Cath Burns, Managing Director and Vice President of Asia-Pacific for Bally Technologies, discusses the power and potential of the Elite Bonusing Suite™
What makes the iPhone so much more than an Internet-enabled mobile device is the ever-growing array of empowering apps available to its users. One could almost be forgiven for thinking “app” is short for Apple. Although many similar apps can be downloaded to other smart-phone platforms, the iPhone got there first, and its first-mover advantage will keep it well ahead of the pack for the foreseeable future.
The apps available on Bally Technologies’ Elite Bonusing Suite™ similarly position the company’s iVIEW Display Manager™ (DM) as the dominant platform for casino operators to deliver content to players through gaming machines.
The iVIEW DM is an intelligent controller that enables operators to present system and marketing messages on the main game screen, the top game display, and even the overhead display with picture-in-picture capability. The systems-driven content that can be delivered via iVIEW DM includes player account information, Bally CoolSign® media content, and directed marketing messages. The iVIEW DM can essentially turn almost any slot machine that has a video display using industry-standard protocols into a new delivery system for customized marketing at the point-of-play.
Two important features have given the iVIEW DM a clear early lead over its biggest rival in the in-game player-user-interface space; Service Window from International Game Technology (IGT).
Firstly, the iVIEW DM can run on any slot machine, regardless of the manufacturer. “As long as it’s got a touch screen, you can put DM on it,” said Bally Technologies’ Managing Director and Vice President of Asia-Pacific Cath Burns. The iVIEW DM can also be installed on steppers that have touch-enabled top-box monitors. IGT, by contrast, went for a “very proprietary philosophy” with Service Window, explains Ms Burns. “They wanted to drive games sales. They said you’ve got to buy new games, because it’s only available on their games. We viewed it differently. Our view was that our customers had already invested in technology—made their investment in games—and they shouldn’t have to throw out all that investment. We wanted a technology that Is compatible with the game; that offers additional opportunity to generate revenue; improves the player experience, and adds value.”
The other vital difference is that iVIEW DM relays content through the iVIEW processor rather than the game processor, which would require separate regulatory approvals and complex development and integration efforts. The iVIEW DM thus enables game and systems content on the same display without interrupting game play, whereas Service Window runs through the game processor, which some sources argue could impair game performance.
With iVIEW DM having been installed at multiple properties around the world, Bally’s focus has now shifted to creating killer apps for the platform. As Ms Burns explains: “Now that DM has been rolled out into the field—and with all new products, there’s a period of stabilising and making sure it does what it’s supposed to do—now that we’ve done that, it’s about adding the applications. That’s what takes it to the next level.”
The apps are driven by the Elite Bonusing Suite, which, when used in conjunction with the iVIEW DM (or the small LCD iVIEW smart-screen retrofitted to machines without touch screens), enables floor-wide bonusing events at each gaming machine on the casino floor (as opposed to the bank-by-bank bonusing events offered by most competitors). U-Spin™ bonusing, slot tournaments, virtual-racing events, and dynamic random bonusing are just a few of the interactive applications within the Elite Bonusing Suite.
The Elite Bonusing Suite currently features nine apps, and Ms Burns demonstrated three of them to Inside Asian Gaming—namely, Virtual Racing, DM Tournaments, and U-Spin Bonusing.
Virtual Racing: Last July, Barona Resort & Casino in southern California launched a floor-wide “Off to the Races” virtual-racing promotion on all 2,000 of the slot machines on its floor using iVIEW, the Elite Bonusing Suite, and Bally’s CoolSign media-management system. During the month-long promotion, qualified carded slot players received notification of the bonus event on their slot machines and were given the option to touch and choose an animated horse. They received a prize from the casino whether they chose the winning horse or the last-place finisher. “This promotion is the first event ever where 2,000 devices and more than 50 displays were all synchronized for a floorwide community gaming experience,” said Mike Murphy, Barona’s Vice President of Technology. “Because our customers had to earn 100 points to be eligible to even participate, it helped generate revenue and increased the percentage of carded play. Plus, the interactivity and ability for players to choose their horse to cheer for definitely added a feeling of excitement and anticipation on our floor. ‘Off to the Races’ has been, by far, our most successful casino promotion.”
The Virtual Racing app is configurable according to the operator’s needs, and variations on the theme could include virtual car, dog, or even pig racing.
• DM Tournaments: Using the DM Tournaments app, casino operators can take a given selection of slot machines on the floor, and using a central console, convert them from regular play mode to tournament mode.
Slot tournaments are among the most effective casino promotions. Currently, in order to run them, casinos need to either set aside a section of slot machines, or switch out chips in the machines they want to use. With DM Tournaments, however, “you can run tournaments as often as you want and on whatever games you want,” says Ms Burns. Whereas virtual races can run on either the iVIEW DM or iVIEW SmartScreen, DM Tournaments can only run on touchscreen machines capable of running iVIEW DM, since tournaments need a full game screen.
• U-Spin Bonusing: This second-chance-to-win promotion utilises Bally’s U-Spin™ gesture-control play mechanic, first introduced on the highly successful Cash Spin game, which is now being rolled out in Macau. During U-Spin bonus sequences, the player gets to touch the screen and spin a virtual wheel, with a chance to win marketing dollars.
All the Elite Bonusing Suite applications are run via a central console using standardised intuitive controls. “From the way you schedule it to the way you assign prizes, you only have to teach the marketing person once. Just like the menus in Microsoft Office. It’s File and Save and all that. It’s all integrated,” Ms Burns said.
The applications can also be used in conjunction with CoolSign, which offers an integrated way of generating and managing digital messages to customers, also through a central console. The messages can be delivered to patrons via many different media, including overhead electronic signs on casino floors, in-room television, and outdoor advertising. Crucially, CoolSign also has a direct interface with the iVIEW displays. As a result, casino management can beam marketing and other messages direct to consumers while they’re playing games.
Bally is the global leader in slot and casino management systems, and has continued to grow its market share in recent years. The addition of these new technology offerings to Bally’s product range “makes us a fully integrated solution across a casino floor,” says Ms Burns. “Whether it’s our casino management systems, slot management systems, TableView™ (our table management system), Iview Display Manager, CoolSign, or Bally Business Intelligence™; the foundation’s there. Now it’s just a matter of adding to it and helping casinos maximise revenue, stay, play—whatever the goal is.
Two hot new games currently being rolled out by Bally in Macau are Cash Spin™ and the Chinese version of Fireball™.
“In the US, Cash Spin is a premium game title for Bally, which means it is placed and operated on a daily fee or participation basis,” says Ms Burns, and it has become the fastest selling premium game title in Bally’s history. “Given the economic climate in North America, we’ve really been growing our participation business there,” she explains, adding “recurring revenue models are always good.” From the casinos’ point of view, meanwhile, “when they’ve got capital constraints, it’s a great way for them to keep their business growing and get new product to grow their floor.”
In Macau, though, casinos have thus far not entered into participation or fee deals with slot manufacturers. “We haven’t really got to that point [in Macau] yet where slots are giving tables a real run for their money. But that’ll happen at some point, because the growth is excellent.”
The Chinese version of the popular Fireball game has just been launched. “It’s one of those games that has global appeal,” says Ms Burns, and the local customization should further boost its popularity in Macau.
In addition to leading the growth of Bally’s systems and slots business in Asia, Ms Burns has also been busy working on the company’s re-entry into the complex and carefully regulated Australia and New Zealand markets.
Bally commenced its field trial in Sydney in the first week of November, and that appears to be proceeding smoothly. Ms Burns is taking a step-by-step approach to Bally’s Australasian foray. “We want to do it exactly how we did it in Macau. We want to build it one bank at a time. Make sure our product works; do it the right way and build it the right way.”
There is clearly a great deal of potential for slots in the New South Wales market. “Out of a base of 100,000 games, last year they replaced about 10,000 [Macau’s entire installed base is around 14,000 machines]. So if you look at that, even a small percentage of that is worthwhile,” explains Ms Burns. “It’s promising for us. And it’s a market that we had to have, and it’s a market that we had to make sure we entered the right way. We’re also starting up a game-development studio, so we’ve hired a lead video producer who’s leading that charge up.”
“Australia is the number one video content market in the world, and that fosters the creativeness on video. So as far as the available talent down there, it’s very good for us to have a game studio there. It’s very exciting. We’ll use that [studio] everywhere. We’ll use that in Australia, Asia, and North America.”
“Australia is a big, big market and commands a lot of respect. I look at it as far as a new entrant going into Vegas. You’ve got to be really respectful. You’ve got to get people who really know the market. And you’ve got to give the market what it needs.”
As for getting the right people, Bally announced two key appointments in August. Michael McNee was named
Managing Director of Bally Australia, while Ron Jeffrey took the role of Sales Manager for Bally Australia. Both are based at Bally’s new regional office in Sydney, New South Wales.
How does the iVIEW DM work?
iVIEW DM takes the iVIEW video signal and the game’s video signal, mixes them, and presents them on the game screens. It then remaps the touch-screen so that players can continue to interact with the game as well as with iVIEW content presented on the game screen. The iVIEW DM is able to mix standard game content along with content such as marketing messages, player account information, and floor-wide bonusing applications. It then displays this content on any of the game screens without any interruption to game play.
Bally proclaims of the iVIEW DM: “By turning every game into a robust communications device, you can now reward your players right at the machine as they play, announce a new promotion in split seconds, run a slot tournament with unprecedented ease, and literally personalise your messages to your most valuable players.”
The iVIEW DM has also evolved into a self-service “kiosk,” enabling players to carry out many functions, including ordering drinks, requesting their car from valet, and reviewing their offers. As a point-of-sale device, it enables players to conduct banking functions and purchase lottery tickets and race and sports wagers without leaving their seat, in addition to a number of other functions. Streaming video functions even enable players to watch live sporting events and TV programs.