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Publication numberUS20060079316 A1
Publication typeApplication
Application numberUS 11/223,584
Publication dateApr 13, 2006
Filing dateSep 9, 2005
Priority dateSep 24, 2004
Publication number11223584, 223584, US 2006/0079316 A1, US 2006/079316 A1, US 20060079316 A1, US 20060079316A1, US 2006079316 A1, US 2006079316A1, US-A1-20060079316, US-A1-2006079316, US2006/0079316A1, US2006/079316A1, US20060079316 A1, US20060079316A1, US2006079316 A1, US2006079316A1
InventorsPeter Flemming, Benjamin Gomez, Philip Gelber
Original AssigneeWms Gaming Inc.
Export CitationBiBTeX, EndNote, RefMan
External Links: USPTO, USPTO Assignment, Espacenet
Wagering game with an array of player-selectable elements that are preserved for subsequent gaming sessions
US 20060079316 A1
Abstract
A method for playing a wagering game includes receiving wager inputs from a player for a wagering game. In response to receiving the wager inputs, at least one randomly-selected outcome is selected from a plurality of outcomes. An array of player-selectable elements is presented during a first gaming session of the wagering game, and a selection of at least one element of the array is received from the player. A data set is stored to represent a status of the array after at least one element of the array has been selected. The array is presented, based on the status defined by the data set, during a second gaming session of the wagering game.
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Claims(20)
1. A method for playing a wagering game, comprising:
receiving wager inputs from a player for a wagering game;
selecting at least one randomly-selected outcome of a plurality of outcomes in response to said receiving step;
presenting an array of player-selectable elements during a first gaming session of said wagering game;
receiving a selection of at least one element of said array;
storing a data set representing a status of said array after said at least one element has been selected;
during a second gaming session of said wagering game, presenting said array based on said status defined by said data set.
2. The method of claim 1, further comprising storing said data set on an item selected from the group consisting of a player ticket, a player card, and a memory device.
3. The method of claim 1, further comprising revealing at least one of a symbol and an award in response to said at least one element being selected.
4. The method of claim 1, further comprising playing said first gaming session of said wagering game on a first gaming terminal and said second gaming session of said wagering game on a second gaming terminal.
5. The method of claim 1, further comprising representing said array of player-selectable elements as a scratch-off ticket having a plurality of rows and a plurality of columns, each one of said plurality of rows and plurality of columns having a plurality of scratch-off selections, at least one of said scratch-off selections revealing an award after being selected.
6. The method of claim 1, further comprising awarding an award when all elements of said array of player-selectable elements have been selected, said awarding including revealing at least one of a progressive jackpot, a bonus award, and a bonus game.
7. The method of claim 1, further comprising presenting additional elements in response to selecting a predetermined number of elements of said array of player-selectable elements, said presenting including displaying said additional elements in a gaming session subsequent to at least one of said first gaming session and said second gaming session.
8. The method of claim 1, further comprising presenting a second array of player-selectable elements in response to selecting all of said elements of said array of player-selectable elements.
9. A computer readable storage medium or media encoded with instructions for directing said gaming machines to perform the method of claim 1.
10. A gaming terminal for playing a wagering game, comprising:
a display for displaying at least one randomly-selected outcome of a plurality of outcomes in response to receiving wager inputs from a player during a first gaming session of a wagering game; and
a controller coupled to said display and programmed to
present an array of player-selectable elements during said first gaming session,
store a data set representing a status of said array after at least one element of said array has been selected, and
present, during a second gaming session of said wagering game, said array based on said status defined by said data set.
11. The gaming terminal of claim 10, wherein said controller is further programmed to store said data set on at least one of a player ticket, a player card, and a memory device.
12. The gaming terminal of claim 10, wherein said controller is further programmed to reveal at least one of a symbol and an award in response to said at least one element being selected.
13. The gaming terminal of claim 10, wherein said controller is further programmed to represent said array of player-selectable elements as a scratch-off ticket having a plurality of rows and a plurality of columns, each one of said plurality of rows and plurality of columns having a plurality of scratch-off selections, said scratch-off selections revealing an award after being selected.
14. The gaming terminal of claim 10, wherein said controller is further programmed to provide an award when all elements of said array of player-selectable elements have been selected, said award including at least one of a progressive jackpot, a bonus award, and a bonus game.
15. The gaming terminal of claim 10, wherein said controller is further programmed to present additional elements in response to selecting a predetermined number of elements of said array of player-selectable elements.
16. The gaming terminal of claim 10, wherein said controller is further programmed to present said additional elements in a gaming session subsequent to at least one of said first gaming session and said second gaming session.
17. The gaming terminal of claim 10, wherein said controller is further programmed to present a second array of player-selectable elements in response to selecting all of said elements of said array of player-selectable elements.
18. The gaming terminal of claim 10, wherein said controller is further programmed to reveal corresponding hidden sections of a secondary wagering game in response to selecting elements of said array of player-selectable elements.
19. The gaming terminal of claim 10, further comprising:
a secondary display coupled to said controller;
wherein said controller is further programmed to
present a secondary wagering game on said secondary display, and
reveal corresponding hidden sections of said secondary wagering game in response to elements of said array being selected.
20. A method for conducting a wagering game, comprising:
receiving a wager input from a player for a wagering game, said wagering game being played by said player during a gaming session;
selecting at least one randomly-selected outcome of a plurality of outcomes in response to said receiving step;
presenting an array of player-selectable elements during said gaming session, said array initially including a first element and a second element;
picking said first element to reveal a hidden symbol, said second element remaining unpicked during said gaming session; and
picking said second element during a subsequent gaming session to reveal another hidden symbol.
Description
RELATED APPLICATIONS

This application is related to and claims priority to U.S. Provisional Patent Application Ser. No. 60/613,072 filed Sep. 24, 2004, titled “Wagering Game With An Array Of Player-Selectable Elements That Are Preserved For Subsequent Gaming Sessions,” which is incorporated herein in its entirety.

FIELD OF THE INVENTION

The present invention relates generally to gaming terminals for playing a wagering game and, more particularly, to a gaming terminal displaying an array of player-selectable elements.

BACKGROUND OF THE INVENTION

Gaming machines, such as slot machines, video poker machines, and the like, have been a cornerstone of the gaming industry for several years. Generally, the popularity of such machines with players is dependent on the likelihood (or perceived likelihood) of winning money at the machine and the intrinsic entertainment value of the machine relative to other available gaming options. Where the available gaming options include a number of competing machines and the expectation of winning each machine is roughly the same (or believed to be the same), players are most likely to be attracted to the most entertaining and exciting of the machines.

Consequently, shrewd operators strive to employ the most entertaining and exciting machines available because such machines attract frequent play and, hence, increase profitability to the operator. In the competitive gaming machine industry, there is a continuing need for gaming machine manufacturers to produce new types of games, or enhancements to existing games, which will attract frequent play by enhancing the entertainment value and excitement associated with the game.

One concept that has been successfully employed to enhance the entertainment value of a game is that of a “bonus” game which may be played in conjunction with a “basic” game. The bonus game may comprise any type of game, either similar to or completely different from the basic game, and is entered upon the occurrence of a selected event or outcome of the basic game. Such a bonus game produces a significantly higher level of player excitement than the basic game because it provides a greater expectation of winning than the basic game.

Another concept that has been employed is the use of a progressive jackpot. In the gaming industry, a “progressive” involves collecting coin-in data from participating gaming device(s) (e.g., slot machines), contributing a percentage of that coin-in data to a jackpot amount, and awarding that jackpot amount to a player upon the occurrence of a certain jackpot-won event. The percentage of the coin-in is determined prior to any result being achieved and is independent of any result. A jackpot-won event typically occurs when a “progressive winning position” is achieved at a participating gaming device. If the gaming device is a slot machine, a progressive winning position may, for example, correspond to alignment of progressive jackpot reel symbols along a certain payline. The initial progressive jackpot is a predetermined minimum amount. That jackpot amount, however, progressively increases as players continue to play the gaming machine without winning the jackpot. Further, when several gaming machines are linked together such that several players at several gaming machines compete for the same jackpot, the jackpot progressively increases at a much faster rate, which leads to further player excitement.

In current basic games, bonus games, and progressive games, the player is provided with little incentive to return the game at a later time. Once the player chooses to stop playing the game in that round, the player is immediately awarded any credits that are remaining and also loses assets that have been accumulated, but not yet awarded. For example, in some games, the bonus game consists of the player collecting assets and when a certain number or combination of assets is accumulated, the player wins an award. However, should the player choose to leave the game prior to winning the award, the player loses all of the assets accumulated. This can cause player frustration and does not provide the player with any incentive to return to the game.

Such a system also encourages “vulturing,” in which the “vulturing” player waits for a person who is close to winning an award to leave the gaming machine prior to the winning of the award. The “vulturing” player then begins to play the machine, and may quickly win the award without investing much time into the game. This is also frustrating for other players.

Thus, there is a need to allow a player to accumulate assets on gaming terminals and to have those assets restored to them should the player return to the game at a later time. This way, should a player choose to leave a game, anything the player has accumulated during the game goes with them and is restored at a later time when the player returns to the game. This alleviates the player frustration at losing assets that they have accumulated and also provides the player an incentive to return to the game at a later date.

SUMMARY OF THE INVENTION

A method for playing a wagering game includes receiving wager inputs from a player for a wagering game. In response to receiving the wager inputs, at least one randomly-selected outcome is selected from a plurality of outcomes. An array of player-selectable elements is presented during a first gaming session of the wagering game, and a selection of at least one element of the array is received from the player. A data set is stored to represent a status of the array after at least one element of the array has been selected. The array is presented, based on the status defined by the data set, during a second gaming session of the wagering game.

In another aspect of the present invention, a gaming terminal for playing a wagering game includes a display and a controller. The display displays at least one randomly-selected outcome of a plurality of outcomes in response to receiving wager inputs from a player during a first gaming session of a wagering game. The controller is coupled to the display and is programmed to present an array of player-selectable elements during the first gaming session. The controller is further programmed to store a data set representing a status of the array after at least one element of the array has been selected, and to present, during a second gaming session of the wagering game, the array based on the status defined by the data set.

In an alternative aspect of the present invention, a method for conducting a wagering game includes receiving a wager input from a player for a wagering game. The wagering game is played by the player during a gaming session. At least one randomly-selected outcome is selected from a plurality of outcomes in response to receiving the wager input from a player. An array of player-selectable elements is presented during the gaming session, wherein the array initially includes a first element and a second element. A first element is picked to reveal a hidden symbol, the second element remaining unpicked during the gaming session. The second element is picked during a subsequent gaming session to reveal another hidden symbol.

In an alternative aspect of the present invention, a method for conducting a wagering game includes receiving a wager input from a player for playing a wagering game. At least one randomly-selected outcome is selected from a plurality of outcomes in response to receiving the wager input from the player. One of the outcomes is a trigger-bonus outcome for starting a bonus game, which includes a first bonus round and a second bonus round. In response to triggering the bonus game, an array of player-selectable elements is presented and at least one element of the array is selected during the first bonus round to reveal a hidden symbol, at least one remaining element being unselected. The array is maintained with the hidden symbol being revealed so that it is unselectable in the second bonus round. The at least one remaining element is selected during the second bonus round to reveal another hidden symbol.

In an alternative aspect of the present invention, a gaming terminal for conducting a wagering game includes a display and a controller. The display displays at least one randomly-selected outcome of a plurality of outcomes in response to receiving wager inputs from a player during a wagering game. The controller is coupled to the display and is programmed to start a bonus game in response to the randomly-selected outcome being a trigger-bonus outcome. The bonus game includes a first bonus round and a second bonus round. The controller is further programmed to present an array of player-selectable elements during the bonus game. A hidden symbol is revealed in response to at least one element of the array being selected during the first bonus round, at least one remaining element being unselected. The array is maintained with the hidden symbol being revealed so that it is unselectable in the second bonus round. Another hidden symbol is revealed in response to the at least one remaining element being selected during the second bonus round.

In an alternative aspect of the present invention, a method of operating a wagering game includes receiving wager inputs for the wagering game in a first gaming session. An array having player-selectable elements is displayed, and a player is allowed to select from the elements in the array. After the first gaming session ends, wager inputs for the wagering game are received in a second gaming session. The array is displayed such that elements selected in the first gaming session are unselectable in the second gaming session.

The above summary of the present invention is not intended to represent each embodiment or every aspect of the present invention. The detailed description and Figures will describe many of the embodiments and aspects of the present invention.

BRIEF DESCRIPTION OF THE DRAWINGS

The foregoing and other advantages of the invention will become apparent upon reading the following detailed description and upon reference to the drawings.

FIG. 1 is a perspective view of a video gaming terminal according to one embodiment of the present invention.

FIG. 2 is a block diagram of the gaming terminal of FIG. 1.

FIG. 3 is a representation of a primary bonus screen according to another embodiment of the present invention.

FIG. 4 is a representation of a secondary bonus screen according to an alternative embodiment of the present invention.

FIG. 5A is a representation of a secondary display showing a secondary bonus game according to an alternative embodiment of the present invention.

FIG. 5B is a representation of a main display showing a primary bonus game according to the embodiment shown in FIG. 5A.

While the invention is susceptible to various modifications and alternative forms, specific embodiments have been shown by way of example in the drawings and will be described in detail herein. It should be understood, however, that the invention is not intended to be limited to the particular forms disclosed. Rather, the invention is to cover all modifications, equivalents, and alternatives falling within the spirit and scope of the invention as defined by the appended claims.

DESCRIPTION OF ILLUSTRATIVE EMBODIMENTS

FIG. 1 shows a perspective view of a typical gaming terminal 10 used by gaming establishments, such as casinos. With regard to the present invention, the gaming terminal 10 may be any type of gaming terminal and may have varying structures and methods of operation. For example, the gaming terminal 10 may be a mechanical gaming terminal configured to play mechanical slots, or it may be an electromechanical or electrical gaming terminal configured to play video slots or a video casino game, such as blackjack, slots, keno, poker, etc.

As shown, the gaming terminal 10 includes input devices, such as a wager acceptor 16 (shown as a card wager acceptor 16 a and a cash wager accepter 16 b), a touch screen 21, a push-button panel 22, and an information reader 24. For outputs, the gaming terminal 10 includes a payout mechanism 23, a main display 26 for displaying information about the basic wagering game, and a secondary display 27 that may display an electronic version of a pay table, and/or also possibly game-related information or other entertainment features. While these typical components found in the gaming terminal 10 are described below, it should be understood that numerous other elements may exist and may be used in any number of combinations to create various forms of a gaming terminal.

The wager acceptor 16 may be provided in many forms, individually or in combination. The cash wager acceptor 16 a may include a coin slot acceptor or a note acceptor to input value to the gaming terminal 10. The card wager acceptor 16 b may include a card-reading device for reading a card that has a recorded monetary value with which it is associated. The card wager acceptor 16 b may also receive a card that authorizes access to a central account, which can transfer money to the gaming terminal 10.

Also included is the payout mechanism 23, which performs the reverse functions of the wager acceptor. For example, the payout mechanism 23 may include a coin dispenser or a note dispenser to output value from gaming terminal 10. Also, the payout mechanism 23 may also be adapted to receive a card that authorizes the gaming terminal to transfer credits from the gaming terminal 10 to a central account.

The push button panel 22 is typically offered, in addition to the touch screen 21, to provide players with an option on how to make their game selections. Alternatively, the push button panel 22 provides inputs for one aspect of operating the game, while the touch screen 21 allows for inputs needed for another aspect of operating the game.

The outcome of the basic wagering game is displayed to the player on the main display 26. The main display 26 may take the form of a cathode ray tube (CRT), a high resolution LCD, a plasma display, LED, or any other type of video display suitable for use in the gaming terminal 10. As shown, the main display 26 includes the touch screen 21 overlaying the entire monitor (or a portion thereof) to allow players to make game-related selections. Alternatively, the gaming terminal 10 may have a number of mechanical reels to display the game outcome, as well.

In some embodiments, the information reader 24 is a card reader that allows for identification of a player by reading a card with information indicating his or her true identity. Currently, identification is used by casinos for rewarding certain players with complimentary services or special offers. For example, a player may be enrolled in the gaming establishment's players' club and may be awarded certain complimentary services as that player collects points in his or her player-tracking account. The player inserts his or her card into the player-identification card reader 24, which allows the casino's computers to register that player's wagering at the gaming terminal 10. The information reader 24 may also include a keypad (not shown) for entering a personal identification number (PIN). The gaming terminal 10 may require that the player enter their PIN prior to obtaining information. The gaming terminal 10 may use the secondary display 27 for providing the player with information about his or her account or other player-specific information. Also, in some embodiments, the information reader 24 may be used to restore assets that the player achieved during a previous game session and had saved.

As shown in FIG. 2, the various components of the gaming terminal 10 are controlled by a central processing unit (CPU) 30 (such as a microprocessor or microcontroller). To provide the gaming functions, the CPU 30 executes a game program that allows for the randomly-selected outcome. The CPU 30 is also coupled to or includes a local memory 32. The local memory 32 may comprise a volatile memory 33 (e.g., a random-access memory (RAM)) and a non-volatile memory 34 (e.g., an EEPROM). It should be appreciated that the CPU 30 may include one or more microprocessors. Similarly, the local memory 32 may include multiple RAM and multiple program memories.

Communications between the peripheral components of the gaming terminal 10 and the CPU 30 occur through input/output (I/O) circuits 35 a. As such, the CPU 30 also controls and receives inputs from the peripheral components of the gaming terminal 10. Further, the CPU 30 communicates with external systems via the I/O circuits 35 b. Although the I/O circuits 35 may be shown as a single block, it should be appreciated that the I/O circuits 35 may include a number of different types of I/O circuits.

In some embodiments, the CPU 30 may not be inside the gaming terminal 10. Instead, the CPU 30 may be part of a game network 50 and may be used to control numerous gaming terminals 10. In these embodiments, the CPU 30 will run the basic games for each of the gaming terminals 10, and may also be used to link the gaming terminals 10 together. The game network 50 can include progressive jackpots that are contributed to by all or some of the gaming terminals 10 in the network (e.g., terminal-level jackpots that only each terminal 10 contributes to, bank-level jackpots that are contributed to by all of the terminals 10 in a particular bank, and wide-area jackpots that are contributed to by a larger number of terminals 10, such as multiple banks). Alternatively, the game network 50 can allow the player to retrieve assets obtained while playing one terminal 10 at a different gaming terminal that is also part of the game network. Assets may be any number of things, including, but not limited to, monetary or non-monetary awards, features that a player builds up in a bonus or progressive game to win awards, etc.

In some embodiments, the CPU 30 is also used with the information reader 24 to restore saved assets. For example, in one embodiment, the information reader 24 is adapted to receive and distribute tickets. The tickets each include a unique identifier. The unique identifier links the ticket to a file contained within the local memory 32 or a system memory 52 located in the game network 50. The file includes the assets that are being stored from a previous game. Monetary awards include game credits or money, while the non-monetary awards can be free plays (e.g., free spins), multipliers, or access to bonus and/or progressive games.

When a player inserts a ticket into the information reader 24, the CPU 30 obtains the unique identifier and causes the appropriate memory 32, 52 to be searched, and the file containing the unique identifier matching the identifier on the ticket is retrieved. Any assets or other information contained in this file are then transmitted to the gaming terminal 10, and the player regains any assets that were saved during a previous game. This allows the player to keep assets even after a particular gaming session ends, which increases player commitment to a game and decreases vulturing.

In other embodiments, the information reader 24 may include a card reader, and the unique identifier provided at the gaming terminal 10 may be stored on a personal identification card, such as one described above. Or, the gaming terminal 10 includes a radio frequency identification device (RFID) transceiver or receiver so that an RFID transponder held by the player can be used to provide the unique identifier of the player at the gaming terminal 10 without the need to insert a card into the gaming terminal 10. RFID components can be those available from Pacific Northwest National Laboratory (under the United States Department of Energy) of Richland, Wash.

In other embodiments, the information reader 24 may include a biometric reader, such as a finger, hand, or retina scanner, and the unique identifier may be the scanned biometric information. Additional information regarding biometric scanning, such as fingerprint scanning or hand geometry scanning, is available from International Biometric Group LLC of New York, N.Y. Other biometric identification techniques can be used as well for providing a unique identifier of the player. For example, a microphone can be used in a biometric identification device on the gaming terminal so that the player can be recognized using a voice recognition system.

In summary, there are many techniques in which to provide a unique identifier for the player so that the assets accumulated by the player during one wagering session can be stored in either the system or local memory 52, 32, thereby allowing the player to subsequently access those assets at the same gaming terminal 10 or a different gaming terminal within the network 50. As described below with reference to FIGS. 3 to 5B, various assets related to the wagering game features and formats can be stored after one gaming session and used in a subsequent gaming session(s) to enhance the gaming experience for the player.

Referring now to FIG. 3, a bonus game has been triggered and is shown in the main display 26. A bonus screen 60 includes player instructions 62 and an array of player-selectable elements 64, which includes six elements 64 a-64 f. The bonus screen 60, which shows an “Instant Winner Scratcher Bonus,” has been triggered in response to a predetermined condition having occurred during a basic wagering game. The player instructions 62 show the player what to do, i.e., to “touch any 3 fire hats to win hidden awards.”

To play the bonus game, the player has selected three elements 64 a, 64 b, 64 f. Upon selection, which in this case is done by touching the touch screen 21 over a particular element 64, a hidden symbol is revealed. The hidden symbol can be, for example, an award, a losing symbol, or a credit amount.

The numbers “35” and “50,” which are revealed upon selection of elements 64 a, 64 b, may represent actual credit awards or numbers required for a winning combination. For example, if the numbers “35” and “50” represent credit awards, then the player is awarded a total of 85 credits during this bonus game. If the numbers “35” and “50” represent numbers required for a winning combination, similar to a lotto ticket, the player might have to look in a pay table to see if the combination of the numbers is a winning combination.

In other embodiments, a revealed hidden symbol can unlock other games or sections of other games. For example, the player has selected element 64 f that reveals a “Mega Scratcher Bonus,” which means that the player has won another bonus game. Alternatively, the player can win another bonus session, such as another “Instant Winner Scratcher Bonus.”

Referring now to FIG. 4, the display 26 shows a new bonus screen 70, which has transitioned from the bonus screen 60 of FIG. 3. The bonus screen 70 presents a “Mega Scratcher Bonus,” which will be described below in more detail. The bonus screen 70 includes an array of player-selectable elements 74, which are arranged in a plurality of rows and columns. In this embodiment, the array includes five rows and ten columns, having a total of fifty elements 74.

The player is given an additional three picks to select hidden awards. Alternatively, the player is given any other number of picks, or selections. As shown, a number of elements 74 remain unselected and a number of elements 74 have already been selected. For example, the element 74 a shows the symbol of a fireman hat, which indicates that element 74 a has not been selected yet. In contrast, element 74 b shows the number “80,” indicating that element 74 b has already been selected and an award of 80 credits has been awarded.

During each bonus round of the “Mega Scratcher Bonus” the player gets three picks. In general, the bonus screen 70 transitions back to the basic wagering game after the player has finished making the three picks, i.e., when the bonus round is over. When the last unselected element 74 has been picked, the player is rewarded for his or her efforts in selecting every single element 74 with a mini progressive jackpot. Thus, the wagering game provides an incentive for the player to finish the “Mega Scratcher Bonus.”

Optionally, other outcomes can result when a player has selected all of the array elements 74. For example, a secondary array of player-selectable elements can be displayed for the player to continue playing the bonus game. The secondary array can be the same size or of a different size than the initial array. In another embodiment, the player can get additional elements in response to selecting all of the elements 74, or in response to selecting an element 74 that triggers the presentation of additional elements.

The gaming session ends when the player cashes out his or her winnings. A ticket is printed for the player to preserve the player's state in the game. The next time the player returns to a similar type of game, the player reinserts the ticket to continue playing a wagering game. When the “Mega Scratcher Bonus” is triggered, the player continues to clear unselected elements 74 from where he or she has left off in the previous gaming session. Thus, the player is not forced to finish selecting all the elements 74 during one gaming session. In fact, this approach provides an incentive for the player to continue playing the same type of game even if the player has discontinued playing the game for a relatively long period of time, e.g., a few months.

A data set that represents the condition of the bonus game is stored on a player ticket. Alternatively, any other recording means can be used to record the game status, such as a player card or any other memory device. The player can leave a gaming terminal 10 without having to worry about losing any progress that has been achieved in a wagering game. When the player returns to the same gaming terminal 10 or to another gaming terminal, the player can continue playing the wagering game by restoring the preserved state of the wagering game.

In one embodiment of the present invention, the player plays different bonus rounds of a bonus game over multiple gaming sessions. For example, the player plays a bonus round, which ends when the player has made three selections, and then terminates the gaming session by cashing out. In a subsequent gaming session, the player plays several bonus rounds and successfully selects all the array elements.

In another embodiment of the present invention, the player plays all the bonus rounds of a bonus game during a single gaming session. For example, the player selects all the array elements over a plurality of bonus rounds, all of which are played during a single gaming session. Thus, the player does not cash out until the entire array has been cleared of any remaining unselected elements.

Referring now to FIGS. 5A and 5B, a main display 126 displays a bonus screen 170 and a secondary display 127 displays a secondary bonus screen 180. The bonus screen 170 includes an array of player-selectable elements 174 which is shown with both selected and unselected elements. The secondary bonus screen 180 includes a representation of a map of United States, showing a number of unselected sections 180 a, a number of selected sections 180 b, and a currently highlighted section 180 c.

When a player triggers the bonus screen 170, the player is allowed to make a number of selections. As shown in FIG. 5 b, one of the elements 174 a selected reveals a sign that instructs the player to “Travel To California.” The state of California 180 c is revealed, or unlocked, and shown in the secondary bonus screen 180. The player has already revealed some other states, such as the state of New York. Other states, such as the state of Colorado, has not been revealed yet. As the player reveals a particular state, the player can be awarded using an appropriate credit award, a particular jackpot, or another bonus game. Alternatively, to give the player a different playing experience, the game theme can change based on the player's advancement along the United States map.

In the above-described embodiments, the player has a greater incentive to return to the same bonus array because the chance of winning a hidden jackpot increases as fewer elements remain. Optionally, if the player wins the highest award during a first bonus round or during a first gaming session, the player may select a brand new array of player-selectable elements at the next bonus round or at the next gaming session.

Alternatively, in the above-described embodiments, even if all the elements selected by a player are losing symbols, the player can be rewarded for simply selecting a predetermined number of elements. For example, if the player selects at least half of all the array elements then the player receives a special award. The special award can be a jackpot of the current game, or can be a chance to play another level of the same or of a different wagering game.

In an alternative embodiment, the player is given the option to exchange all available picks, e.g., three picks, for a single pick from an array of player-selectable elements. The single pick provides the player with a chance to reveal a “Clear All” hidden symbol. If the player does not find the “Clear All” symbol, then the player wins zero credits. However, if the player finds the “Clear All” symbol, then all the hidden symbols from the array are revealed, and the player is awarded all the revealed credits and/or prizes.

In alternative embodiments, a player can use a telephone to access and use one or more of the player's accumulated game assets. For example, using a mobile phone, the player can dial a toll-free phone number to access his or her game assets. A central server associated with the network 50 (FIG. 2) can recognize the player's mobile number for identification purposes, via a caller-id feature, or, alternatively, the central server may require the player to create a unique code number (if, for example, the player uses a caller-id block feature). Optionally, the player may be required to enter an additional code for identifying a specific gaming machine 10.

Thus, the player can use his or her mobile phone to remotely access the wagering game and utilize the accumulated assets at a time and place according to the player's desire. For example, the player can restart a gaming session via the mobile phone at a point where he or she had previously stopped the session, or the player can choose, via the mobile phone, to play an accumulated bonus game that he or she had previously won, but not played.

In another example, the player can put money into a gaming machine 10 while the player is physically at the gaming machine 10. Before the player walks away from the gaming machine 10, the player can register the gaming machine 10 to the player's phone. The player can also let the gaming machine 10 know what assets it may intend to use in the future via remote access by the phone. For example, the player can register the phone number as a password required to access the player's assets on the gaming machine 10. The player can initiate an auto-play feature while at the gaming machine 10 or remotely via the phone. The auto-play feature of the gaming machine 10 is configured to report, e.g., via still or moving images on the phone, one or more of the gaming outcomes. Then, at a later time, the player returns to the gaming machine 10, re-checks into the gaming machine via the phone and, optionally, cashes out any winnings. While no actual gameplay occurs on the phone, the phone is used for accessing the player's assets and gaming outcomes on the gaming machine 10.

Optionally, the wagering game provides the player with access to accumulated assets and/or certain awards only if the player achieves a “Remote Play Winning Outcome.” If the player achieves this outcome (e.g., in a basic or bonus game), then he or she is allowed remote access to one or more of the accumulated assets and/or certain awards. For example, if the player achieves the “Remote Play Winning Outcome,” the player can have the option to select a smaller award while the player is physically present at the gaming machine 10 or a larger award if the player uses the telephone. In another example, the player may be given the option to play for smaller awards while the player is physically present at the gaming machine 10 or for larger awards if the player uses the telephone for gameplay initiation.

Alternative to using a voice telephone call to initiate a game or to access assets and/or awards, as described above, the player can send a text message. For example, the player can send a special code in the text message to log-in using a special number on the gaming machine 10.

For identification purposes, various verification ways can be used. For example, the player can enter the mobile telephone number into the gaming machine 10 as a player identification number. When the phone is near, the gaming machine 10 can detect it and verify the player identification number, e.g., the mobile number. For example, a receiver can be installed in the gaming machine 10 for detecting a mobile identifier (which may include the mobile number) that is periodically transmitted by mobile phones to the nearest mobile base station. Thus, the gaming machine 10 would have similar capabilities to the mobile base station.

Alternatively, the gaming machine 10 can send a voice or text message to the mobile telephone to verify the player's identification number. For example, the gaming machine 10 can send a text message asking the player to reply to the text message using a predetermined code for confirmation purposes. Optionally, a Bluetooth identifier can be used for logging-in and/or verification purposes, wherein the Bluetooth identifier is unique per phone and/or service carrier.

Special benefits can be offered to a player based on the telephone brand and/or service carrier. For example, predetermined assets can be made available to the player only if they use a telephone of brand X that uses service carrier Y. Optionally, the special benefits can be made available based on the telephone model.

While the present invention has been described with reference to one or more particular embodiments, those skilled in the art will recognize that many changes may be made thereto without departing from the spirit and scope of the present invention. Each of these embodiments and obvious variations thereof is contemplated as falling within the spirit and scope of the claimed invention, which is set forth in the following claims.

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Classifications
U.S. Classification463/25
International ClassificationA63F9/24
Cooperative ClassificationG07F17/32, G07F17/3239
European ClassificationG07F17/32E6D2, G07F17/32
Legal Events
DateCodeEventDescription
Sep 9, 2005ASAssignment
Owner name: WMS GAMING INC., ILLINOIS
Free format text: ASSIGNMENT OF ASSIGNORS INTEREST;ASSIGNORS:FLEMMING, PETER W.;GOMEZ, BENJAMIN T.;GELBER, PHILIP B.;REEL/FRAME:016977/0963;SIGNING DATES FROM 20050831 TO 20050906