the Public Broadcasting Service.
His 100th marine-life artwork was a 24,000-square-foot, half-mile-long series of canvas murals completed with student artists from 110 countries and was displayed in October 2008 at the National Mall in Washington, D.C.
In May 2010, the United Nations released six Wyland images for an international stamp issue celebrating the 50th Anniversary of the Intergovernmental Oceanographic Commission.
Now, he'll have his own slot machine.
A designer at IGT is a friend of Wyland's brother. They proposed the slot machine idea to Wyland. The artist said his mother was the first to sign off on the concept.
"She loves Las Vegas and loves to play slot machines," Wyland said.
More than 100 sea life images created by Wyland were incorporated into the game and computer animated by IGT's designers. The sea life is colorful, three-dimensional and carries Wyland's approval.
"Everything from coral reefs to the sea life captures your imagination," Wyland said. "It's amazing to see the paintings come to life."
The slot machines contain several bonus jackpot features, including a "paint with Wyland" element and spinning wheel applications.
Moore said the game could have a longer shelf life on the casino floor because the images could be updated regularly. Wyland has created more than a 1,000 images of marine life.
IGT found renewed success in the licensed brand market with its "Sex and the City" game in 2010.
The manufacturer introduced several new slot machine concepts at G2E, including the "CSI" television dramas, county singer Dolly Parton, courtroom reality show "Judge Judy," and "The Family Guy" cartoon series. All will be released next year.
The Wyland-themed game carries the approach of a licensed product.
"Fans of Wyland's marine artwork will love how this game captures the artist's style and translates it throughout the many features," Hart said. "Slot fans will enjoy the entertaining game play on the base game and bonus rounds. This new title will deliver an engaging experience for players around the world."
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