Top 20 Most Innovative Gaming Technology Products of 2007
by Andy HoltmannAnne King
June 1, 2008
Server-based gaming, table game technologies, advanced graphics and sound
on slot machines, ergonomics, security and surveillance innovations, business
intelligence and game development toolkits — these are just some of the
concepts that netted rave reviews from judges in Casino Journal’s Top 20 Most Innovative Gaming Technology
Products of 2007 competition. Unlike previous years’ contests where one or two
technologies seemed to dominate the winners’ circles, this year showed that
operators are looking in many different areas.
Judges for this contest have no easy task. In this year’s contest (held early in the year and highlighting the best gaming technologies from the past year), there were 71 valid entries by gaming equipment and system manufacturers. Judges sifted through hundreds of pages of marketing and technical materials, then graded products in a series of categories and wrote detailed comments. The work can be long and tedious, and for that, they deserve our sincere thanks.
This year’s judges were: Sheleen Quish, chief information officer, Ameristar Casinos; John Forelli, vice president of information technology, The Borgata Resort Casino; Carol Pride, chief information officer, Pinnacle Entertainment; and Kelly Segovia, independent consultant.
Judges this year were very thorough in their critiques and did not tread lightly with any entry. For the most part, judge’s opinions of each product varied widely, showcasing just how many different views those in the gaming industry can have about products and technologies.
At this year’s Gaming Technology Summit, May 20-22 at the Green Valley Ranch Resort & Casino in Las Vegas, attendees will vote on their favorites of the Top 20. Those ballots will be tallied at the show and, based on voting, Platinum, Gold and Silver awards will be handed out for three of the featured products.
As we do every year, we want to give honorable mentions to a number of products that narrowly missed this year’s cut. Among them: Aristocrat Technologies Veridian Gen 7 and Ace Interactive server-based gaming products; Atronic’s Passion Slots; Bally Technologies’ Alpha Elite Bartop games; Harris Corporation’s Harris Digital Signage; International Game Technology’s “Star Wars” Multi-Level Progressive Slots and EZ Pay Smart Card; Las Vegas Gaming Inc.’s BonusVision; Multimedia Games’ Sport of Kings product; NRT Technology Corp.’s QuickJack 2 cash-handling kiosk; Slot Tickets’ coinless slot machine tickets; Speilo/GTECH’s TouchSense LCD button panel for video slot machines; Table Trac Inc.’s Casino Trac System; Wiremold/Legrand’s Walkerflex Access Floor Wiring System; and WMS Gaming’s Rotating Wild series of games.
Each of these products missed the Top 20 by a mere 12 points or less (out of a possible 320 point score), showing just how close this year’s contest was.
The next five pages represent brief product descriptions and judges’ comments from this year’s Top 20. Many thanks to all who entered, and we look forward to next year’s competition.
MicroTouch Capacitive TouchSense System
The MicroTouch Capacitive TouchSense System from 3M is the next-generation touch interface for gaming machines where players receive tactile feedback on the touch screen surface as well as the traditional audio and visual cues.
The system is an enhanced MicroTouch ClearTek II touch system and can either be designed into future gaming cabinets optimized for tactile touch slot games or retrofitted into existing on-floor casino games to replace CRT or LCD displays — giving old games new life. This system has allowed game manufacturers to replace their mechanical buttons with a video-based button panel so players receive tactile feedback similar to pressing a mechanical button, which will increase player involvement and time on machine.
By working with their preferred display integrators, casinos can upgrade their existing CRTs to tactile touch-enabled LCDs or add tactile touch components to existing LCDs. Then, tactile touch zones are created (resident in the touch screen controller’s firmware) to correspond with existing software touch buttons. Because the tactile touch zones reside within the touch controller and not the CPU, this upgrade has no impact on the regulated operation of the casino game.
“This takes slot machines to the next level of interactive play and players will play longer,” one judge said.
“It’s a very innovative twist to reinvigorate older games,” another judge noted.
GameMaker, created by Bally Technologies, has been revamped into a new high-definition format as GameMaker HD. As the only widescreen, multigame platform on the market, it features a clear, sharp screen, enhanced audio and the reliability of ALPHA OS, wrapped in a multi-denom in three distinctive cabinet styles: CineVision widescreen; single-screen V20; and V20/20 dual screen with stacked 20.1 inch touchscreen displays.
All GameMaker HD games are presented in a high-definition (1,286 lines of resolution) widescreen format that supports an array of popular game titles and new widescreen game concepts designed specifically for this platform. A fully configurable multigame package offers multiple denominations, multiple percentages and configurable max-bet-per-theme type. Available game themes include video slots, draw poker (standard paytables), pick ‘em poker, keno, lotto, and blackjack, and the platform is customizable with player-controlled speed and volume controls.
Additionally, a patent-pending Game Select feature allows players to change the game theme and demon directly from the game being played, without having to exit to the main game menu. The game’s patent-pending UniButton button deck permits players to easily wager on any game type quickly and easily without having to navigate through a bewildering array of button choices.
“The resolution on this product is eye-catching,” one judge said. “A great product for properties moving to HD content.”
“I like the breadth of options,” another judge added. “I would put this on the floor.”
Bally Business Intelligence
The Business Intelligence solution provided by Bally Technologies is an advanced application created to allow gaming operators to analyze and visualize the extensive data gathered throughout their business enterprise. Included in the intelligence package are interfaces to all of the Bally Slot Floor, table and casino management systems.
It consists of two distinct and integrated components: a Data Analysis Dashboard and Gaming Power and seePower Data Visualization modules. Both work off one combined Gaming Data Warehouse to offer a powerful and state-of-the-art business intelligence suite to the casino industry. The dashboard offers more than 650 predefined key performance indicators, graphical data analysis charts and graphs, more than 150 predefined reports and ad-hoc reporting.
The system specializes in connecting player data with individual game data to shine light on how players interact with the game floor. Customers using Bally ACSC, SDS, CMS/400, Bally One System, Bally Mutli-Connect, MCC, TableView and CMP can now take full advantage of the extensive operations and customer information stored in their databases.
The Bally Business Intelligence solution features multiple proving and scalable options, providing gaming operators with extreme flexibility and dynamic decision-making.
“It’s another functional product addition to the field of visualization and analytics products,” one judge noted.
“Excellent product,” another judge said. “Bally Technologies has built a very comprehensive capability to leverage data and use it effectively to make better decisions, faster.”
The first seven-reel stepper slot technology, Bally Technologies’ CineReels, is a unique gaming device that features a high-resolution, 20-inch touch-enabled display directly above the reels, high-efficiency LED lighting situated behind the reels, as well as a high-quality audio system that creates an immersive, cinematic gaming experience.
Based on the CineVision widescreen cabinet, CineReels features innovative and cutting-edge micro-stepping reel controllers which provide remarkable rhythmic game play, including another industry first: Reel-Stop reel functionality for “all-stop” player control. Reel-Stop allows the player to immediately stop all of the reels at once by tapping the “spin” button. This permits the player to establish their own unique rhythm of game play rather than have the game dictate the pace of play.
CineReels supports all Bally S9000 series game programs in three-, four-, five- and now seven-reel configurations. The platform’s Privacy Zone eliminates distractions and provides players with their own private gaming environment. The large size of the screen permits on-screen progressive features and bonus events without using play-hindering secondary screens. Additionally, the stepper’s Comfort Zone is ergonomically designed with Easy Select wagering buttons, an integrated arm rest, ample room for players’ personal items and an illuminated foot rest, all resulting in less fatigue and increased time-on-device.
“This is a good product for the modern slot floor,” one judge said.
“It’s excellent,” another judge said. “It creates a game people will want to play longer, with excitement and comfort.”
TableView real-time table rating and player tracking system
Bally Technologies’ TableView is an innovative, fast and easy table management solution which allows casino operators to effectively track table game play and ensure that their table game players receive the same recognition and rewards their slot players do.
The TableView system is a standalone application designed to allow floor operations staff to use a touchscreen device for entering real-time player ratings, request chip fills and credits, input table closers, issue player comps and markers and change the table shift. Data gathered by the TableView system can be seamlessly integrated into the Bally Casino Management System and can be installed on every table or at an individual pit stand. The system also creates an almost paperless environment.
Other features include: multilingual support; text messaging alerts; comp issuance; rating detail; year and trip history; and hot player notification based on the player’s card/rating level. Key differentiators include:
- Enhanced customer
service and efficiency in the pit by reducing the amount of time required by
management to capture and register player ratings; and
- Real-time ratings give casino personnel instant access to table ratings and financial accounting data.
“It’s a good first step toward an electronic table environment,” another judge noted.
Endeavor video recorders
The Endeavor Flex Recorder by Eletronics Line USA is a flexible, scalable video recorder that boasts a number of features attractive to a gaming environment. It supports many of the goals of high-performing security and surveillance teams by allowing for real-time review of activity in high resolution.
The Endeavor’s resolution capabilities and licensing model that allows additional channels with minimal or no additional investment is incomparable. The recompression algorithm called Aztech is proprietary and shrinks the size of compressed images with no visual loss of information, making megapixel IP cameras useable. The Endeavor recorders merge a network video recorder with a high resolution H.264 digital video recorder. Each unit can record any combination of up to 32 IP or analog cameras, without the use of encoders, making the coverage unlimited with multiple units. It records up to 5 megapixels on IP cameras, and resolution is 4CIF at 704X480 (pixels) on analog cameras.
Record rates of up to 960 frames per second with camera selectable frame rate give a security/surveillance professional real-time access and control of both live and recorded activity. Additionally, internal storage reaches five terabytes with unlimited external storage options, such as NAS or SAS.
“If a company is using IP video, this product is necessary,” one judge said. “It’s a very well-engineered product that saves space and money.”
“I would use this product,” another judge said. “I like the real-time review feature.”
G3 electronic bonusing system
DEQ’s G3 is first and foremost a side-betting system that is a new generation of technology for poker, blackjack and baccarat games. It offers a cutting-edge, up-to-date solution for side betting that addresses the historical, technological and operational challenges with the existing legacy system.
The G3 system’s multi-bet feature allows for variable player controlled betting from one dollar on up. Its slot machine-style mystery bonusing involves five types of mystery bonuses to entice players to play the side bet as randomly selected prizes are attributed to players who utilize it. The G3 system also involves LCD-based multimedia, allowing players to view football games or the like while also allowing the casino to run publicity and promotions. Progressive, random and bad beat jackpots keep players encouraged through the big win, instant gratification and consolation prizes.
G3 is newly-introduced to Nevada and is currently undergoing beta trials at Harrah’s Entertainment and Station Casinos properties. The product offers an increase in casino revenue through:
- Base game speed increase because of optional automatic
side bet renewal;
- Dealer hand side bet;
- Multiple side betting and mystery prizes; and
- Linked jackpots that yield larger payouts.
“I think this will be very successful,” another judge said, adding that the system has the “ability to engage players in a new level of play.”
The PlayAway system by GameLogic combines Web-based games with a first-of-its-kind interactive marketing toolset to drive more casino trips from existing player club members, deliver new customers who are worth more and boost casino Web site visits.
Two of PlayAway’s modules —Bonus Play and Fun Play — are aimed at helping casinos attain and retain new customers. In Bonus Play, casinos can offer rewards and incentives to specific segments of their players club and, thus, drive up casino visits. It is configurable according to a casino’s specific business objectives: casinos design the player segments; designate who is eligible to win; and set reward values and redemption time qualifications. Players must return to the casino to redeem their awards.
In Fun Play, game play is just for fun. Nothing is wagered. It allows players to learn about more complicated games like craps, or just spend time playing the games they enjoy at the casino. This module can be used as a way to attract potential new customers, pre-register them to players clubs, score them as potential winners in real time and present them appropriate bonuses and offers to encourage them to come to the casino.
“This is a creative and innovative way to promote casino visits,” one judge said. “Excellent product and a great marketing tool.”
“I would recommend this as a cost-effective way to interact with the customer and drive return trips,” another judge added.
How can casinos truly evaluate whether their marketing promotions are improving business results? Honeywell’s People Counter intelligent video analytics could be the answer the gaming industry is looking for.
Through a complex set of algorithms, the People Counter determines the number of people entering and exiting a specific area. The counter then feeds its data into a data analytics system, called Integrated Data Management, which allows managers to pull trending information. For example, the counter’s data can be compared to the number of slot machine pulls during a given hour, helping managers determine if customers are spending more time pulling the slots as opposed to visiting other areas of the casino.
The People Counter is unique in that it is capable of picking out individuals within a group or determining the difference between people loitering at an entrance versus walking through it. Its video analytics roots are typically used to secure some of the world’s most critical facilities, including airports, government buildings and military installations. Ultimately, the software is designed to analyze human behavior and determine if certain individuals pose a safety or security threat.
“This is a very nice product that could help marketing efforts,” one judge said.
“Head count management that is customer transparent is difficult without a good system of management,” another judge noted. “I would purchase this.”
Round top LCD and dynamic buttons
IGT recently completely redesigned its machines from the inside out using a development and design process called the Human Machine Interface. The five new machine models are the G22 Slant, S4 AVP Slot, G20 Upright with round top, G20 Upright with square top and the G20 Bar Top.
Advanced computer and graphics, the player-friendly design of these machines and their primary features, the round top LCD and dynamic buttons, help set them apart from their counterparts. Through the Human Machine Interface process, IGT looked at everything from visual testing to leg room. Using input from customers, IGT created machines that enhance the overall player experience.
The machines all have standardized button panels; however, all of them have the capability for downloadable dynamic buttons. Operators will not have to change out any button legends when they change or upgrade their games. The buttons also allow for customization with multigame suites; when a game is selected by the player, the dynamic buttons light up and change to show the appropriate button tiles for that game.
The round top LCD is a first in the industry and creates more opportunities for enhanced games.
“IGT continues to be an industry leader,” one judge said. “These components are needed to implement server-based gaming, and IGT has redesigned the slot machine to be more comfortable for the player.”
“This is a great move toward server-based gaming,” another judge noted. “Nice, slim look with a great LCD.”
‘Indiana Jones: The Last Crusade’ slots
The latest in International Game Technology’s line of Indiana Jones games is IGT’s “Indiana Jones: The Last Crusade” slots. Players will recognize this movie classic from anywhere on the operator’s floor. This five-reel, 20-payline, 200-credit (depending on the jurisdiction) penny or nickel game is the first game on IGT’s new SMLD AVP Multi-Layer Display (MLD) widescreen upright machine. This screen provides a crisp display of both the reel glass and reels, along with a 3D representation of the reels themselves, which IGT is calling “Reel Depth.”
The slots also contain 88 movie clips that play consecutively after each win, so stalwart players will see most of the movie in sequence. The top-box bonus features a 20-stop wheel, with a bonus multiplier.
IGT’s new dual-LCD game is the result of a partnership with PureDepth Inc., a creator of next-generation display technologies and the pioneer of MLD technology, which consists of transparent LCDs layered on an opaque LCD with an interstitial component in between to remove interference. The layering makes it possible to view graphics on each LCD layer, resulting in true depth perception and realistic multidimensional effects.
“I like the MLD technology,” one judge said. “Visuals are very important to guests. It should improve the excitement of the casino floor.”
“This product is a real eye-catcher,” another judge said. “I love the 3D graphics.”
sb Floor Manager
Building on the power of an open Game to System (G2S) network, IGT has developed the intuitive sb Floor Manager. The system allows casino operators to seamlessly manage many of their server-based activities, including downloads, configuration changes, scheduling and eventually remote game ordering, all from the user’s desktop.
Using Windows Presentation Foundation technology, the program has a user-friendly interface that integrates management of all operations. It allows operators to download and configure game content, analyze machine performance using real-time or historical data, configure and manage machine settings, purchase and install themes from a central IGT repository, view machine data in real-time, as well as monitor floor events in real time.
It also can interface with the gaming floor and other networked systems, including casino management systems from other vendors, via open GSA protocols. The sb Floor Manager helps operators:
- Virtually eliminate machine downtime during game conversions and configurations;
- Optimize the casino floor based on data-driven
- Efficiently replace declining themes from the mix;
- Reduce the time to market for new titles with the download games capability.
“It’s well-designed and built to scale into the future,” another judge added. “A super product that has the potential to create enormous efficiencies in slots.”
Cargo Casino Game Generation System
The Meta Games Universal’s game generation system, Cargo, is a new enabling technology for games. As the company stated, content is where revenues come from; however, current techniques for game development are dependent on software developers and often can be too slow, regardless of whether or not SBG is being used.
Cargo was developed to put game production into the hands of designers and to speed up production as well as lower costs. The program will typically save 70 percent in total project time and over 60 percent of total project costs. Game production is performed via an easy-to-use graphical user interface. It removes the software development stage of game production and reduces testing/approvals and requirements capture stages to a fraction of the original.
Cargo’s abilities include:
- Allowing individuals without software expertise to product
high-quality games quickly and easily;
- Supporting both new and existing
gaming platforms/technologies without redevelopment — the source code base of
existing games can be reused;
- Enabling game development to be safely opened up to third parties
without exposing manufacturer software intellectual property; and
- Generating any type of game, including multiple bonus games.
“I really like this,” another judge said. “This could really improve content delivery.”
Multimedia Games' Bonus Revolution product, which it introduced at last year’s Global Gaming Expo, is a new community gaming innovation compatible with Multimedia’s current and future product lines.
The Bonus Revolution feature synchronizes the top LCD screens of each machine and displays bonus multipliers that move from one machine to the next, accelerating at first, then decelerating to a stop. The value that appears on a player’s machine at the end of the bonus is the value he or she wins. Players can participate in the bonus on their favorite mechanical reel or video slot game by making a side bet equal to one half their game bet — then they follow the easy on-screen instructions. Awards are multiplied by the last side bet made when the bonus was triggered, about once per every 80 spins. The marquee emphasizes the top values by pointing to the machine which has the top value before, during and after the event.
This community bonus is dynamically scalable through server software to accommodate as few as eight machines up to as many as 250. Players can also toggle an LED on/off button to allow them to become eligible during play to participate.
“Nice product,” one judge said. “Community bonusing adds excitement and it’s scalable across a large area."
“This is a very nice concept that could become popular on the slot floor,” another judge said.
Grand Plaza Cushion Back Modular Carpet
Milliken’s 36-inch Cushion Back Modular Carpet (Grand Plaza) allows for quicker installation in critical resort areas like the gaming floor, which in turn creates increased revenue by making facilities available faster. The carpet tile can be installed around slot bases, eliminating the need for electricians and workers traditionally needed to remove and replace slots, as well as avoiding the loss in revenue that occurs during a slot’s downtime.
Milliken’s Grand Plaza carpet provides dimensional stability to withstand rolling cart traffic. When a single tile is damaged, it can be replaced with little to no disruption. Modular carpet is faster and easier to repair than broadloom carpet and can be done by in-house staff quickly. Customers are not inconvenienced, and revenue is not compromised.
This type of flooring is also useful with access floors that house a large number of cables which need to be accessed frequently. The largest issue with casino carpeting is split seams, wrinkles, buckles and pattern integrity. With modular carpet, there are no seams to split, and the tiles are engineered to stay flat and square on the floor without the use of seaming tapes.
“Excellent product idea,” one judge said. “I have been to the Four Winds Casino and have seen the carpet. It looks and feels like traditional broadloom carpet, not carpet tiles. High quality, plus high efficiency, plus innovation equals a solid contribution.”
“This is very innovative … and necessary for the future of the slot floor,” another judge added.
SAS for Patron Value Optimization
SAS for Patron Value Optimization software can be utilized by casinos to dig into databases and establish guest profiles, which in turn allows the marketing department to target campaigns and better serve customers’ needs.
The system consolidates any information gathered, including gaming transaction data, player card data, guest demographic data and point-of-sale data from nongaming activities, including purchases at a resort’s hotel, golf course, water parks and restaurants. This consolidation allows resort executives the ability to manage times and personalize customer communication strategies.
The software allows casinos to hone marketing campaigns through increasing the resorts’ ability to test new marketing programs and to adopt new marketing strategies that offer improved success rates. Without SAS, casinos can only use broad categories like geography, age and guest values from specific time frames; with SAS, more sophisticated segmentation is possible, and the program processes and translates guest information into marketing intelligence. Its abilities include:
- Consolidating disparate sources of data such as patron gaming and
nongaming revenue, models and reports on patron
- Automating and personalizing marketing campaigns to the specific
characteristics of the patron; and
- Optimizing resources by putting the most profitable and strategic patrons in the hotel rooms, casino floor, events and the casino property.
“If used well, this product could have a big impact,” another judge said. “The value depends on actions by a smart staff.”
Spoils of War Differential Win
Vision Gaming’s new Spoils of War D-Win (Differential Win) card game is based on the popular child’s card game, War, but it certainly isn’t child’s play. Two cards (player versus enemy) are pitted against each other, and when the player’s card outranks the enemy’s card, the player has scored a victory.
The amount of winnings depends on the point differential between the two cards. The game’s Bonus Pool will grow with small differential victories, and extra rewards are garnered in the pool when the largest possible differential is achieved. When the pair of cards are equal in rank, the first of two War Bonus rounds is started in which the player wins to advance to the second round or loses.
Although, with consolation winnings, even losing is encouraging. If war is achieved in the second round, the ultimate prize is awarded, which, with the maximum bet in place, is the progressive jackpot. This interactive game keeps players involved and excited.
“I really like the multi-battle concept,” one judge said. “Multi-battles create the ability to reach higher levels of winnings. This adds many levels of interest for the players.”
“This is a creative spin on a classic game," another judge said. “It has very rich graphics and is a nice product that will go over well with the slot customers.”
Bigger Bang Big Event
The player-popular piggies are back as WMS unveils a new twist on community gaming slots with its Bigger Bang Big Event product. Bigger Bang Big Event provides the industry’s first competitive communal bonus and leverages WMS’s Transmissive Reels technology that presents mechanical reel players with engaging video animations.
This is the first time that WMS has combined its two innovative product categories, Community Gaming and Transmissive Reels Gaming, as part of their Player Driven Innovation initiative to create new and exciting player experiences.
Bigger Bang Big Event features five exciting community bonuses where eligible players can enter and win bonuses together, bringing table-game-like excitement to the slot floor. Further driving the excitement of this new slot concept are two competitive bonuses, where eligible players entering the bonus together have a chance to win more than other players who have entered the same bonus.
Bigger Bang Big Event debuts with two exciting base game themes, “Los Aztecas” and “Gem Hunter,” each theme featuring its own unique bonus opportunities for the player.
“This has a chance to create a lot of excitement on the slot floor,” one judge said. “Competitive bonusing is always a way to generate more excitement.”
“It’s another spin on community bonusing by adding a competitive element,” another judge said, adding that the game could be worth a look on casino floors.
UNIGAP Platform 2.0
The Unified Gaming Platform, or UNIGAP, by WIN Systems, is a complete solution for the management of certain server-based systems in both the gaming and lottery markets. The program performs the main tasks of overall supervision and games control, characterized by a server based administration and offering tools to provide transparency, downloadable games and full control of the entire operation of the system.
The newest release of the product, UNIGAP Platform 2.0, includes the WinGDS (Game Downloadable System), which works as a server-supported game system that performs software downloading to game devices. Through a scheduling program, the latest platform manages marketing profitability changes of games.
WinGDS also reflects player preferences through client definition, client/games assignation, and client/base software assignation. It also can be used in scheduling downloads of new games periodically or instantly, to download game menus (which are managed by WinGDS as an additional game profile, allowing the download of complete menus with several games), and to group gaming machines based on geography or virtual locations.
“There is a good breadth of features and functions in different environments with this product,” one judge said. “There are benefits for both the casinos and patrons.”
“I would recommend this product to a company that is embracing server-based technologies,” another judge added. “It looks like it could work well.”
‘Star Trek’ slots
The first game concept in WMS’ new Adaptive Gaming category is “Star Trek” slots.
Players enter an immersive environment which adjusts to their personal accomplishments and preferences, a capability never yet seen on the casino floor. Players choose either free spin or interactive bonusing each time a bonus is triggered. Using the company’s wide- area network WAGE-NET System, players can earn medals to unlock new, unique “Star Trek” episodes and save their state through a chosen ID so they can pick up where they left off at any “Star Trek” machine during their next visit.
Upon their return, players can resume with the same number of medals and episodes they had earned during their previous game play. This slot is powered by WMS’ next-generation CPU-NXT 2 platform with real-time 3-D graphics, a 26-inch digital top box and Bose 3-Space surround sound audio system with a custom gaming chair.
“I would purchase this,” one judge said. “This is a new concept. The game remembers the player, their status and allows them to pick up where they left off. This combines the appeal of the ‘gamers’ with the ‘players.’”
“This is a powerful ‘adaptive’ game that will definitely drive new slot customers,” another judge noted. “A great product…one built for the newer slot customer.”
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