WMS is currently one of the top 3 largest slot machine manufacturers in the world, although their history with slots is a fairly brief one compared to some of their competitors, having rolled out their first slot machine in 1994. This still gives them plenty of history and experience and their games have been popular enough to propel them to sit among the most successful slot makers in the world.
WMS has been around for a lot longer than this though, and the company got its start all the way back in 1943 when Harry Williams founded Williams Manufacturing Company. In 1944 their first product hit the market, a fortune telling machine called Selector Scope, and then moved on to specialize in pinball machines.
The next few years brought more new products, with the company carving out a strong reputation as a leader in pinball machines, with Harry Williams being credited for the invention of the tilt mechanism that soon became a regular feature of pinball machines that later became commonplace.
Williams was also credited with other innovations such as the world’s first flipperless pinball machine, and he continued designing machines for the company for many years, with his last creation, Rancho, being delivered in 1977, which was also one of the last electromechanical pinball games.
The new craze was solid state machines and that very year, Williams was the first company to have market success with one, which took advantage of electronic circuitry to enhance the playing experience. This new technology brought digital displays and sound effects to playing pinball.
By this time though video games were starting to take off, and Williams was in on the ground floor of that as well. Just 2 years after the first video game came out, Atari’s Pong, Williams answered with one of their own, called Paddle Ball.
The 1980s saw the video games explode in popularity and slot machines start to really die off, but Williams was working both sides, continuing on with introducing new pinball machines in addition to several very successful coin operated video games.
Eventually, as the popularity of pinball declined further, their position as the market leader meant less and less, and their coin operated video games business was good but far from delivering the profits they sought, as video game players more and more moved to consoles played at home rather than playing games at arcades.
WMS Slot Games
WMS Gets Into The Slot Machine Business
In 1999, WMS made one last attempt to revitalize pinball sales with its Pinball 2000 machines, but by this time the market had shrunk so much that the writing was on the wall and they decided that it was finally time to move on to something else as the company’s main source of revenue, and decided to get into the slot machine business.
Once they did start rolling out slot machines, the vast experience of WMS in the amusement machine business did allow them to hit the ground running. This was far from a startup company and their expertise did propel them to success from the outset.
WMS is credited with playing a big role in taking slot machines from the limited themes that they used since the first slots came out in the 1800’s, to slots using well known brands, and WMS took full advantage of that, using such brands as Monopoly, Men in Black, Powerball, The Lord of the Rings, Top Gun, and several more.
Nowadays we see a lot of these themes with slots but it was WMS that beckoned in this age. WMS also had extensive experience in video games at this time and this also gave them a leg up as slot machines transitioned from mechanical reel slots to the electronic video slots you see today.
In 1996, WMS’s first slot was released, the multi line, multi secondary bonus game called Reel ‘em In. They transferred all of their video games to their subsidiary Midway, which was spun off in 1998, and WMS had now made the full transition from a pinball machine maker to a video game maker to now a slot machine maker.
More slot games followed, and by 2011 the company had already almost doubled their revenues, from $451 million a year at the time their first slot hit the market, to $783 million just 5 years later.
In 2013, WMS was bought by competitor Scientific Games for $1.5 billion, but the WMS brand was kept and became a subsidiary. In addition to being a leader in the lottery world, Scientific Games also owns longtime WMS competitor Bally Technologies, a company they battled with for decades in the pinball business, who have also long moved on to slot machines.
While WMS still produces classic reel spinning slot machines, the overwhelming portion of their business these days is in producing video slots, which have taken over the industry quite a while ago.
WMS is particularly geared and positioned to market to the younger crowd, who grew up playing video games and have now moved on to casino gambling, and while some of the older folks still enjoy playing classic reel slots, and you can still find quite a few of them still around in casinos these days, younger people prefer more modern, immersive slot experiences.
So WMS does excel in this area and have paid particular attention to delivering this experience in their games of today, using things like flat panel displays and surround sound to capture and delight their players, as well as providing the more challenging experiences these players crave, instead of just trying to match fruit and other symbols.
In 2009, WMS entered the online gaming business, starting by offering games to U.K. based sites, but has since grown to deliver its games to online casinos around the world through their new subsidiary, Williams Interactive. In contrast to the huge business they do with their physical machines, WMS is more of a niche player in the online casino games business, but they are growing, and have amassed a pretty impressive number of titles already.
WMS is a company that has always prided themselves on being at the forefront of the amusement business, and is well prepared to continue their significant impact and achievements for years to come.