US 20060035705 A1
A gaming system, comprising a plurality of gaming machines operating over a network, includes a bonus server for providing a promotion implementing a mystery award. The method for delivering a mystery award to a player over the computer gaming network comprises determining an award is to be delivered. A group of players eligible for the determined award is selected and notified of their eligibility to win the award. A portion of the group is then eliminated, thereby resulting in remaining eligible members. The eliminated members are notified of their elimination and the remaining eligible members are again eliminated from eligibility in subsequent steps until one or more award winners are selected. The one or more award winners are awarded the mystery award, and the eliminated players can be awarded a celebration (e.g. consolation) prize.
1. A method for delivering an award to a player over a computer gaming network, comprising:
determining an award is to be delivered;
selecting a group of players eligible for the determined award;
notifying the selected group of their eligibility;
eliminating a portion of the group from eligibility;
notifying the eliminated portion of the group that they have been eliminated;
continuing to eliminate portions of the group from eligibility until a group of award winners is selected.
2. The method of
3. The method of
4. The method of
awarding a first celebration prize to a first eliminated portion of the group; and
awarding a second celebration prize to a second eliminated portion of the group.
5. The method of
6. The method of
7. The method of
8. The method of
9. A method of
10. A method for implementing a promotion within a gaming machine network comprising a plurality of gaming machines and a promotions server coupled to the gaming machines over the network, the method comprising:
allowing play to occur on the plurality of gaming machines;
detecting at the promotions server a trigger condition and transmitting through the network responsive to the detected trigger condition a notification signal to selected gaming machines forming an eligible group;
after transmitting the notification signal, transmitting an elimination signal through the network to a selected number of the eligible group machines and eliminating the selected number from the eligible group;
repeating the step of transmitting the elimination signal for a next selected number of the eligible group machines until only one or more non-eliminated, award winning machines remain from the original eligible group; and
providing an award at the one or more award winning machines.
11. The method of
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This application claims the benefit from U.S. Provisional Patent Application No. 60/600,610 filed Aug. 10, 2004, whose contents are incorporated herein for all purposes.
1. Field of the Invention
This disclosure relates to networks of gaming devices, and, more particularly, to providing systems and methods for delivering awards to a player of a networked gaming device.
2. Description of the Prior Art
Gaming networks are communication networks of interconnected gaming devices. Typically, gaming networks include a collection of gaming devices, or EGMs (Electronic Gaming Machines) that are linked to a central server. As the EGMs are played, players win games, bonuses, and awards. Typically any payment to the player is made to a credit meter on the EGM, but payment can also be made in other ways as is known in the art.
One problem that exists in modern gaming networks is that prizes or payments can be made “automatically” without the player knowing in advance that a prize will be awarded. In some cases, players can be awarded a prize without even realizing that they have won such a prize. Accordingly, the anticipation of winning the prize is seriously curtailed and reduces both the players enjoyment of the EGM and the chance that the player with continue to play the EGM in the future.
Embodiments of the invention address these and other deficiencies in the prior art.
The description may be best understood by reading the disclosure with reference to the accompanying drawings.
Embodiments of the invention are directed to delivering winnings, bonuses, awards, prizes, comps, or other benefits to players of gaming devices. Delivering the awards using embodiments of the invention creates anticipation and excitement for players, even if they do not ultimately win the main prize. Additionally, celebration or consolation prizes can be awarded or delivered in a manner that promotes excitement and repeat play.
As mentioned above, embodiments of the invention operate in conjunction with a gaming network. An example modem gaming network is described in U.S. Pat. No. 5,655,961, assigned to the assignee of the present invention, the teachings of which are incorporated herein in their entirety for all purposes. Embodiments of the invention are also operable on a computer gaming network such as that illustrated in
Each bank is controlled by a bank controller 30, which is coupled to each EGM 10 by a communication mechanism 12. The communication mechanism 12 can be a cable or secure wireless network. The bank controller 30 facilitates data communication between the gaming devices 10 in its associated bank and the other components on the-gaming network 5. In some embodiments, the bank controller 30 need not be present, and the EGMs 10 communicate directly with the other portions of the gaming network 5.
Configuration data for the gaming network 5 is stored in one or more network data repository, such as repositories 61, 67, and 69. In some embodiments, the data repositories 61, 67, and 69 are made of battery backed-up non-volatile SRAM (Static Random Access Memory), which provides dual advantages of having extremely fast data input and output, and having a power source that is independent from the network 5 or the gaming devices 10. The data repositories 61, 67, and 69 may also be mirrored, i.e., duplicate copies are made in real-time. This prevents data from being lost if one of the battery sources should fail or other catastrophic event. Data is stored in the data repositories 61, 67, and 69 using CRCs (Cyclic Redundancy Checks) and timestamps to ensure the data is valid and non-corrupt.
Configuration data is created at a configuration workstation 44 and stored in the data repositories 61, 67, and 69. Configuration data includes message data for players as well as for promotions such as bonuses. Player message data is stored in the data repository 61, where it can be accessed by a player server 60. Player message data can include welcoming messages, card-in/card-out messages, and special messages about current promotions, for instance. The player server 60 reads the message data from the data repository 61 and sends a properly formatted message back to the bank controllers 30 and EGMs 10. These player messages may be displayed on a screen 32 for an entire bank, or may be shown on a screen directly mounted to the EGM 10 (not shown).
Other configuration data created at the configuration workstation 44 and stored in the data repositories 61, 67, and 69 includes casino configuration data, such as identification of each EGM 10 on a casino floor. Additional parameters stored in the data repository 67, 69 are parameters used in promotions, such as bonus promotions. These parameters include such items as what EGMs 10 are included in the promotion, how to fund a bonus, i.e., if a bonus is funded by a portion of the coin-in amount of the EGMs 10, whether a paid bonus is to be taxed or un-taxed, and other parameters.
As players play the EGMs 10 in the gaming network 5, the EGMs send data from their coin meters, or meter values. One or more bonus server 66 and/or promotion server 68 stores these meter values, or summaries of the meter values, in its associated data repository 67. The servers 66, 68 can also operate based on the present and stored meter values to determine an amount of money being wagered on the EGMs in near real-time. The servers 66, 68 can use the amount of money being wagered to calculate bonus pools that are funded as a percentage of the coin-in of participating EGMs 10. For instance, the servers 66, 68 can calculate a present amount of a bonus pool that is funded at one-half of one percent of the coin-in for the participating EGMs 10. An example of bonuses that can be operated from the bonus server 66 includes LUCKY COIN and progressive bonuses, for example.
Of course, the servers 60, 66, and 68 could be embodied in a single device, or in other configurations, and do not have to appear in
As data is generated by the EGMs 10, data is passed through communication hardware, such as Ethernet hubs 46, and a concentrator 48. Of course, switches or bridges could also be used. The concentrator 48 is also coupled to a translator 50, which includes a compatibility buffer so that the data from the EGMs 10 can be used by a server cluster 56 (
The server cluster 56 (
The server cluster 56 is attached to and manages several databases, such as a slot accounting database 90, a patron management database 92, a ticket wizard database 94, a “Cage Credit and Table Games” (CCTG) database 96, a player tracking database 98, and a cashless database 99. These databases are collectively referred to as the databases 100. Of course these databases 100 are only exemplary, and more or fewer databases can be part of the gaming network 5. In some embodiments, particular servers in the server cluster 56 manage a single database. For example, a single server in the server cluster 56 may manage the slot accounting database 90, while another server manages the patron management database 92. Such implementation details are well within the expertise of one skilled in the art. However, for ease of illustration,
In operation, the slot accounting database 90 receives and stores statistical and financial information about the EGMs, such as dates, times, totals, game outcomes, etc. The patron management database 92 stores information regarding identified players, such as how often and which games they play, how often they stay in the casino, their total loyalty points, past awards, preferences, etc. The ticket wizard database 94 stores data about tickets that are issued by the EGMs, such as payouts and cash out tickets, as well as promotional tickets.
The CCTG database 96 stores information about non-EGM 10 data in a casino. That data is typically generated by a client station (not shown) coupled to one of the bank controllers 30. The client station can be located in a casino cage or at a table game, for instance, and data generated by the client station is forwarded to the CCTG database 96 where it is stored. For example, data such as when and how many chips a customer buys, when a customer creates or pays off markers, when a customer cashes checks, etc. is stored in the CCTG database 96.
The player tracking database 98 is a subset database of the patron management database 92, and is used when data retrieval speed is important, such as for real time promotions and bonusing. The cashless database 99 stores information about payment options other than bills, coins, and tokens.
Application clients 80 and 82 couple to the server cluster 56, and can retrieve data from any or all of the databases 100. Application programs run on an application client 80, 82 to provide users information about the gaming network 5 and the casino in which the network is established and to cause functions to operate on the gaming network 5. An example application client 80 could include, for instance, an accounting server that allows queries and provides reports on financial and statistical information on single or groups of EGMs 10.
A data interface 88 presents a uniform interface to other applications and servers (not shown), and grants access to retrieve data from the databases 100. Typically these other clients or servers would not be controlled by the same entity that provides the other components of the gaming network 5, and therefore the data interface 88 grants only guarded access to the databases 100. Other components of the gaming network 5 of
Also shown in
The wireless servers 130 are distributed around the gaming floor 118 so as to cover as much of the gaming floor 118 with the RF signals as possible. In some instances, areas of the gaming floor 118 are covered with RF signals from more than one wireless server 130. In such a case, the wireless devices 140 typically automatically establish communication with the wireless server 130 that is nearest the particular wireless device 140.
The wireless servers 130 may be separated from the gaming network 5 by a firewall 150. A firewall is hardware and software operating to protect resources of a network. Specifically, the firewall 150 can be a tunneling firewall that encapsulates and encrypts data packets traveling between the wireless servers 130 and the firewall 150. An application server 110 can be used in conjunction with the wireless servers 130 on the game floor 118. Additionally, a switch 160 could be used to partition particular IP (Internet Protocol) or other addresses so the partitioned addresses are only available by the wireless servers 130, or the wireless devices 140 that couple to the wireless servers 130. Although illustrated outside of the gaming floor 118, the firewall 150, server 110, and switch 160 could all also be within the gaming floor 118. Their physical location is unimportant.
With reference back to
The communication hub 102 collects data from the floor 118 as “events” when they happen and when they are reported by, for example, an EGM 10. Events include, for example, doors to the EGMs 10 being opened, jackpots or other large amounts being awarded, etc. The event monitor 104 is connected between the connection hub 102 and the server cluster 56. In operation, the event monitor 104 combines live data from the communication hub 102 with historical data from one or more of the databases 100, and generates warnings, indications, and signals for someone monitoring the gaming network 5. For instance, the event monitor 104 will create a warning if the door to a particular EGM 10 is opened but no employee identification card has been inserted in that EGM 10.
The gaming device 10 also includes one or more coin slots 322 for accepting coins or tokens. An internal hopper 324 temporarily stores coins or tokens for later payment to the player through a payout bin 328, if the player chooses to cash out in such a manner. Bills can also be stored in a separate hopper, and dispensed to the player through the bill acceptor 320 or through another bill slot 326 in the hopper 324, similar to an ATM machine.
A set of game electronics 315 manages the central operations of the gaming device 10. For example, the game electronics 315 counts the monetary value input into the game 10, and tracks and stores values for this and other data items. The game electronics 315 also control the game play of the gaming device 10, such as by accepting user input from various buttons (not shown) to cause credits to be wagered, as well as cause motors to spin the game wheels, speakers to generate sound, and circuits to generate lights or video signals. The game electronics 315 may be a main board that interfaces with various controller boards that control specific functions in the gaming device 10, or may control the various devices directly.
One of the items controlled by the game electronics 315 is an internal game printer 330. The game printer 330 can be of any type known in the art, such as impact, inkjet, thermal, laser, and can be a color printer or standard black and white. Even if the game printer 330 is only capable of printing in a single color, cardstock or paper used by the printer could be pre-printed in color.
The game printer 330 is used for “cashing out” machine credits when a player wants to end game play or to move to another machine. A player cashes out by selecting appropriate buttons on the gaming device 10, and then by indicating if he or she wants to be paid out in cash or in voucher. If the player desires to be cashed out in cash, bills can be ejected through the bill acceptor 320 or bill slot 326 of the internal hopper 324, or coins or tokens can drop from the hopper 324 into the payout bin 328. If the player wishes to be cashed out with a voucher or ticket, such a voucher can be printed by the game printer 330. The voucher can then be taken to a casino attendant to be converted to cash, or could be inserted into the bill acceptor 320 of another gaming device 10, which validates the voucher and transfers the value to the credit meter of the new game.
In addition to printing tickets related to game and bonus functions, such as a cash out voucher, the game printer 330 can print tickets for player awards as well, as discussed below.
The gaming device 10 also includes game-mounted components of a player tracking system. The components are generally shown affixed to a frame 340, which is mounted to the gaming device 10. Although components of the tracking system interact with the gaming device 10, it is a separate system from the gaming device.
The player tracking system includes a set of electronic inputs and outputs for interfacing with the player. For example, in the gaming device shown in
The EGM 10 can also include a system printer 354 and speakers 356 mounted to the frame 40 of the player tracking system. The system printer 354 and speakers 356 can also be coupled to and managed by the bonus engine 350. The system printer 354 works in conjunction with the game printer 330 in that the system printer 354 can print the awards, while the game printer 330 can print the traditional game cash out vouchers. The speakers 356 can be made to produce sounds or music by the bonus engine 350. In other embodiments of the invention, components of the tracking system can be integrated with or controlled by the game electronics 315, or other components of the gaming network 5.
Embodiments of the invention use the above-described gaming network, or similar networks, to deliver winnings, promotions, benefits, awards, prizes, bonuses, and/or comps, etc. to a player of one of the EGMs 10. For brevity, this disclosure refers to “awards,” but the term is meant to be defined broadly as any type of benefit delivered to or available to a player.
In one example embodiment, when the network determines to deliver an award, players other than the player who won the award are systematically “eliminated” from winning the award. This builds excitement for the players who remain eligible for the award. For example, 100 players on a casino floor could be divided into equal or non-equal groups and sequentially and/or systematically “eliminated” from eligibility. In this example, the 100 players could be notified that they are eligible to receive an award, such as by notifying them on the EGM 10 or a communication device coupled to the EGM. In one embodiment a display on the EGM 10 could display a notification message and/or speakers at the EGM could indicate to the player that they are eligible for such an award. All of the players eligible for the award could have a similar display. Once the players have been notified of the possibility of such an award, non-winning players could be “eliminated” by showing a non-winning message on the display, and/or sounding a particular audio notification over the speakers. In one example, the network could “eliminate” 10 players every 30 seconds. The non-eliminated players could enjoy the anticipation of winning the award the longer they stayed “in” and were not eliminated. Additionally, celebration prizes could be awarded to players who were eliminated. Even further, the celebration prizes could increase in value the longer the players were eligible for the prizes. For instance, if players made it to the 7 th “round” of eligibility, they could receive a celebration prize having a higher value than players eliminated in the first round. Players continue to be eliminated until the player or players who won the ultimate or highest award were notified of their award.
Rules for award eligibility could be based on a number of factors, such as whether the player was identified by a player tracking card, an amount of theoretical or actual win/loss, recency of play, frequency of player's visits to a casino, type of games played on an EGM 10, demographics, interests, and/or historical behavior, for example. Further, eligibility could be based by specific game type, physical area of a game floor, denomination, etc.
The total population of eligible players could be divided up in any number of ways. Once divided, a pay table, pool value, multiple last bet, and/or a fixed amount could be associated with awarding an award and a celebration award. Award pools can be funded in a number of ways, such as a percentage of coin in, percentage of coin out, a percentage of coins wagered, a percentage of player theoretical win or loss, or a percentage of player actual win or loss, for example. Other mechanisms for funding include a fixed amount, a fixed value amount per unit time, and a fixed amount per group of players or machines.
In some embodiments, the level of the award pool is also the trigger value, such as by delivering the award (or awards) after the award pool has reached a certain value. Other trigger values can include: specific game outcome, sets of game outcomes, consecutive game outcomes, “x” outcomes in “y” tries, outcome sets per unit time, outcomes relative to other players, for example. Player behaviors can also trigger events, such as number of points earned, win/loss per unit time, visit frequency, handle per trip, handle per unit time, and continuous play, for instance. Still other triggers can be random, such as “Lucky Coin,” “Lucky Time,” and electronic drawings. Such triggers can initiate a promotion, such as, after such a promotion has been triggered, groups of players are notified of their potential win and are eliminated over time until one of the players actually wins.
Informing players of the rules and progress of the above-described awards can be through any mechanism in the gaming network 5. For instance, sign 32 and sound 34 displays located near banks 20, 22, and 24 of the gaming network may inform players of the existence and progress of the award promotions. Additionally, the touch screen 52 of
In other embodiments of the invention, celebration awards can be divided into separate categories. For instance, there may be multiple types (or levels) of celebration categories. Further, there can be different numbers of each level of celebration awards. For example, there may be eight categories of celebration awards, with 100 celebration awards in the first category, and 10 celebration awards in the remaining seven categories. Each category of award could have a different monetary amount, with the first category being a $10 instant credit, the second category a $20 instant credit, and so on. Further, different categories can be different types of award, in different amounts. In such an example, the first category could be a $10 machine credit, the second category a $30 return credit, and the last category a $100 restaurant voucher.
A player could be awarded any of the particular categories based on one or more of a number of factors. For instance, if there were ten categories of celebration awards, a particular player could be awarded one of the ten types at random. Or, the particular celebration awarded to the player could be based on some data stored in the player history in one of the databases 100 of
In announcing winners, winners can be determined and/or announced by category. As described above, announcements may be made from the sound devices 34 coupled to the bank controllers 30 (
Celebration prizes could be funded in a number of different ways. For example, the celebration prizes could be pre-funded by an even or pro-rata distribution of the pool amongst eligible players. Using this method, the funding pool would accrue as percentage of coin in, coin out, etc. Upon a winning event, i.e., being selected to win a celebration award, the pool would be distributed amongst eligible players according to a predefined algorithm. For a single award value, the accumulated pool could simply be divided evenly amongst all eligible players. When multiple categories of awards are being distributed, such as described above, the award pool could be distributed in a pro-rata share amongst prize categories. Several methods of this division are possible: For example, assume there are three available prize categories, 1×, 3×, and 5×, where the 5× category gets a prize that is 5 times the 1× category, and the 3× category gets a prize 3 times the 1× category. The number of players in each category can be determined at random, determined by historical play information, or can be determined as predefined percentages of the total population of eligible players. For example: 10% of total population could be assigned to the 5× winner category, 80% assigned to the 3× winner category and 10% assigned to the 1× winner category. If not enough funds have been collected to pay all of the awards, actual payment could be delayed until a future time when adequate funds have been collected. Other substitutions could also be made, such as awarding the selected players with a discount on future play, or a complementary item, and not awarding anything from the accumulated pool. Payments could also be paid to cashable or non-cashable personal wagering accounts. This would resolve an issue of making payments in units less then the minimum denomination of the machine being played
In another method to fund awards, a pool can be accrued that has a prize award structure that consists of a single prize value for all, i.e., every selected player is awarded the same amount, or multiple prize levels of differing values can be awarded. The number of players in each award category could be determined at random or from pre-stored historical personal play history. In this funding mechanism, the total award amount that must be paid is compared to an accumulated pool amount. If the award amount exceeds pool amount, then no prizes may be awarded, and the pool can be rolled over into a next award cycle.
In a process 420, players are notified of their potential for winning the award, such as by producing a message on the touch screen display 352 of
In a process 430, some of the eligible players are eliminated from eligibility, i.e., they were not selected to win the major award. However, a process 440 determines if the eliminated players are to be paid a celebration award. If so, the celebration award is paid in the process 450.
Next, a process 460 determines if all non-winning players have been eliminated and, if not, the flow 400 loops again to notify the eligible players in the process 420. This may include generating a new communication, such as informing the player that they remain eligible while 20 previously players have been eliminated.
The flow 400 then continues eliminating players, and, if desired, paying them celebration awards in the process 450. Not all celebration awards need be the same amount, and the awards could increase each time players are eliminated.
Finally, after all of the non-winners have been eliminated, in the process 460, the winner or winners are notified of their win, and the awards made in process 470. The awards may be paid directly to the EGM 10 credit meter, produced as a ticket voucher, or paid in any typical manner.
Although examples of machines and processes have been described herein, nothing prevents embodiments of this invention from working with other types of machines and processes. Implementation of the award payments is straightforward in light of the above description. As always, implementation details are left to the system designer. The specific circuits, functions, and procedures used to securely access data from the gaming network may be implemented in any way, with any components, without deviating from the spirit of the invention.
Thus, although particular embodiments have been described, it is not intended that such specific references be considered as limitations upon the scope of this invention, but rather the scope is determined by the following claims and their equivalents.