A volcano erupts regularly at the Casino de Charlevoix in La Malbaie, Québec. It is replete with the sights and sounds usually associated with such an eruption.
But no one is hurt, no havoc is wreaked, and no towns are destroyed. In fact, it’s cause for much celebration at this casino operated by the Société des casinos du Québec (SCQ), a subsidiary of Loto-Québec. It’s doing exactly what the casino hoped and planned for it to do-give players a more immersive and entertaining gaming experience and a reason to come back more often.
Called Volcan, the volcano-themed slot experience had its beginnings about three years ago when the Société des casinos du Québec put forth a vision for the future of its casinos. A key to that vision was the desire to create a more immersive gaming experience for players.
“We really wanted to create an environment where players would see more winning, and the game could become part of the atmosphere within the casino,” said Marie-Josée Parent, manager of new product development for the SCQ. SCQ approached Waukegan, Ill.-based WMS Industries about how WMS’ slot machine game, Jackpot Explosion, could be used in creating this new experience, including using real-time information from the games to create multimedia effects tied to the game, such as projecting winning jackpots onto giant screens on the casino’s walls and ceiling.
SCQ Project Manager Marc Santerre enlisted the help of the SCQ multimedia team and Ingenio, Loto-Québec’s R&D arm, to create the unique, immersive experience.
This proved no easy task. A major issue was how to get real-time information from the game to the system to signal changes in the multimedia display, such as rising lava levels.
The solution came in part from the use of the Gaming Standards Association’s Game-to-System (G2S) protocol.
“We needed the information from the game to figure out how to connect to the environment,” said Valérie Messier, project manager, Ingenio. “The most important issue for this project was to take the game inside the machine and bring it out to the multimedia experience, to the whole ceiling of the casino in that area, to see where the progressive was, in what state and in what amount, and to see which machine has won.”
Ingenio discussed the issue with WMS, which suggested using the G2S protocol and also enlisting Reno-based Radical Blue Gaming to develop a G2S engine application to help pull the plans together. In addition to Radical Blue, other partners such as Technologies Nter, a Loto-Québec subsidiary, and Neosoft Technologies, a Québec company specializing in visual recognition, provided the products and information needed to create the Volcan experience.
With Radical Blue’s product and an application from Ingenio merged to a visual recognition technology to analyze the information and trigger the system in the casino, the problem was solved. Without G2S, “it would have been a lot harder to do this,” Messier said.
As the first tool created by an operator using G2S, it stands as watershed moment. “Casino de Charlevoix wanted to create a promotion with advanced multimedia presentations that would immediately and dynamically communicate directly to customers throughout the casino on large display monitors,” said Russ Ristine, Radical Blue president. “They needed information from existing WMS slot machines to make the promotion work, so we helped them tap into the existing G2S port on the game, created a simple engine application that connected to their new promotion application, and in less than 90 days, their goal was realized.”
“To collect data without affecting the game, we [Radical Blue] worked with Ingenio and WMS to provide an easy-to-use solution that lets the Ingenio system receive real-time updates from participating games, while the games communicate separately with the slot system,” Ristine added.
With the challenges met, Volcan launched last summer at Casino de Charlevoix. In all, 28 slot machines with 14 new themes were connected to each other and to a multimedia installation set up at the casino in 2010 by Moment Factory.
As the jackpot grows, the volcano’s lava level rises and rumbling begins, fueling player excitement. When a player wins one of the top jackpots, the volcano erupts, producing spectacular visual effects on a 27-screen video wall and four video projection surfaces on the ceiling of the main gaming area.
Players enthusiastically embraced Volcan after its unveiling last summer, and SCQ and Ingenio have been highly pleased with the results, according to Parent. “This is one of the first products from our vision that has been implemented, and we’re getting fantastic comments from our customers who are really enjoying the immersive state,” she said.
Seats at the games are the first to fill when the casino opens and the last to empty at closing time, Parent added.
Casino operators know their customers also visit other casinos, she noted. Volcan helps Casino de Charlevoix differentiate itself from the competition. “We wanted to create that immersive environment that they don’t see when they visit other venues,” Parent said.
Volcan was introduced during the high summer season, and the games immediately began generating much more than house average, she said. In fact, after only 75 days, the 28 units, which represent 3 percent of the slot floor, generated an 11 percent lift, she noted.
Beyond that, the Volcan experience has fostered a new social element and atmosphere at Casino de Charlevoix, Parent said. “Usually when customers play a game and they win, no one knows. Now it’s like a social event. They’re celebrating together.”
The multimedia experience has done just what SCQ officials hoped-upped the entertainment quotient, not only at the Volcan games, but also throughout the casino. “You have the trembling of the volcano when it starts to rise, and it’s not just the image, it’s also the audio effects that create excitement among the players,” Parent said.
It’s only the beginning. “For us, it’s a stepping stone to move forward,” Parent added.
Plans are in the works to offer similar immersive experiences at two sister casinos in Québec, Casino de Montréal and Casino du Lac-Leamy.
Volcan also has proved a positive step for GSA’s G2S-the landmark use of G2S is getting noticed, as it produces tangible results and benefits.
“I think it’s a big step for the industry,” SCQ’s Santerre said. In the past, standards have been something that the industry talks a lot about. “We see them on paper, but we don’t necessarily see it happening,” he added. “The great satisfaction at Loto- Québec is that we’re making it happen. We’re very proud of that.”
Ristine noted the Ingenio application demonstrates the true power of the G2S standard to help casino operators and gaming developers unlock innovation. “The interesting thing about G2S is that once the game supports the protocol, it becomes easy to write applications for a casino or even to have the casino write the applications that work with the games directly,” Ristine said.