Advances in systems technology make slot tournaments easier than ever to operate and market.
Good riddance to the old days of slot tournament planning—when machines needed to be roped off, when only outdated games could be used, when gaming operators had to pay labor costs to get their tournament machines grouped and wired, and so on. Today, tournament directors are instead saying hello to new systems technologies that simplify and streamline the entire slot tournament process.
Indeed, slot tournaments have evolved from the days when operators had to swap tournament programs into regular stepper machines and dedicate certain machines for staging tournaments. Technology advancements have not only alleviated manpower hours previously allotted to manage tournaments, but also allow casino operators the ability to automatically switch regular slot machines into tournament mode with the push of a button… suppliers now offer tournament games that can go in and out of tournament mode on the casino floor by switching between tournament and in-revenue mode instantly.
In the past, managing a slot tournament was more of a hands-on, resource-heavy process where machines would need to be keyed over and slot tickets would need to be entered into the machine prior to starting the tournament. Thankfully, most properties today have more advanced platforms in place that perform automatic calculations and require minimal staff involvement. As a result, the industry is now witnessing larger slot tournaments where thousands of players can compete. In fact, Everi helped Auburn, Wash.-based Muckleshoot Casino secure the Guinness World Record for “Largest Slot Machine Tournament” in 2016, an event that hosted 3,173 players.
“U.S casino operators have come to realize the benefits of the technological advancements that have made it easy to stage and manage slot tournaments,” said Nick Khin, chief commercial officer, gaming for IGT. “Coupled with the rich data sets that exist within casino management systems, and the ease of awarding tournament entries to incentivize players, the trend of using tournaments as a powerful marketing tool will continue to grow in the North American gaming market. International casino markets are also starting to realize the same benefits, and are rapidly embracing the trend.”
“Slot tournaments have remained the same throughout the years, but for the past decade, technology from several suppliers has solved many age-old challenges of hosting traditional slot tournaments, as well as offering new, entertaining play experiences that give operators a variety of options,” added Tony Alanis, senior product manager, systems, for Scientific Games.
What follows is a look at some of the key players in slot tournament technology and their current offerings to this segment of gaming, as well as what they have in store for attendees at the Global Gaming Expo (G2E) next month in Las Vegas.
Since 2006, Everi has partnered with operators to bring slot tournament play to casino patrons. The company’s TournEvent platform has evolved to a server-based system with more than 5,000 electronic gaming machines in the field at more than 400 casinos across North America. TournEvent is supported by a library of more than 20 out-of-revenue tournament (ORT) games.
Everi’s constant drive to innovate has reportedly resulted in a solution that not only provides players a premium slot tournament experience but enables operators to quickly transition to ORT play and manage their tournament with an intuitive interface. TournEvent has a number of key differentiators including best-in-class tournament operator reporting, a wide-ranging library of ORT titles including Fruit Ninja, classic three-reel themes and Pop N’ Win—an automated wild card drawing that randomly advances players to subsequent rounds.
Slot tournaments continue to be popular across the U.S. based on the company’s growing number of TournEvent platforms being deployed and its experience with Everi’s TournEvent of Champions and The Million Dollar Event, the gaming industry’s premier slot tournament featuring a championship round with more than $1 million in total cash prizes. The company’s first campaign began in 2012 with statewide tournaments in California and Washington with only 30 participating casinos and has since grown to more than 100 properties participating across the U.S. and Canada on an annual basis. The company anticipates expanding into more Canadian provinces this year including British Columbia and Manitoba.
According to Everi, flexibility and convenience—for both the player and operator—are critical to TournEvent’s success. To address this, Everi is developing a “sit and go”-style TournEvent Now feature that enables operators to offer on-the-fly tournaments via their player tracking system. With requirements set in advance by the operator, players walk up to a slot machine in-revenue mode, put in their players club card, and, if eligible, a pop-up appears asking the player if they want to play TournEvent Now. If they accept, the machine instantly converts to tournament mode and then back to revenue mode once their tournament session ends.
With TournEvent Now, operators can move thousands of players through the first round of their tournament on the player’s time, at the player’s pace and then host a traditional TournEvent final for the top scoring players.
Some of the company’s most recent additions include an automated wild card drawing feature that enables operators to perform a virtual wild card drawing at the beginning of any round to randomly advance players to subsequent rounds. Everi also integrated an automated VIP filtering feature where only select players will be automatically registered into tournaments, “find a seat helper” where machines are color coded for each player during registration, and an “on-deck” display that cycles through active, on-deck, and upcoming session player times. All of these features are built into an incredibly intuitive interface where tournament setup can be completed with just a few clicks.
Everi also has TournEvent systems deployed on some of the largest cruise lines in the world which reportedly continue to perform well, generating hectic energy and excitement that cruise line operators want to offer their guests. Just as the company does for land-based operators, it offers cruise lines more than 150 standard video titles with high and low denominations and different payouts as well as 22 unique ORT themes.
The TournEvent Now feature will be showcased at G2E. Everi booth visitors will be able to see the several new added features to TournEvent Now including an enhanced leaderboard where operators can display a leaderboard in-revenue on overhead signage and toppers so players can monitor their position amongst the tournament field.
International Game Technology PLC (IGT) continues to offer the industry its turnkey premium tournament offerings tailored to meet operators’ unique needs.
TournXtreme is IGT’s tournament product line, and it includes the company’s newest offering, the IncrediBell! Tournament solution for its dual-screen Crystal Series video cabinets, in addition to the Spin Ferno solution for its S3000 cabinet; Spin-Splosion! for the dual-screen Crystal Series video cabinets; and Ultimate X Poker Tournament for a range of upright video poker cabinets.
“We’re proud to be the only vendor in the industry offering a fully functioning tournament solution across core video, stepper and poker,” said Khin. “Operators can stage a tournament in which all their attendees get to play all three events separately, and then consolidate their scores into one score—or the property can create one tournament experience that includes all three categories. Our solutions offer unprecedented flexibility in providing unique tournament experiences to players.”
Unique to the industry, IGT’s Flexible Content Management feature gives operators the option to update game content and branding to match specific events or holidays, extending the life of a game. The company’s core and video poker game performance also sets it apart. All four TournXtreme solutions—IncrediBell!, Spin-Splosion!, Spin Ferno and Ultimate X Poker Tournament—can be quickly changed from coin-in to tournament mode, offering the benefit of both functions.
In the video category, IGT’s newly released IncrediBell! solution is a unique multi-tiered product where players take a nostalgic journey through gaming history as they progress through four levels. Each level consists of interactive features that keep players engaged in the game.
“TournXtreme is systems agnostic, meaning it can operate on any casino management systems (CMS) floor, and is fully integrated into the IGT ADVANTAGE ecosystem,” said Khin. “TournXtreme’s tournament team functionality can encourage casino players to invite and recruit friends and family to participate in the fun, expanding a casino’s player base and bolstering loyalty club membership.
“We’re committed to continuously evolving our TournXtreme tournament solution to ensure our customers benefit from the latest advancements in technology and interoperability,” Khin added. “Notably, our multi-site functionality enables operators with multiple properties to share the liquidity and customer base when running cross-property events. Additional enhancements include Player Roaming, where players are allowed to play at different sites throughout the tournament in a multi-site installation.”
In addition, IGT offers flexible Content Management, as well as Bulk Player Registration, which enables a large number of players to sign up through a single operation with a file import. Also, for session-style tournaments, Assigned Seats enables operators to designate individual seating so players can play at their favorite machines.
“IGT’s TournXtreme solution for IncrediBell!, Spin Ferno, Spin-Splosion! and Ultimate X Poker goes beyond turnkey by delivering a fully branded option, where software, games, themes, signage, and the kiosk are packaged and themed for a total tournament experience,” said Khin.
Additionally, due to the product’s many automated features, as well as its integration with IGT ADVANTAGE, these added features do not require any additional technicians and labor investment.
The company has developed unique tournament formats as part of its TournXtreme Tournament Playbook to help operators achieve one of their four key marketing objectives: acquiring new players, engaging existing players, retaining valued players and driving excitement across the entire player base.
“Our annual Spin & Sail Slot Championship promotion extends the excitement of TournXtreme tournaments to the cruise industry by enabling operators to send valued players on a free seven-day cruise aboard a Carnival Cruise Line ship,” said Khin. “Typically, operators host a series of qualifying tournament events on their properties, culminating in a final tournament that awards the cruise to a winner. Participants enjoy a VIP package including a balcony stateroom and automatic entry into the $250,000 Finale Slot Championship Tournament on the ship. This promotion continues to be extremely well-received by our customers and their players.”
To attract new players and incentivize club recruitment, IGT offers Teams and Walk Up formats. To drive engagement, the company provides Session tournaments. To spread tournament phases over multiple days to drive return visits, it offers Wild Card qualifiers. To help operators keep players on the property, or to encourage them to return regularly, IGT provides Multi-Phase tournaments. And finally, to create large-scale events that generate major excitement, it offers a Multi-Site format.
IGT’s tournament presence at G2E 2019, will include the company’s new video tournament theme based on its Cleopatra brand. In addition to being available in the traditional dual-screen format, as well as on the CrystalCurve cabinet, it’s reportedly the first tournament game in the market to be available on the portrait form factor. This innovation also includes support for seasonal content, so operators can apply graphical and audio elements to align the play experience and promotions with events such as Halloween or the Fourth of July.
Konami offers its True-Time Tournaments system-delivered tournament solution that allows players to both earn tournament entries from any machine and play tournaments on any True-Time Windowing equipped machines. Practically any touchscreen-enabled gaming device can be instantly transformed into a tournament-capable machine, and then returned back into revenue-generating game play. Everything is managed, controlled and deployed through the SYNKROS casino management system.
“Depending on a property’s unique promotional needs, True-Time Tournaments has the flexibility to deliver synchronized tournament games and on-demand tournament games to reward carded players,” said Jay Bertsch, vice president, global systems sales for Konami. “Some of our customers create dedicated sections where their players compete in synchronized tournaments, others like floor-wide events, others award entries for players to access on-demand at their convenience, and some properties will circulate through any number of these depending on the particular promotion. Both are seamlessly managed through SYNKROS and provide our customers with the flexibility to deploy either variation.”
From an on-site marketing perspective, True-Time Tournaments supports customized leaderboard displays giving casino operators the flexibility to feature their own unique branding and further optimize their promotional tournament messaging.
“Additionally, our customers with True-Time Tournaments have full access to a broad library of available tournament game themes, including Midway Madness, Hero Collection, Fruit Funds, Romancing the Reels and more, to keep promotions fresh and exciting for players,” said Bertsch.
The company noted that True-Time Tournaments is the only system-delivered tournament product on the market with multi-game capabilities. When redeeming an on-demand tournament entry at any enabled video slot machine, carded players can have the option to choose from an array of game themes. Players are given a menu of game theme options when claiming their tournament entries. This is a feature that operators can enable or disable, for any number of Konami’s available tournament themes.
“In an upgrade released earlier this year, True-Time Tournaments’ reporting and analytics were expanded to provide properties with advanced insight into results and participation down to the patron,” said Bertsch. “And because True-Time Tournaments is built into SYNKROS, all player tracking data is seamlessly captured and recorded to drive on-going business decisions.”
True-Time Tournaments gives operators a single location to configure, manage and monitor both player-on-demand and synchronized tournaments. From the Tournament Director interface within SYNKROS, they can view current scores, rankings, active players and the number of missing entries, all managed and delivered electronically to qualifying players through their loyalty account.
True-Time Tournaments has also had success across international waters through SYNKROS’ reach in the cruise industry. Certain ships cater to different clientele from around the world, so Konami outfitted True-Time Tournaments with multi-lingual capabilities to help ensure all players can enjoy the event in the languages they prefer.
G2E booth visitors of Konami can experience True-Time Tournaments in the company’s SYNKROS demo area, both on standard dual-screen cabinets and premium single-screen formats. Guests will be able to see, interact and engage firsthand with both player-facing and administrative functions.
Scientific Games currently offers DM Tournaments as part of its Elite Bonusing Suite (EBS). The company’s award-winning DM Tournaments application solves the issues of device downtime, lost revenue and all the other sacrifices that are currently made to stage a traditional slot tournament. “It is the ultimate form of community gaming and can be offered on games equipped with iVIEW DM,” said Alanis.
This player-centric tournament solution allows casinos to:
- Convert a bank of touchscreen games anywhere on the casino floor into tournament machines;
- Use integrated tools for scheduling, registration, enrollment, scoring and prize awards; and
- Streamline tournament operations using a mobile device.
With real-time leader boards on the main game screen and overhead digital media, casino operators can create frenzied competition that can increase player excitement. The video slot tournament game is played on the main game screen. Players spin the reels on the video gaming device to earn their tournament score. The score from the game is automatically uploaded to the tournament server. With nine different tournament themes, operators can keep their tournament offerings fresh.
Upon posting a tournament score, a player can view the current leader board for all eligible tournaments. The application supports abbreviations and aliases for player names to protect their privacy on public leader boards.
Scientific Games offers a DM Tournament Express application, which is a stand-alone module that can run the same tournaments without having to integrate with the casino management system.
“Tournaments Express can be installed onto any EGM that is compatible with iVIEW Display Manager with no back-end integration,” said Alanis. ‘And since there are over 200 compatible slot cabinets from over 20 different manufacturers, the casinos with Tournaments Express have incredible flexibility in deciding which games to run their tournament events on. Operators are able to switch between in-revenue and tournament mode through DM Tournaments Express.”
Scientific Games recently released three new game themes within Game Pack 3—Jackpot Party, Quick Hit Mania and MONOPOLY—for DM Tournament and DM Tournament Express.
“Jackpot Party was originally a popular slot game, equally popular as a social media casino game, then converted into a tournament game title,” said Alanis. “We also took popular slot themes such as Quick Hit and MONOPOLY and converted them into exciting new tournament themes.”
Scientific Games is currently working with a cruise line company to offer DM Tournament Express which will feature iVIEW 4K DM with multiple compatibility with several manufacturers initially and a new 4K game theme to be featured later this year at G2E.
The company also worked with Carnival and Princess Cruises last year to offer a year-long promotion across all its casino customers that culminated in a grand finale slot tournament aboard a seven-day cruise to the Caribbean. All of the qualifying slot tournament events, as well as the grand finale slot tournament, were run on Tournaments Express.