Top 20 Most Innovative Gaming Technology Products of 2012
by Charles AndererPaul Doocey
March 15, 2013
often said that the race goes to the swiftest. True, being first to cross the
finish line, or, in business parlance, “to market,” can determine a winner; but
it’s usually a combination of speed and strategy that allows an entity, whether
a person or an enterprise, to rise to the top and stay there.
Casino Journal’s annual Top 20 Most Innovative Gaming Technology Products contest is designed to uncover and honor the companies that are rising to the forefront of our industry, and creating products with the potential to transform the way business is done now and into the future.
Now in its 16th year and one of the oldest and most recognized such contests in the gaming industry, this year’s contest garnered 75 product entries, each of which was judged by an independent three-person panel that ultimately selected 20 worthy products. We would like to recognize and thank the judges for their valuable time and the diligence of their analysis:
• Warren Davidson, slot director, Coushatta Resort;
• Donne Grable, vice president, gaming operations, VCAT LLC; and
• Greg Solomon, chief executive officer, MotorCity Casino.
Platinum, Gold and Silver winners will be announced at a luncheon on the final day of the Gaming Technology Conference, which will be held March 12-13 at the Green Valley Ranch Casino Resort in Las Vegas. An Attendee’s Choice Award, which will be determined from votes cast by the people at Gaming Technology Conference, will also be unveiled at the luncheon.
The Top 20, listed alphabetically by company, follows.
Challenge Connection—BALLY TECHNOLOGIES
As a Bally-hosted SaaS product, Challenge Connection is cost effective, simple for casino operators to implement, and easily integrated with existing technology. The product is also CMS agnostic; Bally uses an anonymous ID linked to the player card provided by the casino operator to track results, meaning player data remains with the operator and is never compromised.
Challenge Connection uses skill-based bonus rounds found in existing and future titles, and participation does not interrupt or alter regular play. Patrons playing on Challenge Connection games are not required to participate in challenges, so the games remain viable as a “normal” slot machine for other players. A steady flow of new titles featuring a variety of content means players will always have a fresh gaming experience to anticipate and enjoy.
“Bally’s Casino Connection is zooming ahead of the skill games competition with their innovative new product,” said one judge. “Bally understands the difference between random slot awards and actual skill and so do the players. Challenge Connection will establish not just game loyalty but casino loyalty as well.”
“This is a great product,” said another judge. “Not only has Bally created fun new interactive slot machines, they’ve created a way for players to easily share their results with their friends and family.”
iGaming Platform—BALLY TECHNOLOGIES
The iGaming Platform has a content management system allowing the operator to present their content as they desire, whenever they want, including addition and removal of specific pieces of content. These changes can be made by authorized users without having to make complex software changes. With Bally’s iGaming solution, operators can have the same flexibility on their virtual casino that they have on their land-based floors to connect and operate the best content at all times. Content changes can be made easily without disruption or loss of player data.
The iGaming platform is also designed for mobile integration and is ready to accommodate online gaming beyond poker, such as casino table games, video slots and sports betting. Casinos can market to their players in a way that has never been possible before. Players can play the same games; receive the same bonuses and offers; and earn the same points on the casino floor, at home, or on the move. The platform creates an additional revenue stream, a new market for operators’ products and services, and a means for collecting valuable player data. The platform has been deployed in Nevada and New Jersey.
One judge noted that the iGaming platform faces intense competition, but “the system integration is a huge advantage. Also, their product library is extensive when online slots are legalized; putting Bally in a good position in the future.”
“The best feature of the Bally iGaming Platform is the open architecture,” said another judge. “Game variety online will be just as important as game variety on the casino floor. Another great feature is the mobile integration. Mobile products continue to show exceptional growth and this segment will be no exception.”
crmViz is also highly interoperable in that having uniquely identified players, these players can then be used for marketing purposes using either BIS² or another third-party application. It is adaptable to almost any database or database structure and provides multiple levels of interaction with system data. All data is stored in the casino operators pre-existing database, no proprietary databases or data structures are required. For example, users can interact with the system data through the vizMaker configuration tool. This tool provides access to every aspect of the software system data. The RESTful interface (also used by vizMaker) provides an HTML/XML interface that can also touch almost any aspect of the system. BIS²’s crmViz is a fully repeatable solution and requires no customization to be operational. However, the solution can be customized if desired.
“The genius of BIS2’s graphical capabilities really shows through in crmVIZ,” commented one judge. “Operators can see all their segments in easy to read graphics making it much simpler to make those hard reinvestment decisions.”
Graphics were a key selling point for another judge: “There is no question that the best features of this product are the various Super Graphics. In particular the Spatial Super Graphic and Quartal Super Graphic reveal a lot of data that might be missed with other BI tools.”
CDI GlobalSuite Multi-Game/Multi-Denomination Module—CASINO DATA IMAGING
When looking, for example, at 6 to 12 game themes with multiple denominations within a multi-game box, the analysis is quite daunting. Avoiding theme saturation, ensuring logical denomination and pay table selections, and providing best theme mixes for patrons are essential in maximizing multi-game performance. Within GlobalSuite’s new MGMD module, integrated online analytical processing (OLAP) for on-the-fly visualization queries and analysis facilitates high-level views and charts, quick-view dialogs, and in-depth slicing and dicing including pivot trend analysis. The implementation of version 1.0 provided real-world user input and feedback. This combined with CDI’s state-of-the art platform allows this new module to continuously evolve to meet customer requirements.
CDI’s Multi-Game/Multi-Denomination Module also includes custom reports from the GlobalSuite report library and customer ad hoc reports. GlobalSuite analysis embraces Data Mart and OLAP cube technology (for both the reporting and graphical environments) enabling the end user to interactively analyze multidimensional data from multiple perspectives. This translates to more actionable analysis that can also incorporate an assortment of visuals including stop-light Flags, data bars, 3D charts and more.
One judge praised Casino Data Imaging for keeping pace with operator needs. “CDI continues to make relevant advances with GlobalSuite and MGMD is as relevant as it gets today,” he said. “With more slots with more options hitting slot floors every day, this tool is a necessity in determining how best to use product.”
“The Multi-Game Multi-Denom Module from CDI addresses a common weakness in many slot tracking systems, the ability to easily analyze the performance of multiple games within one cabinet,” said another judge.
DoubleDown Casino Partner Program—INTERNATIONAL GAME TECHNOLOGY (IGT)
“Many casino operators are looking for ways to provide a play-for-free experience on their websites,” said one judge. “The Double Down Casino Partner Program does that and has many advantages over competitors. First, there is no cost to the operator. Second, the game variety and functionality is second to none. This is a full-service casino with table games, slots, and bingo. Third, name recognition. Not only is Double Down Casino widely known, but so are the IGT games within.”
“The embedded connection to Facebook makes all the difference in comparing this to other free play sites,” commented another judge. “Players want to share their experiences immediately and are now able to when playing on the casino-branded website provided by IGT and Double Down.”
Juke Box Feature in Dolly Parton Games—INTERNATIONAL GAME TECHNOLOGY (IGT)
“IGT has created a ‘duh’ moment for the industry as to how to launch games themed to music icons like Dolly,” said one judge. “Having a library of their music and allowing the players to listen to what they want will make the experience at the game even more enjoyable; creating more loyalty and time on device.”
Another judge said the best feature, “is that the slot player is in control of the music. The player gets to choose from 10 different greatest hits by Dolly. Slot players will love the ability to choose.”
Hologram Gaming Lounge—INTERBLOCK
The IBHGL consists of a play station where the player interacts with the game and controls it through a touch sensitive display; a game generator in elctromechanical, video and live formats; an animation generator consisting of a powerful PC video server with a 1920 x 1080i HD graphics card and a video server that generates video animation to represent game results on the holographic video projection system; and the Musion Eyeliner System, a high-definition holographic video projection system. Holographic video projection can be also used as additional Player Information Display (PID) to the existing Interblock gaming devices. Roulette, Sic Bo, Craps, Color Craps, Blackjack, Baccarat, Big3Six, Pop’n Poker and Keno will be available on the IBHGL.
One judge called the Hologram Gaming Lounge a true game changer. “All of the images used on a system are 3-dimensional images, but projected as two-dimensional images into a 3D stage set,” he said. “The mind of the audience creates the 3D illusion. This product is truly a game changer for the gaming floors all over the world. Not only are the gaming possibilities endless, the marketing possibilities will take casinos to the next level. Three different games could be played simultaneously while the casino has options for advertising as well as customization of the dealers/game screens on the Hologram.”
“Interblock has always been at the forefront of automated table game innovation and this product truly takes it to the next level,” said another judge. “The 3D illusion is quite convincing and gives automated table games a boost of excitement.”
Dynamic Network Applications—JCM GLOBAL
Operating wirelessly or hard-wired, DNA passively monitors the EGM “SAS” line for critical housekeeping data, while securing two-way communication with all critical peripheral components. With JCM’s DNA, operators can evolve their casino floors and get extensive reports in real time and deliver firmware updates instantly, with no downtime, across the entire operation. DNA also enables regulators to instantly verify peripheral device, software versions, view reports and more.
“The wireless and mobile features are solid features the slot technical departments will love to use,” said one judge. “Thetime-stamped digital image capture and document control solves an age-old problem of claims by guests about what they inserted into the bill validator. No longer will it take multiple keys and departments to solve the dispute.”
Another judge said JCM’s DNA offered much needed networked gaming-style capabilities: “With the cost implications of floor-wide Server Based Gaming still keeping it out of reach of most operators a reasonable solution to manage and update slot machine peripherals en masse is needed. This product can do that and much more.”
Mobile Loyalty System—JOINGO
The cloud-based software utilizes the latest technology to bridge the physical and digital casino worlds, bringing effective mobile marketing solutions to casino operators quickly and easily. More than a tool to create an app, Joingo’s system provides a unique, interactive mobile identity and strategy that ensures patrons connect and stay connected to the casino brand; an engine for immediate mobile messaging; a streamlined system that allows operators to create one message that is easily and consistently transmitted to any mobile device using standard SMS messaging, native and mobile web apps; the ability to design and update content with no coding required, keeping all mobile marketing initiatives in-house and under the operator’s control; and real-time campaign management and detailed analytics on patron behavior, redemptions and activity.
“Joingo Mobile Loyalty System does a good job of keeping your casino brand top of mind,” said one judge. “Sending offers to mobile phones is an essential piece for the casino marketing department.”
Another judge said the product’s Location Based Marketing Automation is its best feature. “The ability to send offers to your guests as they approach your property, or even a competitor’s property, makes this product extremely valuable.”
True Time Tournaments—KONAMI GAMING
On-demand, automated slot tournaments have never been done before. To date, casino slot tournaments have followed a more traditional group-start or roped-off format. These events require customers to adjust their schedules and then frequently wait in lines to compete, create expenses associated with gaming floor disruption and result in labor expenses associated with managing group start events. True-Time Tournaments eliminate these issues while preserving the casino’s ability to offer slot tournaments, a popular promotional event. Additionally, the Midway Madness True-Time Tournament theme is easily customizable, which is a unique offering for casino customers seeking to differentiate their experience from competitors.
“The best feature of the True Time Tournament product is that the system is designed in such a way that you do not have to designate a specific tournament area,” said one judge. “Any machine that is equipped with True Time Windowing can be eligible.”
Another noted: “The flexibility is huge as casinos can configure these in so many ways including by tier, group sales codes, first-time players, etc.”
Straight Shot Multipliers—MULTIMEDIA GAMES
The feature’s innovation lies in its ability to make the payline-reading process simple and straightforward for players. Having to focus on the four easy-to-read ‘straight’ paylines to determine what your winnings will be takes the headache and guesswork out of it, and lets the players concentrate solely on each payline’s progress toward awarding a multiplier. The hunt for matching symbols within each payline is even more clear-cut, since the “Straight Shot” does all the heavy lifting for players as it highlights each matching symbol with its assigned color, as it appears on the reels from left to right. As each matching symbol pops up, the “Straight Shot” stretches across the payline, awarding a multiplier as soon as the third matching symbol appears, and continuing to highlight the row if more matching symbols show up.
Players will buzz with excitement in the instance that multiple paylines light up with the “Straight Shot,” and then watch with anticipation to see which payline’s ”Shot” will either drop off, if another matching symbol fails to show, or award its multipliers, if the matching symbol parade continues.
“Game manufacturers have the task of continuing to produce innovative and fun games for players, but some of the more innovative features have become complex and difficult to explain to slot players,” one judge said. “Straight Shot Multiplier offers a fun yet simple feature to video slot play.”
“Multimedia has done a great job with Straight Shot Multiplier of creating a game both multi-line video players and single-line reel players can both enjoy,” added another judge. “It takes the intimidation out of the video game just enough to possibly convert a reel player over; which gives them so many more options in most casinos today.”
Cash Handling System—NRT TECHNOLOGY
NRT Technology launched an updated version of CHS in 2012.
The innovative re-design of CHS, which includes a new BackOffice & Mobile App, features a new, intuitive graphical user interface, a newly designed dashboard feature and advanced cash management functionality with enterprise scalability offering a macro and micro view of a casino’s performance. This web-based technology can connect up to 1,200 kiosk or hardware products from NRT and simultaneously carry out functions such as dispute resolution, machine management, system accounting and cash management.
The user experience is an important and valuable driver in the innovative re-design. NRT has integrated over a decade of in-the-field experience into the improved CHS, adding major efficiencies, flexibility and capabilities that will drastically reduce the time it takes to carry out particular functions. The new BackOffice & Mobile App product gives gaming operators the ability to perform operational back-office functions right in the palm of their hand, maximizing efficiencies and capabilities while improving the casino’s guest experience.
“The best feature of this product is the mobile application,” a judge noted. “The mobile application allows operators to solve problems for guests on the spot versus a long wait for a resolution.”
Mobile Enrollment—PLAYERSOFT TECHNOLOGIES
Mobile Enrollment is designed to be highly configurable and customizable to any specific operator’s preferences. With numerous configuration options, the system can be adapted exactly to the way the operator wants to do business with little or no customization. It works seamlessly with any casino management system, and provides a complete player enrollment. Mobile Enrollment can also provide complete reports on customer data, in addition to productivity reports to monitor employee performance or to enable a staff incentive program. This data can be seamlessly incorporated into other data warehouse systems and can be made available via web access if desired.
“Playersoft has taken the club booth to the floor,” commented one judge. “The ability to proactively seek out uncarded players and immediately get them registered into the club can mean millions of dollars in revenue for operators.”
“Mobile solutions to increase guest service are becoming more important every day,” added another judge. “The Mobile Enrollment product is fast, easy to use, and allows staff to serve guests in their current location. Instead of pointing the direction of where the guest must go to wait in line, the casino employee can help them right there on the spot.”
Slots Jackpot Accelerator with W-2G Printing and Loyalty Card Transfer Capabilities—RESORT ADVANTAGE (RA)
For the first time, this integration allows winning patrons who are serviced via SJA to have the ability to immediately post all or part of their jackpot winnings, in real-time, to the patron’s Discover card. Once loaded, the patron’s Discover card can be used like any other Discover credit card on or off of the property. When used on the property for purchases, such as food, beverage or retail purchases, the property can offer additional discounts to the patron, thereby further enhancing the value of the patron’s jackpot winnings.
SJA’s real-time integration with FutureLogic’s dual-port TITO ticket printers in the gaming machine eliminates the need for floor attendants to retrieve these documents from the cage and allows them to complete the payout process without having to leave the patron. Combined with FutureLogic’s printers, SJA will provide a significant reduction in operating costs to properties while enhancing the patrons’ playing experience on the casino floor.
Both these innovative integrations to SJA provide casinos significant benefits by keeping patrons on property, reducing the cost and risk of cash management, and further reducing jackpot payout processing costs.
“I love the paperless aspect of the product,” a judge said. “In the 21st century, there is no reason we should be using dot matrix printers with triplicate W-2G’s. The ability for players to access their W-2G’s electronically has been a long time coming. Additionally, the ability to send the funds to a pre-paid credit card give the player a much better option over checks. They can have instant access to their money if they choose without carrying around large sums of cash.”
Loyalty Card Plus—SIGHTLINE PAYMENTS
LCP is a white-label prepaid card that integrates with a gaming operator’s existing loyalty card program and, through the use of Sightline’s proprietary closed-loop SPAN network, allows gaming patrons to transfer funds in real-time to/from slot systems, table games, race and sports books, and social casinos or online casinos. The open loop prepaid card allows the patron to spend their winnings on or off casino property everywhere Discover cards are accepted—including ATMs—nationwide. The open loop nature of LCP allows the patron access to their own funds anytime, anyway they desire while SPAN allows the gaming operator to permit funds to be transferred to and from wagering accounts.
Once the guest’s Loyalty Card Plus Discover Prepaid Card has been activated, they can simply add funds online, via their mobile phone, through the ACH network, with their credit card, debit card or checking account. Most importantly, using the SPAN Network, they can load winnings and jackpots through the slot management system, at the gaming operator cage or redemption kiosk, right at the table game, and through any online portal for online wagering, all in real-time.
“This is a highly innovative product with a strong future,” noted one judge. “The removal of coins from the casino floor was a monumental step forward and the next logical step will be to remove the cash and tickets.”
“The Loyalty Card Program allows for exceptional convenience for the player in being able to access funds almost anywhere while still supporting responsible gaming with the prepaid element,” the judge added.
There are many new and exciting components to the slot version of Bejeweled, but the most innovative features are: there are no spinning reels, the player chooses and configures their bet steps (21 different variations on how to place a wager), and the skill mechanic that’s been introduced in three of the six bonuses.
The mini-game bonus provides traditional Bejeweled players the opportunity to make swaps as they would in the online casual game, while non-Bejeweled players get the chance to practice swapping prior to bonus play. This teach-to-play mechanic is widely used in traditional video gaming, but it is rare in slot machines due to their usual lack of skill elements. SPIELO International’s incarnation of Bejeweled, however, is changing that. Three bonus options allow the player to interact with the game using skill, as they would in the original casual game. Once the bonus is triggered, the player will have a tutorial pop up prior to each of the Skill bonuses starting. This tutorial is overlaid on top of the game screen as soon as the player enters the bonus round. Hints and tutorial videos are triggered by player inactivity, and help screens are available throughout the bonus round, ensuring even players unfamiliar with Bejeweled can enjoy the skilled games. Giving players this freedom to choose and to hone their skills makes Bejeweled a unique and entertaining addition to any casino floor.
From a hardware perspective Bejeweled has a touch screen-based button panel which makes the unique bet system interface possible and provides a clean and easy-to-read presentation for the player.
“Unlike many IP games that play nothing like the game, SPIELO International has brought in a similar dynamic that should be easy for patrons to understand,” a judge said. “Add to the skill elements that are available in the three bonus rounds and you have the makings of the first successful casual game crossover in the industry.”
The Behavioral Model—STICS
The Behavioral Model examines the entire play history of each gambler in a casino’s database and extracts behavioral patterns from these data. It determines, for each visit, the likely reason each gambler stopped playing and ascribes this stopping behavior to one of three causes: the player stopped because they only wish to play with your money—not their own (free play-limited), the player stopped because they have another commitment (work, airport departure, etc)—these players are time-limited, or they stopped because they exhausted their available wallet (budget-limited.) Player behavior is always changing, when The Behavioral Model is run monthly it can catch these subtle changes in player behavior, so a casino is always making the most profitable offers.
The knowledge imparted by The Behavioral Model is critically important because it enables far better targeting of incentives to extract the most revenue and profit from each player.
According to one judge, “The best feature of The Behavioral Model is that it will reveal who can be affected by incentives and who cannot. I like this product. Stics has proven itself in the field of predictive analytics and The Behavioral Model is an important part of the system.”
27 Reel Movement Sensing—SUZO-HAPP GROUP
The 27 Reel Movement Sensing (27RMS) is comprised of three core parts, all working together to provide a complete system solution for controlling reel mechanisms. It does this through a 24v, 200 step constant current motor driver with I2C serial interface, capable of generating multiple speeds up to 150rpm, each with different ramps for slow, medium and fast acceleration.
Another innovation is the iSocket Software Application, which controls all motor management, including stall detection during spin, movement detection at standstill, spin control, symbol detection and ramp profiles. This allows up to 10 reels of different types to run simultaneously e.g., different widths, speeds, direction, ramp, variable symbol type and variable symbol sizes.
“Suzo-Happ’s 27RMS continues to take the physical reel to new levels,” said one judge. “Players who still enjoy the feel of reel games should enjoy the advancements that the product will allow game manufacturers to make.”
“Recent performance trends in mechanical reel games that have special features such as unique lighting and high rpm have shown that there is still potential for growth in this segment,” said another judge.
Table Games Yield Management—TANGAM SYSTEMS
TYM’s innovation lies in its patent-pending algorithms that analyze the casino floor, player demand, table spread, and management targets in real-time; and that offer up real-time recommendations to floor staff on how to optimally set minimums for maximum profitability and the best possible player experience. These algorithms were developed over the course of three years, and are heavily based on Tangam’s unprecedented view into table games. TableEye, Tangam’s real-time video card tracking platform, has gathered over 1 million blackjack hands from actual casinos over the course of many years, compiling what is believed to be the largest digitized store of contemporary blackjack game data ever aggregated. TYM’s algorithms were developed through the rigorous analysis of this massive store of data.
“This is a great product that will make table games management much more efficient and cost effective,” said one judge.
Second Generation of Sensory Immersion 2.0, SPIDER-MAN Themed Slot—WMS GAMING
The SPIDER-MAN game features a first-of-its-kind take on free spins, enabled only through the increased capabilities of WMS’ new, third-generation CPU-NXT3 operating platform and Sensory Immersion 2.0 technology. The pure horsepower of the CPU-NXT3 platform makes it possible to synchronize the movement of the motion chair with the action of the exciting movie clips playing behind the reels during the spins, and also to have as many as eight reel sets spinning simultaneously on each play in the bonus round.
The SPIDER-MAN game is a “dual-array game” providing reel-spinning video action across two full 5x3 reel layouts with each spin, along with six random “Spider-Sense” features and exciting bonus rounds that include video and audio clips from the original film trilogy.
“WMS’s Sensory Immersion 2.0 continues the advancement of what should be the next phase of gaming on the slot floor,” one judge said.
is executive editor of BNP Media Gaming Group and also oversees content development, sales and marketing for the company’s trade shows and conferences, which include Bingo World, Southern Gaming Summit, Gaming Technology Summit, New York Gaming Summit and Casino Marketing. He can be contacted at email@example.com.
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