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WMS invests in new tech facilities

John Grochowski

John Grochowski

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Updated: July 25, 2012 8:44PM

As one of the world’s leading slot machine manufacturers, WMS Industries Inc. is about technology as well as fun. It competes with the Silicon Valley and other high-tech enclaves for talent.

Now, it has a first-rate facility in which to house that talent. In August, its new 120,000-square-foot Technology Development Center opens at 2718 W. Roscoe. There’ll be space for about 250 employees, and pods of game designers, graphic artists, engineers and mathematicians working on a particular game can be grouped together. Video conferencing facilities can link WMS offices worldwide.

“Our culture is a high performance innovation-driven culture,” board chairman and CEO Brian Gamache said at the end of a media preview tour. “We rely a lot on collaboration and integration end to end. We built this building with that in mind.”

Older facilities in WMS’ Chicago Technology campus have served the company well. Games are manufactured at headquarters in Waukegan, but the biggest share of the creative work is done in Chicago.

One of the five older buildings included in the campus is the 1940s-era Williams Electronics pinball plant at California and Roscoe. That’s where WMS designed its three-reel Dotmation slots including Piggy Bankin’ in the mid-1990s, and where Reel ’Em In was born as the first massive hit video slot. Among modern slot favorites, the yellow brick road of the Wizard of Oz games runs through the Avondale neighborhood.

Not all of the technology campus employees will move. WMS has about 600 Chicago employees and is looking to add about 200 more in the coming year. Some of the design work will continue at older buildings, at least until they’re replaced by new construction that’s on the drawing board. Certain to remain at the original building is the professional sound studio where WMS records voices and music for its games.

Much of the conceptual work and number crunching — slot games require some heavy-duty math — will come at the new building. That figures to include both for-fun and for-money versions of online games through WMS’ recently announced Williams Interactive subsidiary.

John Grochowski is a local free-lance writer. Look for him on Facebook (; Twitter (@GrochowskiJ) and at

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