For the past decade we have witnessed technologies from several suppliers solve the challenges of hosting traditional slot tournaments, as well as give operators a variety of new revenue-generating and marketing options.
Undoubtedly, managing a slot tournament was more of a hands-on and time-consuming process in the past. But today more and more gaming properties are integrating advanced tournament platforms that perform automatic calculations, require minimal staff involvement and can provide promotional functionalities, which is resulting in more frequent and larger slot tournaments.
And the innovation in slot tournament technology show no sign abating anytime soon. “Gaming suppliers will continue to raise the bar on the performance of tournaments,” said Tony Alanis, senior product manager for systems at Scientific Games.
A primary reason for this continued system development: despite sharing operational commonalities, not all slot tournaments are alike. “The similarities and differences in slot tournaments on a regional basis include obvious things like size of the casino property, but also the types of players who frequent the property and their average bankroll,” added Loren Rosenberg, vice president, product and market strategy, at Everi.
Indeed, casinos in the U.S. have adopted several unique strategies for leveraging slot tournaments as marketing tools. “For properties that appeal to locals, one of the most common strategies is to host recurring tournaments on certain days of the week or month when occupancy is low—this is aimed at increasing attendance at the property,” said Nick Khin, chief commercial officer, gaming at IGT.
However, let’s not forget about the properties that entertain a high percentage of out-of-town visitors whose operators can leverage tournaments such as the “big event” to draw attention on special occasions in an effort to bring players back to their property for a return visit, Khin added.
Slot system providers expect operator desire for more sophisticated marketing tools will drive tournament technology going forward. “Slot tournaments have grown because they possess a built-in element of continuing engagement that is uniquely fulfilling to players over time,” said Jay Bertsch, vice president, global systems sales at Konami Gaming. “In the future, we could see efforts toward continuing engagement spill into additional areas of connection, entertainment and functionality.”
“Today and in the future, having a good tournament solution is a lasting marketing investment, Alanis added. “With the proven longevity of tournament solutions, having one that is flexible and adaptable to a slot floor without forcing sacrifices to the optimal strategy over time is very important.”
What follows is an update on the latest tournament technology advances from some of the gaming industry’s leading slot system providers:
Since 2006, Everi has partnered with operators to bring slot tournament play to 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.
“Our commitment to innovation has 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,” said Rosenberg. “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, Pop N’ Win and an automated wild card drawing that randomly advances players to subsequent rounds.”
To address flexibility and convenience for both the player and operator, Everi recently released its “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 can 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 final round for top-scoring players,” said Rosenberg. “This is a unique way to get players back into the casino and potentially pick up some new slot tournament fans.”
Some of the most recent additions in slot tournament technology for Everi include an automated wild card drawing feature that enables operators to perform virtual wild card drawing at the beginning of any round to randomly advance players to subsequent rounds. The company also integrated an automated VIP filtering feature where only select players will be automatically registered into tournaments, a “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.
“Our TournEvent Now feature includes an enhanced leaderboard where operators can display an in-revenue leaderboard on overhead signage and toppers so players can monitor their position amongst the tournament field,” said Rosenberg. “The Series Tournament feature provides operators flexibility, enabling them to create multiple tournaments with different configurations then run them in a series with players advancing from different tournaments. All of these features are built into an intuitive interface where tournament setup can be completed with just a few clicks.”
Another new tournament technology that is gaining in popularity is Electric Diamond, with its fast-paced play that features random Pop Frenzy modes where players pop balloons to increase their point totals. Electric Diamond is also the same title the company has used as part of its TournEvent of Champions The Million Dollar Event.
“We believe the TournEvent platform builds excitement within the casino and keeps players engaged with promotions offered while keeping them at the casino to boost in-revenue play across the floor,” said Rosenberg. “Operators are incorporating slot tournaments into themed weekly or monthly standing events such as senior day, holidays, casino anniversaries, new member events and military nights, as examples.”
IGT’s TournXtreme is a turnkey premium tournament offering tailored to meet operators’ unique needs. This tournament product line includes the company’s extensive library of video tournament titles, including SpinSplosion, IncrediBell!, and Cleopatra Tournament, in addition to the Spin Ferno solution for IGT’s S3000 cabinet, as well as Ultimate X Poker Tournament and Super Times Pay Tournament available for a range of video poker cabinets.
“We’re in a unique position because we’re 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.”
“Our powerful core and video poker game performance also sets us apart,” Khin added. “All TournXtreme solutions across all content segments (video, stepper and poker) can be quickly changed from coin-in to tournament mode, offering the benefit of both functions. Our proven game library features strong performance histories in coin-in mode, so players engaged by our popular titles are primed for tournament play.”
Looking specifically at what differentiates IGT in the video category, the company’s newly released IncrediBell! solution is a multi-tiered product where players can take a nostalgic journey through gaming history as they progress through four levels. Each level consists of interactive features designed to keep players engaged.
TournXtreme can also operate on any casino management systems (CMS) floor, a benefit referred to as “systems agnostic” at IGT, and it is fully integrated into the IGT ADVANTAGE ecosystem.
“Our strategy is focused on creating a wide library of compelling tournament titles,” said Khin. “We’ve been building new and original titles like Spin Ferno and IncrediBell! from the ground up to provide an innovative and interactive experience for tournament players, while at the same time leveraging our deep portfolio of proven slot games, such as Cleopatra, to create tournament titles that provide a more ‘traditional’ tournament experience and leverage the popularity of the original.”
To ensure its customers benefit from the latest advancements in technology and interoperability, IGT is reportedly continuously evolving its TournXtreme tournament solution. Notably, the company’s 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, we offer 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, saving considerable time,” said Khin. “And finally, for session-style tournaments, Assigned Seats enable operators to designate individual seating so players can play at their favorite machines.”
TournXtreme’s tournament team functionality can expand a casino’s player base and strengthen loyalty club membership by encouraging casino players to invite and recruit friends and family to participate in the fun. 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.
“We’ve developed unique tournament formats as part of our 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,” said Khin. “To attract new players and incentivize club recruitment, we offer Teams and Walk Up formats. To drive engagement, we provide Session tournaments. To spread tournament phases over multiple days to drive return visits, we offer Wild Card qualifiers. To help operators keep players on the property, or to encourage them to return regularly, we provide Multi-Phase tournaments. And finally, to create large-scale events that generate major excitement, we offer a Multi-Site format.”
Konami’s True-Time Tournaments is a 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 Bertsch. “Some of our customers create dedicated sections where their players compete in synchronized tournaments, others like floorwide 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 so operators have the flexibility to feature their own customized branding and further optimize their promotional tournament messaging. Leaderboards help reinforce participation by highlighting top participants, while encouraging other players to join.
“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.
True-Time Tournaments also offers player 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, empowering them with an additional element of control and excitement when they achieve targeted sales and marketing rewards at the property. This is a feature that operators can enable or disable, for any number of Konami’s available tournament themes.
“We have customers that leverage True-Time Tournaments across dedicated machines during select time periods, in order to generate special attention and excitement around a given promotion,” said Bertsch. “The benefit of SYNKROS tournaments is that after these scheduled-time periods, the games are back in play immediately, to seamlessly convert crowds into further paid engagement. True-Time Tournaments empowers property staff to configure, manage, schedule, and monitor these synchronized tournaments, with the ability to flexibly define start times, end times, game lengths, invitation cut-off periods and player qualifying criteria, at a fraction of the hardware and staffing requirements of traditional dedicated tournament machines.”
Scientific Games currently offers DM Tournaments as part of its Elite Bonusing Suite (EBS). The DM Tournaments application reportedly 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 a gaming 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 leaderboards on the main game screen and overhead digital media, operators can create frenzied competition that can increase player excitement. The slot tournament game is played on the main game screen. Players spin the reels on the gaming device to earn their tournament score. The score from the game is automatically uploaded to the tournament server. With 11 different tournament themes, operators can keep their tournament offerings fresh.
“Unusable gaming device banks dedicated to an upcoming tournament will be a thing of the past,” said Alanis. “You can literally configure machines throughout the casino. Immediately after the tournament event, the machines can instantly revert to their revenue-producing base games.”
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.
DM Tournament Express application is a standalone 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. 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 the DM Tournaments Express application.
“Through the years, Scientific Games has provided the most popular game titles to players within DM Tournaments,” said Alanis. “Quick Hit and Hot Shot were huge success stories with casino operators previously. We followed those game titles with the creation of Monopoly Tournament. Last year, we promoted Monopoly Cruise for Cash, then more than 400 participants from all over the world and the U.S. participated in the first Monopoly Cruise for Cash finale cruise last December aboard Regal Princess.
“We continue to grow our DM Tournament library and have recently launched Jin Ji Bao Xi Tournament, which is one of our most popular video game titles within the market.”
In partnership with MSC Cruises, Scientific Games has created a promotional opportunity for casino operators called the Jin Ji Bao Xi Cruise for Cash. In participating casinos, players of Jin Ji Bao Xi can have the opportunity to win game-themed merchandise, as well as a free cruise on board the MSC Grandiosa. Winners of the free cruise will also participant in an onboard slot tournament.
Scientific Games also 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 to further enhance SG’s tournament solution. Since Jin Ji Bao Xi was released in Asia and Australia, it has already proven to be a smash hit, attaining impressive sales and performance numbers. Scientific Games followed this up with recently releasing Jin Ji Bao Xi for DM Tournament and DM Tournament Express for 4K and non-4K machines.”
“Scientific Games will continue invest in SG’s tournament game library and DM Compatibility to better prepare operators that bring on newer cabinets to provide tournaments,” Alanis added.