Incredible Technologies – From Golden Tee Golf to Crazy Money Deluxe

December 18, 2023 6:35 AM
Photo: CDC Gaming Reports
  • John G. Brokopp, CDC Gaming Reports
December 18, 2023 6:35 AM
  • John G. Brokopp, CDC Gaming Reports

A little more than four years after its founding in 1985 as a start-up company designing operating systems and programming for arcade and pinball games, Incredible Technologies had already become the leading designer and manufacturer of coin-operated video games and online tournament systems in the United States.

Today, the company known worldwide as IT has firmly established itself as a major player in the global casino gaming market after its designers and engineers put their talents to work in 2007 to adapt their patented technology to a slot-machine format.

Early in only its second decade of slot manufacture and distribution, IT services most of the North American market, as well as occupying a presence in France, Latin America, and online, substantial measures of success in an intensely competitive space.

In a relatively short period of time, IT has created a sizable footprint. To put it in the words of Dan Schrementi, president of gaming, “Our strengths are that we are a small privately owned company, we’re willing to take risks, to pivot more quickly on trends, and to adjust.

“We have come a long way from being the new guys that people didn’t know,” he added. “We’ve been in the market for 10 years and have made a name for innovative games, a customer-friendly staff, and a reputation for doing the right thing in the industry.”

Incredible Technologies, founded by Elaine Hodgson and Richard Ditton, has its roots in the Chicago area. Prior to moving to its present headquarters in Vernon Hills, Illinois, the company was based in Arlington Heights.

IT follows a rich history of Chicago-based amusement-game manufacturers that made successful transitions into the development of gambling devices, including Bally Technologies and WMS Gaming.

The company’s breakout arcade product came in 1989 when they rolled out Golden Tee Golf. Through numerous generations, the game remains to this day the subject of worldwide acclaim and enjoys a reputation as the most successful arcade title in history.

“Our Chicago roots are really our lifeblood,” said Schrementi, who will celebrate 20 years with IT in March. “There is something special about our people that gives us an advantage and different approach to game design. Even though we have staff all over the country now, we take pride that our corporate and manufacturing headquarters are in Chicago.”

IT’s decision to venture into the casino frontier, according to Schrementi, was made when the amusement industry was changing in many ways. Home gaming had exploded. On-premises entertainment in lounges, bars, and restaurants started to shrink, triggered by the economy, smoking bans, and mobile applications.

“We already knew how to develop software and hardware for coin-operated amusement games,” Schrementi said. “Why not take it to another industry? We were right, but naïve about how complex some of the intangibles are in gaming: licensing, game mathematics, psychology, and distribution.”

The talent pool was already in place — longtime and dedicated employees, including programmers who worked on famous arcade games before moving to IT, many of whom began following a career path similar to that of arcade and gaming-industry icon Joe Kaminkow.

Their first project was to adapt IT’s hardware and operating systems to a slot format. In 2009, the result was their first Breeze Gaming cabinet, featuring a 19-inch LCD and Magic Touch multigame software.

Innovators and risk takers from the get-go, the engineers incorporated the ability for players to not only know, but also choose, game volatility via the Prize Guy component, accrue and save bonus credits in the BonuSave feature, and experience unique Angle Pays and Sidewinder horizontal spinning reels.

“I would say the crucial point in our journey was when we started selling our slot machines in 2011,” Schrementi recalled. “What we had to learn was how to come to market and apply our experience with product market knowledge and skills specific to the gaming industry. As our development staffed learned how to make hit games, we brought in some bright and experienced minds from the gaming industry to help get past some of the other high barriers to entry.”

Having learned how to be a gaming company on top of a game-development company, IT hit its first big games with Crazy Money and Crazy Money Deluxe.

“We’ve experienced our ups and downs since then through COVID, the supply-chain crunch, and all, but one thing that has remained constant is that it’s really all about the games we make,” Schrementi observed. “You make the right products and you can acquire a market for your products. Our focus is on making games that do great in a working environment that’s good for our people.”

Meanwhile, the amusement component of IT continues to flourish. With a development studio located in Lincolnshire, Illinois, Golden Tee Golf remains a very large and viable product, according to Schrementi. “We’ve recently partnered with the PGA Tour for a Golden Tee PGA game, plus they’re doing mobile games and other arcade products out of the studio.”

The company’s Vernon Hills headquarters is the mothership of all manufacturing, including the arcade and slot-machine components, in addition to electronic table games.

A little over a year away from celebrating the 40th anniversary of their company, president and CEO Elaine Hodgson and executive vice-president Richard Ditton remain actively involved in much of the planning and strategy at Incredible Technologies. Because of Hodgson’s trail-blazing entrepreneurship, IT is a certified Women’s Business Enterprise. She was a class of 2019 inductee in the American Gaming Association’s Gaming Hall of Fame.

“What we’ve accomplished at Incredible Technologies the last 10 years is truly monumental,” Schrementi said. “We did it as a small privately owned company and with a team that’s a fraction of the size of the bigger companies.

“Right now, our focus is solely to gain market share by developing great games with the easiest customer service. We have a small team of people who make a big dent in our product pipeline to bring it to market faster than our competition. Their thumbprints are on the products IT develops and we delight in seeing the difference we make when our products hit the market.”

John G. Brokopp is a veteran of 50 years of professional journalist experience in the horse racing and gaming industries