“Very traditional” Thunder Cash Classic rolls out with high hopes

September 8, 2023 8:05 AM
  • Mark Gruetze, CDC Gaming Reports
September 8, 2023 8:05 AM
  • Mark Gruetze, CDC Gaming Reports

The newest Ainsworth slot might not look so new at first glance, but that’s key to its appeal.

Thunder Cash Classic, a three-reel version of a game that consistently shows up in the Eilers list of top-performing high-denomination slots, began installations on casino floors on September 5.

“We went out of our way to give it that classic look,” said lead game designer Terry Daly, whose laurels include work on the original Blazing 7s and developing the first six Quick Hit games. “It’s very traditional, even down to the dashboard. It’s a very simple game, a pure math model.”

The attraction comes less from how the game looks and more from how it plays. The multi-denominational nine-line game uses the timeless symbols of bars and sevens and offers a linked progressive jackpot and two smaller must-hit-by standalone progressives popularized by the original five-reel Thunder Cash game. The Classic version incorporates three wild symbols; random multipliers increase the payout for a standard win by three times to as much as 125 times.

The major and minor must-hit-by jackpots vary in denomination and from machine to machine. At the $1-per-credit level, the major starts at $9,000 and must hit by $10,000; the minor starts at $350 and must hit by $500.

“Thunder Cash Classic will appeal to a traditional player who likes the simplicity and doesn’t need all the bells and whistles,” Daly said. “They know they’re going to either hit it or come back and try again tomorrow.” Players track the value of the major and minor jackpots, he said, “and the closer they get to hitting, you’ll see the handle go up accordingly.”

While most nine-line machines limit a jackpot payout to the result shown on the ninth line, Thunder Cash Classic and other three-reel games from Ainsworth pay jackpots when the proper symbols show up on lines five through nine. “There are five times more chances of hitting the symbol-driven jackpot, and it does hit more often,” Daly said. “They’re a bit more volatile, but players love them.”

The game doesn’t offer free spins, 3-D animations, or pick-and-pop features, he said. “It’s just like the good old classic gambler slot.”

Mike Trask, Ainsworth’s vice president of product strategy and marketing, said Thunder Cash Classic harkens to the legacy of company founder and slot pioneer Len Ainsworth, who also started Aristocrat Leisure Industries and turned 100 this year. “At times, we’ve probably lost sight of where we have been incredibly successful,” Trask said. “And that is a true gambling experience that appeals to some of the biggest players on casino floors.”

Other Ainsworth titles offer high technology and innovative playing methods, but “that’s not this, and that’s OK,” he said. Thunder Cash Classic is debuting as a for-sale Class 3 machine, but Class 2 and HHR versions will be available in 2024, Trask said.

The game comes with a variety of multi-denom combinations, starting at 25 cents and topping out at $100. Daly said that provides operators the ability to customize the game for placement anywhere on the floor, from the high-limit room to the quarter-slot area.

Daly said he and other members of the design team are slot fans themselves and frequently visit casinos to play, as well as to watch how other people interact with slots. Players feel they’ve had a solid win when the payout is 20 to 60 times the bet, he said.

While Thunder Cash Classic’s initial player demographic target might be a traditional gambler, Trask said it will also be released in the U.S. online market. The company makes no predictions about the potential there, but he noted that the original Thunder Cash and the “old-school” Quad Shot game are among the Ainsworth’s top online performers,

“If you’re 25, 55, or 75,” Trask said, “the idea that you can win 10 grand immediately is a pretty compelling offering.”

Mark Gruetze is a veteran journalist from suburban Pittsburgh who covers casino gaming issues and personalities.