Major slot manufacturers are taking steps to ensure their virtual futures.

Last month we offered ideas to kick-start your virtual future; now it’s time to discuss what some of the major slot manufacturers are doing to ensure their virtual future and head-off the staunch competition of bigger software giants like Facebook and Zynga.

• Aristocrat-In March 2011, Aristocrat (ATI) formed an exclusive agreement with GameAccount Network, an online European eGaming company that provides platform and content services. Through the partnership, ATI has developed a remote gaming server dubbed nLive that provides land-based operators a turnkey, online solution for creating branded, Internet casinos. Of course, it’s all play-for-fun stateside for now. You should be able to check out the solution any day now, as ATI’s first U.S. customer, Maryland Live! Casino, is expected to launch its virtual casino sometime in Q2.

ATI has also made advances on the system side by integrating its Oasis 360 casino management system with its online nLive solution. The promise is that casinos will be able to link their players’ online experiences with those on the casino floor by managing player accounts across both platforms and cross-promoting their venues using ATI’s nLiveLink.

When it comes to the content powering its online products, ATI is offering some of its titles through nLive, as well as through mobile apps on Apple’s App Store.

• Bally Technologies-Bally’s been strategizing, too. As we mentioned last month, the company acquired MacroView Labs in July 2011, a mobile web site and applications solution provider it has incorporated into its new mobile division.

Primarily focusing on providing operators a tool to create property-focused mobile apps, Bally’s mobile division offers its games and targeted marketing solutions to your casino’s customers from a single content management system. The company already has more than 50 casinos on its client roster.

Content-wise, Bally offers a number of its famous games like Betty Boop and Cash Wizard for $1.99 through Apple’s App Store. The company has even tweaked its games to offer different play modes and a GPS feature that lets player’s find the closest land-based game near them.

• International Game Technology-Gambling giant IGT has arguably invested the most heavily of all the gaming manufacturers in the promise for wide-spread legalized online gaming. Starting back in 2005 with the purchase of WagerWorks, an online gaming platform and content provider, IGT started its venture into the online world. Next, it tried to build steam by purchasing the mobile gaming company Million-2-1 in 2008. Then, just last year it bought the gaming technology group Entraction AB for $115 million. This past January they iced the cake after acquiring DoubleDown Casino, one of Facebook’s top play-for-fun casinos, for $500 million.

Head to DoubleDown on Facebook today and your can play one of IGT’s most recent titles, American Idol, as well as other games it inherited from DoubleDown. If you run out of credits, you can always buy some more-credits start at $3 for 150,000. Like other social gaming sites, IGT has already started trying to monetize its online offerings in this play-for-fun social networking world.

Like the other guys, IGT is also making money off entertainment-only versions of its games for $1.99 at Apple’s App Store.

• WMS Gaming-WMS has been busy as well. In February of this year, the company partnered with Large Animal Games to launch Lucky Cruise, a social play-for-fun floating casino that swims in the Facebook space. WMS has also been offering its Player’s Life Web Services since 2010, which lets casinos add an online dimension to the WMS games on their floors.

Pull up www.playerslife.com, and you can play Clue, Battleship, Goldfish or hundreds of other WMS titles for free while earning trophies and unlocking special bonuses for use at your next visit to your favorite casino.

This article just scratches the surface of what slot vendors are doing to prepare for widespread Internet gaming. For more details, ask your sales rep. Next time, we’ll look at creative solutions from some smaller, start-up companies as they also compete for a piece of this emerging new market. SM

Krista Reiner, marketing manager for Acres 4.0, co-authored this article.