|Type||Subsidiary of Scientific Games Corporation (SGC)|
|Founder(s)||Harry E. Williams|
New York City, New York
Waukegan, Illinois, United States
|Products||Slot machines, Online gambling, Mobile gambling, Gaming software/hardware development|
|Parent||Scientific Games Corporation (SGC)|
Casino Video Games
Jackpot Party Casino
Online Gaming Site
WMS Industries, Inc. is an American electronic gaming and amusement company based in Waukegan, Illinois. The company's main operating subsidiaries are WMS Gaming and Williams Interactive. WMS traces its roots as far back as 1943, to the Williams Manufacturing Company, founded by Harry E. Williams. However, the company known today as WMS Industries was formally founded in 1974 as Williams Electronics, Inc.
Williams initially was a manufacturer of pinball tables. In 1964 Williams was acquired by jukebox manufacturer Seeburg Corp. and reorganized as Williams Electronics Manufacturing Division. In 1973, the company branched out into the coin-operated arcade video game market with its Pong clone Paddle Ball. In 1974, Williams Electronics, Inc. was incorporated in Delaware as a wholly owned subsidiary of Seeburg and replaced the previous entity. In 1987, Williams changed its parent name to WMS Industries, Inc. when it made its public offering. WMS is a shortening of Williams, which it also selected for its NYSE ticker symbol. In 1988, it acquired competitor Bally/Midway, which it spun off in 1998, together with its video game business. It closed its pinball division in 1999.
WMS entered the reel-spinning slot machine market in 1994, and in 1996, it introduced its first hit casino slot machine, Reel ‘em In, a "multi-line, multi-coin secondary bonus" video slot machine. It followed this with a number of similar games like Jackpot Party, Boom and Filthy Rich. By 2001, it introduced its Monopoly-themed series of "participation" slots. Since then, WMS Gaming has continued to obtain licenses to manufacture gaming machines using several additional famous brands, including Top Gun, The Wizard of Oz, Star Trek and The Lord of the Rings. The company continues to sell gaming machines and to market its participation games. It has been profitable in recent years. In January 2013 Scientific Games made an offer to acquire WMS Industries and its subsidiaries.
In 1943, Harry Williams founded Williams Manufacturing Company at 161 West Huron Street in Chicago, Illinois. The first five products were a fortune-telling machine called Superscope, another electro-mechanical game called Periscope, a novelty called Zingo, and two pinball conversions, Flat-Top and Laura. These pinball machines were made by purchasing older pinball tables made by other companies and changing artwork and other elements on the playfield. The lack of raw materials during World War II made the manufacture of new machines difficult and expensive.
A Stanford engineering graduate, Williams devised the “tilt” mechanism for pinball machines. The first known original amusement device made by Williams was an early-era pinball machine called Suspense in 1946. During the late 1940s and early 1950s, Williams continued to make pinball machines and the occasional bat-and-ball game. In 1950, Williams produced Lucky Inning, their first pinball table to have its bottom flippers facing inward in the modern manner. In late 1958, Williams Manufacturing became known as Williams Electronic Manufacturing Company. In 1960, Harry Williams designed his last pinball table as a full-time designer, the horse racing-themed Nags. The last game he designed for Williams was also one of the last electromechanical games, Rancho (1977).
In 1962, 3 Coin became the first Williams table to sell over 1,000 units (1,100, specifically). One year later, Skill Pool sold 2,250 units. In 1964 Williams was purchased by the Seeburg Corporation. Its 1966 pinball table A-Go-Go, with its avant-garde 60s theme, sold a record 5,100 units. Early Williams pinball tables often included innovative features and pinball firsts, such as mechanical reel scoring and the "add-a-ball" feature for locations that didn't allow game replays. By 1967, pinball was in the middle of its so-called "golden age", and the number of pinball units that sold began to increase dramatically. Popular Williams pinballs included Shangri-La (1967), Apollo (1967), Beat Time (1967), Smart Set (1969), Gold Rush (1971), and Space Mission (1976).
Arcade videogaming and solid-state pinball
Williams was one of the major forces in arcade amusement history. Taking note of Atari's success with Pong in 1973, Williams decided to enter the fledgling coin-operated arcade videogame industry. Its first arcade videogame was Paddle-Ball. In 1974, Williams Electronics, Inc. was formed to acquire the company. Williams was moderately successful in this new arena, and through Midway, it licensed and distributed Taito's seminal arcade game Space Invaders in the U.S. and the hit U.S. version of Namco's Pac-Man in 1980, followed by Ms. Pac-Man, in 1981. Meanwhile, Williams developed its own breakthrough hit with the release of 1980's Defender, whose space alien theme and scrolling feature made it an instant classic. Williams' other notable arcade hits were 1982's Joust and Robotron: 2084. In 1980, Seeburg (which had since been renamed XCOR International) sold Williams to Louis Nicastro, who, with his son Neil, would take the company public and run it for over two decades.
At the same time, Williams entered the solid-state electronic pinball market and would come to dominate the pinball industry. Williams' first solid-state machines produced in 1976 were prototype runs based on electromechanical games; Aztec (1976) and Grand Prix. Williams continued to release new electromechanical pinball machines through October 1977, when they released their last, Wild Card. From November 1977, Williams released solid-state pinball games exclusively, beginning with their first solid state production model Hot Tip (1977), which sold 4,903 units (the electromechanical version previously released in June sold 1,300 units). From the late 1970s through the 1980s, Williams released numerous innovative pinball games, such as Gorgar (1979, the first pinball featuring a synthetic voice), Firepower (1980), Black Knight (1980), Space Shuttle (1984), Comet (1985), Pin*Bot (1986), F-14 Tomcat (1987) and Cyclone (1988).
By 1983, the arcade amusement industry experienced a major decline. Williams managed to weather the poor economic conditions better than most. In 1985, Williams once again changed its name, this time to Williams Electronics Games, Inc. It became a publicly traded company in 1987, and the parent company's name became WMS Industries, Inc. trading on the New York Stock Exchange under the ticker symbol WMS. In 1988, WMS acquired Bally Midway Manufacturing Company, which was the result of a 1981 merger between Bally's pinball division and Bally's video game company Midway Manufacturing. For over a decade, the company was known in the industry as Williams-Bally-Midway. Williams also continued to manufacture pinball machines (under the Williams and Bally brand names), while Midway concentrated on video games (thus ending the Williams brand in video games in 1991). WMS created a new division in 1991, Williams Gaming (now WMS Gaming), to enter the gaming and state video lottery markets, developing its first video lottery terminals for the Oregon market in 1992.
In 1992, the company produced the licensed Addams Family pinball game based on the 1991 Addams Family movie. Addams Family sold 20,270 units, a record that still stands today. In 1993, the company produced Twilight Zone which sold an impressive 15,235 units, but the pinball and arcade game industries continued to decline. After 1993, though still the market leader, Williams never came close to matching the sales numbers of Twilight Zone and Addams Family. In 1999, Williams made one last attempt to revitalize pinball sales with its Pinball 2000 machines that integrated pinball with computer graphics on embedded raster-scan displays. The innovation didn't pay off, as the manufacturing expenses exceeded the prices that the market would bear, and that same year, WMS left the pinball industry to focus on slot machine development. Over the years, however, the company produced an extensive list of video games.
During the "Golden Age" of pinball, Williams was one of the three major manufacturers (Bally and Gottlieb being the other two). For much of the later history of pinball, Williams dominated the industry even as pinball declined in popularity. In 2005, Pinball News.com reported that WMS had exclusively licensed the intellectual properties and the rights to re-manufacture former Bally/Williams games in the field of mechanical pinball (including traditional pinball and Pinball 2000-style machines) to Australian Wayne Gillard of The Pinball Factory. In 2008, Crave Entertainment released a video game developed by FarSight Studios called Pinball Hall of Fame: The Williams Collection. It features virtual representations of ten classic Williams pinball tables from the 70s, 80s and 90s. The game also features Table Art for each pinball game, including original promotional flyers. Crave later published The Pinball Arcade, a simulated collection of pinball tables. 21 of the 24 games are licensed by Williams. Crave filed for bankruptcy in 2012.
Focus on gaming machine industry
As the pinball industry declined, WMS invested in the hotel industry, successfully taking public and then spinning off its hotel subsidiary, WHG Resorts, in 1996 (which was later taken private and acquired by Wyndham International). Its video game subsidiary, Midway Games, enjoyed rising fortunes in the early 1990s with a number of successful arcade games, including Mortal Kombat and NBA Jam.
First slot machines
WMS entered the reel-spinning slot machine market in 1994, and its products have helped to move the industry trend away from generic mechanical slot machines and toward games that incorporate familiar intellectual properties. For more than a century beginning in the late 1800s, mechanical slot machine reels employed limited themes: card suits, horseshoes, bells and stars, varieties of fruit, black bars and the Liberty Bell. WMS's video gaming roots would prove to be its strength when, in 1996, it introduced its first hit casino slot machine, Reel ‘em In, a "multi-line, multi-coin secondary bonus" video slot machine. WMS followed this with a number of similar successful games like Jackpot Party, Boom and Filthy Rich. Meanwhile, by 1996, WMS had transferred all of the copyrights and trademarks in its video game library to Midway, including Defender, Stargate, Robotron: 2084, Joust and Smash TV, as it took Midway public and finally spun it off in 1998. With the closing of its pinball division in 1999, WMS focused entirely on the gaming machine industry. During the 1990s, that industry grew as additional states permitted casino gambling and video lottery games and as Native American tribes built gaming casinos.
By 2001, WMS introduced its very successful Monopoly-themed series of "participation" slots, which the company licenses or leases to casinos, instead of selling the games to the casinos. The company's participation games have included machines based on such well-known entertainment-related brands as Men in Black, Match Game, Hollywood Squares, Clint Eastwood, Powerball, Green Acres, The Dukes of Hazzard, Top Gun, The Wizard of Oz, Star Trek and The Lord of the Rings. Some of these games are networked within casinos and even between multiple casinos so that players have a chance to win large jackpots based on the number of machines in the network. These branded games proved popular with players and profitable for WMS, as the net licensing revenues and lease fees generated by each game have exceeded the profit margins of its games for sale. For fiscal years 2006, 2007, 2008, 2009, 2010 and 2011 the company's revenues were $451 million, $540 million, $650 million, 706 million, $765 million and $783 million, respectively, and its net income was $33 million, $49 million, $67 million, $92 million, $113 million and $81 million, respectively. Other recent games include Brazilian Beauty and Hot Hot Super Jackpot.
Current products, technology, business
WMS continues to produce video gaming machines and, to a smaller extent, reel-spinning slots, for sale and for lease to casinos in the U.S., selected foreign markets and state lotteries. Some of WMS's product designs reflect the changing demographics of its industry. Younger players raised on video games often seek more challenging experiences, both physical and mental, than do women age 55 to 65 – the traditional audience for slot machines. Accordingly, some of the company's machines incorporate surround sound, flat-panel display screens and animated, full-color images.
WMS also manufactures the G+ series of video reel slots, the Community Gaming family of interconnected slots, as well as mechanical reels, poker games, and video lottery terminals. WMS began to offer online gaming in 2010 to persons over 18 years old in the UK and in 2011 in the US at www.jackpotparty.com. In 2012, WMS partnered with Large Animal Games to incorporate several of WMS's slot machine games into a cruise ship-themed Facebook game application titled "Lucky Cruise". By playing games and enlisting Facebook friends' help, players can accumulate "lucky charms" (instead of money). The game play is similar to playing a slot machine but includes a "light strategy component". WMS hopes that the Facebook application will attract new customers for its games at traditional casinos.
WMS technologies include:
- Transmissive Reels gaming platform, which employs video animation that is displayed around, over and seemingly interactively with mechanical reels. The technology is based on the CPU-NXT2 operating platform.
- CPU-NXT2 operating platform, which incorporates an Intel Pentium IV class processor, up to 2 gigabytes of random access memory, an ATI 3-D graphics chip-set, and a 40 gigabyte hard disk drive.
- Bluebird2 gaming cabinet, which includes a dual 22-inch wide screen, high-definition displays, Bose speakers, and an illuminated printer and bill acceptor.
Approximately 70% of WMS's revenues are derived from U.S. customers. Its corporate office and manufacturing facilities are in Waukegan, Illinois. It has other development, sales and field services offices across the United States and international development and distribution facilities located in Argentina, Australia, Austria, Canada, China, India, Mexico, the Netherlands, South Africa, Spain and the United Kingdom.
In July 2012, WMS Industries announced the formation of Williams Interactive to serve the global online gaming industry.
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