Multimedia Games: Innovative Gaming – It’s What They Do

Multimedia Games, incorporated in Texas in 1991, is a manufacturer of high-quality gaming machines, innovative technology and systems. With headquarters in Austin, Texas, Multimedia Games employs over 400 full-time and part-time employees with offices throughout the U.S. and in Mexico.

Multimedia Games set out to push the technological envelope and make giant strides in all areas—not only game development and titles, but also casino management, back office systems development, new gaming systems, innovative communications, networked technologies and player tracking systems. This continual effort has helped to position Multimedia Games as a leader in the world of interactive gaming systems. It strives to deliver compelling games that players want coupled with the tools to make them easy to run and easy to manage.

“We make it our business to understand our customers—and their customers—and challenge our developers to continue raising the bar in gaming systems and content design and development,” a Multimedia Games announcement states.

With 13,700-plus games on the Multimedia Games network, it offers a high-speed, secure technological base that supports Native American gaming, charity, lottery and international bingo markets.

“It is difficult to find a company that offers the speed of products no matter what the size. From Multimedia Games, with our size, we offer unified currency processing, bingo, AWP, floor-mapping products, cash-in-cage products, central determination, lottery, etc. It’s hard for some of the largest companies to have such a large portfolio,” states Patrick Ramsey, Multimedia Games’ CEO.

Mick Roemer, senior vice president of sales, adds: “We are happy to be associated with some of the best gaming companies in the world, even in Austin, Texas, distant from gaming Meccas. It gives us a unique perspective and helps to drive us a lot that gives a fresh approach that some other manufacturers may be missing. We have great people with a passion.”

Looking Forward
Moving forward, specifically to G2E 2010, Ramsey explains their three-foundation approach to their new products: interaction; personalization; aspiration and access.

In developing games for the players, Multimedia Games’ first step is interaction—the customers’ ability to interact with the game. This goes beyond pressing a button and even beyond tournaments and community gaming. “We will be introducing an element of skill into our tournament games,” says Ramsey. Since these games are not in revenue mode, skill can be added. This innovative thinking brings higher entertainment value to Multimedia Games’ products and offers a fresh approach.

“We will showcase some new games that will take the rather archaic tournament games of the past and generate a lot of excitement,” Ramsey says.

The second step—personalization—addresses a question of how a player can have a greater element of choice in the game selection. For tournament games, Multimedia Games took the participating players and placed their image on a large, overhead LCD monitor at G2E 2009. “It’s a simple process, not brand-new technology in other words, but groundbreaking nonetheless,” Ramsey explains. “This puts the player as the star of the game. We see a lot of opportunity for the player to become the star of the show.” For tournament games, Multimedia Games plans on having the camera show the player’s image on the monitor at the same time they are playing so that they won’t have to lean back to see themselves on the overhead screen.

Rounding out the three-step process is aspiration and access. Traditional bonus games are triggered randomly for the player. Multimedia Games is developing a unique bonus event that is awarded more on player-centric actions. This could be from making the maximum-bet for a set period or on events that have taken place in the base game. It provides something for the player to aspire to and will keep their interest. The unique approach of allowing the player to get into certain bonus games based upon their play and what’s happening in the bonus game should be quite appealing.

Class II Games
Multimedia Games has always been a leader and innovator in Class II gaming. “We are refocusing on both Class II and Class III gaming—a change for the company and a change in the right direction,” explains Ramsey. “We continue to be surprised that people know our history but not who we are right now. We are not leaders in Class II, but we need to go that way. Class II gaming is difficult to predict due to political and tax issues. We believe that Class II gaming will grow. In Oklahoma, we have 5 to 10 percent of the market, so there is a lot of room for us to grow as we put out our own proprietary products focusing on innovation.”

Multimedia Games shares innovation, wherever possible, between Class II and Class III markets. Although they are very different types of games, innovation that is appealing to one market can be retooled and implemented in the other. Tournament games, for example, have been released in Class II, and Multimedia Games is coming out with some very good progressive games and working them into their Class II library.

“There is a lot of opportunity within the existing marketplace,” Ramsey explains. “We have a titles team dedicated to new, unique Class II development, not just porting Class III to the Class II marketplace.”

In Oklahoma, with Class II and Class III concurrently, it is important for Multimedia Games to have different titles. Having the same offering on both class-platforms would not provide any benefit to the operator. “We have put together a dedicated resource so that our pipeline of Class II original games has a steady flow to it. We began this last year and it really is manifesting itself this year. We cycle every other month so that we have a specified number of games to release,” Ramsey says.

Networked Gaming
Networking and server-based gaming has gained a lot of attention over the past several years. It is a dynamic technology, constantly changing and evolving. Class II manufacturers have provided networked gaming for some time, however, so it’s really nothing new for them.

“When talking to more regional operators,” Roemer says, “server-based gaming is not gaining a lot of attention. It may be more feasible for a brand-new opening, but the operational advantages of server-based gaming for existing facilities are not always there to justify the cost. In these instances, the benefit is going to be on a bank-by-bank level, not a floor level. With Multimedia Games’ Tournament 2.0, you’re going to have a server-based application on a bank-level. The same applies to our community gaming solutions.”

Certainly networked gaming will continue to offer new technology and new solutions for operators and players, which could be the driving force, and the area where the return on investment is realized. For the past 15 years, Multimedia Games has gained a tremendous amount of experience with networked gaming and server-based solutions, starting with bingo. It has also positioned them to understand how to work in social networking and player interactions, which need a server-based platform.

Considering networked solutions, there is a lot of work to be done with interoperability, technical and communication standards, device managers, connecting peripherals in order to have a floor equipped for the capability. The cost of implementing this technology is significant, however. “The price of the services—everyone is still testing it—means that it’s hard to make a judgment. In this economy, it’s going to be prohibitive. Should the operator put money into configuration, or just refresh the floor to make more money—investing more in a game that will make more money?” Roemer asks.

“Networking on Class II is very important,” explains Roemer. “It’s not just that the games earn money—it’s a proven revenue stream for many Native American tribes. Compacts can get renegotiated so they need the ability to look after their government and have Class II to allow them to do that. We have some very strong partners who are going to help us do that.”

Multimedia Games’ networks not only provide a base for great games, but also allow systems and technology to be implemented to help the operator. Furthermore, it allows Multimedia Games to work in various markets, such as VLT and lottery.

The nationwide network provides Class II gaming solutions. According to Multimedia Games specs, its Class II Real Time Bingo engine is NIGC-approved and has the capability of creating quorums locally when the casino is busy, and centrally during low volumes of play. “The central Real Time Bingo engine creates quorums, generates a ball draw, and sends a game-ending pattern to each player station in 380 to 500 milliseconds per bingo game. Our system also centrally supports the NIGC audit information, which requires the system to store the machines and locations of the players participating in each bingo game. Multimedia’s Real Time Bingo Engine is configurable, flexible, auditable, and is best of breed in the Class II market.”

While providing compelling, entertaining games is important, support is equally important. The Cash and Cage™ system provides a comprehensive feature set for the small to mid-size casino customer. It is designed as a powerful management tool to standardize the accounting processes and to provide a comprehensive tracking system for casino revenue. It is highly-configurable, allowing a casino floor to be broken into multiple zones and vaults. Using an intuitive user interface, the operator can manage fills and credits, openers and closers, and table inventory management functionality.

Further cash-handling operations include impress-based drawer preparation, manual payout and manual withholding, W2G, and check inventory tracking. Denominational balance tracking can be managed in the Vault Operation Management module allowing vault balances to be tracked by shift and individual. “Our system provides mature audit capabilities with the ability to research balance corrections and drawer discrepancies along with providing a real-time view of casino operations,” Ramsey comments.

Slot Management
For operators using slot machines, the web-based Slot Management system allows accessibility from any computer on the casino network. This system is also highly configurable and supports integration with any vendor, multiple zones, floors or casino sites.

The Slot Management system is feature-rich, including a user-designed digital dashboard providing at-a-glance game performance metrics and detail. This business intelligence model allows data to be analyzed by bank, manufacturer, denomination or even individual machine level.

Game performance data includes coin in, coin out, net win and percentage metrics, and is supported with custom report writing that can be quickly exported to Excel.

Unified Currency System
Supporting both Class II and Class III markets, Multimedia’s Unified Currency System provides a common TITO or cashless currency solution for any market. Supporting SAS version 6.02 protocol allows a single-ticket solution for all slot manufacturers on your casino floor. This not only makes accounting auditing and reconciliation easier; it improves player satisfaction and makes their experience more enjoyable, easier and seamless.

Lottery
The state video lottery market requires a central determinant system with high-speed, reliability, security and support. Multimedia Games’ central determinant system includes all software, hardware and networks required to provide outcomes, remotely manage and provide accounting reports for video lottery gaming conducted on player terminals at multiple locations. Multimedia Games was chosen as the supplier for the video lottery network that the New York Lottery operates at licensed New York State racetrack casinos.

Network Support
With a large installed-base of games, systems and network, customer support is paramount. This information is found in the company’s product brochure: “At Multimedia Games, the Network Operations Center is committed to providing exceptional customer service and support utilizing the utmost level of professionalism, technical expertise and knowledge to ensure 100 percent satisfaction for each and every customer. Our goal is to ensure continuous business operations for all of our customers within the production environment and provide timely resolution to issues when they arise. That’s why our Network Operations Center is staffed round the clock—24/7, 365 days a year—with dedicated on-call support for advanced issues. Our team of network analysts and systems engineers provides monitoring, service and application management, and call-center functions for facilities worldwide.”

With a Solid Foundation Comes Better Solutions
Multimedia Games offers two solutions that provide tremendous entertainment value for the players: revenue opportunities and the ability to bring new life to the casino floor. These solutions are TournEvent®, a comprehensive tournament solution, and two community gaming products.

TournEvent®
Approximately seven years ago, Multimedia Games developed a tournament system with great baseline functionality. It takes in-revenue games to out-of-revenue tournament mode with the flip of a switch in about a minute. This permits an operator to plan and implement a tournament system with minimal effort. Machines are utilized directly on the casino floor, promoting the casino to all of the customers, not just those partaking in the tournament. Multimedia Games’ tournament solution was also a recipient of CEM’s 2010 Slot Floor Technology Awards.

“Last year with 2.0 we said wanted to take the functionality that benefits the operator and create that same benefit for the player,” Ramsey says. “We worked with an industrial designer to create a large LCD sign, a camera embedded in the front of the machine with the focus on a very interactive leaderboard showing participant images in live-time. This creates a continual staging of who is in the lead to create on-going excitement and to gather people around the tournament.”

An unexpected indication of the popularity of the tournament came about at the G2E show. Vendors across from Multimedia Games’ booth have signed up for the same space at G2E this year due to the traffic generated on the trade show floor. If you can generate this level of excitement at a trade show, then the excitement generated on the gaming floor will be tremendous.

TournEvent 2.0 will debut in Oklahoma in August with plans to quickly deploy in California, Mississippi and Louisiana after that. It includes a control center that allows a computer built into the center itself to allow rapid player registration right at the end of the bank, not at a VIP registration desk across the floor. It also provides real-time reports for the operator to report on the number of players, whether they were carded, the flexibility to control session length, notification for when players should come back for their sessions and to move players around to fill sessions as required. The dynamic reporting and functionality allows custom tournaments to be planned and implemented in real time at the games.

In order to comply with various regulatory components in various states, the reporting features provide a tremendous benefit to the operators. The requisite reports, winner tracking and other requirements can be satisfied through this control center.

The tournaments are supported on over 95 percent of the video game library, with possible options for reel-spinning games in the future. The tournaments are excellent tools for introducing new games on the floor, generating new interest of older games and to generally improve the game ROI.

Community Gaming
Multimedia Games’ first community game, Sport of Kings™, was released in mid-2009. Designed to bring players together in a social environment, it built excitement not only between the players on the same bank, but on the floor in general. Players enable the community bonus by betting 20 lines and wagering up to half of the line bet to accumulate “tickets.” When three scattered bonus symbols appear, players can bet on one or more of eight horses. Approximately every 10 minutes, a “Call to Post” is announced, where the horses begin their race on the large, upper LCD monitor. Players received multipliers depending upon what place their horse finishes.

In the development of their second community game, Slot Car Speedway™, Multimedia Games studied two possible implementations. The first was a traditional race car theme—think something like NASCAR—that would appeal to the racing genre. The second approach was more animated with extra personality that might appear to a wider audience. Relying heavily upon player feedback, the concepts were tested early in the design process using an online panel of players across the United States. The players reported with a large majority that they preferred the more animated, fictitious game concept and that they like to be able to select a car that had a personality and was different, and it was based upon their preference, not just the color of a jockey’s jersey such as in Sport of Kings.

The development team created eight cars with distinctive personalities, creating a much greater player connection to the game and the outcome to select car with a meaningful personality desirable to the player. “We had a lot of positive operator feedback with the unified bonus event, the distinctive nature of the game, where each race outcome is not predetermined and is different,” Ramsey says. “The very early release numbers look good but we don’t want to get too far ahead of ourselves. The debut looks good.”

Continuing with community gaming development, Multimedia Games is striving for more interactivity among the players, bringing them together into a singular bonus event, not just a shared event where you are sharing your car or horse. It will be a social-based event where the events in the bonus affect everyone playing at the same time. For example, the team asks if people like to compete against each other or play against each other. “The way we do it, it appeals to both,” Ramsey explains. “In racing, we have seen spouses sitting next to each other competing against each other. It was a combined effort of competition. We have also witnessed Sport of Kings where everyone loaded up on the same horse and everyone was cheering for the same horse, all trying to win.”

Operators have reported installations where Sport of Kings was the initial installed game, with Slot Car Speedway installed later. The preliminary numbers on Slot Car Speedway are encouraging, but they also found that this gave a re-energizing effect to Sport of Kings as well.

Complete Player Comfort
Both Sport of Kings and TournEvent are available on the Player Series HD™ Cabinet, recently developed with the player in mind. This cabinet, sporting a 23-inch monitor, features a sound system resulting from a partnership with Cambridge Sound. The cabinet improvement of a 5-reel mechanical option will round-out the cabinet functionality. Multimedia Games will have a slant-top offering toward the end of the year with a 23-inch widescreen, an important side-line option for the customers. Players report the cabinet to be comfortable and pleasing, both visually and aurally. “Other competitors are seeing the benefits of a great cabinet and are starting to catch up to us,” Ramsey comments. “The earnings on the games have proven our cabinet. The math and graphics are always most important, but the cabinet has helped to jump start us in the markets we have gone into recently.”

A Perennial Favorite
Meltdown™ has been a favorite of players—and operators—since its inception. Mega Meltdown™, the newest offering, is a 3-reel, single-line mechanical game. A six-tier progressive offers incentive for the players to wager the maximum, and to win the maximum as well. The Mega Meltdown symbol appears on the first reel and is wild. If the maximum four-credit wager was made, the player is awarded the progressive amount instead of the normal line-pay award. A special random-feature can cause the reels to re-spin up to four times and can award one of the progressive awards. It is no wonder that Meltdown has been a proven winner.

A Bright Future
“We are aggressively approaching Mississippi and Louisiana,” Ramsey says. “We are starting a march across the south and the reception has been phenomenal. Our customers are eager and have expressed interest in trying it. We have trials in Mississippi and Louisiana over the next couple of months and expect to be full-swing by the last of the year. We are continuing to move into California, see new opportunities in Minnesota, Kansas and also on the East Coast. We’re executing our plan pretty well. Of course we’re still working on the license and regulatory issues that we have to, but we’re making good, steady progress and the customers are very comfortable with our steady product releases.”

Multimedia Games set out to push the technological envelope and to make giant strides in all areas of gaming, including games, systems and technology. Its innovative approach and continual work has caused the company to be a leader in developing, implementing and supporting high-speed, interactive wagering and sweepstakes games.

John Wilson is the Technology Editor for Casino Enterprise Management and Owner of ICS Gaming, providing slot consulting services and game design. He has designed several slot games in both Class II and Class III markets. He can be reached at jwilson@icsgaming.com.

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