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Publication numberUS20110065492 A1
Publication typeApplication
Application numberUS 12/559,236
Publication dateMar 17, 2011
Filing dateSep 14, 2009
Priority dateSep 14, 2009
Publication number12559236, 559236, US 2011/0065492 A1, US 2011/065492 A1, US 20110065492 A1, US 20110065492A1, US 2011065492 A1, US 2011065492A1, US-A1-20110065492, US-A1-2011065492, US2011/0065492A1, US2011/065492A1, US20110065492 A1, US20110065492A1, US2011065492 A1, US2011065492A1
InventorsJohn F. Acres
Original AssigneeAcres-Fiore Patents
Export CitationBiBTeX, EndNote, RefMan
External Links: USPTO, USPTO Assignment, Espacenet
Gaming device having near-miss configuration
US 20110065492 A1
Abstract
Embodiments of the present invention are directed to implementing a near-miss outcome on a gaming device. The display characteristics of the near-miss outcome including the representative indicia that makes up the near-miss outcome and the display positioning of this representative indicia is determined. The near-miss outcome may be directly selected as a game outcome from a plurality of possible game outcomes, or may be identified as the result of a triggering game event and displayed instead of or in conjunction with a determined game outcome.
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Claims(30)
1. A method of implementing a near-miss game outcome on a gaming device, the method comprising:
receiving an indication that a game outcome is a near-miss outcome;
determining display characteristics of the near-miss outcome including representative outcome indicia of the near-miss outcome and display locations of the representative outcome indicia; and
displaying the near-miss outcome on the gaming device.
2. The method of claim 1, wherein determining display characteristics of the near-miss outcome further includes selecting a near-miss outcome from a plurality of possible near-miss outcomes.
3. The method of claim 2, wherein selecting a near-miss outcome from a plurality of possible near-miss outcomes includes obtaining a random number that corresponds to a weighted range of numbers associated with the plurality of possible near-miss outcomes.
4. The method of claim 3, wherein prior to obtaining the random number, the weighted range of numbers associated with the plurality of possible near-miss outcomes is updated in response to a predetermined criterion.
5. The method of claim 4, wherein the predetermined criterion is a periodic time-based measurement.
6. The method of claim 3, further comprising:
tracking prior gaming events on the gaming device; and
updating the weighted range of numbers associated with the plurality of possible near-miss outcomes based on the tracked gaming events.
7. The method of claim 6, wherein the tracked gaming event includes whether the player has been identified to the gaming device.
8. The method of claim 1, wherein determining representative outcome indicia of the near-miss outcome includes determining reel stops associated with the near-miss outcome.
9. The method of claim 1, wherein determining representative outcome indicia of the near-miss outcome includes determining cards associated with the near-miss outcome.
10. The method of claim 1, wherein determining display locations of the representative outcome indicia includes determining reel positions to display the near-miss outcome.
11. The method of claim 10, wherein determining display characteristics of the near-miss outcome further includes:
determining if each possible payline of the gaming device is played; and
selecting a winning outcome to display on a non-played payline when every possible payline on a gaming device is not played.
12. The method of claim 11, further comprising selecting a near-miss outcome to display on one of the played paylines when every possible payline on a gaming device is played.
13. The method of claim 11, further comprising:
selecting a winning outcome to display on the gaming device; and
selecting the reel positions such that the winning outcome is not displayed on any possible payline.
14. A method of implementing a near-miss game outcome on a gaming device, the method comprising:
identifying a triggering event to display a near-miss outcome;
determining display characteristics of the near-miss outcome including representative outcome indicia of the near-miss outcome and display locations of the representative outcome indicia; and
displaying the near-miss outcome on the gaming device.
15. The method of claim 14, wherein identifying a triggering event to display a near-miss outcome includes:
tracking gaming events on the gaming device; and
monitoring when one or more tracked gaming events satisfies a predetermined criterion for triggering a near-miss outcome.
16. The method of claim 15, wherein tracking gaming events on the gaming device includes tracking a number of games that have losing outcomes.
17. The method of claim 15, wherein tracking gaming events on the gaming device includes tracking a number of games remaining on a time-limited banked item associated with a player.
18. The method of claim 17, wherein tracking a number of games remaining on a time-limited banked item associated with a player includes tracking a number of games remaining for which a player can utilize a banked nudge item or a banked respin item.
19. The method of claim 14, wherein determining display characteristics of the near-miss outcome includes:
determining if a next game outcome to display is a winning outcome;
replacing the next game outcome with the near-miss outcome when the next game outcome is a losing outcome; and
selecting display locations of the representative near-miss outcome indicia to not interfere with the next game outcome when the next game outcome is a winning outcome.
20. A gaming device comprising:
a player interface panel including at least one game initiation device;
a memory to store a plurality of possible game outcomes including at least one near-miss outcome;
a processor configured to determine a game outcome from the plurality of possible outcomes and configured to determine display parameters of the game outcome; and
a game display to show the game outcome having the determined display parameters.
21. The gaming device of claim 20, wherein the processor is configured to determine the display parameters of the near-miss game outcome by selecting reel stops corresponding to the near-miss outcome.
22. The gaming device of claim 20, wherein the plurality of possible outcomes includes a single generic near-miss game outcome.
23. The gaming device of claim 22, wherein the memory further stores a plurality of possible near-miss outcomes associated with the stored single generic near-miss game outcome.
24. The gaming device of claim 23, wherein each of the plurality of possible near-miss outcomes has a corresponding table range with which it is associated.
25. The gaming device of claim 24, wherein the table ranges of each outcome is associated with the hit frequency of that game outcome.
26. The gaming device of claim 25, wherein the memory is modifiable by a casino operator to alter the table ranges of each outcome.
27. The gaming device of claim 25, wherein the table ranges stored in the memory are modifiable based on game events occurring on the gaming device.
28. The gaming device of claim 25, wherein the table ranges stored in the memory are modifiable based on characteristics of a player.
29. The gaming device of claim 20, further comprising a meter to track a number of near-miss outcomes received by a player.
30. The gaming device of claim 29, wherein the processor is further configured to award the player a prize when the tracked number of near-miss outcomes received by a player meets a predetermined criterion.
Description
FIELD OF THE INVENTION

This disclosure relates generally to gaming devices, and more particularly to gaming devices configured to include near-miss game outcomes during game play of the gaming device.

BACKGROUND

Game outcomes on gaming devices are typically determined at random where winning outcomes award a player money, credits, promotions, prizes, or other incentives, and losing outcomes typically result only in a lost wager. Player excitement is typically generated by providing the possibility of winning large awards for a relatively meager wager. Business principles require that most outcomes not be large winning outcomes for the player. However, this often times must be balanced with giving the player some incentive to keep playing. Therefore smaller valued winning outcomes are typically included in the game to drive up the hit frequency of winning outcomes while not awarding extremely large prizes too often.

It was quickly observed that while these smaller prizes were valued to a player, an outcome associated with a much larger prize that just missed being awarded also strongly incentivized players to keep playing because of the generated excitement of almost walking away with a large prize. For example, on a three reel spinning-reel slot machine, a game that had a jackpot symbol landing on the payline on a first reel, followed by a jackpot symbol landing on the payline of the second reel builds great player excitement because of the possibility of the third reel stopping with ajackpot symbol on the payline. As the reel slows down, ajackpot symbol can be seen coming into view. However, it stops just past the payline so that a blank symbol lines up on the payline. While the player feels like she just missed winning the jackpot, this outcome ultimately does not pay the player anything. Gaming device designers noted the excitement caused by this “near-miss” losing outcome and began developing games that tried to encourage this phenomenon. This was largely accomplished by stacking a large number of virtual reel stops on the symbols directly adjacent to jackpot symbols associated with large awards. This configuration causes several problems, however. First, regulatory agencies became concerned that players were being treated unfairly and in some cases imposed restrictions on the ratio of the number of virtual stops that can be assigned to any two given reel strip positions. Second, excessive use of the near-miss outcomes makes the situation less exciting for the player because they are used to seeing it often.

BRIEF DESCRIPTION OF THE DRAWINGS

FIG. 1A is a functional block diagram that illustrates a gaming device according to embodiments of the invention.

FIG. 1B is an isometric view of the gaming device illustrated in FIG. 1A.

FIGS. 2A, 2B, and 2C are detail diagrams of exemplary types of gaming devices according to embodiments of the invention.

FIG. 3 is a functional block diagram of networked gaming devices according to embodiments of the invention.

FIGS. 4A, 4B, 4C, and 4D are detail diagrams of exemplary near-miss outcomes on a gaming device according to embodiments of the invention.

FIGS. 5A and 5B are illustrated representations of exemplary paytables for a gaming device according to embodiments of the invention.

FIGS. 6A and 6B are illustrated representations of exemplary near-miss tables for a gaming device according to embodiments of the invention.

FIGS. 7A and 7B are illustrated representations of exemplary paytables and near-miss tables for a gaming device according to embodiments of the invention.

FIGS. 8A, 8B, and 8C are detailed diagrams of an exemplary gaming event resulting from a near-miss gaming outcome on a gaming device according to embodiments of the invention.

FIG. 9 is a flow diagram of a method of implementing a near-miss gaming outcome on a gaming device according to embodiments of the invention.

FIG. 10 is a detailed diagram of a gaming device according to embodiments of the invention.

DETAILED DESCRIPTION

FIGS. 1A and 1B illustrate example gaming devices according to embodiments of the invention.

Referring to FIGS. 1A and 1B, a gaming device 10 is an electronic gaming machine. Although an electronic gaming machine or “slot” machine is illustrated, various other types of devices may be used to wager monetarily based credits on a game of chance in accordance with principles of the invention. The term “electronic gaming device” is meant to include various devices such as electromechanical spinning-reel type slot machines, video slot machines, and video poker machines, for instance. Other gaming devices may include computer-based gaming machines, wireless gaming devices, multi-player gaming stations, modified personal electronic gaming devices (such as cell phones), personal computers, server-based gaming terminals, and other similar devices. Although embodiments of the invention will work with all of the gaming types mentioned, for ease of illustration the present embodiments will be described in reference to the electronic gaming machine 10 shown in FIGS. 1A and 1B.

The gaming device 10 includes a cabinet 15 housing components to operate the gaming device 10. The cabinet 15 may include a gaming display 20, a base portion 13, a top box 18, and a player interface panel 30. The gaming display 20 may include mechanical spinning reels (FIG. 2A), a video display (FIGS. 2B and 2C), or a combination of both spinning reels and a video display (not shown). The gaming cabinet 15 may also include a credit meter 27 and a coin-in or bet meter 28. The credit meter 27 may indicate the total number of credits remaining on the gaming device 10 that are eligible to be wagered. In some embodiments, the credit meter 27 may reflect a monetary unit, such as dollars. However, it is often preferable to have the credit meter 27 reflect a number of ‘credits,’ rather than a monetary unit. The bet meter 28 may indicate the amount of credits to be wagered on a particular game. Thus, for each game, the player transfers the amount that he or she wants to wager from the credit meter 27 to the bet meter 28. In some embodiments, various other meters may be present, such as meters reflecting amounts won, amounts paid, or the like. In embodiments where the gaming display 20 is a video monitor, the information indicated on the credit meters may be shown on the gaming display itself 20 (FIG. 2B).

The base portion 13 may include a lighted panel 14, a coin return (not shown), and a gaming handle 12 operable on a partially rotating pivot joint 11. The game handle 12 is traditionally included on mechanical spinning-reel games, where the handle may be pulled toward a player to initiate the spinning of reels 22 after placement of a wager. The top box 18 may include a lighted panel 17, a video display (such as an LCD monitor), a mechanical bonus device (not shown), and a candle light indicator 19. The player interface panel 30 may include various devices so that a player can interact with the gaming device 10.

The player interface panel 30 may include one or more game buttons 32 that can be actuated by the player to cause the gaming device 10 to perform a specific action. For example, some of the game buttons 32 may cause the gaming device 10 to bet a credit to be wagered during the next game, change the number of lines being played on a multi-line game, cash out the credits remaining on the gaming device (as indicated on the credit meter 27), or request assistance from casino personnel, such as by lighting the candle 19. In addition, the player interface panel 30 may include one or more game actuating buttons 33. The game actuating buttons 33 may initiate a game with a pre-specified amount of credits. On some gaming devices 10 a “Max Bet” game actuating button 33 may be included that places the maximum credit wager on a game and initiates the game. The player interface panel 30 may further include a bill acceptor 37 and a ticket printer 38. The bill acceptor 37 may accept and validate paper money or previously printed tickets with a credit balance. The ticket printer 38 may print out tickets reflecting the balance of the credits that remain on the gaming device 10 when a player cashes out by pressing one of the game buttons 32 programmed to cause a ‘cashout.’ These tickets may be inserted into other gaming machines or redeemed at a cashier station or kiosk for cash.

The gaming device 10 may also include one or more speakers 26 to transmit auditory information or sounds to the player. The auditory information may include specific sounds associated with particular events that occur during game play on the gaming device 10. For example, a particularly festive sound may be played during a large win or when a bonus is triggered. The speakers 26 may also transmit “attract” sounds to entice nearby players when the game is not currently being played.

The gaming device 10 may further include a secondary display 25. This secondary display 25 may be a vacuum fluorescent display (VFD), a liquid crystal display (LCD), a cathode ray tube (CRT), a plasma screen, or the like. The secondary display 25 may show any combination of primary game information and ancillary information to the player. For example, the secondary display 25 may show player tracking information, secondary bonus information, advertisements, or player selectable game options.

The gaming device 10 may include a separate information window (not shown) dedicated to supplying any combination of information related to primary game play, secondary bonus information, player tracking information, secondary bonus information, advertisements or player selectable game options. This window may be fixed in size and location or may have its size and location vary temporally as communication needs change. One example of such a resizable window is International Game Technology's “service window.” Another example is Las Vegas Gaming Incorporated's retrofit technology which allows information to be placed over areas of the game or the secondary display screen at various times and in various situations.

The gaming device 10 includes a microprocessor 40 that controls operation of the gaming device 10. If the gaming device 10 is a standalone gaming device, the microprocessor 40 may control virtually all of the operations of the gaming devices and attached equipment, such as operating game logic stored in memory (not shown) as firmware, controlling the display 20 to represent the outcome of a game, communicating with the other peripheral devices (such as the bill acceptor 37), and orchestrating the lighting and sound emanating from the gaming device 10. In other embodiments where the gaming device 10 is coupled to a network 50, as described below, the microprocessor 40 may have different tasks depending on the setup and function of the gaming device. For example, the microprocessor 40 may be responsible for running the base game of the gaming device and executing instructions received over the network 50 from a bonus server or player tracking server. In a server-based gaming setup, the microprocessor 40 may act as a terminal to execute instructions from a remote server that is running game play on the gaming device.

The microprocessor 40 may be coupled to a machine communication interface (MCI) 42 that connects the gaming device 10 to a gaming network 50. The MCI 42 may be coupled to the microprocessor 40 through a serial connection, a parallel connection, an optical connection, or in some cases a wireless connection. The gaming device 10 may include memory 41 (MEM), such as a random access memory (RAM), coupled to the microprocessor 40 and which can be used to store gaming information, such as storing total coin-in statistics about a present or past gaming session, which can be communicated to a remote server or database through the MCI 42. The MCI 42 may also facilitate communication between the network 50 and the secondary display 25 or a player tracking unit 45 housed in the gaming cabinet 15.

The player tracking unit 45 may include an identification device 46 and one or more buttons 47 associated with the player tracking unit 45. The identification device 46 serves to identify a player, by, for example, reading a player-tracking device, such as a player tracking card that is issued by the casino to individual players who choose to have such a card. The identification device 46 may instead, or additionally, identify players through other methods. Player tracking systems using player tracking cards and card readers 46 are known in the art. Briefly summarizing such a system, a player registers with the casino prior to commencing gaming. The casino issues a unique player-tracking card to the player and opens a corresponding player account that is stored on a server or host computer, described below with reference to FIG. 3. The player account may include the player's name and mailing address and other information of interest to the casino in connection with marketing efforts. Prior to playing one of the gaming devices in the casino, the player inserts the player tracking card into the identification device 46 thus permitting the casino to track player activity, such as amounts wagered, credits won, and rate of play.

To induce the player to use the card and be an identified player, the casino may award each player points proportional to the money or credits wagered by the player. Players typically accrue points at a rate related to the amount wagered, although other factors may cause the casino to award the player various amounts. The points may be displayed on the secondary display 25 or using other methods. In conventional player tracking systems, the player may take his or her card to a special desk in the casino where a casino employee scans the card to determine how many accrued points are in the player's account. The player may redeem points for selected merchandise, meals in casino restaurants, or the like, which each have assigned point values. In some player tracking systems, the player may use the secondary display 25 to access their player tracking account, such as to check a total number of points, redeem points for various services, make changes to their account, or download promotional credits to the gaming device 10. In other embodiments, the identification device 46 may read other identifying cards (such as driver licenses, credit cards, etc.) to identify a player and match them to a corresponding player tracking account. Although FIG. 1A shows the player tracking unit 45 with a card reader as the identification device 46, other embodiments may include a player tracking unit 45 with a biometric scanner, PIN code acceptor, or other methods of identifying a player to pair the player with their player tracking account.

During typical play on a gaming device 10, a player plays a game by placing a wager and then initiating a gaming session. The player may initially insert monetary bills or previously printed tickets with a credit value into the bill acceptor 37. The player may also put coins into a coin acceptor (not shown) or a credit, debit or casino account card into a card reader/authorizer (not shown). In other embodiments, stored player points or special ‘bonus points’ awarded to the player or accumulated and/or stored in a player account may be able to be substituted at or transferred to the gaming device 10 for credits or other value. For example, a player may convert stored loyalty points to credits or transfer finds from his bank account, credit card, casino account or other source of funding. The selected source of finding may be selected by the player at time of transfer, determined by the casino at the time of transfer or occur automatically according to a predefined selection process. One of skill in the art will readily see that this invention is useful with all gambling devices, regardless of the manner in which wager value-input is accomplished.

The credit meter 27 displays the numeric credit value of the money or other value inserted, transferred, or stored dependent on the denomination of the gaming device 10. That is, if the gaming device 10 is a nickel slot machine and a $20 bill inserted into the bill acceptor 37, the credit meter will reflect 400 credits or one credit for each nickel of the inserted twenty dollars. For gaming devices 10 that support multiple denominations, the credit meter 27 will reflect the amount of credits relative to the denomination selected. Thus, in the above example, if a penny denomination is selected after the $20 is inserted the credit meter will change from 400 credits to 2000 credits.

A wager may be placed by pushing one or more of the game buttons 32, which may be reflected on the bet meter 28. That is, the player can generally depress a “bet one” button (one of the buttons on the player interface panel 30, such as 32), which transfers one credit from the credit meter 27 to the bet meter 28. Each time the button 32 is depressed an additional single credit transfers to the bet meter 28 up to a maximum bet that can be placed on a single play of the electronic gaming device 10. The gaming session may be initiated by pulling the gaming handle 12 or depressing the spin button 33. On some gaming devices 10, a “max bet” button (another one of the buttons 32 on the player interface panel 30) may be depressed to wager the maximum number of credits supported by the gaming device 10 and initiate a gaming session.

If the gaming session does not result in any winning combination, the process of placing a wager may be repeated by the player. Alternatively, the player may cash out any remaining credits on the credit meter 27 by depressing the “cash-out” button (another button 32 on the player interface panel 30), which causes the credits on the credit meter 27 to be paid out in the form of a ticket through the ticket printer 38, or may be paid out in the form of returning coins from a coin hopper (not shown) to a coin return tray.

If instead a winning combination (win) appears on the display 20, the award corresponding to the winning combination is immediately applied to the credit meter 27. For example, if the gaming device 10 is a slot machine, a winning combination of symbols 23 may land on a played payline on reels 22. If any bonus games are initiated, the gaming device 10 may enter into a bonus mode or simply award the player with a bonus amount of credits that are applied to the credit meter 27.

FIGS. 2A to 2C illustrate exemplary types of gaming devices according to embodiments of the invention. FIG. 2A illustrates an example spinning-reel gaming machine 10A, FIG. 2B illustrates an example video slot machine 10B, and FIG. 2C illustrates an example video poker machine 10C.

Referring to FIG. 2A, a spinning-reel gaming machine 10A includes a gaming display 20A having a plurality of mechanical spinning reels 22A. Typically, spinning-reel gaming machines 10A have three to five spinning reels 22A. Each of the spinning reels 22A has multiple symbols 23A that may be separated by blank areas on the spinning reels 22A, although the presence of blank areas typically depends on the number of reels 22A present in the gaming device 10A and the number of different symbols 23A that may appear on the spinning reels 22A. Each of the symbols 22A or blank areas makes up a “stop” on the spinning reel 22A where the reel 22A comes to rest after a spin. Although the spinning reels 22A of various games 10A may have various numbers of stops, many conventional spinning-reel gaming devices 10A have reels 22A with twenty two stops.

During game play, the spinning reels 22A may be controlled by stepper motors (not shown) under the direction of the microprocessor 40 (FIG. 1A). Thus, although the spinning-reel gaming device 10A has mechanical based spinning reels 22A, the movement of the reels themselves is electronically controlled to spin and stop. This electronic control is advantageous because it allows a virtual reel strip to be stored in the memory 41 of the gaming device 10A, where various “virtual stops” are mapped to each physical stop on the physical reel 22A. This mapping allows the gaming device 10A to establish greater awards and bonuses available to the player because of the increased number of possible combinations afforded by the virtual reel strips.

A gaming session on a spinning reel slot machine 10A typically includes the player pressing the “bet-one” button (one of the game buttons 32A) to wager a desired number of credits followed by pulling the gaming handle 12 (FIGS. 1A, 1B) or pressing the spin button 33A to spin the reels 22A. Alternatively, the player may simply press the “max-bet” button (another one of the game buttons 32A) to both wager the maximum number of credits permitted and initiate the spinning of the reels 22A. The spinning reels 22A may all stop at the same time or may individually stop one after another (typically from left to right) to build player anticipation. Because the display 20A usually cannot be physically modified, some spinning reel slot machines 10A include an electronic display screen in the top box 18 (FIG. 1B), a mechanical bonus mechanism in the top box 18, or a secondary display 25 (FIG. 1A) to execute a bonus.

Referring to FIG. 2B, a video gaming machine 10B may include a video display 20B to display virtual spinning reels 22B and various other gaming information 21B. The video display 20B may be a CRT, LCD, plasma screen, or the like. It is usually preferable that the video display 20B be a touchscreen to accept player input. A number of symbols 23A appear on each of the virtual spinning reels 22B. Although FIG. 2B shows five virtual spinning reels 22B, the flexibility of the video display 20B allows for various reel 22B and game configurations. For example, some video slot games 10B spin reels for each individual symbol position (or stop) that appears on the video display 20B. That is, each symbol position on the screen is independent of every other position during the gaming sessions. In these types of games, very large numbers of pay lines or multiple super scatter pays can be utilized since similar symbols could appear at every symbol position on the video display 20B. On the other hand, other video slot games 10B more closely resemble the mechanical spinning reel games where symbols that are vertically adjacent to each other are part of the same continuous virtual spinning reel 22B.

Because the virtual spinning reels 22B, by virtue of being computer implemented, can have almost any number of stops on a reel strip, it is much easier to have a greater variety of displayed outcomes as compared to spinning-reel slot machines 10A (FIG. 2A) that have a fixed number of physical stops on each spinning reel 22A.

With the possible increases in reel 22B numbers and configurations over the mechanical gaming device 10A, video gaming devices 10B often have multiple paylines 24 that may be played. By having more paylines 24 available to play, the player may be more likely to have a winning combination when the reels 22B stop and the gaming session ends. However, since the player typically must wager at least a minimum number of credits to enable each payline 24 to be eligible for winning, the overall odds of winning are not much different, if at all, than if the player is wagering only on a single payline. For example, in a five line game, the player may bet one credit per payline 24 and be eligible for winning symbol combinations that appear on any of the five played paylines 24. This gives a total of five credits wagered and five possible winning paylines 24. If, on the other hand, the player only wagers one credit on one payline 24, but plays five gaming sessions, the odds of winning would be identical as above: five credits wagered and five possible winning paylines 24.

Because the video display 20B can easily modify the image output by the video display 20B, bonuses, such as second screen bonuses are relatively easy to award on the video slot game 10B. That is, if a bonus is triggered during game play, the video display 20B may simply store the resulting screen shot in memory and display a bonus sequence on the video display 20B. After the bonus sequence is completed, the video display 20B may then retrieve the previous screen shot and information from memory, and re-display that image.

Also, as mentioned above, the video display 20B may allow various other game information 21B to be displayed. For example, as shown in FIG. 2B, banner information may be displayed above the spinning reels 22B to inform the player, perhaps, which symbol combination is needed to trigger a bonus. Also, instead of providing a separate credit meter 27 (FIG. 1A) and bet meter 28, the same information can instead be displayed on the video display 20B. In addition, “soft buttons” 29B such as a “spin” button or “help/see pays” button may be built using the touch screen video display 20B. Such customization and ease of changing the image shown on the display 20B adds to the flexibility of the game 10B.

Even with the improved flexibility afforded by the video display 20B, several physical buttons 32B and 33B are usually provided on video slot machines 10B. These buttons may include game buttons 32B that allow a player to choose the number of paylines 24 he or she would like to play and the number of credits wagered on each payline 24. In addition, a max bet button (one of the game buttons 32B) allows a player to place a maximum credit wager on the maximum number of available paylines 24 and initiate a gaming session. A repeat bet or spin button 33B may also be used to initiate each gaming session when the max bet button is not used.

Referring to FIG. 2C, a video poker gaming device 10C may include a video display 20C that is physically similar to the video display 20B shown in FIG. 2B. The video display 20C may show a poker hand of five cards 23C and various other player information 21C including a paytable for various winning hands, as well as a plurality of player selectable soft buttons 29C. The video display 20C may present a poker hand of five cards 23C and various other player information 21C including a number of player selectable soft (touch-screen) buttons 29C and a paytable for various winning hands. Although the embodiment illustrated in FIG. 3C shows only one hand of poker on the video display 20C, various other video poker machines 10C may show several poker hands (multi-hand poker). Typically, video poker machines 10C play “draw” poker in which a player is dealt a hand of five cards, has the opportunity to hold any combination of those five cards, and then draws new cards to replace the discarded ones. All pays are usually given for winning combinations resulting from the final hand, although some video poker games 10C may give bonus credits for certain combinations received on the first hand before the draw. In the example shown in FIG. 2C a player has been dealt two aces, a three, a six, and a nine. The video poker game 10C may provide a bonus or payout for the player having been dealt the pair of aces, even before the player decides what to discard in the draw. Since pairs, three of a kind, etc. are typically needed for wins, a player would likely hold the two aces that have been dealt and draw three cards to replace the three, six, and nine in the hope of receiving additional aces or other cards leading to a winning combination with a higher award amount. After the draw and revealing of the final hand, the video poker game 10C typically awards any credits won to the credit meter.

The player selectable soft buttons 29C appearing on the screen respectively correspond to each card on the video display 20C. These soft buttons 29C allow players to select specific cards on the video display 20C such that the card corresponding to the selected soft button is “held” before the draw. Typically, video poker machines 10C also include physical game buttons 32C that correspond to the cards in the hand and may be selected to hold a corresponding card. A deal/draw button 33C may also be included to initiate a gaming session after credits have been wagered (with a bet button 32C, for example) and to draw any cards not held after the first hand is displayed.

Although examples of a spinning reel slot machine 10A, a video slot machine 10B, and a video poker machine 10C have been illustrated in FIGS. 2A-2C, gaming machines and various other types of gaming devices known in the art are contemplated and are within the scope of the invention.

FIG. 3 is a block diagram illustrating networked gaming devices according to embodiments of the invention. Referring to FIG. 3, multiple electronic gaming devices (EGMs) 70, 71, 72, 73, 74, and 75 may be coupled to one another and coupled to a remote server 80 through a network 50. For ease of understanding, gaming devices or EGMs 70, 71, 72, 73, 74, and 75 are generically referred to as EGMs 70-75. The term EGMs 70-75, however, may refer to any combination of one or more of EGMs 70, 71, 72, 73, 74, and 75. Additionally, the gaming server 80 may be coupled to one or more gaming databases 90. These gaming network 50 connections may allow multiple gaming devices 70-75 to remain in communication with one another during particular gaming modes such as tournament play or remote head-to-head play. Although some of the gaming devices 70-75 coupled on the gaming network 50 may resemble the gaming devices 10, 10A, 10B, and 10C shown in FIGS. 1A-1B and 2A-2C, other coupled gaming devices 70-75 may include differently configured gaming devices. For example, the gaming devices 70-75 may include traditional slot machines 75 directly coupled to the network 50, banks of gaming devices 70 coupled to the network 50, banks of gaming devices 70 coupled to the network through a bank controller 60, wireless handheld gaming machines 72 and cell phones 73 coupled to the gaming network 50 through one or more wireless routers or antennas 61, personal computers 74 coupled to the network 50 through the internet 62, and banks of gaming devices 71 coupled to the network through one or more optical connection lines 64. Additionally, some of the traditional gaming devices 70, 71, and 75 may include electronic gaming tables, multi-station gaming devices, or electronic components operating in conjunction with non-gaming components, such as automatic card readers, chip readers, and chip counters, for example.

Gaming devices 71 coupled over an optical line 64 may be remote gaming devices in a different location or casino. The optical line 64 may be coupled to the gaming network 50 through an electronic to optical signal converter 63 and may be coupled to the gaming devices 71 through an optical to electronic signal converter 65. The banks of gaming devices 70 coupled to the network 50 may be coupled through a bank controller 60 for compatibility purposes, for local organization and control, or for signal buffering purposes. The network 50 may include serial or parallel signal transmission lines and carry data in accordance with data transfer protocols such as Ethernet transmission lines, Rs-232 lines, firewire lines, USB lines, or other communication protocols. Although not shown in FIG. 3, substantially the entire network 50 may be made of fiber optic lines or may be a wireless network utilizing a wireless protocol such as IEEE 802.11 a, b, g, or n, Zigbee, RF protocols, optical transmission, near-field transmission, or the like.

As mentioned above, each gaming device 70-75 may have an individual processor 40 (FIG. 1A) and memory 41 to run and control game play on the gaming device 70-75, or some of the gaming devices 70-75 may be terminals that are run by a remote server 80 in a server based gaming environment. Server based gaming environments may be advantageous to casinos by allowing fast downloading of particular game types or themes based on casino preference or player selection. Additionally, tournament based games, linked games, and certain game types, such as BINGO or keno may benefit from at least some server 80 based control.

Thus, in some embodiments, the network 50, server 80, and database 90 may be dedicated to communications regarding specific game or tournament play. In other embodiments, however, the network 50, server 80, and database 90 may be part of a player tracking network. For player tracking capabilities, when a player inserts a player tracking card in the card reader 46 (FIG. 1A), the player tracking unit 45 sends player identification information obtained on the card reader 46 through the MCI 42 over the network 50 to the player tracking server 80, where the player identification information is compared to player information records in the player database 90 to provide the player with information regarding their player account or other features at the gaming device 10 where the player is wagering. Additionally, multiple databases 90 and/or servers 80 may be present and coupled to one or more networks 50 to provide a variety of gaming services, such as both game/tournament data and player tracking data.

The various systems described with reference to FIGS. 1-3 can be used in a number of ways. For instance, the systems can be used to track data about various players. The tracked data can be used by the casino to provide additional benefits to players, such as extra bonuses or extra benefits such as bonus games and other benefits as described above. These added benefits further entice the players to play at the casino that provides the benefits.

As noted above, gaming outcomes that nearly miss providing the player with a result associated with a large prize can be very exciting for a player. However, conventional methods of encouraging this type of “near-miss” or “near-win” game result are fraught with issues. Many of these issues are caused by the brute-force methods used to generate conventional paytables and reel strips that encourage near-miss game outcomes. As opposed to these brute-force methods, embodiments of this concept provide a gaming device that strategically employs near-miss outcomes to promote player excitement while avoiding over-use or under-use issues associated with conventional techniques.

FIGS. 4A, 4B, 4C, and 4D are detail diagrams of exemplary near-miss outcomes on a gaming device according to embodiments of the invention.

Referring to FIG. 4A, three reel gaming device 100A includes a gaming display 120 with a single payline 124 on which a combination of symbols 123 must line up to provide a winning outcome. As illustrated in FIG. 4A, the player of this game received a “7” symbol on reels one and two, but as reel three slowed down and stopped, the third “7” necessary for an award just missed landing on the payline 124. This is a classic near-miss outcome where a fairly large-valued outcome just misses filling out a payline. Typically, the symbol that misses the payline, and hence ruins the potential win, is the last symbol or one of the last symbols so that anticipation is built during the game play. That is, after all reels are set in spinning motion, reel one typically comes to a stop first, followed by reel two a short time later, and finally followed by reel three stopping to show the complete game outcome. Here, the player sees a symbol 123 stop on the payline 124 for the first reel, and then sees the same symbol 123 stop on the payline 124 for the second reel. At this point, reel three is still spinning, and the player feels that they might be very close to winning a large award. When the third reel stops and the desired symbol is close to, but not on the payline 124, the player may feel that they just missed the large award. Some gaming devices provide additional emphasis on the third reel if the first and second reels stop with symbols landing on the payline 124. This may include providing special sounds and lights to alert the player of the possibility of a large award, and may also include an increase in the delay time between the second reel stopping and the third, and deciding, reel stopping. However, although this is a classic near-miss scenario, several other near-miss outcomes are possible.

Referring to FIG. 4B, a gaming device 100B includes a game display 120 having five reels 122 with five paylines 124 on which game symbols 123 may land. The player may generally select if they want to play one payline, two paylines, up to all five paylines. Some gaming devices have twenty or more paylines on a five reel game and some super spin games, where each symbol position has its own reel or outcome determination, have many more paylines that that. The gaming device 100B shown in FIG. 4B illustrates another type of near miss-outcome. Here, the near-miss occurs because the bonus symbol on the fourth reel 122 fell one spot away from completing a five symbol bonus pay on the third payline (the uppermost horizontal payline). In addition, the player may initially think and/or hope that there is a payline that tracks the landing position of the five bonus symbol combination. Although this may be a little difficult to see when there is only five paylines, when there are nine paylines, twenty paylines, or more, players seeing five similar symbols across the reels may think they have won something only to realize that the positioning of the symbols does not correspond to a payline.

Here, because the five bonus symbols do not correspond to a payline, the player does not win the five symbol pay. A similar near-miss embodiment may have four or another number of bonus symbols landing on the reels near a pay-line without displaying the full five symbol combination. With five (or more) reel multi-line games, two, three, or four symbols on a payline (or even a single symbol) sometimes pay something, although this award value is typically much less than the award value for a five symbol pay. This illustrates another type of near-miss outcome. As shown in FIG. 4B, 3 or more bonus symbols trigger the Lucky Bonus. However, the Lucky Bonus for three bonus symbols may be the paying of an award with a relatively low value, while a five symbol Lucky Bonus may pay much more. As such, while the player may still win something (here a 3 symbol pay), they nearly hit a much richer award (here a 5 symbol pay). Thus, a near-miss outcome may be associated with a prize, but it nearly misses a much larger prize. This concept will be explained in further detail below with reference to FIGS. 5B and 7B.

Referring to FIG. 4C, a gaming device 100C again includes a game display 120 having five reels 122 with five paylines 124 on which game symbols 123 may land. In this example, the player has selected to only play the first three paylines 124, which are the three horizontal paylines. During game play, a five symbol bonus combination appears and falls on a payline, which is highlighted in the drawings for clarity purposes. However, since the player is only playing the first three paylines, they do not receive the award associated with this symbol combination. Hence, this type of near-miss outcome is an outcome that would normal pay a large award, but the player has made a choice to not play a certain element of the game which is then associated with the outcome. In similar embodiments, a four or fewer symbol near-miss outcome may be displayed on a non-played payline.

A winning symbol combination appearing on a non-played line is one example of this type of near-miss outcome. In another example, a certain game feature may only be available with a max bet placed or certain threshold bet placed. For example, a bonus may only be available if three coins/credits are wagered during a game. If the player wagers only one or two credits, the bonus symbol or combination of symbols may appear, but is not awarded to the player because they have not made the necessary wager. In another example, a certain feature may only be available to an identified player with a player account. If the player does not have such an account, they would not be eligible for the prize when it appears as part of the game. Near-misses of this type often encourage a player to modify their wagering or gaming habits. For example, a player may always play five lines after receiving the five symbol bonus combination on a non-played payline.

Referring to FIG. 4D, a video poker gaming device 100D includes a plurality of displayed cards 130 forming a hand, and a plurality of game buttons 132 to interact with the gaming device 100D. A near-miss in video poker typically includes falling just short of a high paying hand. As shown in FIG. 4D, the player has received a final hand that is a near miss of a royal flush. That is, the player received four out of the five cards needed to complete a royal flush. The near-miss may also result in a lower paying hand. For example a player may end with a three of a kind instead of a four of a kind, or two pair instead of a full house. However, it is sometimes preferable to have a near-miss be the difference between a large pay and no pay in video poker because small paying hands are relatively common. Thus, four cards of a straight, a flush, a straight flush, and a royal flush may be the most effective near-miss outcomes. Additionally, because video poker involves a player decision in choosing which, if any, cards to hold, a near-miss outcome may be more effective if the near-miss is present during the dealt hand. For example, in the example illustrated in FIG. 4D, it may be the most effective to have the four cards associated with the royal flush be present when the cards are initially dealt. The player would likely hold each of those cards, the ace, king, queen, and ten of diamonds and draw the fifth card hoping for the jack of diamonds. This builds more player excitement than if the player held only the ace of diamonds from an initial dealt hand and received the king, queen, and 10 on the draw because there is no build up of anticipation. Rather, the player may be hoping for a pair of aces at most when holding a single ace.

The appeal of the near-miss outcome is in the anticipation it builds and feeling by the player that they almost won a large award. A near-miss of a large award is often more exciting to a player than the winning of a relatively small award. This is because most players play gaming devices, and in particular slot machines, for the possibility of winning a large award with relatively little wagered. As discussed above, this concept is not limited only to slot machine gaming devices. Rather, the determination and use of near-miss outcomes can be used with a variety of different gaming device types or themes. For example, this concept may be used with keno, video blackjack, video poker, etc. The above figures have set out various embodiments of gaming devices and near-miss outcomes. Selection processes for these near-miss outcomes for use on these gaming devices will now be discussed. Some of these selection processes utilize an outcome selection process described in detail in patent application Ser. No. 12/542,587, filed on Aug. 17, 2009, entitled DETERMINATION OF GAME RESULT USING RANDOM OVERALL OUTCOME SUMMARY (hereinafter referred to as “the Ser. No. 12/542,587 application”), the teachings of which are incorporated herein by reference.

The selection of a near-miss outcome may be associated with a determination of a game outcome or may be the result of a triggering event. In some embodiments, a particular near-miss outcome may be directly selected as the game outcome, while in other embodiments a generic near-miss outcome may be selected or associated with a selected game outcome. Additional details regarding these selection methods are discussed below. In embodiments where the near-miss outcome is the result of a triggering event, the near-miss outcome may replace a determined game outcome or may be presented in addition to a determined game outcome. Where the game outcome is determined by conventional methods, the specified near-miss outcome may either replace the determined game outcome or be held and displayed during a subsequent game. For example, if the near-miss outcome can only replace a game outcome that is determined to be a losing outcome, the near-miss outcome may be held for two or more games that have winning outcomes before replacing a losing outcome in a later game. Where the game outcome is determined by a direct selection of a game outcome, as detailed in the Ser. No. 12/542,587 application, the near-miss outcome may be displayed with a selected game outcome, may replace the selected game outcome, or may be stored for a period before being implemented and displayed. Triggering events that may dictate the selection and display of a near-miss outcome include receiving one or more predetermined game outcomes (e.g., losing ten games in a row), reaching a wagering or play threshold (e.g., triggered by the 500th credit wagered in a gaming session), based on game play characteristics of the player (e.g., the player has played less than all possible paylines for 20 consecutive games), based on other gaming events (e.g., the player has a banked nudge that has to be used in the next 10 games), or based on another type of event associated with a player or gaming session.

FIGS. 5A and 5B are illustrated representations of exemplary paytables for a gaming device according to embodiments of the invention. These paytables and the paytables shown in FIGS. 6A, 6B, 7A, and 7B are similar to the example paytable shown in FIG. 4 of the Ser. No. 12/542,587 application. As a quick reminder, these paytables list possible game outcomes in the left column of the paytable under the heading “Outcome.” As defined in the Ser. No. 12/542,587 application as well as this application, a winning outcome is any outcome that is associated with an award, prize, or other incentive given to the player as a result of the outcome. On the other hand, a losing outcome is an outcome that is not associated with an award, prize, or other incentive. For the listed outcomes, “X” represents a blank or any symbol. Hence, the outcome “X X X” is a generic losing outcome that encompasses any outcome other than the other listed game outcomes. The pay for each outcome is located in the adjacent column labeled “Pay.”

The “Paytable Weight” column provides a number range for each of the outcomes that determines how often that outcome occurs. The “Hit Frequency” column reflects what percentage of spins will result in a corresponding wager. The hit frequency is simply determined by dividing the associated paytable weight by the total of all of the paytable weights, which is “2246” in all of the examples. The “Contribution” column is achieved by multiplying the value in the “Pay” column with the value in the “Hit Freq” column. This contribution relates to the relative or normalized weight each outcome has on the payback percentage of the game. The sum of these contributions results in the overall payback percentage of the game. The hold percentage of a gaming device is simply 100% minus the payback percentage.

Referring to FIG. 5A, the paytable is similar to the paytable shown in FIG. 4A of the Ser. No. 12/542,587 application except that three near-miss outcomes have been included in the paytable. These near-miss outcomes include “X X XB,” which is a near miss of the bonus symbol on the third reel. Here, the “X” refers to any symbol while the “XB” refers to a symbol adjacent or close enough to the bonus symbol “BN” to make the bonus symbol visible on the third reel. The “7 7 X7” near-miss outcome includes sevens on the payline of the first two reels and a symbol adjacent or near a “7” on the payline of the third reel. This near-miss outcome may resemble the near-miss shown in FIG. 4A of this application. The “JP JP XJ” near-miss outcome includes jackpot symbols shown on the payline of the first two reels and a symbol adjacent or near a jackpot symbol on the payline of the third reel.

Note that each of these near-miss outcomes is not associated with any award. As such, the paytable weights used for these near-miss outcomes were taken from the generic losing outcome “X X X” without affecting the overall hit frequency or payback percentage of the game. The only difference in the play of the game would be that one of the three specified near-miss outcomes would appear about 4.45% of the time. During selection of a game outcome using this paytable, one of the near-miss outcomes may be directly selected as the game outcome. For example, the “JP JP XJ” near-miss outcome may be directly selected as the game outcome and displayed on the payline using the outcome display techniques discussed in the Ser. No. 12/542,587 application.

Referring to FIG. 5B, the illustrated paytable is similar to the paytable shown in FIG. 5A, except that four additional near-miss outcomes are included in the paytable. These near-miss outcomes differ from the previous three near-miss outcomes in that they have an award associated with them. However, they result in a game outcome that is lower than another outcome that they may have been hoping for after the first two reels had stopped. For example, the outcome of “BAR BAR AB” may look like it is heading for a outcome of three single bars and a pay of 5 credits, but a double or triple bar is received on the payline of the third reel rendering this any “any bar” outcome with a 3 credit award. The “DB DB AB” and “TB TB AB” outcomes similarly appear to be heading for a double or triple bar outcome with a 10 or 20 credit award, only to have a different bar symbol land on the third payline to make an “any bar” win of 3 credits. These near-miss outcomes allocate some of the paytable weight previously associated with the “AB AB AB” outcome. The other near-miss outcome included in this paytable, “JP JP BN,” looks like a possible jackpot award only to have it be a bonus award when the third reel finally stops. Again the paytable weight assigned to this near-miss outcome is taken out of the bonus win outcome paytable weight so the game retains the same overall hit frequency and payback percentage. Note though that the near-miss hit frequency jumps up slightly to 8.99%.

FIGS. 6A and 6B are illustrated representations of exemplary near-miss tables for a gaming device according to embodiments of the invention.

Referring to FIG. 6A, is similar to the paytable illustrated in FIG. 4A of the Ser. No. 12/542,587 application and the paytable illustrated in FIG. 5A of the present application except that it has a generic near-miss outcome (“NM NM NM”) specified in the paytable and separate table of near-miss outcomes. Here if the generic near-miss outcome is selected as the game outcome from the game paytable, another selection process, random or otherwise, may be used to determine which of the near-miss outcomes is to be displayed as the game outcome. The advantage of this system is that the near-miss paytable may be dynamically altered during game play without having to modify the a game paytable of the gaming device. This can be seen when referring to FIG. 6B, where the near-miss paytable has been altered following a game event. Here, for example, a bonus award may have been hit in a previous game, making a near-miss of another bonus award not as appealing for the next 50 games. In response to this game event, paytable weight of the near-miss outcome of “X X XB” in the near-miss paytable is reduced to make the likelihood of this near-miss outcome coming up in the next 50 games about seven times less likely. After the 50 games has been played, or if the player leaves the gaming device, the paytable weights in the near-miss paytable may return to their default values shown in FIG. 6A.

FIGS. 7A and 7B are illustrated representations of exemplary paytables and near-miss tables for a gaming device according to embodiments of the invention.

Referring to FIG. 7A, a game paytable and near-miss paytable are shown with default paytable weights. These paytables are similar to the paytables in FIG. 6A. Referring to FIG. 7B, an event has occurred that has changed the dynamic of the paytables. For example, a player may have identified themselves to the game device and is about to begin a gaming session on the gaming device. The player may have specific near-miss preferences that have been determined from analyzing the player's past game play, from a setting preference in the player's account, or from a poll at the game device that asks the player what symbol combinations they feel lucky about today. Here, for example, it has been determined that the player prefers near-miss outcomes that still have some award associated with the near miss. As such, the near-miss paytable has been dynamically modified upon identification of the player to include three near-miss outcomes that have corresponding pays. Since the addition of these near-miss outcomes to the near-miss paytable have pays that exceed the previously indicated pay of zero (“0”), the game paytable itself also has to be modified to maintain the same overall hit frequency and payback percentage. Here, the paytable weight of the any bar (“AB AB AB”) outcome and the paytable weight of the generic near-miss outcome (“NM NM NM”) in the game paytable has to be modified to account for the additional any bar pays in the near-miss paytable. Note that unlike the paytable illustrated in FIG. 5B, the modification of the game paytable and near-miss paytable is not a direct paytable substitution because of the frequency of the paying near-miss outcomes within the near-miss paytable must be taken into account.

FIGS. 8A, 8B, and 8C are detailed diagrams of an exemplary gaming event resulting from a near-miss gaming outcome on a gaming device according to embodiments of the invention.

Referring to FIG. 8A, a gaming device 200A includes a gaming display 220 having a five reel 222 slot game with five paylines 224 on which gaming symbols 223 may land. In this example, a player is able to win or earn advantageous items that can be banked or stored for later use. In the illustrated example, the advantageous item is a reel nudge or nudge item. These nudges may be won or earned in a variety of manners as determined by the casino and/or game manufacturer. Nudges or other advantageous items may be tied to an identified player and stored in a player account on a player database. Nudges may also be linked to a single gaming device or type of gaming device. They may have time restrictions in which they must be used or they may be banked indefinitely.

Near-miss outcomes may provide ideal opportunities for using nudges or other advantageous items. As such, in some embodiments, they may be tied to an award of a nudge or other item so that a near-miss outcome is triggered a particular number of games after a nudge has been awarded to the player. In this situation, the paytable may fairly value the award of the nudge at the value of the award resulting from its use on a later triggered near-miss outcome. For example, suppose a player is awarded a nudge that must be used in the next 25 games. Nineteen games later, the player is presented with a near-miss outcome, triggered by the earlier nudge award in which the nudge may be used to complete a mid-level symbol combination. The player may choose to use the nudge at this point or may choose to wait and use it in one of the next six games. Essentially, the player is risking losing a sure use of the nudge for the possibility of being able to use it the next six games to achieve a larger award. When a nudge is awarded, a subsequent near-miss outcome may be chosen to be presented during the active period of the nudge. Additionally, a game in the active period of the nudge may be selected for displaying the near-miss outcome. These selections may be made at random from a weighted table, or other selections means, to emphasize certain near-miss outcomes and the most opportune times to present the near-miss outcome.

In other embodiments, near-miss outcomes of mid-level symbol combinations may be presented when a player has one or more banked nudges or items to induce the player to use the items rather than holding on to them for use in completing a much larger valued symbol combination. Additionally, near-miss outcomes may simply be part of a gaming device that utilizes banked items. The gaming device, however, may recognize when a near-miss outcome has occurred and encourage the player to use a banked nudge or other item in this situation. Referring again to FIG. 8A, a player is presented with a near-miss outcome shown on the gaming display 220. Here, five bonus symbols have almost appeared on a payline. However, the bonus symbol on the four reel 222 has not landed on the payline 224 needed to complete this five-symbol combination. Gaming device 200A has recognized that the identified player has a banked nudge they may be useful here and presents a player message 221 stating that the player has a banked nudge that may be used by pressing a “Use Nudge” button 227. The nudge button 227 may only appear when a situation is presented in which a nudge would be useful or may be present during every game when a banked nudge is available for use. A physical game button 232 may also be associated with the nudge button.

Referring to FIG. 8B, the player has realized that this is a great time to use the banked nudge and has pressed the nudge button 227. As illustrated, when the player pressed the nudge button 227, the soft buttons on the bottom of the game display 220 have become inactive and a pair of arrow buttons 229 above each reel 222 has appeared. The nudge button 227 may also indicate that a nudge item has been activated. In addition, the game buttons 232 may be deactivated so that the player must choose one of the arrow buttons 229. Each arrow button 229 may be associated with a directional nudge of each reel by one symbol space.

Referring to FIG. 8C, the player has pressed the up-arrow button 229B associated with the fourth reel 222 so that the fourth reel is nudged up by one position. Here, the bonus symbol that was previously occupying the middle position of the fourth reel is nudged up to the top position, the seven symbol is nudged up from a bottom position to the middle position, and a partial moon symbol is nudged from off screen to the bottom position. After the up-arrow button 229B has been pressed by the player, the other arrow buttons 229A may be deactivated and the selected arrow button 229B may be highlighted. After the reel is nudged as requested by the player, the soft buttons on the game display 220 and physical game buttons 232 may be reactivated. Here, the player has been awarded 500 credits for the five symbol bonus combination game outcome.

Although nudges are discussed above with respect to FIGS. 8A-8C, many other types of items may be available in other embodiments, such as respins, reel holds/freezes, etc. Another bonus that may be used particularly with near-miss outcomes is a “player-formed payline” bonus. In this bonus, a player may choose one symbol position from each reel to form their own payline. The payline may be formed prior to a game being played and may be active for a certain number of games thereafter. In other embodiments, however, the player may use the bonus to choose a payline after a game outcome has been displayed. Here, when a near-miss outcome is displayed in which a high-paying symbol combination appears on the game display, but does not fall on any payline, this bonus may be used to choose a payline that goes through each of the symbol positions having symbols related to the high-paying symbol combinations.

FIG. 9 is a flow diagram of a method of implementing a near-miss gaming outcome on a gaming device according to embodiments of the invention.

Referring to FIG. 9, an example flow 300 begins by receiving an indication of a game outcome in process (310). The game outcome may be determined by an outcome selection process from a list or table of outcomes as described above, or may be determined using conventional game outcome processing techniques. The gaming device determines whether the indicated game outcome is a near-miss outcome in process (312). If it is determined that the indicated game outcome is a near-miss outcome, the gaming device implements process (314) to determine if a particular near-miss outcome has been selected with the indication of the game outcome. As described above, near-miss outcomes may be built directly into a table of possible game outcomes (e.g., FIGS. 5A and 5B). Here, when a game outcome is selected by random or otherwise, the selection may directly indicate a particular near-miss outcome. In this instance, the gaming device would follow the “YES” branch from process (314) to process (340), where the indicia, such as corresponding symbols or reel stops, and location of the near-miss outcome is selected. The location of the near-miss outcome may include determining symbol positions on a gaming display associated with the near-miss outcome. For example, if the near-miss outcome is a gaming outcome that narrowly misses a large prize, the location of the near-miss outcome may be specified as being on at least one of the played paylines. In another example, if the near-miss outcome includes a large-valued game outcome to be displayed in a non-paying position, the location of the near-miss outcome may be restricted to a non-played payline or symbol positions not associated with any payline. In embodiments associated with multi-line gaming devices or flexible reels process (340) may also include the step of confirming that the selected location does not fall on another played payline in the instances when a large-valued symbol combination is selected as the near-miss outcome.

If process (314) determines that the selection of a particular near-miss outcome has not yet been selected, such as where the game outcome indicates a generic near-miss outcome, a near-miss outcome is selected in process (330). The selection of a near-miss outcome in process (330) may include selecting a near-miss outcome from a table of possible near-miss outcomes, as is illustrated in FIGS. 6A, 6B, 7A, and 7B. As described above, the plurality of possible near-miss outcomes may be arranged in a table with associated paytable weights that influence the hit frequency or occurrence of each near-miss outcome. In other embodiments, only a single specified near-miss outcome may be available to be used as the near-miss outcome or the near-miss outcome may be chosen at random. After a near-miss outcome has been selected, the flow 300 proceeds to the selection of the indicia and location of the near-miss outcome for display purposes in process (340). After the indicia and location for the near-miss outcome has been chosen, process (360) is followed whereby the gaming device displays the selected near-miss outcome using the specified indicia and location process.

If it is determined that the indicated game outcome is not a near-miss outcome, the gaming device then determines if a near-miss triggering event has been received in process (320). If a near-miss triggering event has not been received, the gaming device displays the indicated game outcome according to the outcome determination methods discussed in the Ser. No. 12/542,587 application or according to conventional techniques in process (350).

If a near-miss triggering event has been received, on the other hand, the gaming device then determines if the triggering event specifies a particular near-miss outcome in process (325). As discussed above, a near-miss outcome may be triggering even when such an outcome is not originally indicated as a game outcome based on a variety of criteria and/or triggering events. In some embodiments, a near-miss outcome will not be triggered if the indicated game outcome is a winning or preferred game outcome. In other words, only a losing outcome would be modified into a near-miss outcome by a triggering event. In other embodiments, even if a game outcome is indicated as a winning outcome, a near-miss triggering event may cause a near-miss outcome to appear on a different payline, near a payline, or even as part of the indicated winning outcome.

If a near-miss outcome is not specified by the triggering event, the gaming device then selects the near-miss outcome in process (330). After selection of the near-miss outcome, flow 300 proceeds to again to process (340) to select the indicia and location of near-miss outcome. If the near-miss outcome is specified by the triggering event, flow 300 proceeds directly to process (340) to select the indicia and location of near-miss outcome. After the indicia and location of the near-miss outcome has been selected, the near-miss outcome is displayed to the player on the gaming device in process (360).

FIG. 10 is a detailed diagram of a gaming device according to embodiments of the invention.

Referring to FIG. 10, a gaming device 400 includes a gaming display 420 that includes near-miss meter 427. Although the gaming device 400 illustrated in this embodiment includes the near-miss meter 427 as part of the gaming display, the near-miss meter may be included on a different display on the gaming device or on a display near the gaming device in other embodiments. The near-miss meter 427 may be used to track a number of near-miss outcomes that a player or gaming device receives in a defined period. In some embodiments, a gaming device 400 may be configured to award a prize or promotion when a player receives one or more near-miss outcomes. For example, five near-miss outcomes in fifty games may result in the player being awarded with extra player points, a free buffet dinner, a 50 credit win, or even a separate near-miss progressive jackpot. The criteria and award schedule associated with the near-miss outcomes is limitless. That is, a gaming device may be configured to provide a player a variety of benefits for receiving one or more near-miss outcomes.

In the embodiment illustrated in FIG. 10, the gaming display 420 of the gaming device 400 includes a message display 421 indicating that the collection of ten near-miss outcomes results in a bonus award of 20 extra credits. The near-miss meter 427 indicates that eight near-miss outcomes have been accumulated. A player at this gaming device may be inspired to continue playing this gaming device knowing that they will receive a 20 credit bonus prize if they receive two more near-miss outcomes. Although this relationship between near-miss outcomes and a bonus is expressly explained to a player in this illustrated embodiment, other embodiments may treat the bonus award as a mystery bonus, even if it uses similar rules. In such a situation, when a player receives a tenth near-miss outcome, the gaming device may state, “So close again! Here are 20 extra credits for your effort.”

The count of near-miss outcomes may be player specific, game specific, game-type specific, casino specific, etc. In embodiments, where it is player specific, an identified player may be able to store the count of near-miss outcomes in a player account database 90 (FIG. 3) so that the player can access and add to the near-miss count if they change gaming devices or visit the casino at a later date. The near-miss count may be reduced or be eliminated after a specified time period, which may encourage the player to return to the casino at an earlier date. If the near-miss outcome count is game specific, the count may be reset when the credit meter reaches zero, when the player cashes-out, or after a predetermined time period of no play on the gaming device to discourage game-shoppers. If the near-miss count is game-type, bank, or casino specific, a local or remote server may track an overall near-miss count for a plurality of games having a related near-miss count. For example, if a near-miss royal flush count was implemented on all single-play video poker machines, a remote server may keep track of each time a player received 4 out 5 cards needed for a royal flush and provide an award to a player that receives the twentieth near-miss royal flush on a single-play video poker machine. In this case, each single-play video poker machine may have a near-miss meter showing the same near-miss count.

In the illustrated embodiment shown in FIG. 10, a player has just missed receiving five bonus symbols 423 on a payline 424 in a five reel 422 game. The result of this near-miss outcome may result in the incrementing of the near-miss meter 427. When a near-miss meter is utilized in an embodiment, it may also be preferable to specify which near miss outcomes are eligible to increment the near-miss meter. In the above example, only near-misses of a royal flush were counted on the near miss meter 427. However, other embodiments may increment a near-miss meter for a variety of near-miss outcomes. In these cases, the qualifying near-miss outcomes may be specified on the gaming glass or in a help screen page to provide clarification to the player. For example, a near-miss of a three cherry symbol pay may not qualify as a near-miss that increments the near-miss meter while a near-miss of a five symbol jackpot combination may qualify as a near-miss that increments the near-miss meter.

In other embodiments, near-miss outcomes that increment the meter may increment the meter by different amounts relating to the quality of the miss. For example, a four symbol cherry combination near-miss may increment the near-miss meter 427 by one while a near-miss of a five symbol bonus may increment the meter by five. An incrementation schedule along with the qualifying near-miss outcomes may be included on the gaming glass or help screen to clarify this difference in incrementation to the player.

The near-miss meter 427 may become visible or more prominent as the near-miss count approaches an award threshold. A gaming button 432 or soft button may be used to access the near-miss meter 427 if it is not visible at certain times to the player. The near-miss meter 427 and associated prizes may only be available to certain players, such as identified players or players playing above a certain coin-in threshold. The prizes or promotions awarded for the near-miss outcome meter 427 reaching a certain threshold level may be built into the game paytable, or may be taken out of a marketing or promotional budget.

Some embodiments of the invention have been described above, and in addition, some specific details are shown for purposes of illustrating the inventive principles. However, numerous other arrangements may be devised in accordance with the inventive principles of this patent disclosure. Further, well known processes have not been described in detail in order not to obscure the invention. Thus, while the invention is described in conjunction with the specific embodiments illustrated in the drawings, it is not limited to these embodiments or drawings. Rather, the invention is intended to cover alternatives, modifications, and equivalents that come within the scope and spirit of the inventive principles set out in the appended claims.

Referenced by
Citing PatentFiling datePublication dateApplicantTitle
US8047910 *Aug 31, 2005Nov 1, 2011Bally Gaming, Inc.Gaming machines having rhythmic reels
US8267772Oct 12, 2011Sep 18, 2012Bally Gaming, Inc.Gaming machines having rhythmic reels
US8529334 *Sep 17, 2012Sep 10, 2013Bally Gaming, Inc.Gaming machines having rhythmic reels
US20110306401 *Jun 10, 2010Dec 15, 2011Intellectual Garden, LlcSystem And Method For Supporting Second Chance Gaming
US20120034967 *Jul 13, 2011Feb 9, 2012Multimedia Games, Inc.Wagering game, reel-based gaming machine and method with anticipation lighting
US20130023330 *Sep 17, 2012Jan 24, 2013Bally Gaming, Inc.Gaming machines having rhythmic reels
Classifications
U.S. Classification463/20, 463/43
International ClassificationA63F9/24
Cooperative ClassificationG07F17/3265, G07F17/3227
European ClassificationG07F17/32M2B, G07F17/32E2
Legal Events
DateCodeEventDescription
Oct 6, 2009ASAssignment
Free format text: ASSIGNMENT OF ASSIGNORS INTEREST;ASSIGNOR:ACRES, JOHN F.;REEL/FRAME:023334/0622
Owner name: ACRES-FIORE PATENTS, NEVADA
Effective date: 20091001