Review: New Potato Technologies Jackpot Slots for iPhone and iPod touch
Developers of iOS slot machine applications all face the same problem -- find a way to make a virtual casino game compelling enough to be worth paying for, despite the relatively simple and arguably unfulfilling experience of pressing a button to watch a few wheels spin and tell you that you have or haven't won worthless "credits" to keep on playing. Many such apps have been released, and have attracted relatively little attention at price tags of $2 or less. So given its $40 price tag, New Potato Technologies' Jackpot Slots (version 1.1) has the special burden of really standing out from the pack by delivering added value, but only half meets that challenge.
Rather than just offering a piece of software, New Potato is selling an experience that combines a simple physical accessory, a free downloadable app, and the promise of potential prize money for continued play. The company has coined the term “[app]cessory” to describe the app-assisted accessory hardware, the first time we’ve heard this intuitive phrase used to describe an app-assisted accessory. To that end, people are supposed to buy a black matte plastic iPhone- and iPod touch-agnostic charging and syncing dock that looks like a plain black plastic cradle mixed with a one-armed bandit, plus a detachable USB cable for connection to the dock and your computer. The dock is made to hold unencased devices only—obviously an issue for those who use cases—and is actually required in order for the app to work properly. Without the dock, the app runs only in demo mode, returning to the main menu after every spin of the wheels.
New Potato deserves partial credit for the docked iPod/iPhone experience. Once you plug the iPod or iPhone in for the first time, the Jackpot Slots app is downloaded, and it sounds great, with ambient casino noises providing interesting background audio, and smooth animation helps the wheels to look fairly believable as they spin. Spins are actually controlled using the dock’s arm, which doubles as an eject button when more fully yanked. When the device is disconnected from the dock, you can tap the screen to spin the wheels—operating only in demo mode—but inside the dock, the arm is the only way to play. This is an unnecessary user interface decision clearly meant to underscore the dependence of the app upon the one-armed bandit, reducing control options for players who have paid for the dock but just don’t want to walk around with it all the time. Ideally, the app would unlock itself to operate either by touch or by arm pulls upon first connection to the dock, or upon registration for New Potato’s prize drawing, but instead, if you really want to play, you need to keep the iPod or iPhone connected to the accessory.
The prospect of a prize is the only reason slot machine fans might be more enticed by Jackpot Slots than by other iPhone/iPod touch virtual slot machines. New Potato’s prize drawing is based on receiving a “goal number of credits” through repeated play of the Jackpot Slots game—or by mailing a no-purchase-necessary entry form to the company—with incentives including a weekend trip to Las Vegas, “and other prizes TBD.” At this point, the app says that earning 50,000 credits by continued play makes you eligible for the drawing, and you can expect to spend an awful lot of time working up to that tally: your max bet is three credits, and though the biggest payout for a single pull of the arm is 10,000 credits, typical payouts are in the sub-100 range, and it’s entirely possible to bankrupt yourself. Falling to 0 credits will bring you back up to the starting point of 100, and credits are saved on a per-machine basis.
Where the Jackpot Slots experience falls short of expectations is in the diversity department. Though there are many types of real-world slot machines that could and should have been incorporated into the app at this price point, New Potato’s app includes only a collection of highly similar one-line payout machines with different and not entirely impressive themes. Unlocked from the start are the basic Jackpot Slots and Superslots, with “Jungle Stakes,” “Office Slots,” and “Pixel Slots” as unlockable machines with different payouts and potential prizes. They’re basically the same machine with different graphics, the artwork’s not particularly impressive, and starting the game with a maximum three-credit bet on one payoff line helps to guarantee that your progress up to 50,000 credits will be slow and only intermittently interesting.
Overall, we’re fully supportive of the concept of blending apps with accessories, and though Jackpot Slots feels like more of a test of the concept than a completely realized product, it’s not bad: the dock and the slot machine app do work together, the super-simple one-armed bandit does what it’s supposed to, and there’s at least some potential of a prize at the end of the experience to serve as an incentive to keep playing. That said, a more case-friendly dock, a more compelling set of slot machines, and a prize system with greater frequency of real payouts would take this concept to a level of execution that would be worthy of an asking price like this. For the time being, Jackpot Slots only makes sense as a purchase if you’re not a case user, really want a way to prop up your iPod or iPhone on a desk for charging and synchronization, and are willing to pay a little premium for a chance at prizes down the road.