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Publication numberUS20070243928 A1
Publication typeApplication
Application numberUS 11/682,253
Publication dateOct 18, 2007
Filing dateMar 5, 2007
Priority dateApr 13, 2006
Publication number11682253, 682253, US 2007/0243928 A1, US 2007/243928 A1, US 20070243928 A1, US 20070243928A1, US 2007243928 A1, US 2007243928A1, US-A1-20070243928, US-A1-2007243928, US2007/0243928A1, US2007/243928A1, US20070243928 A1, US20070243928A1, US2007243928 A1, US2007243928A1
InventorsCara Iddings
Original AssigneeIgt
Export CitationBiBTeX, EndNote, RefMan
External Links: USPTO, USPTO Assignment, Espacenet
Casino gaming incentives using game themes, game types, paytables, denominations
US 20070243928 A1
Abstract
Various techniques are disclosed for conducting promotional activities in a casino gaming network. In at least one embodiment, various incentives and/or promotions may be associated with selected gaming components which are accessible to a given gaming machine. Such gaming components may include, for example, paytables, denominations, game types, and/or game themes which are accessible to a given gaming machine cabinet. In this way, the lowest level of granularity for targeting promotional offers and incentives may be extended to selected paytables, denominations, game types, game themes, and/or other desired components within (and/or accessible to) selected gaming machine cabinet(s).
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Claims(33)
1. A gaming device in a casino gaming network, comprising:
a first display;
a communication interface for communicating with a remote host;
a master gaming controller;
an input mechanism for receiving cash or an indicia of credit;
the gaming device being operable to:
control a wager-based game played on the gaming device;
identify a first gaming machine in the casino gaming network;
identify at least one gaming component available at the first gaming machine, wherein the at least one gaming component includes a first gaming component selected from a group of gaming components consisting of: a game theme, a game type, a paytable, and a denomination;
identify a first promotion that is available for the first gaming component; and
present a first promotional offer relating to the identified first promotion;
wherein the first promotional offer provides an incentive for a player to participate in game play at the first gaming machine relating to the first gaming component.
2. The gaming device of claim 1, wherein the gaming device is configured as a single-player gaming machine.
3. The gaming device of claim 1:
wherein the first promotional offer includes at least one offer selected from a group consisting of: a game type promotional offer, a game theme promotional offer, a paytable promotional offer, and a denomination promotional offer;
wherein the game type promotional offer provides an incentive for a player to participate in game play at the first gaming machine involving a new or different game type;
wherein the game theme promotional offer provides an incentive for a player to participate in game play at the first gaming machine involving a new or different game theme;
wherein the denomination promotional offer provides an incentive for a player to participate in game play at the first gaming machine involving a new or different denomination;
wherein the paytable promotional offer provides an incentive for a player to participate in game play at the first gaming machine involving a new or different paytable.
4. The gaming device of claim 1 wherein the first gaming component corresponds to a first game type which is available for play at the first gaming machine, the gaming device being further operable to:
identify a first available promotion relating to the identified first game type; and
present a first game type promotional offer relating to the identified first promotion;
wherein the first game type promotional offer provides an incentive for the player to participate in game play at the first gaming machine which relates to the first game type.
5. The gaming device of claim 1 wherein the first gaming component corresponds to a first game kind which is available for play at the first gaming machine, the gaming device being further operable to:
identify a first game kind promotion relating to the identified first game kind; and
present a first available promotional offer relating to the identified first promotion;
wherein the first game kind promotional offer provides an incentive for the player to participate in game play at the first gaming machine which relates to the first game kind.
6. The gaming device of claim 1 wherein the first gaming component corresponds to a first paytable which is available for play at the first gaming machine, the gaming device being further operable to:
identify a first available promotion relating to the identified first paytable; and
present a first paytable promotional offer relating to the identified first promotion;
wherein the first paytable promotional offer provides an incentive for the player to participate in game play at the first gaming machine which relates to the first paytable.
7. The gaming device of claim 1 wherein the first gaming component corresponds to a first denomination which is available for play at the first gaming machine, the gaming device being further operable to:
identify a first available promotion relating to the identified first denomination; and
present a first denomination promotional offer relating to the identified first promotion;
wherein the first denomination promotional offer provides an incentive for the player to participate in game play at the first gaming machine which relates to the first denomination.
8. A promotion server system in a casino gaming network, the casino gaming network including a plurality of gaming devices, the promotion server system comprising:
at least one CPU;
memory; and
at least one interface for communicating with other devices in the gaming network;
the promotion server system being operable to:
identify at least one gaming component available for game play at the casino gaming network, the at least one gaming component including a first gaming component selected from a group of gaming components consisting of: a game theme, a game type, a paytable, a denomination;
identify a first promotion that is available for the first gaming component; and
present a first promotional offer relating to the identified first promotion;
wherein the first promotional offer includes an offer to provide a first promotional reward to an offeree upon satisfaction of a first set of conditions, the first set of conditions including a first condition that the offeree participate in game play relating to the first gaming component.
9. The system of claim 8 wherein the first gaming component corresponds to a first game type which is available for play at the casino gaming network, the system being further operable to:
identify a first available promotion relating to the identified first game type;
present a first game type promotional offer relating to the identified first promotion to the offeree;
wherein the first game type promotional offer includes an offer to provide a first promotional reward to the offeree upon satisfaction of a first set of conditions, the first set of conditions including a first condition that the offeree participate in game play relating to the first game type.
10. The system of claim 8 wherein the first gaming component corresponds to a first game kind which is available for play at the casino gaming network, the system being further operable to:
identify a first available promotion relating to the identified first game kind;
present a first game kind promotional offer relating to the identified first promotion to the offeree;
wherein the first game kind promotional offer includes an offer to provide a first promotional reward to the offeree upon satisfaction of a first set of conditions, the first set of conditions including a first condition that the offeree participate in game play relating to the first game kind.
11. The system of claim 8 wherein the first gaming component corresponds to a first paytable which is available for play at the casino gaming network, the system being further operable to:
identify a first available promotion relating to the identified first paytable;
present a first paytable promotional offer relating to the identified first promotion to the offeree;
wherein the first paytable promotional offer includes an offer to provide a first promotional reward to the offeree upon satisfaction of a first set of conditions, the first set of conditions including a first condition that the offeree participate in game play relating to the first paytable.
12. The system of claim 8 wherein the first gaming component corresponds to a first denomination which is available for play at the casino gaming network, the system being further operable to:
identify a first available promotion relating to the identified first denomination;
present a first denomination promotional offer relating to the identified first promotion to the offeree;
wherein the first denomination promotional offer includes an offer to provide a first promotional reward to the offeree upon satisfaction of a first set of conditions, the first set of conditions including a first condition that the offeree participate in game play relating to the first denomination.
13. The system of claim 8 being further operable to:
detect that the offeree has initiated a process of satisfying the first set of conditions at a first gaming device;
detect that the offeree has suspended the process of satisfying the first set of conditions at the first gaming device;
detect that the offeree has resumed the process of satisfying the first set of conditions at a second gaming device
14. The system of claim 8 being further operable to:
detect that the offeree has successfully satisfied the first set of conditions via game play on at least two different gaming devices.
15. The system of claim 8:
wherein the first promotional reward includes a promotional credit for providing the offeree with a specified amount of free play credits for use in engaging in game play relating to at least one specified gaming component;
wherein the at least one gaming specified component includes at least one gaming component selected from a group of gaming components consisting of: a game theme, a game type, a paytable, and a denomination.
16. A method for conducting promotional activities in a casino gaming network, the casino gaming network including a plurality of gaming devices operable for playing wager-based games, the method comprising:
identifying a first gaming machine in the casino gaming network;
identifying at least one gaming component available at the first gaming machine, wherein the at least one gaming component includes a first gaming component selected from a group of gaming components consisting of: a game theme, a game type, a paytable, and a denomination;
identifying a first promotion that is available for the first gaming component; and
presenting a first promotional offer relating to the identified first promotion;
wherein the first promotional offer provides an incentive for a player to participate in game play at the first gaming machine relating to the first gaming component.
17. The method of claim 16:
wherein the first promotional offer includes at least one offer selected from a group consisting of: a game type promotional offer, a game theme promotional offer, a paytable promotional offer, and a denomination promotional offer;
wherein the game type promotional offer provides an incentive for a player to participate in game play at the first gaming machine involving a new or different game type;
wherein the game theme promotional offer provides an incentive for a player to participate in game play at the first gaming machine involving a new or different game theme;
wherein the denomination promotional offer provides an incentive for a player to participate in game play at the first gaming machine involving a new or different denomination;
wherein the paytable promotional offer provides an incentive for a player to participate in game play at the first gaming machine involving a new or different paytable.
18. The method of claim 16 wherein the first gaming component corresponds to a first game type which is available for play at the first gaming machine, the method further comprising:
identifying a first available promotion relating to the identified first game type;
presenting a first game type promotional offer relating to the identified first promotion;
wherein the first game type promotional offer provides an incentive for the player to participate in game play at the first gaming machine which relates to the first game type.
19. The method of claim 16 wherein the first gaming component corresponds to a first game kind which is available for play at the first gaming machine, the method further comprising:
identifying a first game kind promotion relating to the identified first game kind;
presenting a first available promotional offer relating to the identified first promotion;
wherein the first game kind promotional offer provides an incentive for the player to participate in game play at the first gaming machine which relates to the first game kind.
20. The method of claim 16 wherein the first gaming component corresponds to a first paytable which is available for play at the first gaming machine, the method further comprising:
identifying a first available promotion relating to the identified first paytable;
presenting a first paytable promotional offer relating to the identified first promotion;
wherein the first paytable promotional offer provides an incentive for the player to participate in game play at the first gaming machine which relates to the first paytable.
21. The method of claim 16 wherein the first gaming component corresponds to a first denomination which is available for play at the first gaming machine, the method further comprising:
identifying a first available promotion relating to the identified first denomination;
presenting a first denomination promotional offer relating to the identified first promotion;
wherein the first denomination promotional offer provides an incentive for the player to participate in game play at the first gaming machine which relates to the first denomination.
22. The method of claim 16 wherein the first promotional offer is presented via a display at the first gaming machine.
23. The method of claim 16 wherein first promotional offer is presented to a casino player or patron.
24. The method of claim 16 wherein first promotional offer is presented via a wireless handheld device.
25. The method of claim 16 wherein first promotional offer is presented via a display device on the casino floor.
26. A method for conducting promotional activities in a casino gaming network, the casino gaming network including a plurality of gaming devices operable for playing wager-based games, the method comprising:
identifying at least one gaming component available for game play at the casino gaming network, the at least one gaming component including a first gaming component selected from a group of gaming components consisting of: a game theme, a game type, a paytable, and a denomination;
identifying a first promotion that is available for the first gaming component; and
presenting a first promotional offer relating to the identified first promotion;
wherein the first promotional offer includes an offer to provide a first promotional reward to an offeree upon satisfaction of a first set of conditions, the first set of conditions including a first condition that the offeree participate in game play relating to the first gaming component.
27. The method of claim 26 wherein the first gaming component corresponds to a first game type which is available for play at the casino gaming network, the method further comprising:
identifying a first available promotion relating to the identified first game type;
presenting a first game type promotional offer relating to the identified first promotion to the offeree;
wherein the first game type promotional offer includes an offer to provide a first promotional reward to the offeree upon satisfaction of a first set of conditions, the first set of conditions including a first condition that the offeree participate in game play relating to the first game type.
28. The method of claim 26 wherein the first gaming component corresponds to a first game kind which is available for play at the casino gaming network, the method further comprising:
identifying a first available promotion relating to the identified first game kind;
presenting a first game kind promotional offer relating to the identified first promotion to the offeree;
wherein the first game kind promotional offer includes an offer to provide a first promotional reward to the offeree upon satisfaction of a first set of conditions, the first set of conditions including a first condition that the offeree participate in game play relating to the first game kind.
29. The method of claim 26 wherein the first gaming component corresponds to a first paytable which is available for play at the casino gaming network, the method further comprising:
identifying a first available promotion relating to the identified first paytable;
presenting a first paytable promotional offer relating to the identified first promotion to the offeree;
wherein the first paytable promotional offer includes an offer to provide a first promotional reward to the offeree upon satisfaction of a first set of conditions, the first set of conditions including a first condition that the offeree participate in game play relating to the first paytable.
30. The method of claim 26 wherein the first gaming component corresponds to a first denomination which is available for play at the casino gaming network, the method further comprising:
identifying a first available promotion relating to the identified first denomination;
presenting a first denomination promotional offer relating to the identified first promotion to the offeree;
wherein the first denomination promotional offer includes an offer to provide a first promotional reward to the offeree upon satisfaction of a first set of conditions, the first set of conditions including a first condition that the offeree participate in game play relating to the first denomination.
31. The method of claim 26 further comprising:
detecting that the offeree has initiated a process of satisfying the first set of conditions at a first gaming device;
detecting that the offeree has suspended the process of satisfying the first set of conditions at the first gaming device;
detecting that the offeree has resumed the process of satisfying the first set of conditions at a second gaming device
32. The method of claim 26 further comprising:
detecting that the offeree has successfully satisfied the first set of conditions via game play on at least two different gaming devices.
33. The method of claim 26:
wherein the first promotional reward includes a promotional credit for providing the offeree with a specified amount of free play credits for use in engaging in game play relating to at least one specified gaming component;
wherein the at least one gaming specified component includes at least one gaming component selected from a group of gaming components consisting of: a game theme, a game type, a paytable, and a denomination.
Description
RELATED APPLICATION DATA

This application is a continuation-in-part of, and claims priority to, pursuant to 35 U.S.C. §120, prior U.S. patent application Ser. No. 11/595,774 (Attorney Docket No. IGT1P334) entitled “METHOD AND APPARATUS FOR INTEGRATING REMOTELY-HOSTED AND LOCALLY RENDERED CONTENT ON A GAMING DEVICE” by LeMay et al., filed on Nov. 10, 2006, which claims benefit under 35 U.S.C. 119(e) from U.S. Provisional Patent Application No. 60/792,082 (Attorney Docket No. IGT1P337P), filed Apr. 13, 2006, naming Little, et al., as inventors, and titled “Remote Content Management and Resource Sharing on a Gaming Machine,” and which also claims benefit under 35 U.S.C. 119(e) from U.S. Provisional Patent Application No. 60/822,859 (Attorney Docket No. IGT1P337P2), filed Aug. 18, 2006, naming Little, et al., as inventors, and titled “Remote Content Management and Resource Sharing on a Gaming Machine and Method of Implementing same.” Each of these applications is incorporated herein by reference in its entirety for all purposes.

BACKGROUND OF THE INVENTION

Casinos and other forms of gaming comprise a growing multi-billion dollar industry both domestically and abroad, with electronic and microprocessor based gaming machines being more popular than ever. A gaming entity that provides gaming services may control gaming devices that are globally distributed in many different types of establishments. For example, gaming machines may be placed in casinos, convenience stores, racetracks, supermarkets, bars and boats. Further, via a remote server, a gaming entity may provide gaming services in locale of a user's choosing, such as on a home computer or on a mobile device carried by the user.

Electronic and microprocessor based gaming machines can include various hardware and software components to provide a wide variety of game types and game playing capabilities, with such hardware and software components being generally well known in the art. For example, bill validators, coin acceptors, card readers, keypads, buttons, levers, touch screens, displays, coin hoppers, player tracking units and the like are examples of hardware that can be coupled to a gaming machine. Software components can include, for example, boot and initialization routines, various game play programs and subroutines, credit and payout routines, image and audio generation programs, security monitoring programs, authentication programs and a random number generator, among others.

The functions available on a gaming machine may depend on whether the gaming machine is linked to other gaming devices. For instance, when connected to other remote gaming devices, a gaming machine may provide progressive jackpots, player tracking and loyalty points programs, cashless gaming, and bonusing among other items. Many of these added components, features and programs can involve the implementation of various back-end and/or networked systems, including more hardware and software elements, as is generally known.

In a typical casino-based electronic gaming machine, such as a slot machine, video poker machine, video keno machine or the like, a game play is initiated through a wager of money or credit, whereupon the gaming machine determines a game outcome, presents the game outcome to the player and then potentially dispenses an award of some type, including a monetary award, depending upon the game outcome. In this instance, the gaming machine is operable to receive, store and dispense indicia of credit or cash as well as calculate a gaming outcome that could result in a large monetary award.

A gaming entity may provide gaming services to tens of thousands of users. For instance, a single land-based casino may include thousands of gaming machines. However, player's gaming interests are constantly changing, and the effort associated with providing fresh content to users may be quite costly. Accordingly, it may be desirable to utilize various mechanisms for inducing or promoting desired player gaming activities at the casino.

SUMMARY OF THE INVENTION

Various aspects of the present invention are directed to different methods, systems, and computer program products for conducting promotional activities in a casino gaming network. In at least one embodiment, the casino gaming network includes a plurality of gaming devices operable for playing wager-based games. At least one gaming component available at a first gaming machine may be identified. According to specific embodiments, the identified gaming component(s) may include, for example, one or more of the following (or combinations thereof): a game theme, a game type, a paytable, and a denomination. At least one action or operation may be initiated to identify a first promotion that is available for the first gaming component. The a first promotional offer relating to the identified first promotion may be presented, for example, to one or more persons at the casino. According to a specific embodiment, the first promotional offer provides an incentive for a player to participate in game play at the first gaming machine relating to the first gaming component. In at least one embodiment, the first promotional offer includes at least one offer relating to one or more of the following (or combinations thereof): a game type promotional offer, a game theme promotional offer, a paytable promotional offer, and a denomination promotional offer. According to specific embodiments, a game type promotional offer provides an incentive for a player to participate in game play at the first gaming machine involving a new or different game type; a game theme promotional offer provides an incentive for a player to participate in game play at the first gaming machine involving a new or different game theme; a denomination promotional offer provides an incentive for a player to participate in game play at the first gaming machine involving a new or different denomination; and a paytable promotional offer provides an incentive for a player to participate in game play at the first gaming machine involving a new or different paytable.

Various aspects of the present invention are directed to different methods, systems, and computer program products for conducting promotional activities in a casino gaming network. In at least one embodiment, the casino gaming network includes a plurality of gaming devices operable for playing wager-based games. At least one action or operation may be initiated to identify at least one gaming component available for game play at the casino gaming network. According to various specific embodiments, the at least one gaming component includes a first gaming component relating to one or more of the following (or combinations thereof): a game theme, a game type, a paytable, and a denomination. A first promotion may be identified which is available for the first gaming component. A first promotional offer may be presented relating to the identified first promotion. In at least one embodiment, the first promotional offer includes an offer to provide a first promotional reward to an offeree upon satisfaction of a first set of conditions. In one embodiment, the first set of conditions includes a first condition that the offeree participate in game play relating to the first gaming component.

Additional objects, features and advantages of the various aspects of the present invention will become apparent from the following description of its preferred embodiments, which description should be taken in conjunction with the accompanying drawings.

BRIEF DESCRIPTION OF THE DRAWINGS

The included drawings are for illustrative purposes and serve only to provide examples of possible structures and/or process steps of the various embodiments described herein.

FIG. 1 shows a specific example of an embodiment of a gaming network 100 which may be used for implementing various features.

FIG. 2 illustrates a perspective view of one embodiment of a gaming machine.

FIG. 3 is a simplified block diagram of an exemplary gaming machine 300 in accordance with a specific embodiment.

FIG. 4 illustrates an example of an EGM state diagram in accordance with a specific embodiment.

FIG. 5 shows an example of a flow diagram illustrating various interactions which may occur between a gaming device and a promotion server in accordance with a specific embodiment.

FIG. 6 is a block diagram illustrating an interaction between two hosts and a gaming machine for one embodiment of the present invention.

FIG. 7 illustrates a block diagram of a gaming network for embodiments of the present invention.

FIG. 8 is a flowchart of one embodiment of the present invention, illustrating the remote host proving a player a bonus award based on the player's gaming activity for the currently played gaming session.

DETAILED DESCRIPTION

Example embodiments will now be described in further detail, and accompanied by the drawings. In the following description, numerous specific details are set forth in order to provide a thorough understanding of example embodiments. It will be apparent, however, to one skilled in the art, that example embodiments may be practiced without some or all of these specific details. In other instances, well known process steps and/or structures have not been described in detail in order to not obscure example embodiments.

One or more different inventions may be described in the present application. Further, for one or more of the invention(s) described herein, numerous embodiments may be described in this patent application, and are presented for illustrative purposes only. The described embodiments are not intended to be limiting in any sense. One or more of the invention(s) may be widely applicable to numerous embodiments, as is readily apparent from the disclosure. These embodiments are described in sufficient detail to enable those skilled in the art to practice one or more of the invention(s), and it is to be understood that other embodiments may be utilized and that structural, logical, software, electrical and other changes may be made without departing from the scope of the one or more of the invention(s). Accordingly, those skilled in the art will recognize that the one or more of the invention(s) may be practiced with various modifications and alterations. Particular features of one or more of the invention(s) may be described with reference to one or more particular embodiments or figures that form a part of the present disclosure, and in which are shown, by way of illustration, specific embodiments of one or more of the invention(s). It should be understood, however, that such features are not limited to usage in the one or more particular embodiments or figures with reference to which they are described. The present disclosure is neither a literal description of all embodiments of one or more of the invention(s) nor a listing of features of one or more of the invention(s) that must be present in all embodiments.

Headings of sections provided in this patent application and the title of this patent application are for convenience only, and are not to be taken as limiting the disclosure in any way.

Devices that are in communication with each other need not be in continuous communication with each other, unless expressly specified otherwise. In addition, devices that are in communication with each other may communicate directly or indirectly through one or more intermediaries.

A description of an embodiment with several components in communication with each other does not imply that all such components are required. To the contrary, a variety of optional components are described to illustrate the wide variety of possible embodiments of one or more of the invention(s).

Further, although process steps, method steps, algorithms or the like may be described in a sequential order, such processes, methods and algorithms may be configured to work in alternate orders. In other words, any sequence or order of steps that may be described in this patent application does not, in and of itself, indicate a requirement that the steps be performed in that order. The steps of described processes may be performed in any order practical. Further, some steps may be performed simultaneously despite being described or implied as occurring non-simultaneously (e.g., because one step is described after the other step). Moreover, the illustration of a process by its depiction in a drawing does not imply that the illustrated process is exclusive of other variations and modifications thereto, does not imply that the illustrated process or any of its steps are necessary to one or more of the invention(s), and does not imply that the illustrated process is preferred.

When a single device or article is described, it will be readily apparent that more than one device/article (whether or not they cooperate) may be used in place of a single device/article. Similarly, where more than one device or article is described (whether or not they cooperate), it will be readily apparent that a single device/article may be used in place of the more than one device or article.

The functionality and/or the features of a device may be alternatively embodied by one or more other devices that are not explicitly described as having such functionality/features. Thus, other embodiments of one or more of the invention(s) need not include the device itself.

Although at least one embodiment is directed primarily to gaming machines and systems, it is worth noting that some of the apparatuses, systems and methods disclosed herein might be adaptable for use in other types of devices, systems or environments, as applicable, such that their use is not restricted exclusively to gaming machines and contexts. Such other adaptations may become readily apparent upon review of the inventive apparatuses, systems and methods illustrated and discussed herein.

In the following figures, method and apparatus applicable to various gaming system configurations and their associated components are described. The gaming systems may comprise a network infrastructure for enabling one or more hosts to communicate with gaming machines. The gaming machines may be operable to provide wagering on a game of chance. A plurality of gaming devices, such as bill/ticket validators, printers, mechanical displays, video displays, coin hoppers, light panels, input buttons, touch screens, key pads, card readers, audio output devices, etc., may be coupled to the gaming machine. The gaming devices may be controlled by a master gaming controller executing authenticated software to provide a gaming interface for a game play experience on the gaming machine.

It will be appreciated that many of today's conventional casino electronic gaming machines are designed to store gaming software on unalterable memory (such as, for example, an EPROM, a read-only CD/DVD optical disc or a read-only disk memory with write capability disabled) located within each gaming machine's respective gaming machine cabinet. As a result, each gaming machine cabinet which houses a conventional-type gaming machine architecture is typically statically preconfigured, and dedicated to hosting a specified game theme or specified set of game themes.

Due, in part, to this static nature of conventional-type gaming machine architectures, casino incentive programs and other promotional programs (e.g., programs offered by the casino to players to entice players to engage in desired gaming activities) have typically been limited to specifically selected gaming machine cabinets. Consequently, the lowest level of granularity for targeting promotional offers and incentives has traditionally been limited to individual gaming machine cabinets.

However, with the introduction of a new gaming technologies such as, for example, those relating to server-based gaming, multi-denomination wagering, and multi-game gaming machines, one aspect of the present invention is directed to techniques for offering incentives and/or promotions for selected gaming components which are accessible to a given gaming machine. Such gaming components may include, for example, paytables, denominations, game types, and/or game themes which are accessible to a given gaming machine cabinet. In this way, the lowest level of granularity for targeting promotional offers and incentives may be extended to selected paytables, denominations, game types, game themes, and/or other desired components within (and/or accessible to) a selected gaming machine cabinet. According to at least one implementation, components which are considered accessible to a selected gaming machine cabinet may include “local” components (e.g., paytables, denominations, game types, game themes) which are resident within the local memory of the gaming machine; “configurable” components which, for example, may be selectively configurable to be enabled/disabled at the gaming machine; “remotely-accessible” components (e.g., paytables, denominations, game types, game themes) which are accessible to the gaming machine for downloading and installation within the local memory of the gaming machine.

Additionally, another aspect of the present invention is directed to techniques for allowing casinos to market specific game types, game themes, paytables, and/or denominations to specific players and/or other patrons.

According to at least one embodiment a “game type” may refer to one or more types of casino games and/or other types wagering activities which are available to players or patrons of a casino. Various different game types may include, but are not limited to, for example: keno, poker, blackjack, slots, roulette, craps, baccarat, etc.

According to at least one embodiment a “game theme” may refer to one or more different types of themes for a given game type. Typically, game themes may be characterized by different criteria such as, for example, behavior, appearance, rules of play, bonus activity, etc. For example, the game type of poker may have associated therewith a variety of different game themes such as, for example: Texas Hold'em, Seven Card Stud, Five Card Draw, etc. In another example, different types of game themes may be associated with slot-type games, such as, for example: Wheel of Fortune®, Star Wars®, Megabucks®, Cleopatra®, etc.

According to at least one embodiment a “denomination” may refer to a factor that determines the monetary value of one unit of credit. For example, conventional slot-type gaming machines typically have a predetermined denomination (e.g., $0.05, $0.025, $1) associated therewith which represents the monetary value of one unit of credit for each individual gaming machine. Traditionally, each gaming machine cabinet on the casino floor is statically preconfigured to be associated with a specific, predetermined denomination for all games which are played on that particular gaming machine. For example, the term “$1 slots” typically refers to slot-type gaming machines associated with a $1 denomination. Conventional slot-type gaming machines of this type are typically not able to automatically and/or dynamically change their associated denomination value. According to at least some embodiments, the denomination value may be used to define a minimum wager amount or monetary value which is required for initiating game play at a given gaming machine.

According to at least one embodiment a paytable may refer to a table (or other data structure type) in which pay amounts are defined as functions various game play criteria such as, for example: game play outcomes, winning combinations, number of coins or credits wagered, etc.

According to various embodiments, promotions and/or incentives may be used by a casino to award selected players or patrons “promotional credits” or “free play” in order to trial new game types, game themes, paytables, and/or denominations offerings. In at least some embodiments, different types of promotional offerings or incentives may be associated with different game types, game themes, paytables and/or denominations within a given gaming machine cabinet.

FIG. 1 shows a specific example of an embodiment of a gaming network 100 which may be used for implementing various features. Descriptions of at least a portion of the various components and/or systems shown in FIG. 1 are also provided in other sections of this application.

As illustrated in the example of FIG. 1, gaming network 100 may include one or more gaming devices 101 for which promotional functionality has been enabled. According to specific embodiments, examples of such gaming devices may include, but are not limited to, one or more of the following (and/or combination thereof): electronic gaming machines; wireless gaming devices; mobile gaming devices; remote gaming devices (e.g., computer systems which are operable to allow a user to engage in casino game play activities via the Internet); other electronic devices (e.g., cell phones, PDAs, etc.) which may be operable to allow a user to engage in casino game play activities; etc.

Depending upon particular circumstances, an active player 130 may or may not be actively involved in game play at the gaming device 101.

According to some embodiments, such as that illustrated in FIG. 1, the gaming device 101 may be operable to communicate with various other components and/or systems of gaming network 100 in order, for example, to carry out operations relating to its various functionalities. As illustrated in the embodiment of FIG. 1, such other components and/or systems may include, but are not necessarily limited to, one or more of the following: player tracking system(s) 104, promotion server system(s) 104, casino layout/physical environment system(s) 102, wager tracking/accounting system(s) 114, real-time data tracking system(s) 112, game server(s) 110, bonus server(s) 108, etc. Although not specifically illustrated in the embodiment of FIG. 1, other components/systems of the gaming network may also be operable to communicate with various other components and/or systems of gaming network 100 in order, for example, to carry out operations relating to their various functionalities.

In at least one embodiment, promotion server system 106 may be operable to facilitate and/or manage a variety of promotion-related activities such as, for example: polling selected gaming devices for current state information and/or game history information; selecting and/or generating promotion information; facilitating promotion tracking; managing promotional offer database(s); entering promotion objectives; creating promotions or campaigns; selecting players, EGMs, and/or components for promotion participation; monitoring one or more promotion(s) as they are executed; analyzing promotion results, including, for example, the player and casino profitability and/or revenue impact; etc.

As illustrated in the embodiment of FIG. 1, promotion server system 106 may include various components or subsystems such as, for example, a promotion tracking component 106 a, a promotional offer database 106 b, etc. In at least one implementation, promotion tracking component 106 a may be operable to track the status (and/or other details) of various active promotions. Such tracking may include, for example, monitoring the fulfillment of various requirements associated with one or more active promotions.

In at least one embodiment, promotional offer database 106 b may be operable to store information relating to different promotional offers and associated criteria. In at least one implementation, promotion server system 106 may include at least one interface for allowing the promotional offer database to be populated and/or managed by various promotional offer providers 144. Such promotional offer providers may include local and/or remote entities such as, for example: casino employees, gaming vendors, advertisers, remote servers, software-implemented entities, etc. In one implementation, promotional offers may be generated by electronic entities possessing some degree of artificial intelligence. For example, different types of game themes, game types, denominations, and/or paytables may be configured or designed to include a sufficient amount of artificial intelligence to allow such entities to independently generate one or more different promotional offers which may be fed into the promotional offer database 106 b.

Example Gaming Machine Embodiments

FIG. 2 shows a perspective view of a gaming machine 2 in accordance with a specific embodiment of various embodiments. The gaming devices and gaming functions described with respect to at least FIG. 2 may be incorporated as components of one or more externally-controlled interfaces (ECIs) as described herein, for example. Further, the gaming devices may be operated in accordance with instructions received from a remote host in communication with the gaming machine. In some instance, a host-controlled process executed on the gaming machine may share a gaming device with a process controlled by the master gaming controller 46 on the gaming machine.

As illustrated in the example of FIG. 2, machine 2 includes a main cabinet 4, which generally surrounds the machine interior and is viewable by users. The main cabinet includes a main door 8 on the front of the machine, which opens to provide access to the interior of the machine.

In one embodiment, attached to the main door is at least one payment acceptor 28 and a bill validator 30, and a coin tray 38. In one embodiment, the payment acceptor may include a coin slot and a payment, note or bill acceptor, where the player inserts money, coins or tokens. The player can place coins in the coin slot or paper money, a ticket or voucher into the payment, note or bill acceptor. In other embodiments, devices such as readers or validators for credit cards, debit cards or credit slips may accept payment. In one embodiment, a player may insert an identification card into a card reader of the gaming machine. In one embodiment, the identification card is a smart card having a programmed microchip or a magnetic strip coded with a player's identification, credit totals (or related data) and other relevant information. In another embodiment, a player may carry a portable device, such as a cell phone, a radio frequency identification tag or any other suitable wireless device, which communicates a player's identification, credit totals (or related data) and other relevant information to the gaming machine. In one embodiment, money may be transferred to a gaming machine through electronic funds transfer. When a player funds the gaming machine, the master gaming controller 46 or another logic device coupled to the gaming machine determines the amount of funds entered and displays the corresponding amount on the credit or other suitable display as described above.

In one embodiment attached to the main door are a plurality of player-input switches or buttons 32. The input switches can include any suitable devices which enables the player to produce an input signal which is received by the processor. In one embodiment, after appropriate funding of the gaming machine, the input switch is a game activation device, such as a pull arm or a play button which is used by the player to start any primary game or sequence of events in the gaming machine. The play button can be any suitable play activator such as a bet one button, a max bet button or a repeat the bet button. In one embodiment, upon appropriate funding, the gaming machine may begin the game play automatically. In another embodiment, upon the player engaging one of the play buttons, the gaming machine may automatically activate game play.

In one embodiment, one input switch is a bet one button. The player places a bet by pushing the bet one button. The player can increase the bet by one credit each time the player pushes the bet one button. When the player pushes the bet one button, the number of credits shown in the credit display preferably decreases by one, and the number of credits shown in the bet display preferably increases by one. In another embodiment, one input switch is a bet max button (not shown), which enables the player to bet the maximum wager permitted for a game of the gaming machine.

In one embodiment, one input switch is a cash-out button. The player may push the cash-out button and cash out to receive a cash payment or other suitable form of payment corresponding to the number of remaining credits. In one embodiment, when the player cashes out, the player may receive the coins or tokens in a coin payout tray. In one embodiment, when the player cashes out, the player may receive other payout mechanisms such as tickets or credit slips redeemable by a cashier (or other suitable redemption system) or funding to the player's electronically recordable identification card. Details of ticketing or voucher system that may be utilized with various embodiments are described in co-pending U.S. patent application Ser. No. 10/406,911, filed Apr. 2, 2003, by Rowe, et al., and entitled, “Cashless Transaction Clearinghouse,” which is incorporated herein by reference and for all purposes.

In one embodiment, one input switch is a touch-screen coupled with a touch-screen controller, or some other touch-sensitive display overlay to enable for player interaction with the images on the display. The touch-screen and the touch-screen controller may be connected to a video controller. A player may make decisions and input signals into the gaming machine by touching the touch-screen at the appropriate places. One such input switch is a touch-screen button panel.

In one embodiment, the gaming machine may further include a plurality of communication ports for enabling communication of the gaming machine processor with external peripherals, such as external video sources, expansion buses, game or other displays, an SCSI port or a key pad.

As seen in FIG. 2, viewable through the main door is a video display monitor 34 and an information panel 36. The display monitor 34 will typically be a cathode ray tube, high resolution flat-panel LCD, SED based-display, plasma display, a television display, a display based on light emitting diodes (LED), a display based on a plurality of organic light-emitting diodes (OLEDs), a display based on polymer light-emitting diodes (PLEDs), a display including a projected and/or reflected image or any other suitable electronic device or display. The information panel 36 or belly-glass 40 may be a static back-lit, silk screened glass panel with lettering to indicate general game information including, for example, a game denomination (e.g. $0.25 or $1) or a dynamic display, such as an LCD, an OLED or E-INK display. In another embodiment, at least one display device may be a mobile display device, such as a PDA or tablet PC, that enables play of at least a portion of the primary or secondary game at a location remote from the gaming machine. The display devices may be of any suitable size and configuration, such as a square, a rectangle or an elongated rectangle.

The display devices of the gaming machine are configured to display at least one and preferably a plurality of game or other suitable images, symbols and indicia such as any visual representation or exhibition of the movement of objects such as mechanical, virtual or video reels and wheels, dynamic lighting, video images, images of people, characters, places, things and faces of cards, and the like. In one alternative embodiment, the symbols, images and indicia displayed on or of the display device may be in mechanical form. That is, the display device may include any electromechanical device, such as one or more mechanical objects, such as one or more rotatable wheels, reels or dice, configured to display at least one or a plurality of game or other suitable images, symbols or indicia. In another embodiment, the display device may include an electromechanical device adjacent to a video display, such as a video display positioned in front of a mechanical reel. In another embodiment, the display device may include dual layered video displays which co-act to generate one or more images.

The bill validator 30, player-input switches 32, video display monitor 34, and information panel are gaming devices that may be used to play a game on the game machine 2. Also, these devices may be utilized as part of an ECI provided on the gaming machine. According to a specific embodiment, the devices may be controlled by code executed by a master gaming controller 46 housed inside the main cabinet 4 of the machine 2. The master gaming controller may include one or more processors including general purpose and specialized processors, such as graphics cards, and one or more memory devices including volatile and non-volatile memory. The master gaming controller 46 may periodically configure and/or authenticate the code executed on the gaming machine.

In one embodiment, the gaming machine may include a sound generating device coupled to one or more sounds cards. In one embodiment, the sound generating device includes at least one and preferably a plurality of speakers or other sound generating hardware and/or software for generating sounds, such as playing music for the primary and/or secondary game or for other modes of the gaming machine, such as an attract mode. In one embodiment, the gaming machine provides dynamic sounds coupled with attractive multimedia images displayed on one or more of the display devices to provide an audio-visual representation or to otherwise display full-motion video with sound to attract players to the gaming machine. During idle periods, the gaming machine may display a sequence of audio and/or visual attraction messages to attract potential players to the gaming machine. The videos may also be customized for or to provide any appropriate information.

In one embodiment, the gaming machine may include a sensor, such as a camera that is selectively positioned to acquire an image of a player actively using the gaming machine and/or the surrounding area of the gaming machine. In one embodiment, the camera may be configured to selectively acquire still or moving (e.g., video) images and may be configured to acquire the images in either an analog, digital or other suitable format. The display devices may be configured to display the image acquired by the camera as well as display the visible manifestation of the game in split screen or picture-in-picture fashion. For example, the camera may acquire an image of the player and the processor may incorporate that image into the primary and/or secondary game as a game image, symbol or indicia.

In another embodiment, the gaming devices on the gaming machine may be controlled by code executed by the master gaming controller 46 (or another logic device coupled to or in communication with the gaming machine, such as a player tracking controller) in conjunction with code executed by a remote logic device in communication with the master gaming controller 46. In at least one implementation, the master gaming controller 46 may execute ECI processes that enable content generated and managed on a remote host to be output on the gaming machine. The gaming machine may receive and send events to a remote host that may affect the content output on an instantiation of a particular ECI. The master gaming controller 46 may be configured to limit the resources that can be utilized by the ECI processes executing on the gaming machine at any given time and may constantly monitor resources utilized by the ECI processes to ensure that gaming experience on the gaming machine is optimal.

Many different types of games, including mechanical slot games, video slot games, video poker, video black jack, video pachinko and lottery, may be accessed via gaming machine 2. In particular, the gaming machine 2 may be operable to provide consecutive play or concurrent play of different game types, game themes, denominations, paytables, etc. In at least some embodiments, the game play activities provided at gaming machine 2 may be differentiated according to themes, sounds, graphics, type of game (e.g., slot game vs. card game), denomination, number of paylines, maximum jackpot, progressive or non-progressive, bonus games, etc.

In one embodiment, the gaming machine 2 may be operable to enable a player to select a game of chance to play from a plurality of different gaming components (e.g., game themes, game types, denominations, paytables, etc.) available via the gaming machine. For example, the gaming machine may provide a menu with a list of the different games that are available for play on the gaming machine and a player may be able to select from the list a first game of chance that they wish to play. In one such embodiment, a memory device of the remote host stores different game programs and instructions, executable by a gaming machine processor, to control the gaming machine. Each executable game program represents a different game theme or game type, which may be played on one or more of the gaming machines in the gaming system. Such different games may include the same or substantially the same game play with different denominations and/or paytables. In different embodiments, the executable game program is for a primary game, a secondary game or both. In another embodiment, the game program may be executable as a secondary game to be played simultaneous with the play of a primary game (which may be downloaded to or fixed on the gaming machine) or vice versa.

In one such embodiment, each gaming machine includes at least one or more display devices and/or one or more input switches for interaction with a player. A local processor, such as the above-described gaming machine processor or a processor of a local server, is operable with the display device(s) and/or the input switch(s) of one or more of the gaming machines. In operation, the remote host is operable to communicate one or more of the stored game programs to at least one local gaming machine processor. In different embodiments, the stored game programs are communicated or delivered by embedding the communicated game program in a device or a component (e.g., a microchip to be inserted in a gaming machine), writing the game program on a disc or other media, downloading or streaming the game program over a dedicated data network, internet or a telephone line. In different embodiments, the stored game programs are downloaded in response to a player inserting a player tracking card, a player selecting a specific game program, a player inserting a designated wager amount, the remote host communicating data to the gaming device regarding an upcoming tournament or promotion or any other suitable trigger. After the stored game programs are communicated from the remote host, the local gaming machine processor executes the communicated program to facilitate play of the communicated program by a player through the display device(s) and/or input switch(s) of the gaming machine. That is, when a game program is communicated to a local gaming machine processor, the local gaming machine processor changes the game or type of game played at the gaming machine.

In particular embodiments, the master gaming controller 46 may provide information to a remote host providing content to an ECI on the gaming machine 2 that enables the remote host to select graphical and audio themes for the ECI content that matches the theme of the game graphics and game sounds currently played on the gaming machine 2.

In one embodiment, the various games available for play on the gaming machine 2 may be stored as game software on a mass storage device in the gaming machine. In one such embodiment, the memory device of the gaming machine stores program codes and instructions, executable by the gaming machine processor, to control the games available for play on the gaming machine. The memory device also stores other data such as image data, event data, player input data, random or pseudo-random number generators, pay-table data or information and applicable game rules that relate to the play of the gaming machine. In another embodiment, the games available for play on the gaming machine may be generated on a remote gaming device but then displayed on the gaming machine.

In one embodiment, the gaming machine 2 may execute game software, such as but not limited to video streaming software that enables the game to be displayed on the gaming machine. When a game is stored on the gaming machine 2, it may be loaded from the mass storage device into a RAM for execution. In some cases, after a selection of a game, the game software that enables the selected game to be generated may be downloaded from a remote gaming device, such as another gaming machine.

As illustrated in the example of FIG. 2, the gaming machine 2 includes a top box 6, which sits on top of the main cabinet 4. The top box 6 houses a number of devices, which may be used to add features to a game being played on the gaming machine 2, including speakers 10, 12, 14, a ticket printer 18 which prints bar-coded tickets 20, a key pad 22 for entering player tracking information, a display 16 (e.g., a video LCD display) for displaying player tracking information, a card reader 24 for entering a magnetic striped card containing player tracking information, and a video display screen 45. The ticket printer 18 may be used to print tickets for a cashless ticketing system. Further, the top box 6 may house different or additional devices not illustrated in FIG. 6. For example, the top box may include a bonus wheel or a back-lit silk screened panel which may be used to add bonus features to the game being played on the gaming machine. As another example, the top box may include a display for a progressive jackpot offered on the gaming machine. During a game, these devices are controlled and powered, in part, by circuitry (e.g. a master gaming controller 46) housed within the main cabinet 4 of the machine 2.

It will be appreciated that gaming machine 2 is but one example from a wide range of gaming machine designs on which various embodiments may be implemented. For example, not all suitable gaming machines have top boxes or player tracking features. Further, some gaming machines have only a single game display—mechanical or video, while others may have multiple displays. As another example, a game may be generated in on a host computer and may be displayed on a remote terminal or a remote gaming device.

In various embodiments, the remote gaming device may be connected to the host computer via a network of some type such as a local area network, a wide area network, an intranet or the Internet. In one such embodiment, a plurality of the gaming machines may be capable of being connected together through a data network. In one embodiment, the data network is a local area network (LAN), in which one or more of the gaming machines are substantially proximate to each other and an on-site remote host as in, for example, a gaming establishment or a portion of a gaming establishment. In another embodiment, the data network is a wide area network (WAN) in which one or more of the gaming machines are in communication with at least one off-site remote host. In this embodiment, the plurality of gaming machines may be located in a different part of the gaming establishment or within a different gaming establishment than the off-site remote host. Thus, the WAN may include an off-site remote host and an off-site gaming machine located within gaming establishments in the same geographic area, such as a city or state. The WAN gaming system may be substantially identical to the LAN gaming system described above, although the number of gaming machines in each system may vary relative to each other.

In another embodiment, the data network is an internet or intranet. In this embodiment, the operation of the gaming machine can be viewed at the gaming machine with at least one internet browser. In this embodiment, operation of the gaming machine and accumulation of credits may be accomplished with only a connection to the central server or controller (the internet/intranet server) through a conventional phone or other data transmission line, digital subscriber line (DSL), T-1 line, coaxial cable, fiber optic cable, or other suitable connection. In this embodiment, players may access an internet game page from any location where an internet connection and computer, or other internet facilitator is available. The expansion in the number of computers and number and speed of internet connections in recent years increases opportunities for players to play from an ever-increasing number of remote sites. It should be appreciated that enhanced bandwidth of digital wireless communications may render such technology suitable for some or all communications, particularly if such communications are encrypted. Higher data transmission speeds may be useful for enhancing the sophistication and response of the display and interaction with the player.

In another embodiment, the remote gaming device may be a portable gaming device such as but not limited to a cell phone, a personal digital assistant, and a wireless game player. Images rendered from 3-D gaming environments may be displayed on portable gaming devices that are used to play a game of chance. Further a gaming machine or server may include gaming logic for commanding a remote gaming device to render an image from a virtual camera in a 3-D gaming environments stored on the remote gaming device and to display the rendered image on a display located on the remote gaming device. In addition, various combinations of gaming devices are possible on the gaming machine. For example, some gaming machine only accept cash, cashless vouchers or electronic fund transfers and do not include coin acceptors or coin hoppers. Thus, those of skill in the art will understand that various embodiments, as described below, can be deployed on most any gaming machine now available or hereafter developed.

In another embodiment, the gaming machine disclosed herein is operable over a wireless network, such as part of a wireless gaming system. In this embodiment, the gaming machine may be a hand held device, a mobile device or any other suitable wireless device that enables a player to play any suitable game at a variety of different locations. It should be appreciated that a gaming machine as disclosed herein may be a device that has obtained approval from a regulatory gaming commission or a device that has not obtained approval from a regulatory gaming commission.

Some preferred gaming machines of the present assignee are implemented with special features and/or additional circuitry that differentiates them from general-purpose computers (e.g., desktop PC's and laptops). Gaming machines are highly regulated to ensure fairness and, in many cases, gaming machines are operable to dispense monetary awards of multiple millions of dollars. Therefore, to satisfy security and regulatory requirements in a gaming environment, hardware and software architectures may be implemented in gaming machines that differ significantly from those of general-purpose computers. A description of gaming machines relative to general-purpose computing machines and some examples of the additional (or different) components and features found in gaming machines are described below.

At first glance, one might think that adapting PC technologies to the gaming industry would be a simple proposition because both PCs and gaming machines employ microprocessors that control a variety of devices. However, because of such reasons as 1) the regulatory requirements that are placed upon gaming machines, 2) the harsh environment in which gaming machines operate, 3) security requirements and 4) fault tolerance requirements, adapting PC technologies to a gaming machine can be quite difficult. Further, techniques and methods for solving a problem in the PC industry, such as device compatibility and connectivity issues, might not be adequate in the gaming environment. For instance, a fault or a weakness tolerated in a PC, such as security holes in software or frequent crashes, may not be tolerated in a gaming machine because in a gaming machine these faults can lead to a direct loss of funds from the gaming machine, such as stolen cash or loss of revenue when the gaming machine is not operating properly.

For the purposes of illustration, a few differences between PC systems and gaming systems will be described. A first difference between gaming machines and common PC based computers systems is that gaming machines are designed to be state-based systems. In a state-based system, the system stores and maintains its current state in a non-volatile memory, such that, in the event of a power failure or other malfunction the gaming machine will return to its current state when the power is restored. For instance, if a player was shown an award for a game of chance and, before the award could be provided to the player the power failed, the gaming machine, upon the restoration of power, would return to the state where the award is indicated. As anyone who has used a PC, knows, PCs are not state machines and a majority of data is usually lost when a malfunction occurs. This requirement affects the software and hardware design on a gaming machine.

A second important difference between gaming machines and common PC based computer systems is that for regulation purposes, the software on the gaming machine used to generate the game of chance and operate the gaming machine has been designed to be static and monolithic to prevent cheating by the operator of gaming machine. For instance, one solution that has been employed in the gaming industry to prevent cheating and satisfy regulatory requirements has been to manufacture a gaming machine that can use a proprietary processor running instructions to generate the game of chance from an EPROM or other form of non-volatile memory. The coding instructions on the EPROM are static (non-changeable) and must be approved by a gaming regulators in a particular jurisdiction and installed in the presence of a person representing the gaming jurisdiction. Any changes to any part of the software required to generate the game of chance, such as adding a new device driver used by the master gaming controller to operate a device during generation of the game of chance can require a new EPROM to be burnt, approved by the gaming jurisdiction and reinstalled on the gaming machine in the presence of a gaming regulator. Regardless of whether the EPROM solution is used, to gain approval in most gaming jurisdictions, a gaming machine must demonstrate sufficient safeguards that prevent an operator or player of a gaming machine from manipulating hardware and software in a manner that gives them an unfair and some cases an illegal advantage. The gaming machine should have a means to determine if the code it will execute is valid. If the code is not valid, the gaming machine must have a means to prevent the code from being executed. The code validation requirements in the gaming industry affect both hardware and software designs on gaming machines.

A third important difference between gaming machines and common PC based computer systems is the number and kinds of peripheral devices used on a gaming machine are not as great as on PC based computer systems. Traditionally, in the gaming industry, gaming machines have been relatively simple in the sense that the number of peripheral devices and the number of functions the gaming machine has been limited. Further, in operation, the functionality of gaming machines were relatively constant once the gaming machine was deployed, i.e., new peripherals devices and new gaming software were infrequently added to the gaming machine. This differs from a PC where users will go out and buy different combinations of devices and software from different manufacturers and connect them to a PC to suit their needs depending on a desired application. Therefore, the types of devices connected to a PC may vary greatly from user to user depending in their individual requirements and may vary significantly over time.

Although the variety of devices available for a PC may be greater than on a gaming machine, gaming machines still have unique device requirements that differ from a PC, such as device security requirements not usually addressed by PCs. For instance, monetary devices, such as coin dispensers, bill validators and ticket printers and computing devices that are used to govern the input and output of cash to a gaming machine have security requirements that are not typically addressed in PCs. Therefore, many PC techniques and methods developed to facilitate device connectivity and device compatibility do not address the emphasis placed on security in the gaming industry.

To address some of the issues described above, a number of hardware/software components and architectures are utilized in gaming machines that are not typically found in general purpose computing devices, such as PCs. These hardware/software components and architectures, as described below in more detail, include but are not limited to watchdog timers, voltage monitoring systems, state-based software architecture and supporting hardware, specialized communication interfaces, security monitoring and trusted memory.

For example, a watchdog timer is normally used in International Game Technology (IGT) gaming machines to provide a software failure detection mechanism. In a normally operating system, the operating software periodically accesses control registers in the watchdog timer subsystem to “re-trigger” the watchdog. Should the operating software fail to access the control registers within a preset timeframe, the watchdog timer will timeout and generate a system reset. Typical watchdog timer circuits include a loadable timeout counter register to enable the operating software to set the timeout interval within a certain range of time. A differentiating feature of the some preferred circuits is that the operating software cannot completely disable the function of the watchdog timer. In other words, the watchdog timer always functions from the time power is applied to the board.

IGT gaming computer platforms preferably use several power supply voltages to operate portions of the computer circuitry. These can be generated in a central power supply or locally on the computer board. If any of these voltages falls out of the tolerance limits of the circuitry they power, unpredictable operation of the computer may result. Though most modern general-purpose computers include voltage monitoring circuitry, these types of circuits only report voltage status to the operating software. Out of tolerance voltages can cause software malfunction, creating a potential uncontrolled condition in the gaming computer. Gaming machines of the present assignee typically have power supplies with tighter voltage margins than that required by the operating circuitry. In addition, the voltage monitoring circuitry implemented in IGT gaming computers typically has two thresholds of control. The first threshold generates a software event that can be detected by the operating software and an error condition generated. This threshold is triggered when a power supply voltage falls out of the tolerance range of the power supply, but is still within the operating range of the circuitry. The second threshold is set when a power supply voltage falls out of the operating tolerance of the circuitry. In this case, the circuitry generates a reset, halting operation of the computer.

The standard method of operation for IGT gaming machine game software is to use a state machine. Different functions of the game (bet, play, result, points in the graphical presentation, etc.) may be defined as a state. When a game moves from one state to another, critical data regarding the game software is stored in a custom non-volatile memory subsystem. This is critical to ensure the player's wager and credits are preserved and to minimize potential disputes in the event of a malfunction on the gaming machine.

In general, the gaming machine does not advance from a first state to a second state until critical information that enables the first state to be reconstructed is stored. This feature enables the game to recover operation to the current state of play in the event of a malfunction, loss of power, etc that occurred just prior to the malfunction. After the state of the gaming machine is restored during the play of a game of chance, game play may resume and the game may be completed in a manner that is no different than if the malfunction had not occurred. Typically, battery backed RAM devices are used to preserve this critical data although other types of non-volatile memory devices may be employed. These memory devices are not used in typical general-purpose computers.

As described in the preceding paragraph, when a malfunction occurs during a game of chance, the gaming machine may be restored to a state in the game of chance just prior to when the malfunction occurred. The restored state may include metering information and graphical information that was displayed on the gaming machine in the state prior to the malfunction. For example, when the malfunction occurs during the play of a card game after the cards have been dealt, the gaming machine may be restored with the cards that were previously displayed as part of the card game. As another example, a bonus game may be triggered during the play of a game of chance where a player is required to make a number of selections on a video display screen. When a malfunction has occurred after the player has made one or more selections, the gaming machine may be restored to a state that shows the graphical presentation at the just prior to the malfunction including an indication of selections that have already been made by the player. In general, the gaming machine may be restored to any state in a plurality of states that occur in the game of chance that occurs while the game of chance is played or to states that occur between the play of a game of chance.

Game history information regarding previous games played such as an amount wagered, the outcome of the game and so forth may also be stored in a non-volatile memory device. The information stored in the non-volatile memory may be detailed enough to reconstruct a portion of the graphical presentation that was previously presented on the gaming machine and the state of the gaming machine (e.g., credits) at the time the game of chance was played. The game history information may be utilized in the event of a dispute. For example, a player may decide that in a previous game of chance that they did not receive credit for an award that they believed they won. The game history information may be used to reconstruct the state of the gaming machine prior, during and/or after the disputed game to demonstrate whether the player was correct or not in their assertion. Further details of a state based gaming system, recovery from malfunctions and game history are described in U.S. Pat. No. 6,804,763, titled “High Performance Battery Backed RAM Interface”, U.S. Pat. No. 6,863,608, titled “Frame Capture of Actual Game Play,” U.S. application Ser. No. 10/243,104, titled, “Dynamic NV-RAM,” and U.S. application Ser. No. 10/758,828, titled, “Frame Capture of Actual Game Play,” each of which is incorporated by reference and for all purposes.

In particular embodiments, a state of a gaming device may be reconstructed from game history information stored in multiple locations. For instance, in one embodiment, a gaming device operable to provide an ECI and a game interface simultaneously may not store state information for the ECI but only for the game interface. Thus, to reconstruct the state of gaming device including the ECI in a dispute, after a malfunction or after a power-failure, game history information may have to be retrieved from a local memory source on the gaming device and a remote memory source located on a remote host that provides the ECI. For example, the remote and gaming machine may store correlation information, such as timing information or referential information, that allows events on the gaming machine to be correlated to events occurring on the remote host. The correlation information stored at the gaming machine and/or remote host may be used to synchronize the reconstruction of a game state on the gaming machine. In a particular embodiment, a remote host that provides ECI services to a gaming device may provide an ECI that allows archival information regarding ECIs displayed on a gaming device to be retrieved.

Another feature of gaming machines, such as IGT gaming computers, is that they often include unique interfaces, including serial interfaces, to connect to specific subsystems internal and external to the gaming machine. The serial devices may have electrical interface requirements that differ from the “standard” EIA 232 serial interfaces provided by general-purpose computers. These interfaces may include EIA 485, EIA 422, Fiber Optic Serial, optically coupled serial interfaces, current loop style serial interfaces, etc. In addition, to conserve serial interfaces internally in the gaming machine, serial devices may be connected in a shared, daisy-chain fashion where multiple peripheral devices are connected to a single serial channel.

The serial interfaces may be used to transmit information using communication protocols that are unique to the gaming industry. For example, IGT's Netplex is a proprietary communication protocol used for serial communication between gaming devices. As another example, SAS is a communication protocol used to transmit information, such as metering information, from a gaming machine to a remote device. Often SAS is used in conjunction with a player tracking system.

IGT gaming machines may alternatively be treated as peripheral devices to a casino communication controller and connected in a shared daisy chain fashion to a single serial interface. In both cases, the peripheral devices are preferably assigned device addresses. If so, the serial controller circuitry must implement a method to generate or detect unique device addresses. General-purpose computer serial ports are not able to do this.

Security monitoring circuits detect intrusion into an IGT gaming machine by monitoring security switches attached to access doors in the gaming machine cabinet. Preferably, access violations result in suspension of game play and can trigger additional security operations to preserve the current state of game play. These circuits also function when power is off by use of a battery backup. In power-off operation, these circuits continue to monitor the access doors of the gaming machine. When power is restored, the gaming machine can determine whether any security violations occurred while power was off, e.g., via software for reading status registers. This can trigger event log entries and further data authentication operations by the gaming machine software.

Trusted memory devices and/or trusted memory sources are preferably included in an IGT gaming machine computer to ensure the authenticity of the software that may be stored on less secure memory subsystems, such as mass storage devices. Trusted memory devices and controlling circuitry are typically designed to not enable modification of the code and data stored in the memory device while the memory device is installed in the gaming machine. The code and data stored in these devices may include authentication algorithms, random number generators, authentication keys, operating system kernels, etc. The purpose of these trusted memory devices is to provide gaming regulatory authorities a root trusted authority within the computing environment of the gaming machine that can be tracked and verified as original. This may be accomplished via removal of the trusted memory device from the gaming machine computer and verification of the secure memory device contents is a separate third party verification device. Once the trusted memory device is verified as authentic, and based on the approval of the verification algorithms included in the trusted device, the gaming machine is enabled to verify the authenticity of additional code and data that may be located in the gaming computer assembly, such as code and data stored on hard disk drives. A few details related to trusted memory devices that may be used in example embodiments are described in U.S. Pat. No. 6,685,567, filed Aug. 8, 2001 and titled “Process Verification,” and U.S. patent application Ser. No. 11/221,314, titled “Data Pattern Verification in a Gaming Machine Environment,” filed Sep. 6, 2005, each of which is incorporated herein by reference in its entirety and for all purposes.

In at least one embodiment, at least a portion of the trusted memory devices/sources may correspond to memory which cannot easily be altered (e.g., “unalterable memory”) such as, for example, EPROMS, PROMS, Bios, Extended Bios, and/or other memory sources which are able to be configured, verified, and/or authenticated (e.g., for authenticity) in a secure and controlled manner.

According to a specific implementation, when a trusted information source is in communication with a remote device via a network, the remote device may employ a verification scheme to verify the identity of the trusted information source. For example, the trusted information source and the remote device may exchange information using public and private encryption keys to verify each other's identities. In another example of an embodiment, the remote device and the trusted information source may engage in methods using zero knowledge proofs to authenticate each of their respective identities. Details of zero knowledge proofs that may be used with example embodiments are described in US publication no. 2003/0203756, by Jackson, filed on Apr. 25, 2002 and entitled, “Authentication in a Secure Computerized Gaming System”, which is incorporated herein in its entirety and for all purposes.

Gaming devices storing trusted information may utilize apparatus or methods to detect and prevent tampering. For instance, trusted information stored in a trusted memory device may be encrypted to prevent its misuse. In addition, the trusted memory device may be secured behind a locked door. Further, one or more sensors may be coupled to the memory device to detect tampering with the memory device and provide some record of the tampering. In yet another example, the memory device storing trusted information might be designed to detect tampering attempts and clear or erase itself when an attempt at tampering has been detected.

Additional details relating to trusted memory devices/sources are described in U.S. patent application Ser. No. 11/078,966, entitled “Secured Virtual Network in a Gaming Environment”, naming Nguyen et al. as inventors, filed on Mar. 10, 2005, herein incorporated in its entirety and for all purposes.

Mass storage devices used in a general purpose computer typically enable code and data to be read from and written to the mass storage device. In a gaming machine environment, modification of the gaming code stored on a mass storage device is strictly controlled and would only be enabled under specific maintenance type events with electronic and physical enablers required. Though this level of security could be provided by software, IGT gaming computers that include mass storage devices preferably include hardware level mass storage data protection circuitry that operates at the circuit level to monitor attempts to modify data on the mass storage device and will generate both software and hardware error triggers should a data modification be attempted without the proper electronic and physical enablers being present. Details using a mass storage device that may be used with example embodiments are described, for example, in U.S. Pat. No. 6,149,522, herein incorporated by reference in its entirety for all purposes.

Returning to the example of FIG. 2, when a user wishes to play the gaming machine 2, he or she inserts a ticket or cash through the payment or coin acceptor 28 or bill validator 30. Additionally, the bill validator may accept a printed ticket voucher which may be accepted by the bill validator 30 as an indicia of credit when a cashless ticketing system is used. At the start of the game, the player may enter playing tracking information using the card reader 24, the keypad 22, and the florescent display 16. Further, other game preferences of the player playing the game may be read from a card inserted into the card reader. During the game, the player views game information using the video display 34. Other game and prize information may also be displayed in the video display screen 45 located in the top box.

During the course of a game, a player may be required to make a number of decisions, which affect the outcome of the game. For example, a player may vary his or her wager on a particular game, select a prize for a particular game selected from a prize server, or make game decisions which affect the outcome of a particular game. The player may make these choices using the player-input switches 32, the video display screen 34 or using some other device which enables a player to input information into the gaming machine. In some embodiments, the player may be able to access various game services such as concierge services and entertainment content services using the video display screen 34 and one more input devices.

During certain game events, the gaming machine 2 may display visual and auditory effects that can be perceived by the player. These effects add to the excitement of a game, which makes a player more likely to continue playing. Auditory effects include various sounds that are projected by the speakers 10, 12, 14. Visual effects include flashing lights, strobing lights or other patterns displayed from lights on the gaming machine 2 or from lights behind the belly glass 40. After the player has completed a game, the player may receive game tokens from the coin tray 38 or the ticket 20 from the printer 18, which may be used for further games or to redeem a prize. Further, the player may receive a ticket 20 for food, merchandise, or games from the printer 18.

In one embodiment, as described above, the gaming machine can incorporate any suitable wagering primary or base game. The gaming machine or device may include some or all of the features of conventional gaming machines or devices. The primary or base game may comprise any suitable reel-type game, card game, cascading or falling symbol game, number game or other game of chance susceptible to representation in an electronic or electromechanical form, which in one embodiment produces a random outcome based on probability data at the time of or after placement of a wager. That is, different primary wagering games, such as video poker games, video blackjack games, video keno, video bingo or any other suitable primary or base game may be implemented.

FIG. 3 is a simplified block diagram of an exemplary gaming machine 300 in accordance with a specific embodiment. As illustrated in the embodiment of FIG. 3, gaming machine 300 includes at least one processor 310, at least one interface 306, and memory 316.

In one implementation, processor 310 and master game controller 312 are included in a logic device 313 enclosed in a logic device housing. The processor 310 may include any conventional processor or logic device configured to execute software allowing various configuration and reconfiguration tasks such as, for example: a) communicating with a remote source via communication interface 306, such as a server that stores authentication information or games; b) converting signals read by an interface to a format corresponding to that used by software or memory in the gaming machine; c) accessing memory to configure or reconfigure game parameters in the memory according to indicia read from the device; d) communicating with interfaces, various peripheral devices 322 and/or I/O devices; e) operating peripheral devices 322 such as, for example, card readers, paper ticket readers, etc.; f) operating various I/O devices such as, for example, displays 335, input devices 330; etc. For instance, the processor 310 may send messages including game play information to the displays 335 to inform players of cards dealt, wagering information, and/or other desired information.

The gaming machine 300 also includes memory 316 which may include, for example, volatile memory (e.g., RAM 309), non-volatile memory 319 (e.g., disk memory, FLASH memory, EPROMs, etc.), unalterable memory (e.g., EPROMs 308), etc.. The memory may be configured or designed to store, for example: 1) configuration software 314 such as all the parameters and settings for a game playable on the gaming machine; 2) associations 318 between configuration indicia read from a device with one or more parameters and settings; 3) communication protocols allowing the processor 310 to communicate with peripheral devices 322 and I/O devices 311; 4) a secondary memory storage device 315 such as a non-volatile memory device, configured to store gaming software related information (the gaming software related information and memory may be used to store various audio files and games not currently being used and invoked in a configuration or reconfiguration); 5) communication transport protocols (such as, for example, TCP/IP, USB, Firewire, IEEE1394, Bluetooth, IEEE 802.11x (IEEE 802.11 standards), hiperlan/2, HomeRF, etc.) for allowing the gaming machine to communicate with local and non-local devices using such protocols; etc. In one implementation, the master game controller 312 communicates using a serial communication protocol. A few examples of serial communication protocols that may be used to communicate with the master game controller include but are not limited to USB, RS-232 and Netplex (a proprietary protocol developed by IGT, Reno, Nev.).

A plurality of device drivers 342 may be stored in memory 316. Example of different types of device drivers may include device drivers for gaming components, device drivers for peripheral components 322, etc. Typically, the device drivers 342 utilize a communication protocol of some type that enables communication with a particular physical device. The device driver abstracts the hardware implementation of a device. For example, a device drive may be written for each type of card reader that may be potentially connected to the gaming machine. Examples of communication protocols used to implement the device drivers include Netplex, USB, Serial, Ethernet 375, Firewire, I/O debouncer, direct memory map, serial, PCI, parallel, RF, Bluetooth™, near-field communications (e.g., using near-field magnetics), 802.11 (WiFi), etc. Netplex is a proprietary IGT standard while the others are open standards. According to a specific embodiment, when one type of a particular device is exchanged for another type of the particular device, a new device driver may be loaded from the memory 316 by the processor 310 to allow communication with the device. For instance, one type of card reader in gaming machine 300 may be replaced with a second type of card reader where device drivers for both card readers are stored in the memory 316.

In some embodiments, the software units stored in the memory 316 may be upgraded as needed. For instance, when the memory 316 is a hard drive, new games, game options, various new parameters, new settings for existing parameters, new settings for new parameters, device drivers, and new communication protocols may be uploaded to the memory from the master game controller 312 or from some other external device. As another example, when the memory 316 includes a CD/DVD drive including a CD/DVD designed or configured to store game options, parameters, and settings, the software stored in the memory may be upgraded by replacing a first CD/DVD with a second CD/DVD. In yet another example, when the memory 316 uses one or more flash memory 319 or EPROM 308 units designed or configured to store games, game options, parameters, settings, the software stored in the flash and/or EPROM memory units may be upgraded by replacing one or more memory units with new memory units which include the upgraded software. In another embodiment, one or more of the memory devices, such as the hard-drive, may be employed in a game software download process from a remote software server.

In some embodiments, the gaming machine 300 may also include various authentication and/or validation components 344 which may be used for authenticating/validating specified gaming components such as, for example, hardware components, software components, firmware components, information stored in the gaming machine memory 316, etc. Examples of various authentication and/or validation components are described in U.S. Pat. No. 6,620,047, entitled, “ELECTRONIC GAMING APPARATUS HAVING AUTHENTICATION DATA SETS,” incorporated herein by reference in its entirety for all purposes.

Peripheral devices 322 may include several device interfaces such as, for example: transponders 354, wire/wireless power distribution components 358, input device(s) 330, sensors 360, audio and/or video devices 362 (e.g., cameras, speakers, etc.), transponders 354, wireless communication components 356, wireless power components 358, mobile device function control components 362, promotion management components 364, etc. In one implementation, promotion management components 364 may include various functionality for managing, monitoring, and/or tracking promotion related activities/events which may occur at EGM 300 and/or other devices in the gaming network.

Sensors 360 may include, for example, optical sensors, pressure sensors, RF sensors, Infrared sensors, image sensors, thermal sensors, biometric sensors, etc. Such sensors may be used for a variety of functions such as, for example detecting the presence and/or identity of various persons (e.g., players, casino employees, etc.), devices (e.g., mobile devices), and/or systems within a predetermined proximity to the gaming machine. In one implementation, at least a portion of the sensors 360 and/or input devices 330 may be implemented in the form of touch keys selected from a wide variety of commercially available touch keys used to provide electrical control signals. Alternatively, some of the touch keys may be implemented in another form which are touch sensors such as those provided by a touchscreen display. For example, in at least one implementation, the gaming machine player displays and/or mobile device displays may include input functionality for allowing players to provide desired information (e.g., game play instructions and/or other input) to the gaming machine, game table and/or other gaming system components using the touch keys and/or other player control sensors/buttons. Additionally, such input functionality may also be used for allowing players to provide input to other devices in the casino gaming network (such as, for example, player tracking systems, side wagering systems, etc.) Wireless communication components 356 may include one or more communication interfaces having different architectures and utilizing a variety of protocols such as, for example, 802.11 (WiFi), 802.15 (including Bluetooth™), 802.16 (WiMax), 802.22, Cellular standards such as CDMA, CDMA2000, WCDMA, Radio Frequency (e.g., RFID), Infrared, Near Field Magnetic communication protocols, etc. The communication links may transmit electrical, electromagnetic or optical signals which carry digital data streams or analog signals representing various types of information.

Power distribution components 358 may include, for example, components or devices which are operable for providing wired or wireless power to other devices. For example, in one implementation, the power distribution components 358 may include a magnetic induction system which is adapted to provide wireless power to one or more mobile devices near the gaming machine. In one implementation, a mobile device docking region may be provided which includes a power distribution component that is able to recharge a mobile device without requiring metal-to-metal contact.

In at least one embodiment, mobile device function control components 362 may be operable to control operating mode selection functionality, features, and/or components associated with one or more mobile devices (e.g., 350). In at least one embodiment, mobile device function control components 362 may be operable to remotely control and/or configure components of one or more mobile devices 350 based on various parameters and/or upon detection of specific events or conditions such as, for example: time of day, player activity levels; location of the mobile device; identity of mobile device user; user input; system override (e.g., emergency condition detected); proximity to other devices belonging to same group or association; proximity to specific objects, regions, zones, etc.

In other embodiments (not shown) other peripheral devices include: player tracking devices, card readers, bill validator/paper ticket readers, etc. Such devices may each comprise resources for handling and processing configuration indicia such as a microcontroller that converts voltage levels for one or more scanning devices to signals provided to processor 310. In one embodiment, application software for interfacing with peripheral devices 322 may store instructions (such as, for example, how to read indicia from a portable device) in a memory device such as, for example, non-volatile memory, hard drive or a flash memory.

In at least one implementation, the gaming machine may include card readers such as used with credit cards, or other identification code reading devices to allow or require player identification in connection with play of the card game and associated recording of game action. Such a user identification interface can be implemented in the form of a variety of magnetic card readers commercially available for reading a user-specific identification information. The user-specific information can be provided on specially constructed magnetic cards issued by a casino, or magnetically coded credit cards or debit cards frequently used with national credit organizations such as VISA™, MASTERCARD™, banks and/or other institutions.

The gaming machine may include other types of participant identification mechanisms which may use a fingerprint image, eye blood vessel image reader, or other suitable biological information to confirm identity of the user. Still further it is possible to provide such participant identification information by having the dealer manually code in the information in response to the player indicating his or her code name or real name. Such additional identification could also be used to confirm credit use of a smart card, transponder, and/or player's mobile device.

It will be apparent to those skilled in the art that other memory types, including various computer readable media, may be used for storing and executing program instructions pertaining to the operation EGMs described herein. Because such information and program instructions may be employed to implement the systems/methods described herein, example embodiments may relate to machine-readable media that include program instructions, state information, etc. for performing various operations described herein. Examples of machine-readable media include, but are not limited to, magnetic media such as hard disks, floppy disks, and magnetic tape; optical media such as CD-ROM disks; magneto-optical media such as floptical disks; and hardware devices that are specially configured to store and perform program instructions, such as read-only memory devices (ROM) and random access memory (RAM). Example embodiments may also be embodied in a carrier wave traveling over an appropriate medium such as airwaves, optical lines, electric lines, etc. Examples of program instructions include both machine code, such as produced by a compiler, and files including higher level code that may be executed by the computer using an interpreter.

In particular embodiments, the gaming devices on the gaming machine may be controlled by software executed by a master gaming controller at the gaming machine in conjunction with software, which, for example, may be executed locally and/or remotely (e.g., executed by a remote logic device such as, for example, a remote host, a central server, a central controller, etc., in communication with the gaming machine). The master gaming controller may execute externally-controlled interface (ECI) processes (described in more detail below) operable to enable content generated and managed on the remote host to be output on the gaming machine. The gaming machine may receive and send events to the remote host that may affect the content output by one or more ECI processes as well as enable an ECI process to be initiated on the gaming machine.

The master gaming controller may be configured to limit the resources that can be utilized by the ECI processes executing on the gaming machine. Specific resource limitations may be predetermined, negotiated with a host device controlling an ECI prior to the execution of the ECI on the gaming machine or combinations thereof. To enforce any established resource limitations, the master gaming controller may constantly monitor resources utilized by the ECI processes and other gaming processes executing on the gaming machine.

The ECI's may be executed while a gaming machine is operable to provide a play of wager-based game of chance (e.g., during operation, one or more games and one or more executed simultaneously, one or more games may be executed without execution of an ECI or one or more ECIs may be executed while a game is not being played). Therefore, the resources may be limited to ensure that a gaming experience on the gaming machine is optimal while access to gaming resources is granted to a remote host. The resources allocated to ECI's may be limited for many reasons, such as ensuring the game play experience is adequate or for security purposes, and the examples described herein, which are provided for illustrative purposes only. For instance, the CPU cycles provided to executing ECI processes may be limited to ensure a minimal graphically rendered frame rate is maintained on the gaming machine. As another example, the ECI processes may not be allowed to directly control or access certain devices, such as money handling devices, to prevent the ECI from allowing cash or an indicia of credit to be input or output from the gaming machine.

It should be appreciated that the gaming device resources utilized by the ECI processes may include, but are not limited to, one or more of the following (or combination thereof): graphic resources of the gaming machine (e.g., what graphical real estate is available on the display device without interfering with the graphics of the primary game), audio resources of the gaming machine (e.g., what audio content may be provided by the gaming machine without interfering with the audio of the primary game), timing resources available (e.g., has the primary game ended or is the primary game beginning), CPU processing resources of the gaming machine, etc. In one embodiment, access to such resources may be based on a priority system configured to maximize an optimal gaming experience for each player.

In particular embodiments, the host-controlled ECI processes may be decoupled from the processes used to generate the game of chance played on the gaming machine such that the content output by the host-controlled ECI processes doesn't alter the play of game of chance. Thus, the logic for the game processes may be designed such that information regarding the state or content generated by the ECI processes is not needed to generate the game of chance and/or the game and related processes may not recognize any information produced by the ECI'S. The ECI processes may be designed in a similar manner.

An advantage of ECI software and game software decoupled in this manner may be that content may be provided from a remote host that enhances the functionality and features available on the gaming machine. The content can be easily varied with little or no modification to the gaming software resident on the gaming machine. For instance, many features and services on a gaming machine can be provided using a generic ECI that enables access to a display and a touch screen on the gaming machine.

Additional details about other gaming machine architectures, features and/or components are described, for example, in U.S. patent application Ser. No. 10/040,239, entitled, “GAME DEVELOPMENT ARCHITECTURE THAT DECOUPLES THE GAME LOGIC FROM THE GRAPHICS LOGIC,” and published on Apr. 24, 2003 as U.S. Patent Publication No. 20030078103, incorporated herein by reference in its entirety for all purposes.

FIG. 4 illustrates an example of an EGM state diagram in accordance with a specific embodiment. In at least one embodiment, objects 402, 404, 406, 412, 414 may represent various states or operating modes of an EGM (e.g., EGM 300, FIG. 3) which has been configured or designed to implement various features described herein. As described in greater detail below, the EGM may be operable to automatically and dynamically change its current operating mode from one state to another state, for example, in response to the occurrence of different events and/or conditions.

Additionally, according to specific embodiments, promotions or promotional offers which are offered by the EGM to a player or patron may automatically and/or dynamically changed based on the current operating mode of the EGM and/or based on other specified conditions/events.

As illustrated in the example of FIG. 4, one mode of operation of the EGM is INIT mode 402. In one embodiment, the EGM may enter into INIT mode 402 when the EGM is turned on or restarted, whereupon the EGM may then perform various initialization and/or configuration operations.

Another mode of operation of the EGM is Attract mode 404. In at least one embodiment, the EGM may enter into Attract mode 404, for example, at times when the EGM is available for game play. According to specific embodiments, while operating in Attract mode, the EGM may be operable to automatically and/or dynamically present promotional offers which have been generated and/or customized specifically for the Attract mode of operation. For example, in one embodiment, while operating in Attract mode 404, specific promotional offers may be identified and/or selected for presentation based on criteria such as, for example: time of day; date; location of the EGM (e.g., on the casino floor, relative to other EGMs, etc.); machine ID; game types, game themes, paytables, denominations available for play; external input (for example, input from entities such as: advertisers, vendors, casino employees, promotion server system 106, artificial intelligence entities, etc.); the enablement/disablement of a new or existing component; player proximity; weather or other environmental factors; EGM or bank or section net; theoretical and/or meter win(s) over a specified time period; last player whose card was inserted; trends in meter or actual win(s) over time (e.g., going up/down); etc.

Another mode of operation of the EGM is Player Proximity mode 406. In at least one embodiment, the EGM may enter into Player Proximity mode 406, for example, at times when the EGM is available for game play and one or more players/patrons have been detected as being in proximity to the EGM. According to specific embodiments, player proximity detection may be implemented using a variety of different mechanisms such as, for example, EGM sensor(s), surveillance mechanisms, player tracking mechanisms, wireless signal detection mechanisms, other human tracking mechanisms, and/or any combination thereof.

According to specific embodiments, while operating in Player Proximity mode, the EGM may be operable to automatically and/or dynamically present promotional offers which have been generated and/or customized specifically for the Player Proximity mode of operation. For example, in one embodiment, while operating in Player Proximity mode 406, specific promotional offers may be identified and/or selected for presentation based on criteria such as, for example: time of day; date; location of the EGM (e.g., on the casino floor, relative to other EGMs, etc.); machine ID; game types, game themes, paytables, denominations available for play; external input (for example, input from entities such as: advertisers, vendors, casino employees, promotion server system 106, artificial intelligence entities, etc.); player identity; player profile information (e.g., player preferences, play level, etc.); player tracking information; player membership information (e.g., promotional offer presented to player to entice player to enroll as casino player tracking member); the enablement/disablement of a new or existing component; available hotel, food, and/or retail offers; weather or other environmental factors; EGM or bank or section net; theoretical and/or meter win(s) over a specified time period; last player whose card was inserted; trends in meter or actual win(s) over time (e.g., going up/down); etc.

Another mode of operation of the EGM is Active Player mode 412. In at least one embodiment, the EGM may enter into Active Player mode 412, for example, at times when a player (herein “active player”) is actively engaged in one or more activities (e.g., game play activities, bonus activities, player tracking activities, wagering activities, etc.) at the EGM. According to specific embodiments, Active Player detection may be implemented using a variety of different mechanisms (or combination thereof) such as, for example, EGM sensor(s), surveillance mechanisms, game tracking mechanisms, real-time play tracking mechanisms, player tracking mechanisms, wager tracking mechanisms, etc.

According to specific embodiments, while operating in Active Player mode, the EGM may be operable to automatically and/or dynamically present promotional offers which have been generated and/or customized specifically for the Active Player mode of operation. For example, in one embodiment, while operating in Active Player mode 412, specific promotional offers may be identified and/or selected for presentation based on criteria such as, for example: time of day; date; location of the EGM (e.g., on the casino floor, relative to other EGMs, etc.); machine ID; game types, game themes, paytables, denominations available for play; external input (for example, input from entities such as: advertisers, vendors, casino employees, promotion server system 106, artificial intelligence entities, etc.); player identity; player profile information (e.g., player preferences, play level, etc.); player tracking information; game history information (e.g., prior game themes played, prior game types played, prior paytables played, prior denominations played); real-time game play data (e.g., current game theme being played, current game type being played, current paytable being played, current denomination being played); player membership information; number of casino visits by player; player's frequency of play at selected EGM(s); information relating to player's hotel stays; the enablement/disablement of a new or existing component; player participation in promotions and/or group play; weather or other environmental factors; EGM or bank or section net; theoretical and/or meter win over a specified time period; total member player play on component over a time period; trends in meter or actual win over time (e.g., going up/down); trends in player members play over time period (e.g., win(s) up/down by paytable, theme, denomination, types, etc.); etc.

Another mode of operation of the EGM is Game Play mode 414. In at least one embodiment, the EGM may enter into Game Play mode 414, for example, at times when a player (herein “Game Play”) is actively engaged in game play activities (and/or related activities) at the EGM. According to specific embodiments, Game Play detection may be implemented using a variety of different mechanisms (or combination thereof) such as, for example, EGM sensor(s), surveillance mechanisms, game tracking mechanisms, real-time play tracking mechanisms, player tracking mechanisms, wager tracking mechanisms, etc.

According to specific embodiments, while operating in Game Play mode, the EGM may be operable to automatically and/or dynamically present promotional offers which have been generated and/or customized specifically for the Game Play mode of operation. For example, in one embodiment, while operating in Game Play mode 414, specific promotional offers may be identified and/or selected for presentation based on criteria such as, for example: time of day; date; game start time; game end time; location of the EGM (e.g., on the casino floor, relative to other EGMs, etc.); machine ID; game types, game themes, paytables, denominations available for play; external input (for example, input from entities such as: advertisers, vendors, casino employees, promotion server system 106, artificial intelligence entities, etc.); player identity; player profile information (e.g., player preferences, play level, etc.); player tracking information; game history information (e.g., prior game themes played, prior game types played, prior paytables played, prior denominations played); real-time game play data (e.g., current game theme being played, current game type being played, current paytable being played, current denomination being played); wagering amounts; total time played; total coin in; amount won; specific game outcomes; points earned; bonuses earned; rate of play; rate of wagering; player membership information; number of casino visits by player; player's frequency of play at selected EGM(s); information relating to player's hotel stays, retail, and/or food and beverage purchases; the enablement/disablement of a new or existing component; player participation in promotions and/or group play; weather or other environmental factors; EGM or bank or section net; theoretical and/or meter win(s) over a specified time period; total member player play on component over a time period; trends in meter or actual win(s) over time (e.g., going up/down); trends in player members play over time period (e.g., win(s) up/down by paytable, theme, denomination, types, etc.); tickets inserted; wager account transfer(s) performed; bill(s) inserted; side bets placed; jackpots won; hotel guest; etc.

In at least one embodiment, the Active Player mode 412 and Game Play mode 414 may be merged or otherwise combined into a single mode or state of operation 410. In such embodiment the EGM may be operable to automatically and/or dynamically present promotional offers which have been generated and/or customized specifically for the mode of operation 410. Such promotional offers may be identified and/or selected for presentation based on various criteria such as, for example, one or more of the criteria stated above with respect to the Active Player mode 412 and/or Game Play mode 414.

FIG. 5 shows an example of a flow diagram illustrating various interactions which may occur between a gaming device and a promotion server in accordance with a specific embodiment.

For purposes of illustration, it will be assumed the gaming device 501 corresponds to an electronic gaming machine such as that illustrated, for example, with respect to FIG. 3 of the drawings. However, it will be appreciated that, in other embodiments, gaming device 501 may correspond to other types of devices such as, for example: electronic gaming machines; wireless gaming devices; mobile gaming devices; remote gaming devices (e.g., computer systems which are operable to allow a user to engage in casino game play activities via the Internet); other electronic devices (e.g., cell phones, PDAs, etc.) which may be operable to allow a user to engage in casino game play activities; etc.

According to at least one embodiment, one or more gaming devices on the casino floor (e.g., gaming device 501) may each be operable to periodically transmit a status report to a promotion server (e.g., 510), and/or may each be operable to periodically transmit a promotion request message to the promotion server 510 in order to obtain updated information relating to promotional offers to be presented at the gaming device. For example, in one embodiment, gaming device 501 may be operable to periodically transmit updated status reports (e.g., relating to activities occurring at gaming device 510) to promotion server 510, and in response, the promotion server may be operable to periodically transmit updated promotional offer information to the gaming device. In an alternate embodiment, the gaming device may be operable to periodically transmit a promotion request message to the promotion server (e.g., upon the occurrence of specified events/conditions), and, in response, the promotion server may be operable to transmit updated promotional offer information to the gaming device. It at least one implementation, the promotion request message(s) may also include updated gaming device status information.

In the specific embodiment of FIG. 5, it is assumed at (1) that at least one event has been detected for triggering the gaming device 501 to transmit an updated status report message and/or promotion request message to promotion server 510. Such events may include, but are not limited to, one or more of the following (and/or combination thereof):

    • detection by the gaming device of one or more conditions and/or signals (e.g., expired timer, change in current operating mode of gaming device, updated game play data available, updated player tracking information available, updated player profile information available, etc.)
    • receipt of a status request message (and/or other type of request message) from the promotion server;
    • detection of other conditions and/or criteria which meet minimum threshold for triggering gaming device 501 to generate an updated status report message;
    • jackpot(s) and/or other win(s);
    • removal of player tracking card;
    • player inactive or timeout on EGM;
    • new players initiates play;
    • game components enabled/disabled;
    • EGM tilt or error;
    • etc.

According to specific embodiments, one or more components at the gaming device 501 may be operable to: (1) cause one or more triggering events/conditions to occur; (2) detect one or more of the triggering events/conditions, and/or (3) facilitate in the generation of the updated status report message and/or promotion request message. For example, in at least one embodiment, the gaming device's master game controller (e.g., MGC 312) may include appropriate functionality for implementing at least a portion of the above-described features. Additionally, in at least some embodiments, the gaming device may include intelligent software entities (which, for example, may include game theme components, game type components, paytable components, denomination components, etc.) which are operable to perform at least a portion of the above-described features (and/or other features described herein).

At (3) the gaming device may acquire status information to be included in the status report message (or promotion request message) that is to be sent to the Promotion Server 510. According to specific embodiments, the status information may include different types of information such as, for example:

    • current operating mode (or current state) of gaming device;
    • current states of selected processing operating at the gaming device;
    • machine ID;
    • location of gaming device;
    • IDs of detected nearby players;
    • ID of active player;
    • player tracking information relating to one or more selected players (e.g., active player, nearby players, level of player, etc.);
    • player profile information relating to one or more selected players;
    • current and/or historical game play data;
    • current and/or historical wager data
    • current and/or historical win data;
    • components (e.g., local components, configurable components, and/or remote components) accessible or available to the gaming machine;
    • etc.

Using at least a portion of the acquired status information, a status report message and/or promotion request message may be generated at the gaming device and transmitted (5) to the Promotion Server 510.

At (7) it is assumed that Promotion Server 510 has received the status report/promotion request message from gaming device 501. Accordingly, in at least one implementation, the Promotion Server may analyze and use at least a portion of the information included in the status report/promotion request message (and/or other desired information/criteria) for identifying, determining and/or generating one or more promotional offers to be presented at the gaming device 501.

According to specific embodiments, the process of identifying, determining and/or generating one or more promotional offers to be presented at the gaming device 501 may be implemented using a variety of different automated mechanisms. For example, one such mechanism may relate to a real-time auctioning or bidding process (e.g., similar to that used by web advertisers to automatically and dynamically select advertisements to be displayed on dynamically generated web pages) whereby multiple promotional offer providers (e.g. 144) concurrently bid for the opportunity to have one of their promotional offers selected for presentation at the gaming device. According to specific embodiments, other promotional offers may be accessed from various resort areas and/or other entities which have unused capacity, such as, for example, hotels, shows, restaurants, etc. Third party advertisers may also generate promotional offers.

In a different embodiment, the Promotion Server may identify various gaming components (e.g., paytables, denominations, game types, game themes, etc.) which are accessible or available to the gaming machine, and may determine whether one or more promotions are currently available for one or more of the identified gaming components. For example, in one embodiment, the Promotion Server may determine that gaming device 501 is able to access and provide game play availability relating to at least the following gaming components: blackjack game type, poker game type, slots game type, Wheel of Fortune® game theme, Star Wars® game theme, Megabucks® game theme, $0.25 denomination, $1 denomination, Paytable A, Paytable B, etc. The Promotion Server may then determine whether any active promotions exist for any of the identified gaming components associated with gaming device 501. According to a specific embodiment, if one or more active promotions are identified, the Promotion Server may generate appropriate promotional offer information to be included in at least one communication directed to gaming device 501.

In the embodiment of FIG. 5, it is assumed at (9) that the Promotion Server has processed the received status report/promotion request message, generated an updated promotional offer list which may include one or more promotional offers which are available for presentation at gaming device 501, and transmit the list of available promotional offers to gaming device 501.

In at least one embodiment, the list of available promotional offers may include one or more promotional offers which are available for immediate presentation at gaming device 501, and/or may include other promotional offers which may be available for presentation at gaming device 501 (e.g., at a future time) if specified criteria, events, and/or conditions are satisfied.

According to specific embodiments, the list of available promotional offers may include, but are not limited to, one or more of the following (or combination thereof):

    • A “game type” promotional offer which provides an incentive for a player (e.g., an active player at the gaming device) to participate in game play at the gaming device involving a new or different game type. In at least one implementation, the promotional game type is different from a game type which the player is currently playing (or has previously played) at the gaming device.
    • A “game theme” promotional offer which provides an incentive for a player (e.g., an active player at the gaming device) to participate in game play at the gaming device involving a new or different game theme. In at least one implementation, the promotional game theme is different from a game theme which the player is currently playing (or has previously played) at the gaming device.
    • A “denomination” promotional offer which provides an incentive for a player (e.g., an active player at the gaming device) to participate in game play at the gaming device involving a new or different denomination. In at least one implementation, the promotional denomination is different from a denomination which the player is currently playing (or has previously played) at the gaming device.
    • A “paytable” promotional offer which provides an incentive for a player (e.g., an active player at the gaming device) to participate in game play at the gaming device involving a new or different paytable. In at least one implementation, the promotional paytable is different from a paytable which the player is currently playing (or has previously played) at the gaming device.

According to specific embodiments, one or more of the promotional offers may each include a respective offer to provide at least one promotional reward to the offeree (e.g., player, patron, or other person(s) to whom the offer is presented) upon satisfaction of a specified set of terms or conditions. In at least one embodiment, the specified set of terms/conditions may include a first condition specifying that the offeree participate in game play relating to one or more gaming components (such as, for example, selected paytable(s), denomination(s), game type(s), game theme(s), etc.). For example, in one embodiment, a promotional offer may be presented to an offeree (e.g., player) which states, “Receive an instant $5 in Free Play right now if you try Hoot Loot $1 within the next 5 minutes!” In this particular example, the promotional reward of $5 in Free Play credits is conditional upon the offeree playing Hoot Loot (game theme) $1 (denomination) within 5 minutes of the offer being presented.

According to specific embodiments, various types of promotional rewards may include, but are not limited to, one or more of the following (and/or combination thereof):

    • promotional credit(s);
    • hotel comp(s);
    • meal comp(s);
    • entertainment comp(s) (e.g., free passes to shows);
    • game credits;
    • game tickets;
    • wager account transfers;
    • discount coupons;
    • multiple jackpot time and/or free spin sessions;
    • etc.

In at least one embodiment, the promotional reward itself may be tied or linked to one or more gaming component (or combinations thereof). For example, in one embodiment, a promotional reward may include $5 of Free Play credit to be used only to play a particular game theme, game type, paytable, denomination, and/or combination thereof. For example, a player may be notified, “Congratulations! You have received $5 in Free Play credit which can be redeemed (either in whole or in part) at any gaming machine which offers play of Hoot Loot $1 or Star Wars $0.25.” In this example, the player may only redeem the $5 in Free Play credit for playing Hoot Loot $1 and/or Star Wars $0.25. Additionally, according to at least one embodiment, the promotional reward may be “linked to” or redeemable only at one or more specified gaming devices.

In at least some embodiments, one or more of the promotions associated with the various promotional offers may be implemented as a “persistent” type promotion, wherein the promotion is associated with a specific player rather than with a specific gaming device. For example, according to a specific embodiment, if Player A accepts a “persistent” type promotional offer at gaming device 501, and begins participating in the “persistent” type promotion at gaming device 501, Player A may subsequently elect to stop participating in the “persistent” type promotion at gaming device 501, and resume participation in the “persistent” type promotion at a different gaming device. According to various embodiments, the persistent promotion may expire upon the occurrence of specified events/conditions, or may continue indefinitely. In one embodiment, a promotion may require a specific level of player play in order to continue to persist.

Upon receiving the list of available promotional offers (which, for example, includes updated available promotional offer information), the gaming device may process (11) the updated available promotional offer information as appropriate. For example, in one embodiment, the gaming device may analyze the conditional requirements associated with one or more promotional offers in order to monitor specific activities, events and/or conditions which may trigger the display or presentation of one or more promotional offers at the gaming device. Such processing may also include filtering the list of available promotional offers based upon predefined filter criteria.

At (13) it is assumed that one or more event(s)/condition(s) have been detected for triggering the presentation of an identified promotional offer. Accordingly, as shown at (15), the identified promotional offer associated with the detected triggering event(s)/condition(s) may be presented. According to at least one embodiment, presentation of an identified promotional offer may be displayed on a display screen at the gaming device. In other embodiments, the identified promotional offer of may be displayed on a mobile device, wireless device, a casino marquee, a remote display (such as, for example, on a display of a remote client system connected to the gaming network via the Internet), a cell phone, a PDA, a gaming device, and/or other type display unit in communication with the gaming network.

According to specific embodiments, a variety of different events/conditional (and/or combinations thereof) may be used to trigger presentation of one or more promotional offers to one or more identified offerees. Examples of such events/conditions may include, but are not limited to, one or more of the following (and/or combination thereof):

    • time of day;
    • date;
    • game start time;
    • game end time;
    • location of the EGM (e.g., on the casino floor, relative to other EGMs, etc.);
    • location of offeree;
    • gaming device ID;
    • game types, game themes, paytables, denominations available for play;
    • external input (for example, input from entities such as: advertisers, vendors, casino employees, promotion server system 106, artificial intelligence entities, etc.);
    • player identity;
    • player profile information (e.g., player preferences, play level, rank, rating, etc.);
    • player tracking information;
    • game history information (e.g., prior game themes played, prior game types played, prior paytables played, prior denominations played);
    • real-time game play data (e.g., current game theme being played, current game type being played, current paytable being played, current denomination being played);
    • wagering amounts;
    • total time played;
    • total coin in;
    • amount won;
    • theoretical win;
    • specific game outcomes;
    • points earned;
    • bonuses earned;
    • rate of play;
    • rate of wagering;
    • player membership information;
    • number of casino visits by player;
    • player's frequency of play at selected EGM(s);
    • information relating to player's hotel stays;
    • etc.;

In at least one embodiment, a remote server (such as, for example, Promotion Server 510) may be provided with direct control of a region at the gaming device display unit (and/or may also be provided with direct control of other display units on the casino floor) for displaying selected promotional offers.

In the example of FIG. 5, it is assumed at (17) that the identified promotional offer has been presented to an active player at gaming device 501, and that the active player (e.g., Player A) has performed some action to accept the presented promotional offer. As shown at (19), acceptance of the promotional offer by Player A may be reported to the Promotion Server and/or other devices/systems of the casino network.

As illustrated in the embodiment of FIG. 5, when the Promotion Server receives notification of the acceptance of an identified promotional offer, the Promotion Server may update the status of the identified promotional offer to reflect acceptance of the promotional offer by Player A. For example, according to different embodiments, the status of the promotion associated with the identified promotional offer may be updated to “accepted” status or “active” status. Additionally, in at least some embodiments, the Promotion Server may initiate (23) tracking activities relating to the newly active promotion. According to specific embodiments, such tracking activities may include notifying (25) the gaming device 501 (and/or other devices/systems of the gaming network) of the “active” status of the identified promotion, and/or providing updated promotion tracking instructions, as appropriate.

According to specific embodiments, the information included in the updated promotion tracking instructions may differ, for example, depending upon factors such as the particular device/system receiving the instructions, the specific terms and conditions associated with the identified promotion, etc.

As illustrated in the embodiment of FIG. 5, when the gaming device 501 receives notification of the “active” status of the identified promotion and/or updated promotion tracking instructions, the gaming device may initiate tracking (27) of activities/data relating to the identified active promotion. Similarly, although not specifically illustrated in FIG. 5, other devices/systems in the casino network may also initiate tracking of activities/data relating to the identified active promotion in response to receiving notification of the “active” status of the identified promotion and/or updated promotion tracking instructions.

As shown at (29) the tracked activities/data relating to the identified active promotion may be periodically reported to the Promotion Server (and/or other devices/systems of the gaming network). At (31) the Promotion Server may utilize at least a portion of the received updated promotion tracking information to update the status of one or more promotions (and/or associated promotional offers). For example, in one embodiment, Promotion Server 510 may utilize updated promotion tracking information relating to the active promotion associated with Player A to update status information relating to the active promotion. According to specific embodiments, such status information may include, for example, information relating to the degree of progress which has been made towards the completion or satisfaction of the terms, conditions and/or other requirements associated with the active promotion.

At (33) it is assumed that the Promotion Server has determined that all required conditions for the active promotion have been satisfied for the issuance of one or more rewards associated with that promotion. Accordingly, the Promotion Server may update the current status of the active promotion (e.g., to reflect that all terms/conditions have been satisfied, and that reward fulfillment has not yet been completed). Additionally, the Promotion Server may notify the gaming device 501 (and/or other devices/systems of the gaming network) of the updated status of the active promotion. In at least one embodiment, the Promotion Server may also provide promotion reward fulfillment instructions to the gaming device (and/or other devices/systems of the gaming network) in order to distribute the appropriate rewards to Player A, in accordance with the terms/conditions of the active promotion.

At (35) it is assumed that the gaming device implements fulfillment of the appropriate reward(s) associated with the active promotion. In at least one embodiment, Player A may also be notified of the updated status of the active promotion and/or of any reward(s) which Player A has earned.

At (37) it is assumed that fulfillment of the appropriate reward(s) associated with the active promotion has been completed. Accordingly, the gaming device may notify the Promotion Server of the successful fulfillment of the active promotion reward(s). In one embodiment, such reward fulfillment may include, for example, distributing appropriate reward(s) to Player A and/or to devices/systems for which Player A may receive benefits of such reward(s).

As shown at (39), when the Promotion Server receives notification of the successful fulfillment of reward(s) associated with an identified promotion, it may update the status of the identified promotion as appropriate. For example, in one embodiment, the Promotion Server may update the status of the identified promotion to reflect that the promotion was successfully activated, fulfilled, closed, etc. Additionally, as shown at (41), the Promotion Server may notify gaming device 501 (and/or other devices/systems of the gaming network) of the updated status of the identified promotion.

As shown at (43) gaming device 501 may process the updated promotion status information to update its local data, as appropriate. For example, in one embodiment where a promotion was successfully activated by Player A, and subsequently fulfilled, the gaming device may update locally stored information relating to the associated promotional offer in order, for example, to prevent the same promotional offer from being presented again to Player A.

It will be appreciated that, in at least one embodiment, the various operations illustrated in FIG. 5 (and described above) may be implemented in real-time or near real-time such that the entire process of FIG. 5 is transparent to an active player at gaming device 501.

FIG. 6 is a block diagram illustrating an interaction between two hosts, 602 and 604, and a gaming machine 601 in accordance with at least one embodiment. Each host controls an ECI on gaming machine 601. Host 602 controls ECI 626 and host 604 controls ECI 628. The hosts, 602 and 604, may control their respective ECIs, 626 and 628, in an independent or a dependent manner with respect to one another. In the independent case, events generated with respect to the execution of one ECI don't affect the execution of the other ECI. In the dependent case, one or both ECIs may generate events that affect one another. In at least one embodiment, two remote hosts, such as 602 and 604, may share access to a single ECI and may alternately or simultaneously provide content for the ECI. Further, as previously described, the ECIs, such as 626 and 628, may directly share information without routing it through their respective hosts.

Each host includes a state manager, 606 and 608, content, 614 and 616, a history manager, 610 and 612, an interface manager, 618 and 620, and a resource negotiator, 622 and 624. The state manager may maintain a state of the ECI on the gaming machine. In the event of a malfunction on a) the gaming machine, b) the host or c) in the network between the host and the gaming machine, the state manager may be designed to store information that enables the remote host, if it chooses to restore an ECI on the gaming machine 601 to a state proximate to the state immediately prior to an occurrence of the malfunction. In one embodiment, the gaming machine maintains its own state via state manager 634 but not the state of any of the ECIs executing on the gaming machine 601. In other embodiments, the gaming machine may maintain some state information regarding the content displayed in the ECI. For example, the gaming machine may capture frames output to its display that include information from an ECI controlling a portion of the display.

The hosts, 602 and 604, may each provide content to ECIs executing simultaneously on a plurality of gaming machines. The content provided on each gaming machine may be different (e.g., the content may be personalized using information regarding the player at each machine or the hosts may be dynamically responding to events generated on each gaming machine and adjusting content accordingly) and the gaming machines served by each host may be different (e.g., host 602 may provide content to gaming machines A, B and C while host 604 is providing content to gaming machines B, C, D). For each gaming machine that the host provides content via an ECI, the hosts, 602 and 604, may maintain a state of the content. The content, as described above, may comprise data and/or instructions provided as application files that are run and/or parsed by the ECI. The application files may include information/data used by the ECI and commands/instructions for utilizing one or more functions of the ECI. For instance, an ECI may be operable to receive command/instructions in regards to utilizing vector graphic capabilities of the ECI. In addition, when vector graphics are applied, the ECI may be operable to apply edge smoothing the vector-based graphics.

In regards to vector graphics, computers may display graphics in two formats: vector and bitmap. Bitmaps are made up of discrete units called pixels. Each pixel contains a single color. When combined, the variations in pixel color create the patterns that make up an image. Bitmaps contain color information for each pixel in an image plus the dimensions for the image, and transmit images pixel by pixel. To change the size of a bitmap image, i.e., to fit into a display region with different dimensions than the original bitmap. The bitmap image has to be regenerated at the desired dimensions or the image has to be stretched, usually with undesirable results.

By comparison, vector graphics store a series of commands/instructions necessary to create an image using lines and curves. The commands, called vectors, dictate attributes of lines and curves such as thickness, direction, color, and position. A processor associated with the master gaming controller may be utilized to process the commands locally to generate a specified vector image. For instance, the master gaming controller may execute an ECI that is operable to parse vector graphic instructions and generate the image specified by the instructions.

Vector graphics allow for fine detail and may be easily be resized without losing definition. An image generated with vector graphics may be modified by changing the attributes of the lines and curves comprising the image. Vector graphics are best for displaying simple shapes with flat areas of color, such as icons, logos, and cartoon-style drawings. Both vector and bitmap graphics may be drawn on request, but vectors may generally use much smaller file sizes and can be drawn much more quickly. When downloaded, bitmaps are transmitted pixel by pixel, so file size and download time are proportional to an image's dimensions. Vector graphics transmit instructions, which are then carried out by your processor, so that file size and rendering speed are determined by the complexity of the instructions, not the size of the graphic. In various embodiments, various graphical techniques and data may be utilized for providing video content to an ECI including vector graphics, bit map images, movies, etc.

The state managers, 606 and 608, may each generate information that is sent to their history manager, 610 and 612, for dispute resolution and auditing purposes. In the event of a dispute, for example, a player may dispute an event that happened three games ago on the gaming machine when ECI 626 and ECI 628 were executing. The gaming machine 601 may include logic that enables the gaming machine to contact each host and request information regarding one or more states of the ECI it supported during the disputed game. The host may send the requested information to the gaming machine for display.

To enable for dispute resolution, the gaming machine 601 and the hosts 602 and 604 may exchange information, such as time stamps, game start time, game end time, ECI start time, ECI finish time, event occurred at time A, etc., that enable content generated by each device and stored by the history manger to be recalled and correlated to one another. This information may be exchanged while the ECI is executing and then again later when requests for stored information are received by one of the hosts.

As an example of state history management and access, the gaming machine 601 may store a start and stop time for each game, whether one or more ECIs were executed during the game and when at least one ECI is executed during a particular game, information needed to contact the host that provided content for the ECI. Thus, the gaming machine 601 may be able to contact one of the remote host and request ECI states during a time period, which corresponds to a particular game. In response, the host may send the requested information to the gaming machine.

The gaming machine 601 may provide a number of shared resources 640 that may be utilized by an ECI, such as 626. For instance, in one embodiment, the gaming machine 601 may be operable to share: a) processing resources from a processor, such as 642, b) memory 644 which may comprise volatile memory, such as RAM or non-volatile memory, such as flash memory or a hard drive, c) one or more displays, such as display A 646 or display B, 648, d) one or more communication interfaces, such as a network communication interface 650 or a wireless interface (not shown) that allows the gaming machine to communicate with wireless devices located proximate to the gaming machine 601, e) audio devices 652, such as speakers, amps and signal codecs for processing sound files, and/or f) input/output devices, such as a touch screen 654 or card reader 656.

Prior to launching the ECI, a negotiation may take place between the gaming machines and one or more remote hosts in regards to the resources that may be utilized by the ECI while it is executed on the gaming machine. In one embodiment, when an ECI, such as 626, is shared or controlled by two or more hosts or where each host controls its own ECI but the ECIs share common resources and/or resource limitations based on the combined usage of resources used by the ECIs controlled by each host, a resource negotiation may take place between the two or more hosts to determine what resources are needed by each host. The host-to-host negotiation may allow the hosts to provide content/instructions to a shared ECI or to each of their ECIs in an integrated manner so that each host has enough resources to display their content/instructions on the shared ECI or each of their respective ECIs.

For example, if a first ECI controlled by a first host utilizes display 646 and a second ECI controlled by a second host utilizes display 646 each host may only need a portion of the display 646 rather than the whole display. If one or both hosts try to utilize the entire display then both hosts may not be able to have content displayed via their ECIs simultaneously. But, if the first and the second host agree to share the display by utilizing only a portion of it via a resource negotiation, then the first and second host may be able to display content via their ECIs on the display 646 at the same time. In general, the gaming machine may be the final arbiter of what resources are assigned to each ECI and the host-host negotiations may take place in the context of negotiations with the gaming machine.

In particular embodiments, the resource negotiators 622 and 624 may communicate with the remote resource manager 630 on the gaming machine 601 or each other to determine what resources are available for the ECI that each remote host controls, such as 626 or 628 or for an ECI which the remote hosts share. The one or more remote hosts may use this information to adjust the content that is sent to the gaming machine for its respective ECI. For instance, display 646 and display 648 may be of different sizes. Thus, at some times, a remote host may be provided access to display 646 and provide content to an ECI formatted to be compatible with the resolution of display 646 while at other times display 646 may not be available and the remote host may provide content formatted to be compatible with the resolution of display 648 (The content provided at different times to the displays 646 and 648 may be the same or different content).

In yet another embodiment, the remote hosts, 602 and 604, may compete for access to resources on the gaming machine. For example, remote host 602 may provide one advertising stream/content and remote host 604 may provide another advertising stream/content. The gaming machine may allow only one advertising stream/content at a time. Thus, the gaming machine 601 may initiate negotiations where access to its resources goes to the remote host, which is the highest bidder.

The gaming machine may notify potential hosts when resources become available and solicit bids for the resources from two or more hosts. In one embodiment, the gaming machine 601 while displaying content from one host may receive a bid for resources from another remote host and switch access to the gaming machine from a first remote host, such as 602, to a second remote host, such as 604, after receiving a better bid for resources from the second remote host 602.

In yet another embodiment, the gaming machine 601 may provide information regarding various resource packages with various costs to potential remote hosts. The cost of a resource package may affect the amount of resources and priority of access of resources afforded to a remote host providing an ECI. For instance, access to a larger portion of a display that is shared may cost more than access to a smaller portion of the display. As another example, access to a display where control of the display is not to be switched to another remote host provided ECI or taken over by the gaming machine for a particular time period may cost more than sharing access to the display with another remote host and allowing the gaming machine to intermittently use the display.

The interface managers, 618 and 620, may be responsible for determining what content to send each ECI and sending the content. Further, the interface managers may be designed to respond to events generated on the gaming machine. For example, when interface manager 618 receives information indicating a touch screen has been activated on the gaming machine via the event manger 662, the interface 618 manager may determine whether the touch screen is activated in a display area that it controls and whether content displayed on ECI 626 needs to be adjusted. As another example, when the interface managers, 618 or 620, receive information regarding the resolution of a particular display and visual content is to be displayed, the interface managers, may select content stored on their respective remote host that is closest to a needed resolution, reformat (if needed) the content, generate new content to fit the resolution of the particular display or locate and/or download needed content from another source, such as another remote host.

In particular embodiments, an ECI and/or remote host may not be granted access to all of the features of the shared resources. For example, when the card reader is operable to read/write data to a card, such as a smart card. The ECI may be allowed to receive data read from a card but not write data to the card. In one embodiment, during the negotiation phase, the gaming machine may provide a) a list of available shared resources, b) features of the shared resources that may be controlled by the remote host directly and/or via an ECI including commands and data formats that allow the features to be utilized, c) under what conditions the features may be utilized, etc.

In one embodiment, the data formats, commands and/or instructions that an ECI or remote host may utilize may be incorporated in a communication protocol that is utilized by both the ECI and/or remote host and gaming machine (or gaming device). In a particular embodiment, the commands/instructions that the ECI and the remote host may communicate to the gaming machine, such as to control a device, may be high-level commands that are translated by the gaming machine to low-level instructions that are used to actually perform the operation that is requested. For instance, to spin a bonus wheel coupled to the gaming machine, a remote host and/or ECI may send a “spin wheel” command to the gaming machine. The gaming machine may translate the command to a number of low-level instructions that a stepper motor coupled to the gaming machine to be controlled. In another embodiment, the ECI and/or remote host may be operable to provide low-level instructions that allow a device to be directly controlled. For instance, the ECI and/or remote host may be able to send the low-level instructions for controlling the stepper motor directly to the bonus wheel without needing the gaming machine to translate.

In a particular embodiment, the communications between the gaming machine and the remote host may be separated into two parts. The first part of the communications may include information regarding gaming machine transactions, such as money handling, metering, game outcomes, random number generation, player identification information. In general, the first part of the communications may include information that is generated as a result of game play from a primary game of chance executed on the gaming machine. In one embodiment, the gaming machine transaction information may be communicated using the G2S protocol approved by the Gaming Standards Association (Fremont, Calif.). The second part of the communications between the gaming machine and the remote host may enable the communications between the remote host and the ECI, such as commands, instructions and/or data sent between the remote host and the ECI, which may include content for the ECI to output.

One advantage of separating the communications in this manner is that the ECI may be isolated from game play information. When the ECI is isolated from game play information, it may result in a more secure system. The higher level of security is based on the assumption that if a process executing on the gaming machine is unaware of game play information, such as the state of a game, it will more difficult for the process to affect the game in unacceptable manner. It is noted that although the ECI may not be aware of game play information, as described in the previous paragraph, the remote host may be aware of game play information.

The game play information described in the previous paragraph may be related to information generated as a result of play of a primary game of chance generated on the gaming machine. Further, in some embodiments, the ECI itself may provide the play of games separate from the primary game. Nevertheless, the ECI may not be aware that is providing the play of a game and may be still unaware of any game play information that is generated. From the perspective of the ECI, it is simply outputting content utilizing commands, instructions and data provided by a remote host where the ECI does not distinguish between game related content and non-game related content.

In particular embodiments, the ECI may be operable to process input generated as a result of the play of the game provided by the ECI but may not be operable to distinguish this input from other types of input, i.e., it may not be configured to determine the function associated with the input. For instance, the ECI may be instructed by the remote host to generate a bet button on a touch screen display for a game output utilizing the ECI. The ECI may be operable to receive input from the touch screen and determine that a particular button has been pressed. The ECI may forward this information to the remote host and the remote host may determine that this button corresponds to a bet button. The ECI may be unaware the button for a bet has been pressed or activated, i.e., it is unaware of the function of the button.

In particular embodiments, when an ECI and/or remote host is access or control is prohibited for one or more resources, such as utilizing a peripheral device or utilizing one of the features of the peripheral device coupled to the gaming machine, and the ECI and/or remote host generates an instruction that tries to utilize or control the resource, then the gaming machine may respond in various manners. For example, in one embodiment, if the device or device feature the ECI and/or remote host is trying to access or control is not critical, then the gaming machine may simply ignore the command or instruction and possibly notify the device that it is trying to perform a function that is not available to it. For instance, the ECI and/or remote host may send instructions to a gaming machine to flash lights when this function is not available to it, and the gaming machine may simply ignore the instructions.

In another embodiment, the ECI and/or remote host may try to access or control a critical device in a manner that is prohibited. For instance, ECI or remote host could try to send a command to a printer to print a cashless ticket of a particular value, which is not allowed. In some possible responses, the gaming machine may 1) log the event, 2) terminate the connection with the ECI, 3) enter a tilt state or 4) combinations thereof. Some details of tilt handling that may be utilized with various embodiments are described in U.S. Pat. No. 6,890,259, entitled, “Modular Tilt Handling,” which is incorporated by reference and for all purposes.

In particular embodiments, the available resources that may be utilized by a remote host as part of an ECI may vary from gaming device to gaming device. For example, a casino-type gaming machine with random number generation capability may have more capabilities that may be utilized in an ECI than a portable hand-held device. Further, in other embodiments, the capabilities of a gaming device, such as gaming machine 601, that may be offered to a remote host for utilization may vary depending on the remote host. For example, some remote hosts may be more trusted than other remote hosts and thus may be afforded greater access to devices on the gaming machine than other remote hosts.

During operation of an ECI, the gaming machine may check the resources utilized by an ECI to determine whether the resources utilized by the ECI are in compliance with limits established for the ECI, such as during the negotiation phase. The gaming machine 601 may utilize its local resource management 638 including the partition manager 656, the device scheduler 658 and the resource metering 660 on the gaming machine 601 to check the resource utilization of one or more ECIs individually or a group of ECIs in combination against resource allocations for each individual ECI or the group of ECIs. When resource allocation for an ECI is exceeded, a number of remedial actions may be taken. For instance, when CPU resources are exceeded, the ECI may be denied further CPU cycles and the display characteristics of the ECI may slow down and become jerky. Further, the gaming machine may notify the ECI that it has it exceeded it resource requirements. As another example, when resources are exceeded, the gaming machine may terminate a session with the remote host and stop execution of the ECI on the gaming machine. The execution of the ECI may be stopped permanently or may be stopped temporarily until more resources become available on the gaming or until the remote host adjusts the content of the ECI.

As examples, an ECI may exceed its allocated resources because the gaming machine downwardly adjusted the resources available to the ECI after the start of an ECI session or because the remote host didn't correctly estimate an amount of resources it needed. In response to learning it is exceeding resources it has been allocated on the gaming machine, the remote host, such as 602 or 604, may adjust their content to consume less resources on the gaming machine. In particular embodiments, the remote hosts, such as 602 and 604, may be operable to dynamically adjust the content that is sent to the gaming machine for utilization by an ECI after a session has been initiated (at the start of the session an initial resource allocation may be specified) to satisfy changing resource allocations on the gaming machine, which may change, and thus, to prevent it from exceeding its resource allocation.

Since the manner in which an ECI and/or remote host may be allowed to access or utilize a gaming machine may vary, such as from one remote host to another, from one time to another and different gaming machine may have different capabilities (e.g., a gaming machine may have different capabilities than a portable), the gaming machine may include logic for checking instructions and/or data received from an ECI and/or remote host to comply with their access privileges. For example for illustrative purposes only as a communication protocol doesn't have to be utilized, when the instructions and/or data are codified in a communication protocol, the gaming machine may first check to see whether the instructions and/or data is a recognized part of the protocol. Then, even if the instructions and/or data is part of the protocol, the gaming machine may not offer the capability requested, thus compatibility of instructions and/or data with the gaming machine capabilities may be checked (e.g., at the negotiation phase, the instructions and/or data that the gaming machine is capable of utilizing, which may be a subset of the instructions and/or data that may be communicated as part of the communication protocol may be established.) Then, the instructions and/or data may be checked against the access privileges for the particular ECI and/or remote host. For each remote host and its associated ECI, information regarding resource access privileges may be stored (e.g., the information may have been generated at the negotiation phase or at some other time). The privilege and/or error checking may be performed by the checking logic 674 in the local resource management 638.

Example System Architectures

FIG. 7 shows a block diagram illustrating components of a gaming system 700 which may be used for implementing various aspects of various embodiments. In FIG. 7, the components of a gaming system 700 for providing game software licensing and downloads are described functionally. The described functions may be instantiated in hardware, firmware and/or software and executed on a suitable device. In the system 700, there may be many instances of the same function, such as multiple game play interfaces 711. Nevertheless, in FIG. 7, only one instance of each function is shown. The functions of the components may be combined. For example, a single device may comprise the game play interface 711 and include trusted memory devices or sources 709. The described components and their functions may be incorporated into various embodiments of the servers and clients described herein.

The gaming system 700 may receive inputs from different groups/entities and output various services and or information to these groups/entities. For example, game players 725 primarily input cash or indicia of credit into the system, make game selections that trigger software downloads, and receive entertainment in exchange for their inputs. Game software content providers 722 provide game software for the system and may receive compensation for the content they provide based on licensing agreements with the gaming machine operators. Gaming machine operators 720 select game software for distribution, distribute the game software on the gaming devices in the system 700, receive revenue for the use of their software and compensate the gaming machine operators. The gaming regulators 730 may provide rules and regulations that must be applied to the gaming system and may receive reports and other information confirming that rules are being obeyed.

In the following paragraphs, details of each component and some of the interactions between the components are described with respect to FIG. 7. The game software license host 701 may be a server connected to a number of remote gaming devices that provides licensing services to the remote gaming devices. For example, in other embodiments, the license host 701 may 1) receive token requests for tokens used to activate software executed on the remote gaming devices, 2) send tokens to the remote gaming devices, 3) track token usage and 4) grant and/or renew software licenses for software executed on the remote gaming devices. The token usage may be used in utility based licensing schemes, such as a pay-per-use scheme.

In another embodiment, a game usage-tracking host 715 may track the usage of game software on a plurality of devices in communication with the host. The game usage-tracking host 715 may be in communication with a plurality of game play hosts and gaming machines. From the game play hosts and gaming machines, the game usage tracking host 715 may receive updates of an amount that each game has available for play on the devices has been played and on amount that has been wagered per game. This information may be stored in a database and used for billing according to methods described in a utility based licensing agreement.

The game software host 702 may provide game software downloads, such as downloads of game software or game firmware, to various devious in the game system 700. For example, when the software to generate the game is not available on the game play interface 711, the game software host 702 may download software to generate a selected game of chance played on the game play interface. Further, the game software host 702 may download new game content to a plurality of gaming machines via a request from a gaming machine operator.

In one embodiment, the game software host 702 may also be a game software configuration-tracking host 713. The function of the game software configuration-tracking host is to keep records of software configurations and/or hardware configurations for a plurality of devices in communication with the host (e.g., denominations, number of paylines, paytables, max/min bets). Details of a game software host and a game software configuration host that may be used with various embodiments are described in co-pending U.S. Pat. No. 6,645,077, by Rowe, entitled, “Gaming Terminal Data Repository and Information System,” filed Dec. 21, 2000, which is incorporated herein in its entirety and for all purposes.

A game play host device 703 may be a host server connected to a plurality of remote clients that generates games of chance that are displayed on a plurality of remote game play interfaces 711. For example, the game play host device 703 may be a server that provides central determination for a bingo game play played on a plurality of connected game play interfaces 711. As another example, the game play host device 703 may generate games of chance, such as slot games or video card games, for display on a remote client. A game player using the remote client may be able to select from a number of games that are provided on the client by the host device 703. The game play host device 703 may receive game software management services, such as receiving downloads of new game software, from the game software host 702 and may receive game software licensing services, such as the granting or renewing of software licenses for software executed on the device 703, from the game license host 701.

In particular embodiments, the game play interfaces or other gaming devices in the gaming system 700 may be portable devices, such as electronic tokens, cell phones, smart cards, tablet PC's and PDA's. The portable devices may support wireless communications and thus, may be referred to as wireless mobile devices. The network hardware architecture 716 may be enabled to support communications between wireless mobile devices and other gaming devices in gaming system. In one embodiment, the wireless mobile devices may be used to play games of chance.

The gaming system 700 may use a number of trusted information sources. Trusted information sources 704 may be devices, such as servers, that provide information used to authenticate/activate other pieces of information. CRC values used to authenticate software, license tokens used to enable the use of software or product activation codes used to activate to software are examples of trusted information that might be provided from a trusted information source 704. Trusted information sources may be a memory device, such as an EPROM, that includes trusted information used to authenticate other information. For example, a game play interface 711 may store a private encryption key in a trusted memory device that is used in a private key-public key encryption scheme to authenticate information from another gaming device.

When a trusted information source 704 is in communication with a remote device via a network, the remote device will employ a verification scheme to verify the identity of the trusted information source. For example, the trusted information source and the remote device may exchange information using public and private encryption keys to verify each other's identities.

Gaming devices storing trusted information might utilize apparatus or methods to detect and prevent tampering. For instance, trusted information stored in a trusted memory device may be encrypted to prevent its misuse. In addition, the trusted memory device may be secured behind a locked door. Further, one or more sensors may be coupled to the memory device to detect tampering with the memory device and provide some record of the tampering. In yet another example, the memory device storing trusted information might be designed to detect tampering attempts and clear or erase itself when an attempt at tampering has been detected.

The gaming system 700 of various embodiments may include devices 706 that provide authorization to download software from a first device to a second device and devices 707 that provide activation codes or information that enable downloaded software to be activated. The devices, 706 and 707, may be remote servers and may also be trusted information sources. One example of a method of providing product activation codes that may be used with at least one embodiment is described in U.S. Pat. No. 6,264,561, herein incorporated by reference in its entirety for all purposes.

A device 706 that monitors a plurality of gaming devices to determine adherence of the devices to gaming jurisdictional rules 708 may be included in the system 700. In one embodiment, a gaming jurisdictional rule server may scan software and the configurations of the software on a number of gaming devices in communication with the gaming rule server to determine whether the software on the gaming devices is valid for use in the gaming jurisdiction where the gaming device is located. For example, the gaming rule server may request a digital signature, such as CRC's, of particular software components and compare them with an approved digital signature value stored on the gaming jurisdictional rule server.

Further, the gaming jurisdictional rule server may scan the remote gaming device to determine whether the software is configured in a manner that is acceptable to the gaming jurisdiction where the gaming device is located. For example, a maximum bet limit may vary from jurisdiction to jurisdiction and the rule enforcement server may scan a gaming device to determine its current software configuration and its location and then compare the configuration on the gaming device with approved parameters for its location.

A gaming jurisdiction may include rules that describe how game software may be downloaded and licensed. The gaming jurisdictional rule server may scan download transaction records and licensing records on a gaming device to determine whether the download and licensing was carried out in a manner that is acceptable to the gaming jurisdiction in which the gaming device is located. In general, the game jurisdictional rule server may be utilized to confirm compliance to any gaming rules passed by a gaming jurisdiction when the information needed to determine rule compliance is remotely accessible to the server.

Game software, firmware or hardware residing a particular gaming device may also be used to check for compliance with local gaming jurisdictional rules. In one embodiment, when a gaming device is installed in a particular gaming jurisdiction, a software program including jurisdiction rule information may be downloaded to a secure memory location on a gaming machine or the jurisdiction rule information may be downloaded as data and utilized by a program on the gaming machine. The software program and/or jurisdiction rule information may used to check the gaming device software and software configurations for compliance with local gaming jurisdictional rules. In another embodiment, the software program for ensuring compliance and jurisdictional information may be installed in the gaming machine prior to its shipping, such as at the factory where the gaming machine is manufactured.

The gaming devices in game system 700 may utilize trusted software and/or trusted firmware. Trusted firmware/software is trusted in the sense that is used with the assumption that it has not been tampered with. For instance, trusted software/firmware may be used to authenticate other game software or processes executing on a gaming device. As an example, trusted encryption programs and authentication programs may be stored on an EPROM on the gaming machine or encoded into a specialized encryption chip. As another example, trusted game software, i.e., game software approved for use on gaming devices by a local gaming jurisdiction may be required on gaming devices on the gaming machine.

In various embodiments, the devices may be connected by a network 716 with different types of hardware using different hardware architectures. Game software can be quite large and frequent downloads can place a significant burden on a network, which may slow information transfer speeds on the network. For game-on-demand services that require frequent downloads of game software in a network, efficient downloading is essential for the service to remain viable. Thus, in various embodiments, network efficient devices 710 may be used to actively monitor and maintain network efficiency. For instance, software locators may be used to locate nearby locations of game software for peer-to-peer transfers of game software. In another example, network traffic may be monitored and downloads may be actively rerouted to maintain network efficiency.

One or more devices in various embodiments may provide game software and game licensing related auditing, billing and reconciliation reports to server 712. For example, a software licensing billing server may generate a bill for a gaming device operator based upon a usage of games over a time period on the gaming devices owned by the operator. In another example, a software auditing server may provide reports on game software downloads to various gaming devices in the gaming system 700 and current configurations of the game software on these gaming devices.

At particular time intervals, the software auditing server 712 may also request software configurations from a number of gaming devices in the gaming system. The server may then reconcile the software configuration on each gaming device. In one embodiment, the software auditing server 712 may store a record of software configurations on each gaming device at particular times and a record of software download transactions that have occurred on the device. By applying each of the recorded game software download transactions since a selected time to the software configuration recorded at the selected time, a software configuration is obtained. The software auditing server may compare the software configuration derived from applying these transactions on a gaming device with a current software configuration obtained from the gaming device. After the comparison, the software-auditing server may generate a reconciliation report that confirms that the download transaction records are consistent with the current software configuration on the device. The report may also identify any inconsistencies. In another embodiment, both the gaming device and the software auditing server may store a record of the download transactions that have occurred on the gaming device and the software auditing server may reconcile these records.

There are many possible interactions between the components described with respect to FIG. 7. Many of the interactions are coupled. For example, methods used for game licensing may affect methods used for game downloading and vice versa. For the purposes of explanation, details of a few possible interactions between the components of the system 700 relating to software licensing and software downloads have been described. The descriptions are selected to illustrate particular interactions in the game system 700. These descriptions are provided for the purposes of explanation only and are not intended to limit the scope of various embodiments.

Various embodiments may be implemented in various configurations for gaming machines, including but not limited to: (1) a dedicated gaming machine, wherein the computerized instructions for controlling any games (which are provided by the gaming machine) are provided with the gaming machine prior to delivery to a gaming establishment; and (2) a changeable gaming machine, where the computerized instructions for controlling any games (which are provided by the gaming machine) are downloadable to the gaming machine through a data network when the gaming machine is in a gaming establishment. In another embodiment, the computerized instructions for controlling any games are communicated from the remote host, the central server or central controller to a gaming machine local processor and memory devices. In such a “thick client” embodiment, the gaming machine local processor executes the communicated computerized instructions to control any games (or other suitable interfaces) provided to a player.

In one alternative embodiment, the computerized instructions for controlling any games are executed by a remote host, a central server or central controller. In such a “thin client” embodiment, the remote host remotely controls any games (or other suitable interfaces) and the gaming machine is utilized to display such games (or suitable interfaces) and receive one or more inputs or commands from a player. In one embodiment, one or more gaming machines in a gaming system may be thin client gaming machines and one or more gaming machines in the gaming system may be thick client gaming machines. In another embodiment, certain functions of the gaming machine are implemented in a thin client environment and certain other functions of the gaming machine are implemented in a thick client environment. In one such embodiment, computerized instructions for controlling any primary games are communicated from the remote host to the gaming machine in a thick client configuration and computerized instructions for controlling any secondary games or bonus functions are executed by a remote host in a thin client configuration. It should be appreciated that one, more or each of the functions of the remote host as disclosed herein may be performed by one or more gaming machine processors. It should be further appreciated that one, more or each of the functions of one or more gaming machine processors as disclosed herein may be performed by the remote host.

In one embodiment, the gaming machine randomly generates awards and/or other game outcomes based on probability data. In one such embodiment, this random determination is provided through utilization of a random number generator (RNG), such as a true random number generator, a pseudo random number generator or other suitable randomization process. In one embodiment, each award or other game outcome is associated with a probability and the gaming machine generates the award or other game outcome to be provided to the player based on the associated probabilities. In this embodiment, since the gaming machine generates outcomes randomly or based upon one or more probability calculations, there is no certainty that the gaming machine will ever provide the player with any specific award or other game outcome.

In an alternative embodiment, the remote host maintains one or more predetermined pools or sets of predetermined game outcomes. In this embodiment, the remote host receives the game outcome request and independently selects a predetermined game outcome from a set or pool of game outcomes. The remote host flags or marks the selected game outcome as used. Once a game outcome is flagged as used, it is prevented from further selection from the set or pool and cannot be selected by the remote host upon another wager. The provided game outcome can include a primary game outcome, a secondary game outcome, primary and secondary game outcomes, or a series of game outcomes such as free games.

The remote host communicates the generated or selected game outcome to the initiated gaming machine. The gaming machine receives the generated or selected game outcome and provides the game outcome to the player. In an alternative embodiment, how the generated or selected game outcome is to be presented or displayed to the player, such as a reel symbol combination of a slot machine or a hand of cards dealt in a card game, is also determined by the remote host and communicated to the initiated gaming machine to be presented or displayed to the player. Central production or control can assist a gaming establishment or other entity in maintaining appropriate records, controlling gaming, reducing and preventing cheating or electronic or other errors, reducing or eliminating win-loss volatility and the like.

In another embodiment, a predetermined game outcome value is determined for each of a plurality of linked or networked gaming machines based on the results of a bingo, keno or lottery game. In this embodiment, each individual gaming machine utilizes one or more bingo, keno or lottery games to determine the predetermined game outcome value provided to the player for the interactive game played at that gaming machine. In one embodiment, the bingo, keno or lottery game is displayed to the player. In another embodiment, the bingo, keno or lottery game is not displayed to the player, but the results of the bingo, keno or lottery game determine the predetermined game outcome value for the primary or secondary game.

In another embodiment, the game outcome provided to the player is determined by a remote host and provided to the player at the gaming machine. In this embodiment, each of a plurality of such gaming machines are in communication with the remote host. Upon a player initiating game play at one of the gaming machines, the initiated gaming machine communicates a game outcome request to the remote host. In one embodiment, the remote host receives the game outcome request and randomly generates a game outcome for the primary game based on probability data. In another embodiment, the remote host randomly generates a game outcome for the secondary game based on probability data. In another embodiment, the remote host randomly generates a game outcome for both the primary game and the secondary game based on probability data. In this embodiment, the remote host is capable of storing and utilizing program code or other data similar to the processor and memory device of the gaming machine.

In another embodiment, one or more of the gaming machines are in communication with a remote host for monitoring purposes. That is, when not communicating with the remote host regarding any ECIs, each individual gaming machine randomly generates the game outcomes to be provided to the player and the remote host monitors the activities and events occurring on the plurality of gaming machines. In one embodiment, the gaming network includes a real-time or on-line accounting and gaming information system operably coupled to the remote host. The accounting and gaming information system of this embodiment includes a player database for storing player profiles, a player tracking module for tracking players and a credit system for providing automated casino transactions.

In another embodiment, a plurality of gaming machines at one or more gaming sites may be networked to the remote host in a progressive configuration, as known in the art, wherein a portion of each wager to initiate a base or primary game may be allocated to one or more progressive awards. In one embodiment, a progressive gaming system host site computer is coupled to a plurality of the remote hosts at a variety of mutually remote gaming sites for providing a multi-site linked progressive automated gaming system. In one embodiment, a progressive gaming system host site computer may serve gaming machines distributed throughout a number of properties at different geographical locations including, for example, different locations within a city or different cities within a state.

In one embodiment, the progressive gaming system host site computer is maintained for the overall operation and control of the progressive gaming system. In this embodiment, a progressive gaming system host site computer oversees the entire progressive gaming system and is the master for computing all progressive jackpots. All participating gaming sites report to, and receive information from, the progressive gaming system host site computer. Each remote host computer is responsible for all data communication between the gaming machine hardware and software and the progressive gaming system host site computer. In one embodiment, an individual gaming machine may trigger a progressive award win. In another embodiment, a remote host (or the progressive gaming system host site computer) determines when a progressive award win is triggered. In another embodiment, an individual gaming machine and a remote host (or progressive gaming system host site computer) work in conjunction with each other to determine when a progressive win is triggered, for example through an individual gaming machine meeting a predetermined requirement established by the remote host.

In one embodiment, a progressive award win is triggered based on one or more game play events, such as a symbol-driven trigger. In other embodiments, the progressive award triggering event or qualifying condition may be by exceeding a certain amount of game play (such as number of games, number of credits, or amount of time), or reaching a specified number of points earned during game play. In another embodiment, a gaming machine is randomly or apparently randomly selected to provide a player of that gaming machine one or more progressive awards. In one such embodiment, the gaming machine does not provide any apparent reasons to the player for winning a progressive award, wherein winning the progressive award is not triggered by an event in or based specifically on any of the plays of any primary game. That is, a player is provided a progressive award without any explanation or alternatively with simple explanations. In another embodiment, a player is provided a progressive award at least partially based on a game triggered or symbol triggered event, such as at least partially based on the play of a primary game.

In one embodiment, one or more of the progressive awards are each funded via a side bet or side wager. In this embodiment, a player must place or wager a side bet to be eligible to win the progressive award associated with the side bet. In one embodiment, the player must place the maximum bet and the side bet to be eligible to win one of the progressive awards. In another embodiment, if the player places or wagers the required side bet, the player may wager at any credit amount during the primary game (i.e., the player need not place the maximum bet and the side bet to be eligible to win one of the progressive awards). In one such embodiment, the greater the player's wager (in addition to the placed side bet), the greater the odds or probability that the player will win one of the progressive awards. It should be appreciated that one or more of the progressive awards may each be funded, at least in part, based on the wagers placed on the primary games of the gaming machines in the gaming system, via a gaming establishment or via any suitable manner.

In another embodiment, one or more of the progressive awards are partially funded via a side-bet or side-wager which the player may make (and which may be tracked via a side-bet meter). In one embodiment, one or more of the progressive awards are funded with only side-bets or side-wagers placed. In another embodiment, one or more of the progressive awards are funded based on player's wagers as described above as well as any side-bets or side-wagers placed.

In one alternative embodiment, a minimum wager level is required for a gaming machine to qualify to be selected to obtain one of the progressive awards. In one embodiment, this minimum wager level is the maximum wager level for the primary game in the gaming machine. In another embodiment, no minimum wager level is required for a gaming machine to qualify to be selected to obtain one of the progressive awards.

In another embodiment, the gaming system maintains at least one progressive award by allocating a percentage of a player's wager into the player's own progressive award or pool (i.e., a personal progressive award). In this embodiment, upon the occurrence of an event (either associated with game play or independent of game play), the gaming system provides the player their personal progressive award. In one such embodiment, the gaming system displays, via one or more ECI's (as described above), information related to their personal progressive award.

In another embodiment, a plurality of players at a plurality of linked gaming machines in a gaming system participate in a group gaming environment. In one embodiment, a plurality of players at a plurality of linked gaming machines work in conjunction with one another, such as playing together as a team or group, to win one or more awards. In one such embodiment, any award won by the group is shared, either equally or based on any suitable criteria, amongst the different players of the group. In another embodiment, a plurality of players at a plurality of linked gaming machines compete against one another for one or more awards. In one such embodiment, a plurality of players at a plurality of linked gaming machines participate in a gaming tournament for one or more awards. In another embodiment, a plurality of players at a plurality of linked gaming machines play for one or more awards wherein an outcome generated by one gaming machine affects the outcomes generated by one or more linked gaming machines.

FIG. 8 shows an example of a gaming machine display 800 in accordance with a specific embodiment. According to specific embodiments, one or more promotional offers may be presented to a player via EGM display 800. For example, as illustrated in the example of FIG. 8, a promotional offer object 802 is displayed via the graphical user interface (GUI) of display 800. According to specific embodiments, different promotional offer objects may include, for example, text, graphics, still images, video clips, icons, and/or any combination thereof.

As illustrated in the example of FIG. 8, promotional offer object 802 includes text for conveying a promotional offer to a player. In this particular example, the promotional offer states, “Receive an instant $5 in Free Play right now if you try Hoot Loot $1 now! Press here to begin.” According to a specific embodiment, such a promotional offer may be referred to as a “hybrid” or “mixed” promotional offer which includes multiple components of different promotion types. More specifically, in this particular example, the promotional offer displayed at 802 includes both a game theme promotion component (e.g., Hoot Loot), and a denomination component (e.g., $1 denomination). It will be appreciated that, in at least some other embodiments, other types of hybrid or mixed promotional offers may be presented such as, for example: game type/denomination; game theme/paytable; game type/paytable; game type/game theme; denomination/paytable; game type/denomination/paytable; game theme/denomination/paytable; etc.

According to a specific embodiment, if the player in the example of FIG. 8 elects to accept the promotional offer displayed at 802, the EGM may automatically implement appropriate actions to begin game play of Hoot Loot $1 at the EGM. In accordance with the terms of the promotional offer, after the player has commenced active play of Hoot Loot $1 at the EGM, the player may receive an instant credit of $5 in Free Play.

In at least one embodiment, the promotional offers displayed to a given customer or player may vary, depending on various preferences specified by the customer/player. For example, a player may specify a preferred game type, game theme, denomination, paytable, and/or other criteria. If one or more available promotional offers are identified which match the specified criteria, one or more of the identified promotional offers may be presented to the player.

According to a specific embodiment, identification of one or more promotional offers for presentation at a particular EGM may occur after a player has inserted his or her player card into the EGM's card reader. Once inserted, the system may check to see if the player and/or the EGM's entities (e.g., game theme entities, game type entities, denomination entities, paytable entities, etc.) have Promotional Credits for play. The video monitor or display of the EGM cabinet may then offer the player a selection of game themes, game types, denominations, paytables, etc., for which Free Play Promotional Credits are available. The player may then select a desired promotional offer. For example, in one embodiment, the player may select an offering that offers additional XtraCredit™. In one embodiment, normal XtraCredit™ usage may begin and/or continue until either the player uses the credits, changes game choice, or removes their player card. If the player selects a game that is not included in an offered promotion, the player may receive no XtraCredit™.

In a different embodiment (not shown) the casino may wish to entice selected players to trial a new paytable. Given that players may be leery of choosing a new game, the game vendor and/or casino may offer a promotion to encourage trial of the game and associated new paytable. In one embodiment, this may be accomplished by presenting the player with a “Game Choice Screen” (which, for example, may display multiple different paytable choices), and showing a $5.00 promotional credit offer that can be used by the player if the player elects to play the promoted game/paytable during the current gaming session.

In a different embodiment (not shown) the casino may wish to entice selected players to trial a new denomination. In this particular example, it is assumed that Casino Player X is accustomed to playing a 5 cent denomination, and the casino has a new 10 cent offering on the player's favorite Game theme and would like to see the player's response. According to a specific embodiment, when Player X has been identified as an active player at a given EGM, the player may automatically receive a message stating, for example, “Today only—try the new 10 cent game and receive $5.00 when you wager $5.00 of your own.” According to specific embodiments, such a message may be conveyed to Player X using a variety of different mechanisms such as, for example: via one or more EGM display(s); via the player's cell phone, mobile gaming device, and/or other wireless device; etc.

It will be appreciated that at least one feature of the present invention provides the ability for casinos (and/or other entities) to market gaming features at levels of granularity which extend beyond the level of granularity of the EGM cabinet itself, and may be used to further enhance the various potentials and/or benefits of Server Based Gaming. For example, using one or more of the techniques described herein, casinos and/or vendors may provide “incentives” for trialing new game features, themes, types, denominations, paytables, paylines, etc. Additionally at least some aspects of the present invention may be use to help casinos and/or vendors to more effectively optimize game content.

Various features relating to casino gaming technology are also described in U.S. application Ser. No. 11/595,798, filed on Nov. 10, 2006 (Attorney docket. No. IGT1P337/P-1121A), naming Little, et al. as inventors, and titled, “REMOTE CONTENT MANAGEMENT AND RESOURCE SHARING ON A GAMING MACHINE AND METHOD OF IMPLEMENTING SAME,” which is incorporated herein by reference and for all purposes.

Although several preferred embodiments of this invention have been described in detail herein with reference to the accompanying drawings, it is to be understood that the invention is not limited to these precise embodiments, and that various changes and modifications may be effected therein by one skilled in the art without departing from the scope of spirit of the invention as defined in the appended claims.

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Classifications
U.S. Classification463/26
International ClassificationA63F9/24
Cooperative ClassificationG07F17/32, G07F17/3239, G07F17/3223
European ClassificationG07F17/32E6D2, G07F17/32C6, G07F17/32
Legal Events
DateCodeEventDescription
Mar 7, 2007ASAssignment
Owner name: IGT, NEVADA
Free format text: ASSIGNMENT OF ASSIGNORS INTEREST;ASSIGNOR:IDDINGS, CARA;REEL/FRAME:018976/0372
Effective date: 20070301