WMS (short for Williams) was founded in 1943 to produce electromagnetic games and pinball machines. The company became one of the industry leaders during the golden age of arcade gaming, but its influence declined with the industry throughout the 1980s.
Even though Williams’ video game division was tremendously successful in the early 1990s, the company ultimately had to switch to the production of slot machines. WMS gambling products played a key role in pushing the industry into the era of license-based slots, and their revenue skyrocketed in the 2000s.
In 2013, WMS merged with Scientific Games, (SG), and in 2016, it was fully integrated into SG’s corporate structure.
The best WMS slot games
|Jackpot Block Party||96.12%||30||5||Party|
|Bruce Lee||96.05%||60||–||Martial arts, Bruce Lee|
|Alice and the Mad Tea Party||96.03%||30||5||Fantasy, Magic|
|Epic Monopoly II||96.01%||100||5||Monopoly|
|Super Jackpot Party||96.01%||20||5||Jackpot Party, Party|
|Cool Jewels||96.01%||–||6||The Arctic, Jewels|
|King of Africa||96%||20||5||Wildlife, African savannah|
|Invaders from the planet Moolah||96%||25||5||Aliens Cows|
|Heidi’s Bier Haus||96%||40||5||Oktoberfest, Beer|
|Crystal Forest||96%||25||5||Crystals, Magic forest|
|Bier Haus||96%||40||5||Oktoberfest, Beer|
|Reel’em In||95.99%||20||5||Fish, Bass fishing|
|Super Monopoly Money||95.97%||25||5||Monopoly|
|Zeus||95.97%||30||5||Zeus, Greek Gods|
|Jungle Wild||95.96%||30||5||Wild, Jungle|
|KISS||95.94%||100||5||Rock ‘n’ roll, KISS|
|Amazon Queen||95.94%||20||5||Jungle, Wild|
|Kronos||95.94%||20||5||Kronos, Greek Gods|
|Raging Rhino||95.91%||4096-way system||6||African, Animals|
WMS’ strong background in arcade cabinets and video games allowed the company to produce some rather stunning slots in the ‘90s, but the competition managed to catch up in the 2000s and early 2010s.
Modern WMS slots are not inconsequential thanks to features such as a powerful CPU-NXT3 processor, advanced lighting packages, and high-definition displays. Slot cabinets released under this brand are also known for excellent ergonomics, but most of these traits can only be appreciated in a brick-and-mortar casino setting.
As far as online play is concerned, WMS relies mostly on showcasing popular entertainment brands, such as Star Trek, Monopoly, or The Wizard of Oz.
WMS slots: game spotlights
Over the past 25+ years of producing slots, WMS released plenty of quality games for several generations of casino hardware. Some of the most popular Williams slots include Lord of the Rings, Top Gun, Kronos, and Epic Monopoly. Here’s a short overview of three WMS games that are still popular among online casino enthusiasts in 2019:
- KISS – two sets of five reels, 100 paylines. KISS was the first slot to be released with the colossal-reels setup, which means the screen is divided into a five-by-four game and a five-by-twelve game. As expected from a slot that’s based on the oeuvre of a famous rock band, the music and sound effects are absolutely top-notch. The game allows players to choose one out of three bonuses upon hitting three “Shout It Out Loud” scatter symbols. These bonuses include free spins with a payout multiplier, a pick ’em round, and a random band prize reward.
- Zeus – five reels, 25 paylines. Despite some minor graphical shortcomings, such as the uninspired background and simplified animations, this is still one of the smoothest WMS games available on the internet. The popularity of this slot can likely be attributed to its immensely satisfying free spins bonus round, which can be triggered by putting at least three temple scatter symbols on the reels. Every bonus spin comes with a 3x payout multiplier and hitting additional scatter symbols before it completes awards the player with even more free games.
- Alice & The Mad Tea Party – five reels, 30 paylines, and an absolutely crazy package of bonus rounds. Five of these bonus features activate at random and reward players with additional wilds, multipliers, and re-spins. In addition, hitting the feature symbol on the first, third, and fifth reels will trigger the Mad Tea Party free spins. These come with several pick ’em rounds that provide players with an opportunity to extend the bonus or get a higher payout.
Special slots features
WMS is best known for incorporating popular intellectual properties into their slots and for leasing them to land-based casinos instead of selling them. The latter practice doesn’t have a noticeable impact on the overall gameplay experience, but the former definitely matters for fans and casual players.
Despite the crisp visuals and appealing themes, Williams slots aren’t very innovative when it comes to bonus mechanics. WMS’ design team does a good job when it comes to implementing popular features like stacked wilds or free spins, but its contribution to the industry is limited to aesthetics.
Online slots and land-based machines
As mentioned above, WMS produces some of the best cabinets in the industry, especially when it comes to player comfort and special effects that can’t be replicated in an internet casino.
As for the games, the differences aren’t as pronounced as in Bally titles, but that’s mostly because WMS slots tend to feature fewer animations. Still, there are some differences between both versions that are easy to spot.
For example, in the land-based version of WMS’ iconic Zeus slot, the thunderbolt symbol comes with a satisfying set of animations, while in the online version, the same symbol is animated in a rather simplistic manner.
Most of these differences can be explained by the necessity to transform cutting-edge slot machines into apps that can be downloaded to a mobile phone via a 3G network connection.
However, this doesn’t account for some of the simplified and static 2D graphics, especially when it comes to backgrounds. For example, the aforementioned Zeus slot cabinet is visually impressive as a whole. Even the official paint job is consistent with the theme.
Meanwhile, the background for the online version is made up of a bright sky and a golden Greek temple; there really is no thunder in that. On a brighter note, the gameplay is absolutely on-point in both cases, and the symbol designs are consistent between both versions of the game.
Select games and payback percentages
Return-to-Player (RTP) rates for WMS slots tend to fall within the 95% to 96.5% range, which makes them slightly more profitable to play than most IGT or even SG games. The variance is either medium or low, so the payouts and bonus round activations tend to be fairly consistent during prolonged sessions.
- Raging Rhino – 95.9% RTP
- Amazon Queen – 95.9% RTP
- Cool Jewels – 96.1% RTP
- Montezuma – 95.86% RTP
- Kronos – 95.94% RTP
- Bruce Lee – 95.05% RTP
- Jungle Wild – 95.1% RTP
- King of Africa – 95.1% RTP
- Epic Monopoly II – 96.01% RTP
- Crystal Forest– 96% RTP
WMS slots history
|Special slot feature||N/A|
|Parent company||Scientific Games|
Williams Manufacturing Company
WMC was founded in 1943 in Chicago, Illinois by Harry Williams. Its first products were mostly electromechanical games, such as Periscope and Liberator. In 1945, the company released its first pinball machine, which was called Flat-Top and was actually a machine made by another company released with Williams’ artwork.
In 1950, WMC produced the first pinball machine with a modern bottom flipper setup. Over the next 20 years, it became one of the top pinball machine manufacturers in the United States. Some of the most popular WMC pinballs designed in this era include Shangri-La (1967), Apollo (1967), Gold Rush (1971), and Space Mission (1976).
Arcade games and pinball
Williams made its first forays into the fledgling arcade gambling industry in the late 1970s, but its breakthrough hit came in 1980 with the release of Defender. Throughout the 1980s, the company released many other influential video games, such as Joust, Robotron, Sinistar, or Moon Patrol.
It also produced many groundbreaking pinball machines, including Gorgar, Firepower, Black Knight, Jungle Lord, Space Shuttle, High Speed, F-14 Tomcat, Cyclone, and Taxi.
In the early 1990s, WMS started focusing on developing pinballs based on popular entertainment franchises, such as The Adams Family or The Twilight Zone, while its recently purchased video game subsidiary, Midway, released several smash hits, including Mortal Kombat and NBA Jam.
Focus on slot machines
Despite WMS’ best efforts, the pinball machine industry was already in decline in the 1990s, and the company was looking for a new source of revenue. In the end, Williams’ executives decided to bet on gambling, and in 1996, the company released its first slot machine, Reel ’Em In.
WMS’ experience in high-tech pinballs allowed the company to succeed in this new market. By the end of the decade, WMS sold Midway and closed its pinball division to focus solely on producing gambling equipment.
Throughout the 2000s, WMS achieved tremendous financial success thanks to its participation slots model, which boiled down to leasing and licensing slot machines to casinos instead of selling them. It also developed a wide range of slots that were based on readily recognizable entertainment brands, such as Men in Black, Star Trek, The Dukes of Hazzard, and Lord of the Rings.
Merger with SG Gaming
WMS continued developing high-quality slot machines, which often came with interesting mechanical features, such as advanced lighting packages or animated mechanical reels. These cabinets were powered by top-shelf hardware.
For example, the CPU-NXT2 platform incorporated a Pentium IV processor and an ATI graphics card. Even though WMS was doing reasonably well in the early 2010s, the company was sold to Scientific Games for $1.5 billion in 2013 and was subsequently integrated into SG’s corporate structure.
WMS stopped existing as a separate entity in 2016 when the integration and reorganization process was finally completed. The WMS brand is now a property of Scientific Games Corporation, which is a publicly traded company and is listed on the NASDAQ Stock Market as SGMS.
As of February 2019, the largest shareholders in SG are Fine Capital Partners LP (9.75% stake), Sylebra HK Co. Ltd (9.40%), BlackRock Fund Advisors (6.04%), The Vanguard Group Inc. (5.36%), Whale Rock Capital Management LLC (3.73%), EastBay Asset Management LLC (3.50%), and Stone House Capital Management LLC (2.44%).
WMS management and corporate structure
WMS was a somewhat independent subsidiary of SG between 2013 and 2016 but was later reorganized to become an independent part of its parent company. There’s no distinction between the two as far as the corporate structure is concerned. The current chief executive officer (CEO) of Scientific Games is Barry Cottle.
Scientific Games Board of Directors
- Ronald O. Perelman (Chairman)
- Barry Cottle (President, CEO, and Director)
- Richard Haddrill (Vice Chairman)
- Peter A. Cohen (Vice Chairman)
- David L. Kennedy (Director)
- Gerald J. Ford (Director)
- Paul M. Meister (Director)
- Michael J. Regan (Director)
- Barry F. Schwartz (Director)
- Frances F. Townsend (Director)
- Gabrielle K. McDonald (Director)
- Kneeland C. Youngblood (Director)