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PROMOTIONAL GAME METHOD AND
CROSS-REFERENCE TO RELATED
The present application is a continuation-in-part application of application Ser. No. 07/821,988 filed on Jan. 16, 1992 now U.S. Pat. No. 5,231,568.
A portion of the disclosure of this patent document contains material which is subject to copyright protection. The copyright owner has no objection to the facsimile reproduction by anyone of the patent document or the patent disclosure, as it appears in the Patent and Trademark Office patent file or records, but otherwise reserves all copyright rights whatsoever.
BACKGROUND OF THE INVENTION
1. Field of the Invention
The present invention relates to games and, more particularly, relates to games in which prizes are awarded. Still more particularly, the present invention relates to games in which the prizes awarded are the products displayed as a result of playing the game.
2. Description of the Prior Art
It is customary for all types of businesses to promote their products and services by offering those products and services at more attractive prices. Such promotions typically involve the use of coupons, such as buy oneget one free coupons, coupons redeemable for products or services at reduced prices or for free, rebate coupons, etc. These promotional techniques are, at best, only marginally effective at promoting the goods and services of businesses and, accordingly, the extraordinary expense in conducting these promotions is hardly justified. Thus, in promotions employing coupons, the coupons are typically distributed through newspapers, magazines and mass mailings to households, and therefore mostly reach consumers who are totally disinterested in the particular product or service being promoted. Of those consumers that may potentially be interested in the particular product or service, many cannot be bothered or do not remember to clip the coupon from the newspaper or magazine and bring it to a store for redemption.- Other consumers may collect the coupons, but fail to redeem same prior to their expiration dates. These burdens placed on consumers result in low coupon redemption rates and, hence, inefficient and ineffective promotional programs by businesses.
Other promotional techniques which are frequently employed by businesses are similarly inefficient in that they are not targeted to narrowly defined groups of potential customers. Accordingly, these promotional schemes, which include contests, sweepstakes, free product giveaways, etc., suffer from drawbacks similar to those encountered when using coupons.
In order to overcome the poor results which have been obtained with these conventional promotional schemes, attempts have been made to devise programs which are targeted to more select groups of consumers. In one such system, shown in U.S. Pat. No. 4 723,212 issued Feb. 2, 1988, the purchase of certain products causes the generation of discount coupons which may be used to purchase different products from the ones originally purchased. Each item purchased is examined to see if a coupon is to be generated, and when all items have been examined and the maximum number of coupons determined, a suitable number of discount coupons
are printed and issued. The patron does not take part in the process other than to select the original products for purchase. There is no display of the manufacturer's products, and the prizes awarded, if any, are intentionally different from the ones the patron has selected.
Other attempts have been made to develop promotional schemes which will be of more interest to potential customers. Typically, such schemes center around the playing of a game. In one system, described in U.S. Pat. No. 5,007,641 issued Apr. 16, 1991, a number of tokens having the same common code are distributed to patrons by an establishment or packaged with the product line to be promoted. The tokens must be brought by the patron to the establishment and played in the game device. Certain of the tokens result in the award of a prize which must be claimed at a redemption booth. The system itself does not display the manufacturer's products and therefore neither improves the patron's memory of such products nor triggers a desire to purchase such products. Moreover, the prizes awarded bear no resemblance to the code shown on the token or the game display.
A further known device, disclosed in U.S. Pat. No. 4,982,346 issued Jan. 1, 1991, shows visual advertisements of various products and dispenses coupons if the patron wins. The win is determined matching the number on a readable card with a pre-selected set of winning numbers in the device. Again, the actual prize won is not shown by the device and bears no direct relationship to what is shown.
Thus, despite the considerable effort that has gone into the development of many different promotional systems, there remains a need for a more effective system which will attract the attention of potential customers and which can acquaint these customers with the products and/or services being promoted by a business. Preferably, this system can be operated within a business establishment where it can be targeted to a more select group of potential customers.
SUMMARY OF THE INVENTION
One aspect of the invention provides a promotional gaming method which includes the step of establishing at least two separate series of representations, including representations of products, services or both on a game machine. Most preferably, at least some of these representations are present in two or more of these series. Alternatively or additionally, the series may include "wild card" symbols. The method further includes the step of, upon play by a patron, randomly placing the series with respect to one another and with respect to a fixed reference location on the game machine. One representation of a product or service on a first series may at times be aligned with one representation of the product or service on the other series to form a winning combination. Where "wild card" symbols are present, a winning combination may be formed by a product or service representation and a wild card symbol. The method further includes the step of awarding a prize to the patrons who form such a winning combination. Most preferably, the prize is a product or service which is related in some way to the products or services in the winning combination. The patron will naturally focus his or her attention on the displayed representations to see if a winning combination is formed. Because product or service representations are displayed, the promotional game according to this aspect of the invention
will focus the patron's attention directly on the product or service representations. The patron cannot play the game without becoming conscious of a product or service being promoted. Moreover, the game is enjoyable and induces patrons to play. 5
In preferred methods according to this aspect of the invention, each patron who wishes to play the promotional game in an effort to win prizes obtains a game card by registering at a suitable service desk. Certain identifying information about the patron is recorded 10 and a uniquely coded game card is issued to such patron and cross-referenced against his identifying information. The game card desirably also includes a code identifying the establishment in which the game card can be played. 15
In these preferred methods, the patron takes his game card and inserts it into a game machine to initiate play. In highly preferred methods, the establishment code is first checked to determine whether the game card is entitled to be played on that game machine. The unique 20 code of the game card identifying the patron is then checked against the stored codes of game cards played within a prescribed period, such as 24 hours, and if it is found already stored, signifying that it has initiated play within the last 24 hour period, the game machine is 25 locked out and the date and time of the previous play and an appropriate message are displayed on a visual display of the game machine.
In the event no match is found with stored codes, the random selection device is operated and a visual display 30 of the peripheral surfaces of, for example, three adjacent wheels is shown by the game machine. On these peripheral surfaces are depicted a series of images representing products, services, manufacturer and other business symbols and other indicia. Since the three wheels 35 spin independently, various combinations of these images can be formed entirely at random, including certain combinations for which prizes can be awarded. Alternatively, certain selection criteria can be established so that the formation of a winning combination 40 will be less than entirely random although it will still appear to be random to the playing patron. For example, winners could be established based on preselected game card codes or at preselected times so that a patron playing at, say, 1:04 p.m. could automatically form a 45 winning combination. As to individual patrons these would still be considered random selections of winners, and the formation of the winning combinations would appear to be entirely random.
In highly preferred methods, the game machine may 50 display more than one image at a time on each of the wheels. Thus, for example, when the wheels stop moving there may be displayed an array of nine images consisting of three images on each of the three wheels. Although only three images will be compared to deter- 55 mine whether there is a winning combination, the display of the additional six images increases the advertising effect. In a variant of this method, the additional six images may remain fixed and only the images in those positions which must be compared to determine 60 whether there is a winning combination will be moved randomly.
Another aspect of the invention provides a game machine for playing the promotional game. The game machine includes a display for establishing a reference 65 point and at least two separate series of images, at least one of which includes representations of products, services or a combination of products and services, the two
series being independently movable with respect to one another and with respect to the reference location so that an image in one of the series can be aligned at the reference location with an image in another of the series to form various combinations, select ones of which being winning combinations. The game machine further includes movement means for moving the series with respect to one another and means for signaling that one of the winning combinations has been formed. Also, means are provided for awarding a prize on the formation of a winning combination.
In preferred embodiments of the game machine, the code on a game card inserted into the game machine actuates the movement means. In highly preferred game machines, maintenance cards inserted into and read by the game machine instruct the game machine to perform certain non-game functions.
The game machine itself can be set to dispense preprinted coupons or can contain a printing device to print on blank or partially pre-printed tape to form a coupon. Alternatively, a signal can be sent to a remote location such as a service or courtesy desk where the coupon can be issued or arrangements made for receiving the prizes at no or a reduced cost.
The game machine can be used to display the fact that prizes have been awarded and between plays can display prescribed messages about the products and services being promoted, the manufacturer, the establishment or the game itself. These messages can take several forms, including "still" advertisements, banners having messages scrolling across them and moving videos.
It is an object of this invention to provide a promotional game machine which is simple to use and can be readily reprogrammed to change the products and/or services being promoted.
It is a further object of this invention to provide a game machine which can initiate the awarding of prizes in accordance with the objects displayed and in amounts commensurate with the number and type of product, service or symbol images displayed.
It is yet another object of this invention to provide a game machine which can only be played by a given patron a fixed number of times within a fixed time period.
Other objects and features of the invention will be pointed out in the following description and claims and illustrated in the accompanying drawings which disclose, by way of example, the principles of the invention and the best modes which have been presently contemplated for carrying them out.
BRIEF DESCRIPTION OF THE DRAWINGS
In the drawings in which similar elements are given similar reference characters:
FIG. 1 is a front view of a game machine constructed in accordance with one embodiment of the invention;
FIG. 2 is a top plan view of a first form of game card which can be employed with the game machine of FIG. 1;
FIG. 3 is a top plan view of another form of game card which can be employed with the game machine of FIG. 1;
FIG. 4 is a highly schematic front view of one possible display on the screen of the game machine of FIG. 1;
FIG. 5 is a highly schematic front view of another possible display on the screen of the game machine of FIG. 1;
FIG. 6 is a highly schematic front view of yet another possible display on the screen of the game machine of FIG. 1;
FIG. 7 is a top plan view of a coupon which may be issued by the game machine of FIG. 1; 5
FIG. 8 is a highly schematic front view of a screen at a location remote from the game machine of FIG. 1; and
FIGS. 9a and 9B together are a flow chart of the operation of the game machine of FIG. 1. 10
DESCRIPTION OF THE PREFERRED
Turning now to FIG. 1, there is shown one embodiment of a game machine 10 which may be installed in a 15 store and played in accordance with the methods disclosed herein. Game machine 10 includes a cabinet 12 to house a computer and the peripheral electronic and mechanical devices (not shown) required to operate and perform the various functions of the game machine. In 20 the upper portion of cabinet 12 is a video screen 14 which may be a TV monitor or the like. Optionally, video screen 14 may be positioned in a location remote from cabinet 12, such as at an elevated level which can be more readily seen by patrons throughout the store. 25 The video screen 14 displays computer-generated representations of the peripheral surfaces of three adjacent wheels 16, 18 and 20 which can be rotated independently of one another in a random fashion so that the effect is the same as watching the display of mechanical 30 slot machines. Screen 14 may also display a computergenerated or permanently marked indicia 15 at a preselected reference location. Rather than include depictions of lemons, cherries and other non-significant symbols, the wheels each carry a series of images 17 which 35 represent products and/or services that a manufacturer, distributor or other business wishes to promote. As used herein, the term "products" does not refer to generic products, but rather refers to the brand-name products of one or more manufacturers or distributors. Also as 40 used herein, the term "service representation" refers to a representation of a physical article, apparatus or other thing which is commonly identified with a particular service or which is useful in connection with performing the service. The wheels may also display trade- 45 marks, service marks or other symbols or logos 19 associated with the manufacturer, distributor or other business, which marks, symbols or logos may serve as wild cards. Alternatively, a store wishing to promote certain of its own products or services or the products or ser- 50 vices of another business can place representations of those products or services on the wheels, as well as symbols identifying the store which may serve as wild cards. Further, the wheels may display images which partially represent the foregoing products, services 55 and/or symbols so that upon the alignment of select ones of these images, a complete representation of one or more of the products, services and/or symbols will be formed. The particular combinations of product and/or service representations for which prizes will be 60 awarded, both with and without wild cards, are determined in advance and programmed into game machine 10, as will be discussed more fully below.
The game machine 10 is operated by the insertion of a game card, such as card 32 shown in FIG. 2 or card 38 65 shown in FIG. 3, into slot 22 of game machine 10. Game card 32 has a bar-code section 34 bearing a unique code which represents a particular patron and which thus
identifies the game card. Preferably, the bar-code section 34 will also include a portion coded with information on the establishment or chain of establishments in which the game card 32 may be played. For example, each supermarket chain and each store in the chain may be identified by coded characters. The game machine 10 can then be set to operate only if it reads the code of the chain in which it is installed or, if special promotions in one or more stores are conducted, only those game cards 32 which contain the codes of the chain and those selected stores would operate the game machine 10. Similarly, game card 38 has a magnetic stripe 40 upon which has been recorded a similar unique code which represents a particular patron and which therefore identifies the game card, which code desirably also represents the establishment or chain of establishments in which game card 38 can be played. The name of the chain or the particular establishment at which the game card is valid may be printed upon the card itself, as at 36 on game card 32, or 42 on game card 38.
Located behind slot 22 is a suitable reader (not shown) for reading bar codes of the type contained on game card 32 or the magnetic stripe code of the type contained on game card 38. In this regard, any bar code or magnetic stripe reader capable of supporting an RS232 interface at 9600 baud may be used. The data read by the reader will be used as set out below.
A further slot 24 is provided to dispense coupons representing the prizes awarded. Behind slot 24 may be a feeding mechanism (not shown) for dispensing preprinted coupons stored in the game machine, or a printer (not shown) which first prints the required coupon on a roll of blank paper or partially pre-printed forms on which may appear the store name, address, advertising information, etc., and which then feeds the completed, severed coupon through slot 24.
Referring to the flow chart of FIGS. 9a and 9B, the general method for operating the promotional game is set out. First, a patron goes to a service desk or the like and requests a game card. The service desk personnel will take certain identification data from the patron which clearly identifies that patron only. The patron's name, address, social security number, driver's license number and similar data can be used. Optionally, certain biographic information may also be taken, including the patron's sex, age, marital status, number of children, etc. The data is entered into input device 26 by depressing the keys of keypad 28. (See FIG. 1.)
Next, the identification data is compared with like identification data stored in the input device 26 to determine if this identification data has been stored previously. If it matches previously stored identification data, it means the patron already has been issued a game card 32 or 38, the fact of the match is shown by a suitable display, and no new game card is issued. In the absence of a match, a coded game card 32 or 38 is issued to the patron, and all of the entered data is permanently stored in the input device 26. The number of the game card is permanently stored in input device 26 with the identification data of the patron so that the patron can be identified by his identification data or game card number. In the event a game card is lost, the patron can report the loss to persons at the service desk who will enter additional data into the file of the patron in the input device 26 which will render the lost game card invalid for play in game machine 10. A new game card 32 or 38 with a new code can then be issued to such patron. At prescribed intervals, the input device 26 may