STATEMENT REGARDING FEDERALLY SPONSORED RESEARCH OR DEVELOPMENT
REFERENCE TO A “MICROFICHE APPENDIX”
BACKGROUND OF THE INVENTION
1. Field of the Invention
The present invention relates to casino games of chance and, in particular, to improvements in the methods of players being able to preferentially personalize the gaming machine by player selection.
2. Description of Related Art Including Information Disclosed Under 37 CFR 1.97 and 1.98
Slot machines have become the most important contributor to revenue on casino floors. Several methods have historically been adopted in order to try to attract or woo players to a particular machine.
First, those with a theme are often selected for play. The theme somehow connects with the player's emotions, moods, or fond memories of previous play. It is common to have the same inner workings on many different machines as the outside of the machine including the symbols and the casino or manufacturer can easily change the slot glass. The machine signage, symbols, and slot glass can be replaced with very little down time. Hence, a “new” machine is available for play in short order. Thus, to the player the same machine may have an entirely different look and theme in a matter of minutes.
For video slot machines, the “swapping out” of games is even easier and may be accomplished in large part by simply replacing the software. There are multi-game machines whereat the player can select one or more different games to play. So if a player is not satisfied with the game play, a touch screen menu allows the player to change the game or denomination. Consequently, the game manufacturers provide player choice in an effort to provide differentiation of game play.
As an example of minimal differentiation, IGT's game “Austin Powers” has three different top glass designs for the same base game. As such, players may sit at the machine with the glass they prefer. The base game is identical, however.
As a further example of minimal differentiation, IGT's game “Fortune Cookie” allows the player to touch an on-screen reel symbol which changes from “MSG” to “No MSG.” While the “MSG” or “No MSG” symbols are a part of the game play (i.e., they appear on the reels themselves), the player choice does not affect game outcome. The effect is on-screen and subtle; as such one must be in the game's immediate vicinity to discern it.
While many machines utilize multimedia (e.g., sound, lights, visual displays) to enhance the game play and serve as attract modes, these multimedia presentations are invariably identical on each machine. For example, one of the most popular gaming machines repeats the phrase “Wheel of Fortune” as an attraction while not being played, and makes the noise of a wheel spinning to excite the players and bystanders during play. Also cash less games exist that print a ticket while making the noise of coins falling in the tray, although no coins are dispensed. While these audio presentations add to the player appeal of the game, there is nothing personalized in these games.
Unfortunately, currently, players who walk into casinos and look at rows and rows of slot machines see basically identical machines with different packaging. That is, slot manufacturers have taken care to differentiate their product lines from those of competitors. But slot manufacturers have done very little to differentiate individual machines within a product line. Basically, all machines of a specific title are “cookie-cutter” copies of each other.
U.S. Pat. No. 6,350,199 has a gaming apparatus for an interactive video game to be displayed on a video display with a game controller to control the outcome of a game played on the gaming machine for display. A player interface couples to the gaming apparatus and is configured to input information data personally identifying a player operating the gaming machine. This personal identification data is then integrated into the game for integral display in the game outcome on the display. The game presentation is customized to include personal information relating to the player for display during play. Such personal information may include the player's name, age, birth date, digitized facial pictures of player and/or of the player's family, etc. Player interaction and interest substantially increase. The game controller has a first memory containing data to provide video content associated with the game. A second memory contains other data to provide video content associated with the personal identification data. The first memory is a “video” EPROM, while the second memory is a “video” RAM for temporarily storing the personal identification data. The game includes a video figurine having a head portion with a blank face slot for the digitized picture data of the player's face insertion whenever the figurine appears in the game presentation during play of the game. Thus, during a card game such as video electronic poker or video electronic blackjack, for example, the player's face may be presented in the King face card. The player interface can be a card reader for reading encoded personal identification data from a card, such as a SMARTCARD having a memory chip. Another player interface includes a keypad for allowing the player to key in information, or a network computer system electronically coupled to the game controller.
U.S. Pat. No. 6,315,666 has gaming machines and methods of use in which a main or primary display for displaying the outcome of a primary game and a secondary display for presenting primary, secondary, or even “tertiary information.” Tertiary information refers to information that is not directly related to the play of a primary or secondary game. Tertiary information includes, for example, billboard information, advertisements, television programming, player attraction material, animations, casino kiosks, video conferencing, and combinations all put into the machine by the game manufacture or casino not the player. The video display is a substitute for displaying some or all of the information currently provided on the top glass or belly glass on a conventional slot machine. Regardless of where the video display is located and how much space it occupies, it may introduce substantial flexibility in presenting primary and secondary information to actual and potential players. The content may fall under one of at least three categories: primary information, secondary information, and tertiary information. Primary information includes indications of status and outcome of the play. Secondary information is notices of slot tournaments, progressive games, bonusing schemes, and other incentives challenging the player to keep playing or to play in a particular manner. It may provide a menu for casino services such as help from an attendant, ordering drinks and food, reserving taxi cabs, obtaining tickets for shows, conducting banking transactions, learning about the availability of health clubs, shops, restaurants, etc., provided in a single centralized location within a casino. Thus allowing the user to access the kiosk from the gaming machine at which he or she is currently positioned without leaving the machine and continuing play. The player communicates his or her requests via a menu displayed on the secondary display screen. The menu driven requests might include, for example, car reservations, drink requests, movie, dinner or theater reservations, messages for a particular room, taxi cab requests, etc. Television on the video display via a cable, for example, sporting events, talk shows, game shows, soap operas, advertisements, situation comedies, etc. In addition, broadcasts of competitive events on which the player can wager, dog racing or horse racing events. Also, information available on the Internet can be provided for the players.
Two-way communication provided between the gaming player and a casino attendant or other individual by a camera and microphone on the gaming machine. A gaming machine with camera and microphone allows display of the player's image. Fresh ornamentation and incentives that are useful for attracting potential players can be changed and displayed. Examples of successful slot machine themes include “Red White and Blue,” “Double Diamond,” and “Wild Cherry.” In multi-game machines, multiple games such as keno, video poker, etc., pay tables may be provided on a CRT screen in response to menu driven commands on a touch screen portion of the CRT. Some machines have two screens with the top one providing the pay table.
The forgoing equipment and techniques seek to provide more services for the player but have nothing to personalize the playing experience and have not addressed the need for having player preference aspects of the gaming experience under the player's control. Those will be addressed in the following specification.
BRIEF SUMMARY OF THE INVENTION
While the foregoing have attempted various methods of increasing player appeal and control, none of them satisfactorily gives the player control over the external appearance, type, or style of the gaming machine being played. What is proposed herein is an entirely different approach in which the player customizes the look of the gaming machine in a personal way.
Active changes apart from the described changes made by the manufactures to slot glass that can be implemented are “attract mode” wherein the machine automatically changes by itself to attract play. To date, passive changes to the slot machine that modify the appearance of the machine during play or the capability of the player to make such modifications to attract players and/or keep the current player have not been tried and are not available. In particular, modifying the appearance of the machine to conform to a player's wishes is desirable but heretofore untried.
Perhaps this is because the manufacturers of gaming equipment and/or the casino have failed to recognize the personal relationship that grows between the player and “his or her” machine. The concept of “my” machine is antithetical to the reality of ownership and/or leasing which exists for such slot machines and gaming equipment. It is believed that in many instances, players would if they could take “their” machine home whenever they leave the casino. This despite the fact that the machine is perhaps no different from 1,000 other similar machines in use at any time. Despite the fact also, that the “cookie-cutter” effect exists. For tourists from states that allow private ownership, gaming machines can be purchased and shipped to their residence for personal use. Locals, those that live near casinos, also have their favorite gaming machines that they frequent and feel that they have an investment in because of frequent play.
The manufacturers and/or casinos have a strong business interest in providing the variety of gaming experiences explained herein to keep the products available to their customers fresh and appealing. The problem then is how to let the player personalize the gaming machine while accommodating regulations and at a reasonable cost.
The player proactively chooses the appearance in a way that is apparent not only to the player but also to those about the gaming machine in the casino. Signage, audio and the like can be altered by the player to connect with the gaming machine on a special basis and spell out to all who care that the particular gaming machine is “his, hers, or mine” as the case may be. It could be a “lucky” color or colors in the top box, preferred music or indicia indicating the theme of the game, player's name, player-input artwork, or even mood. For example, if the player is on a winning or losing streak, the corresponding mood of happy, sad or anxious can be shown. Alternately, if the player is waiting to meet perhaps Rhoda, then the name “Rhoda” or some other such message may be displayed. Or, the player may wish to celebrate a birthday, the 4th of July, or some other holiday or event. Or, the player may, via touch-screen, sketch (with his/her finger) a picture that is then displayed as a “signature” piece. What is important is that in each case, the player provides input that dictates and/or modifies the external appearance of the game. This serves not only to draw interest to the game (or bank of games) from passersby, but also to customize the gaming experience from the player's personal point of view.
During play of the game, the player has access to input for controlling the top box display with an audio, video and/or liquid crystal display on to which the player's preference may be displayed or presented. As an example, say the wife is playing somewhere in the casino and husband has agreed to meet her at 6:00 PM for dinner. Anyone who has been in this situation knows it can be difficult. However, with a personalization of the top box display presentation, the process of finding one's spouse can be simplified. In particular, the plan would be to look for the machine with, e.g., the hounds-tooth pattern displayed on the gaming machine, or playing “their song”.
In the instant invention, the player may choose one of a plurality of personalized presentations that in no way alter the game or interfere with any regulatory of compliance matters. In a preferred environment, an on-screen replica of a computer keyboard could allow almost any type of input but specific offensive phrases, etc. could be controlled within logic. In a simple version, a few choices of say different colors or a showing of the player's name from a tracking card could be inexpensively added to the top box for all to see. Thus the gaming machine personal presentation might show or say, “Mona's machine! Just watch me win the jackpot!” Alternately, the color-scheme of the top and base boxes (accomplished, e.g., via multi-color LED displays) may be selected by the player to conform to the player's alma mater, favorite hockey team, etc. In this fashion, too, other customers who recognize a game's particular appearance will know who is playing the game, even at a distance.
Clearly, many other themes and manners of signage and/or audio presentation are possible, as will be apparent to players and skilled artisans. The salient features required are a personalization of the currently played gaming machine, and controls for the player to modify this currently selected presentation. The presentation may even relate to the theme of a selected game shown on the player's screen and/or the top box.
Too, the monetary value and/or difficulty of the game may also be presented thus saying to those about the machine look how smart or fortunate the player happens to be.
It is an advantage of the present invention that the player may make personal or preferential changes to the appearance of the gaming machine.
It is a further advantage of the present invention that the improvement described herein has almost no learning curve yet still affords considerable player empowerment and preference in the appearance of the gaming machine being played.
It is a further advantage that the customization afforded to the player of the slot machine is a conversation piece and attract mode to passersby, even those viewing the machine at a considerable distance.
As a preferred embodiment, the player is offered the choice of a plurality of top box presentations from which to pre-select before or during the play of the game. As with so many computer devices and their operation, it is expected that the variety of player choice will, if popular, expand at a rate similar to that which computer power has grown. The player will be afforded almost limitless choices for base and/or top box presentations, for example via a touch screen.
The play may include depicting to the player, before play of the base game or upon insertion of a player's card or a bill into the bill acceptor, information about currently selected personal preferences for presentation on the top box. In a preferred embodiment, there is the step of allowing the player to pre-select one of the plurality of presentations for personalizing the gaming machine before or during the play of the casino game. In practice, it is desirable to have this option available to the player also while the game is idle, or in between games. This is so that a new player may immediately be able to select his/her desired personal preferences and then initiate play.
An advantage of this disclosure involves the step of coupling the play of the game or theme to the selected preference so that the playing of the game may be shown to the player as well as other players. The draw of other players into what one player has displayed is of commercial and psychological value in that it validates the original player's selection and also stimulates more play of like gaming machines. Camaraderie ensues and the group's interaction follows, which enhances play for the casino and validation for the player. Communication about the play via top box messages about the gaming machine turns an essentially solitary endeavor into a social and therefor more enjoyable pastime. In addition to communication with other players, the messaging may be for casino personnel to ask for help, change, or a cocktail or beverage. The controls accessible to the player may be as simple as a few switches keyed to choices, something like a hand computer pad and stylet on the touch screen or keyboard input. The interactive features of this disclosure can extend beyond the top box and player's screen. The player's connection or feeling of ownership can be enhanced by allowing player selection of a vibrating chair to massage the player. In the IGT Lucy slot machine chocolate fragrance is built into the gaming machine by the manufacture. That, aroma therapy is no selectable of by player preference used to relax and continue the player's enjoyable experience. The gaming machine can be equipped to provide those and other similar interactive preferred activities as well as change of the display.