The Multiplier Effect

Why multi-player games are growing in popularity-both with players and casino operators

Multi-player games, which pool excitement and winnings for players while reducing labor expenses and maximizing floor usage for casino management, appear to be the latest win-win on the casino floor. Some of these games employ virtual dealers and other technology that further enhances the benefits from both players’ and management’s perspectives. Fewer security threats? Higher hold? Lower labor costs? More hands per hour? Flip the layout, reboot the system and start a new game? Let’s see who’s signing up.

Looking Back: What’s Happened?

Multi-player games have always performed well and been very popular in European, Asian and Canadian markets. However, the U.S. market has been a little slow to adopt the games. “Over the past few years, we have seen this trend change,” says Tim Richards, VP of product management for multi-player game supplier Interblock d.o.o. “U.S. operators are seeing that the games do bring a new customer to their floor, and perhaps pick up customers that had been lost when table minimums started increasing.”

Adds Shuffle Master Table Master Product Manager Daymon Savage, “As multi-player electronic games have become more common in casinos over the past few years, public and operator acceptance of the concept has grown dramatically. Players aren’t as reluctant to play their favorite games on e-table platforms anymore, and operators aren’t as hesitant to install them because of concerns that their players won’t be interested in playing fully electronic games.”

Tom Mikulich, senior vice president of MegaJackpots for supplier International Game Technology, notes that from an engineering standpoint, the graphics and sound effects associated with multi-player games have progressed to the point of sophistication and excitement of the games found on home entertainment systems, with amazing computer-generated imagery.

“Because of player acceptance, more vendors are putting products in the field, causing a competitive rush to make the best and most unique products available,” says Mikulich.

Sonia Nikolova, sales and marketing director for Bulgarian game supplier Casino Technology, notes that design has improved immensely, with a focus on player comfort and enhanced entertainment capabilities. Multi-player games have become a platform for mixing art, entertainment and gaming, she says, providing exciting elements of the casino environment with a competitive atmosphere, shared emotions and social interaction.

“Technology improvements include more user-friendly player interfaces, enhanced player tracking, greater interactivity, and additional entertaining features, such as bonusing and jackpots, tournaments, promotions and special events, some of which are not limited to a given table,” says Nikolova.

Luke Davis, heead of marketing at TCS John Huxley, says operators like the choice the games give players.

“The main changes in recent years have been technical developments that allow for improved operational flexibility, greatly increased player choice and ease of play, while delivering a truly live game experience,” says Davis.

Albert Radman, sales and marketing manager for Alfastreet Gaming Instruments, says new developments keep the games fresh.

“Over the past two years,” says Radman, “the concept of a single terminal has emerged, which gives operators greater flexibility with quantity, setup and design. Furthermore, most of the serious manufacturers have implemented multi-game features, which further enhance multi-player gaming.”

Looking Forward: Future Shock

Some of the exciting developments that will drive the growth of multi-player games are just being introduced. Multi-game play is coming to electronic table games. Customers can play any game on a terminal directory, and will be able to choose the game they like without having to move. Players will even have the ability to play multiple games at the same time. This will add a new level of convenience and choice for players who are looking to experience multiple electronic table game options on the same machine.

Shuffle Master’s Savage says the multi-player giants will remain so.

“Those who were first to market will continue to incorporate their early learning experiences into future product developments,” he says. “This will improve the technologies we utilize and enhance response to customer feedback.”

IGT’s Mikulich believes that operators will depend on the games more as time goes on.

“The spread and acceptance of multi-player electronic table games will change the look of the casino floor,” he says. “As the consumer demographics and technology evolve, it will become commonplace for an increasing mix on a casino floor to be multi-player games. From a casino operator’s view, what makes the multi-player table games attractive is the ability to offer a traditional casino game with multiple side-bet opportunities at an increased hands-per-hour ratio, with none of the normal security issues, and a higher win-per-unit-per-dollar and hold percentage.”

There will be a corresponding increase in e-table content as well. Additional features and side bets will be made available on existing games, which will attract traditional table game players.

Tim Richards, a former IGT executive who is now vice president of product management for Interblock USA, says multi-player games will move ahead of the traditional tables in some areas.

“Manufacturers will continue to add features to games in e-pit environments to make them attractive to regular table game players,” says Richards. “These features will range from side bets that players are familiar with to new ideas and concepts that are only able to be played out in an electronic game. There are many ideas and methods of game play that are just too difficult and slow to deal or too complicated for players. These are often great ideas, but they were not viable until the acceptance of electronic tables emerged.”

While interactivity and multi-functionality of games may increase, providing customers the opportunity to combine several entertainment features at once, the most successful products remain those capable of keeping some live element in gaming and maintaining the authentic sensation of the classic casino atmosphere.

Davis says TCS John Huxley is continuing to try to lower costs for operators.

“Casinos will continue to demand products that satisfy the craving of the table game player while enhancing the playing experience and simultaneously driving cost and error out of the operator’s business,” he says. “It is this kind of technology that operators are demanding to ensure accuracy and better returns on valuable floor space, and to secure player retention.”

But it’s all about entertainment, says Casino Technology’s Nikolova.

“The products will become more interactive and multi-functional, providing customers the opportunity to combine several entertainment features at once,” she says. “Multi-players will be more and more influenced by merging of remote and land-based gaming, which will make it possible for them to take part in the same tournament and enjoy the real casino atmosphere and the company of other people, whether they are in fact in the casino or at home.”

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