Title:
GAME CONTROLLER, SYSTEM AND METHOD OF GAMING
Kind Code:
A1


Abstract:
A gaming system is arranged to implement a game which is based on credit received. A portion of the credit received is allocated to a credit accumulator. The gaming system is arranged to play one or more feature games for the portion of credit accumulated.



Inventors:
Barnes, Paul (Breakfast Point, AU)
Application Number:
12/404079
Publication Date:
09/17/2009
Filing Date:
03/13/2009
Assignee:
Aristocrat Technologies Australia Pty Limited (North Ryde, AU)
Primary Class:
International Classes:
A63F9/24
View Patent Images:



Primary Examiner:
KUSUMAKAR, KAREN M
Attorney, Agent or Firm:
HANLEY, FLIGHT & ZIMMERMAN, LLC (150 S. WACKER DRIVE, SUITE 2100, CHICAGO, IL, 60606, US)
Claims:
1. A gaming system comprising a game controller arranged to control play of a game based on credit, a credit accumulator associated with a player terminal and arranged to accumulate a portion of the credit received, the game controller being arranged to control play of a feature game for the accumulated portion of credit.

2. A gaming system in accordance with claim 1, the player terminal comprising a stand alone player terminal.

3. A gaming system in accordance with claim 1, wherein the player terminal is networked to a central system.

4. A gaming system in accordance with claim 1, wherein the player terminal is an electronic gaming machine (EGM).

5. A gaming system in accordance with claim 1, wherein the accumulated portion of credit can only be played for via the associated player terminal.

6. A gaming system in accordance with claim 1, being arranged to make available play for the accumulated portion of credit only to eligible players.

7. A gaming system in accordance with claim 6, comprising an identifying device for identifying eligible players.

8. A gaming system in accordance with claim 1, further comprising the player terminal.

9. A method of gaming, comprising the steps of receiving credit for play of a game, accumulating a portion of the credit received, associating the accumulated portion of credit with a player terminal, and playing a feature game for the accumulated portion of credit.

10. A method in accordance with claim 9, wherein the player terminal is a stand alone player terminal.

11. A method in accordance with claim 9, wherein the player terminal is networked to a central system.

12. A method in accordance with claim 9, wherein the player terminal is an EGM.

13. A method in accordance with claim 9, wherein the feature game may only be played via the associated player terminal.

14. A method in accordance with claim 9, comprising a further step of enabling play of the feature game only by eligible players.

15. A method in accordance with claim 14, comprising the further step of identifying eligible players.

16. A gaming system comprising a game controller arranged to control play of a game based on credit, a credit accumulator associated with the player terminal and arranged to accumulate a portion of the credit received, and an identifier device for identifying an eligible player, the game controller being arranged to enable play for the accumulated portion of credit by an eligible player.

17. A gaming system in accordance with claim 16, further comprising the player terminal.

18. A method of gaming, comprising receiving credit, playing a game based on the credit received, accumulating a portion of the credit received and associating the accumulated portion of credit with a player terminal, identifying an eligible player, and enabling the eligible player to play for the accumulated portion of credit.

19. A computer readable medium providing a computer program comprising instructions to control a computer to implement a gaming system comprising a game controller arranged to control play of a game based on credit, a credit accumulator associated with a player terminal and arranged to accumulate a portion of the credit received, the game controller being arranged to control play of a feature game for the accumulated portion of credit.

20. A computer readable medium providing a computer program comprising instructions for controlling a computer to implement a gaming system comprising a game controller arranged to control play of a game based on credit, a credit accumulator associated with the player terminal and arranged to accumulate a portion of the credit received, and an identifier device for identifying an eligible player, the game controller being arranged to enable play for the accumulated portion of credit by an eligible player.

21. A gaming system comprising a game controller arranged to control play of a game based on credit, the game controller also being arranged to control play of one or more feature games, and an identifier device for identifying an eligible player, the game controller being arranged to enable play of the one or more feature games for eligible players.

22. A method of gaming, comprising the steps of playing a game, making available one or more feature games, identifying an eligible player and enabling the eligible player to play the one or more feature games.

23. A computer readable medium providing a computer program comprising instructions for controlling the computer to implement a gaming system comprising a game controller arranged to control play of a game based on credit, the game controller also being arranged to control play of one or more feature games, and an identifier device for identifying an eligible player, the game controller being arranged to enable play of the one or more feature games for eligible players.

Description:

CROSS-REFERENCE TO RELATED APPLICATIONS

The present application claims the benefit of priority to Australian Provisional Patent Application No. 2008901252, filed on Mar. 13, 2008, entitled “, A GAME CONTROLLER, SYSTEM AND METHOD OF GAMING”, which is herein incorporated by reference in its entirety.

FIELD OF THE INVENTION

The present invention relates to a gaming system and to a method of gaming.

BACKGROUND OF THE INVENTION

It is known to provide gaming systems which operate on the basis of player credit to play a game and make a return of credit to a player depending upon the outcome of the game. Such gaming systems include the type which are arranged to randomly select and cause the display of several symbols from a predetermined set of symbols and to determine a game outcome, such as a game win, based on the displayed symbols. These gaming systems may commonly be implemented as a stepping machine provided with reels with each reel carrying several symbols of the set, or a video machine wherein selected symbols are displayed on virtual reels on a graphical display device. Game outcomes occur based on symbols appearing on one or more horizontal lines, diagonal lines, or in any other pre-determined way. Other types of gaming systems that are played for credit include gaming systems arranged to play “bingo” or “keno” type games, where symbols such as numbers are selected and matched. There are many other types of gaming systems which are played based on player credit and which may return credit to a player depending on the game outcome.

In many jurisdictions, regulations require that, for credit based gaming systems, a set proportion of credit entered into a gaming system must be returned to players. This is termed “return to player”, or “RTP”. In many jurisdictions, RTP is relatively high e.g. 85 to 95 per cent.

It known to provide gaming systems in the form of “stand alone” gaming machines e.g. Electronic Gaming Machines, EGM's) which may be linked to allocate a proportion of the entered player credit to a “linked pool”. Players of the linked EGM's may play for a linked prize, which is based on the proportion of credit allocated by each EGM to the linked pool. The overall RTP is determined based on the amount returned to the player from a combination of EGM prizes awarded for individual games played on individual EGM's and also the linked prizes.

Linked prizes are very popular. A significant number of operators attract people to venues by offering large linked prizes. In order to fund the linked prizes, the venue operators will often select as lower possible RTP for the individual EGM's (resulting in low prizes being awarded by the EGM's). A problem with this is that the players tend to be attracted by the linked prize, and are not particularly concerned with games that may be offered by an individual manufacturer's EGM. Instead, they are happy to play any EGM that offers access to the linked prize. This makes it difficult for individual manufacturers of EGM's to distinguish their products and attract players to their products.

In venues supporting gaming systems, it is known to offer “loyalty programs”, which provide incentives for players to patronise a particular venue.

It is known to provide loyalty systems which include linked hardware arranged to detect some form of player identification e.g. a magnetic card and control the loyalty program from a central point e.g. a server arranged to monitor loyalty credits e.g. points. Often, special hardware is provided to network EGM's into the loyalty system. These systems are expensive and some venues do not have the means to adequately fund such systems, particularly after considering RTP and tax requirements (which in some jurisdictions can be high).

SUMMARY OF THE INVENTION

In accordance with a first aspect, the present invention provides a gaming system including a game controller arranged to control play of a game based on credit, and a credit accumulator associated with a player terminal and arranged to accumulate a portion of the credit received, the game controller being arranged to control play of a feature game for the accumulated portion of credit.

In an embodiment, the player terminal includes a stand alone electronic gaming machine (EGM). In this embodiment, the EGM is associated with a credit accumulator for that EGM.

In an alternative embodiment, the player terminal is associated with a gaming network that may include a plurality of player terminals networked to a central system, e.g. a plurality of player “client” terminals networked to a central “server” terminal. In this embodiment, each player terminal is associated with a respective credit accumulator for that player terminal.

Because the credit accumulator is associated with an individual player terminal, in at least an embodiment, the accumulated portion of credit can only be obtained by playing the particular player terminal. In an embodiment, the accumulated portion of credit can be used to pay for relatively high prizes, such as high value prize feature games. This advantageously increases the attractiveness of the particular player terminal e.g. a particular type of EGM that offers the accumulated portion of credit and one or more feature games. In venues where a proportion of RTP is allocated to funding a linked prize, such as a linked jackpot, gaming systems in accordance with the present invention are still attractive, as further prizes are available via the feature game for the stored portion of credit associated with the player terminal.

In an embodiment, the accumulated portion credit is used for awarding prizes to the player e.g. paying prizes for the feature game.

In an embodiment, the accumulated portion of credit is used for purchasing the feature games. That is, the accumulated portion of credit may be used to purchase play of the feature game, for example in an embodiment where players are eligible to access the accumulated portion of credit.

In a further embodiment, the accumulated portion of credit may be used for purchasing of play of the feature game and payment of prizes for the feature game.

The gaming system may have a total RTP. The total RTP is paid from game play which is not associated with a credit accumulator and RTP from game play associated with a credit accumulator. The overall RTP of the gaming system is not affected in this embodiment.

A further advantage of at least an embodiment of the invention, is the provision of feature games which are funded from the accumulated portion of credit (e.g. the feature games may be paid for from the accumulated portion of credit and/or the prizes from play of the feature games may be paid for from the accumulated portion of credit), providing further levels of gaming which increase the interest of a player.

In an embodiment, the gaming system is arranged to make available play for the accumulated portion of credit only to eligible players. In an embodiment, the gaming system includes an identifying device for identifying eligible players. The identifying device may include a device for identifying a token, such as a card reader for reading a smart card or magnetic card, a biometric device for identifying eligible players via biometrics, a ticket reader for reading a ticket or other identifying device. In at least an embodiment this has the advantage that only eligible players will be able to play for the accumulated portion of credit. This provides a way of attracting players to the player terminal. For example, where the player terminal is an EGM, a player may enter a loyalty system associated with a particular brand of EGM's where they are eligible to play for the accumulated portion of credit.

In the embodiment where only an eligible player is allowed to play for the accumulated portion of credit, this may have the advantage of providing a relatively inexpensive way of a venue instituting a loyalty program. For example, a simple card reader may be provided to identify eligible players. This may be provided by the EGM manufacturer, and therefore there would be little or no cost to the venue operator instituting such a loyalty system.

In an embodiment, the gaming system further includes the player terminal.

In an embodiment, the gaming system includes a display, arranged to display a representation of play of the game. In an embodiment, the game controller is arranged to select a plurality of symbols from a set of symbols for play of the game, and to control the display to display the plurality of selected symbols. The game controller is also arranged to determine a game outcome based on the selected symbols. In an embodiment, the feature game may also be based on a selection of symbols from a plurality of symbols. In other embodiments, the feature game may be different type of game.

In alternative embodiments, the game controller may be arranged to control play of a keno or bingo type game, or other type of game.

In accordance with a second aspect, the present invention provides a method of gaming, including the steps of receiving credit for play of a game, accumulating a portion of the credit received, associating the accumulated portion of credit with a player terminal, and playing a feature game for the accumulated portion of credit.

In accordance with a third aspect, the present invention provides a gaming system including a game controller arranged to control play of a game based on credit, a credit accumulator associated with a player terminal and arranged to accumulate a portion of the credit received, and an identifier device for identifying an eligible player, the game controller being arranged to enable play for the accumulated portion of credit by an eligible player.

In an embodiment, this has the advantage that only eligible players are allowed to play for the accumulated portion of credit. Eligible players may belong to a loyalty scheme associated with the gaming system.

The accumulated portion of credit may be played for via a feature game, or may be a prize (such as a jackpot prize).

In an embodiment, the gaming system further includes the player terminal.

In accordance with a fourth aspect, the present invention provides a method of gaming, including the steps of receiving credit, playing a game based on the credit received, accumulating a portion of the credit received and associating the accumulated portion of credit with a player terminal, identifying an eligible player, and enabling the eligible player to play for the accumulated portion of credit.

In accordance with a fifth aspect, the present invention provides a computer program including instructions for controlling a computer to implement a gaming system in accordance with the first aspect of the invention.

In accordance with a sixth aspect, the present invention provides computer readable medium providing a computer program in accordance with the fifth aspect of the invention.

In accordance with a seventh aspect, the present invention provides a data signal including a computer program in accordance with the fifth aspect of the invention.

In accordance with an eighth aspect, the present invention provides a computer program including instructions for controlling a computer to implement a gaming system in accordance with the third aspect of the invention.

In accordance with a ninth aspect, the present invention provides a computer readable medium providing a computer program in accordance with the eighth aspect of the invention.

In accordance with a tenth aspect, the present invention provides a data signal including a computer program in accordance with the eight aspect of the invention.

A variation on the present invention is to not have an accumulated portion of credit associated with a player terminal, but to have one or more feature games which may only be played by eligible players. That is, the one or more feature games may only be played by players who belong to a loyalty system, for example.

In accordance with an eleventh aspect, the present invention provides a gaming system including a game controller arranged to control play of a game based on credit, the game controller also being arranged to control play of one or more feature games, and an identifier device for identifying an eligible player, the game controller being arranged to enable play of the one or more feature games for eligible players.

Eligible players may be determined in a number of ways. They may be part of a loyalty system, such as a venue loyalty system, for example. The loyalty system may be any type of loyalty system, including a membership system, a system where a player obtains access to the feature games by purchasing other items e.g. drinks in a club, for example, or other type of system.

The one or more feature games may be available only to eligible players.

In an embodiment, the player may obtain “tokens” to enable them to have access to the one or more feature games. These tokens could be a membership card of a loyalty system, for example, or could be ticket(s) which are awarded depending upon player actions e.g. purchasing of drinks, winning the tickets via play of other gaming systems, and other ways.

This embodiment may have the advantage that the players are attracted by feature games that they wish to play and therefore have an incentive to become eligible e.g. members of loyalty systems, so that they can play those feature games. Alternatively, feature games may be awarded as prizes for operations that are associated with the gaming system e.g. buying drinks in a club (receive a ticket to play the feature game), spending money with an organisation, etc.

In accordance with a twelfth aspect, the present invention provides a method of gaming, including the steps of playing a game, making available one or more feature games, identifying an eligible player and enabling the eligible player to play the one or more feature games.

In accordance with a thirteenth aspect, the present invention provides a computer program including instructions for controlling a computer to implement a gaming system in accordance with the eleventh aspect of the invention.

In accordance with a fourteenth aspect, the present invention provides a computer readable medium, providing a computer program in accordance with the thirteenth aspect of the invention.

In accordance with a fifteenth aspect, the present invention provides a data signal, including a computer programmer in accordance with the thirteenth aspect of the invention.

BRIEF DESCRIPTION OF THE DRAWINGS

Features and advantages of the present invention will become apparent from the following description of embodiments thereof, by way of example only, with references to the accompanying drawings, in which;

FIG. 1 is a block diagram of the core components of a gaming system;

FIG. 2 is a perspective view of a stand alone gaming machine;

FIG. 3 is a block diagram of the functional components of a gaming machine;

FIG. 4 is a schematic diagram of the functional components of a memory;

FIG. 5 is a schematic diagram of a network gaming system;

FIG. 6 is a schematic diagram of functional components of a gaming system in accordance with an embodiment of the present invention;

FIG. 7 is a representation of an example display generated by a gaming system in accordance with an embodiment of the present invention;

FIG. 8 is a schematic diagram showing further functional components of a gaming system in accordance with an embodiment of the present invention.

FIGS. 9, 10 and 11 are representations of example displays generated by a gaming system in accordance with an embodiment of the present invention; and

FIG. 12 is a flow diagram illustrating operation of the gaming system in accordance with an embodiment of the present invention.

Further aspects of the present invention will be apparent from the following description, given by way of example and with reference to the accompanying drawings. Also, various embodiments of the aspects described in the preceding paragraphs will be apparent from the appended claims, the following description and/or the accompanying drawings. It should be understood, however, that the present invention is not limited to the arrangements and instrumentality shown in the attached drawings.

DETAILED DESCRIPTION OF EMBODIMENTS

Referring to the drawings, there is a shown a gaming system arranged to implement a game which is based on credit received. A portion of the credit played is allocated to a credit accumulator (see FIG. 8). In one embodiment, the gaming system is arranged to play feature games for the portion of credit accumulated. In another embodiment, the accumulated credit is payable only to players who are eligible to play for the accumulated credit. These players may be members of a loyalty scheme associated with the gaming system and/or a gaming venue operating the gaming system.

The credit accumulator is associated with a gaming terminal, such as a stand alone electronic gaming machine (EGM) or a terminal associated with a remote server. The credit accumulated is played for via the associated terminal. Because a portion of the credit is accumulated, in embodiments it may be used to provide relatively attractive prizes, either as jackpot prizes, or as prizes of a feature game or games. It is therefore attractive for players to play the individual terminal. The total RTP for the terminal may be made up of RTP which is paid out for games not associated with the accumulator and RTP paid out from the accumulated credit. The total “return to player” (RTP) of the terminal is therefore not affected.

The gaming system can take a number of different forms. In a first form, a stand alone gaming machine is provided wherein all or most components implementing the game are present in a player operable gaming machine.

In a second form, a distributed architecture is provided wherein some of the components implementing the game are present in a player operable gaming machine and some of the components implementing the game are located remotely relative to the gaming machine. For example, a “thick client” architecture may be used wherein part of the game is executed on a player operable gaming machine and part of the game is executed remotely, such as by a gaming server; or a “thin client” architecture may be used wherein most of the game is executed remotely such as by a gaming server and a player operable gaming machine is used only to display audible and/or visible gaming information to the player and receive gaming inputs from the player.

However, it will be understood that other arrangements are envisaged. For example, an architecture may be provided wherein a gaming machine is networked to a gaming server and the respective functions of the gaming machine and the gaming server are selectively modifiable. For example, the gaming system may operate in stand alone gaming machine mode, “thick client” mode or “thin client” mode depending on the game being played, operating conditions, and so on. Other variations will be apparent to persons skilled in the art.

Irrespective of the form, the gaming system includes several core components. At the broadest level, the core components are a player interface 50 and a game controller 60 as illustrated in FIG. 1. The player interface is arranged to enable manual interaction between a player and the gaming system and for this purpose includes the input/output components for the player to enter instructions and play the game.

Components of the player interface may vary from embodiment to embodiment but will typically include a credit mechanism 52 to enable a player to input credits and receive payouts, one or more displays 54, a game play mechanism 56 that enables a player to input game play instructions e.g. to place bets, and one or more speakers 58.

The game controller 60 is in data communication with the player interface and typically includes a processor 62 that processes the game play instructions in accordance with game play rules and outputs game play outcomes to the display. Typically, the game play instructions are stored as program code in a memory 64 but can also be hardwired. Herein the term “processor” is used to refer generically to any device that can process game play instructions in accordance with game play rules and may include: a microprocessor, microcontroller, programmable logic device or other computational device, a general purpose computer e.g. a PC or a server.

A gaming system in the form of a stand alone gaming machine 10 is illustrated in FIG. 2. The gaming machine 10 includes a console 12 having a display 14 on which are displayed representations of a game 16 that can be played by a player. A mid-trim 20 of the gaming machine 10 houses a bank of buttons 22 for enabling a player to interact with the gaming machine, in particular during game play. The mid-trim 20 also houses a credit input mechanism 24 which in this example includes a coin input chute 24A and a bill collector 24B. Other credit input mechanisms may also be employed, for example, a card reader for reading a smart card, debit card or credit card. A player marketing module (not shown) having a reading device may also be provided for the purpose of reading a player tracking device, for example as part of a loyalty program. The player tracking device may be in the form of a card, flash drive or any other portable storage medium capable of being read by the reading device. Reference numeral 31 indicates a magnetic card reader for reading a magnetic card to implement a loyalty system in this embodiment.

A top box 26 may carry artwork 28, including for example pay tables and details of bonus awards and other information or images relating to the game. Further artwork and/or information may be provided on a front panel 29 of the console 12. A coin tray 30 is mounted beneath the front panel 29 for dispensing cash payouts from the gaming machine 10.

The display 14 shown in FIG. 2 is in the form of a video display unit, particularly a cathode ray tube screen device. Alternatively, the display 14 may be a liquid crystal display, plasma screen, any other suitable video display unit, or the visible portion of an electromechanical device. The top box 26 may also include a display, for example a video display unit, which may be of the same type as the display 14, or of a different type.

FIG. 3 shows a block diagram of operative components of a typical gaming machine which may be the same as or different to the gaming machine of FIG. 2.

The gaming machine 100 includes a game controller 101 having a processor 102. Instructions and data to control operation of the processor 102 are stored in a memory 103, which is in data communication with the processor 102. Typically, the gaming machine 100 will include both volatile and non-volatile memory and more than one of each type of memory, with such memories being collectively represented by the memory 103.

The gaming machine has hardware meters 104 for purposes including ensuring regulatory compliance and monitoring player credit, an input/output (I/O) interface 105 for communicating with peripheral devices of the gaming machine 100. The input/output interface 105 and/or the peripheral devices may be intelligent devices with their own memory for storing associated instructions and data for use with the input/output interface or the peripheral devices. A random number generator module 113 generates random numbers for use by the processor 102. Persons skilled in the art will appreciate that the reference to random numbers includes pseudo-random numbers.

In the example shown in FIG. 3, a player interface 120 includes peripheral devices that communicate with the game controller 101 include one or more displays 106, a touch screen and/or buttons 107, a card and/or ticket reader 108, a printer 109, a bill acceptor and/or coin input mechanism 110 and a coin output mechanism 111. Additional hardware may be included as part of the gaming machine 100, or hardware may be omitted based on the specific implementation.

In addition, the gaming machine 100 may include a communications interface, for example a network card 112. The network card may, for example, send status information, accounting information or other information to a central controller, server or database and receive data or commands from the central controller, server or database.

FIG. 4 shows a block diagram of the main components of an exemplary memory 103. The memory 103 includes RAM 103A, EPROM 103B and a mass storage device 103C. The RAM 103A typically temporarily holds program files for execution by the processor 102 and related data. The EPROM 103B may be a boot ROM device and/or may contain some system or game related code. The mass storage device 103C is typically used to store game programs, the integrity of which may be verified and/or authenticated by the processor 102 using protected code from the EPROM 103B or elsewhere.

It is also possible for the operative components of the gaming machine 100 to be distributed, for example input/output devices 106,107,108,109,110,111 to be provided remotely from the game controller 101.

FIG. 5 shows a gaming system 200 in accordance with an alternative embodiment. The gaming system 200 includes a network 201, which for example may be an Ethernet network. Gaming machines 202, shown arranged in three banks 203 of two gaming machines 202 in FIG. 5, are connected to the network 201. The gaming machines 202 provide a player operable interface and may be the same as the gaming machines 10,100 shown in FIGS. 2 and 3, or may have simplified functionality depending on the rules and/or guidelines for implementing game play. While banks 203 of two gaming machines are illustrated in FIG. 5, banks of one, three or more gaming machines are also envisaged.

One or more displays 204 may also be connected to the network 201. For example, the displays 204 may be associated with one or more banks 203 of gaming machines. The displays 204 may be used to display representations associated with game play on the gaming machines 202, and/or used to display other representations, for example promotional or informational material.

In a thick client embodiment, game server 205 implements part of the game played by a player using a gaming machine 202 and the gaming machine 202 implements part of the game. With this embodiment, as both the game server and the gaming device implement part of the game, they collectively provide a game controller. A database management server 206 may manage storage of game programs and associated data for downloading or access by the gaming devices 202 in a database 206A. Typically, if the gaming system enables players to participate in a Jackpot game, a Jackpot server 207 will be provided to perform accounting functions for the Jackpot game. A loyalty program server 212 may also be provided.

In a thin client embodiment, game server 205 implements most or all of the game played by a player using a gaming machine 202 and the gaming machine 202 essentially provides only the player interface. With this embodiment, the game server 205 provides the game controller. The gaming machine will receive player instructions, pass these to the game server which will process them and return game play outcomes to the gaming machine for display. In a thin client embodiment, the gaming machines could be computer terminals, e.g. PCs running software that provides a player interface operable using standard computer input and output components.

Servers are also typically provided to assist in the administration of the gaming network 200, including for example a gaming floor management server 208, and a licensing server 209 to monitor the use of licenses relating to particular games. An administrator terminal 210 is provided to allow an administrator to run the network 201 and the devices connected to the network.

The gaming system 200 may communicate with other gaming systems, other local networks, for example a corporate network, and/or a wide area network such as the Internet, for example through a firewall 211.

Persons skilled in the art will appreciate that in accordance with known techniques, functionality at the server side of the network may be distributed over a plurality of different computers. For example, elements may be run as a single “engine” on one server or a separate server may be provided. For example, the game server 205 could run a random generator engine. Alternatively, a separate random number generator server could be provided. Further, persons skilled in the art will appreciate that a plurality of game servers could be provided to run different games or a single game server may run a plurality of different games based on the terminals.

Referring to FIG. 6, the functionality of embodiments of the present invention may be implemented by a game controller 300 having the functional components illustrated. In this embodiment, the functional components are implemented utilising a processor and memory (such as processor 102 and memory 103 in FIG. 3, or processor 62 and memory 64 in FIG. 1, for the game server 205 in FIG. 5), and associated programming. Other implementations are envisaged. For example the functional blocks of FIG. 6 may be implemented in hardware as separate units, or a combination of hardware and software as separate units. Any practical implementation of these functional units may be employed.

In this embodiment, the game controller 300 is arranged to control the gaming system to play a game which includes selection of a plurality of symbols from a set of symbols. The game is implemented as a “reel” game. The game controller 300 includes a display controller 301 which is arranged to control the display (reference numerals 54, 14, 106, 204 of previous figures) to emulate a representation of reels bearing symbols. Alternatively, the display may include a stepper motor and physical reels bearing the symbols.

The game controller 300 includes a symbol selector 302 which is arranged to select a plurality of symbols from a set of symbols available in a symbol store 303. An outcome generator 304 is arranged to determine an outcome of the game. In this embodiment, the outcome of the game depends on the selected symbols and may include a win outcome, loss outcome, trigger outcome, a feature outcome or other outcome. Outcomes may be determined on the basis of symbols appearing in one or more horizontal lines, diagonal lines, or any other pre-determined combinations.

FIG. 7 shows a representation of a gaming machine display 400 which, in the example shown, has five reels (numbered “1” to “5”). The display 400 shows three reel positions high when the reels have stopped / the symbols have been selected. The reel positions are designated Bottom (“B”), Centre (“C”) and Top (“T”). This is a typical reel-type display for a gaming machine. It will be appreciated that in other embodiments the number of reel positions may be more or less than in display 400. Also the number of reels may be more or less than in the display 400.

The reels may be virtual reels, generated as a video display from the selected symbols, actual mechanical reels carrying the symbols and driven by a stepper motor, or any other reel arrangement or emulation. In the case of actual physical reels, the game controller 300 drives a stepper motor to randomly select the symbols appearing in the display 400.

The game outcome is determined by the outcome generator 304 based on combinations of symbols selected and appearing in the display 400. The symbols may be any symbols. As will be appreciated, many different types of symbols are used in gaming systems. A set of symbols may include standard symbols and function symbols. For example, standard symbols may resemble fruit such as apples, pears and bananas with a win outcome being determined when a predetermined number of the same fruit appear on a display in the same line, scattered, and so on. The function associated with a function symbol may be a “wild” function wherein display of the function symbol is treated during consideration of the game outcome as any of the standard symbols. Other functions may include scatter functions, multiplier functions, repeat win functions, jackpot functions and feature commencement functions.

In the example shown in FIG. 7, the symbols are representations of cards. In this example, a winning hand appearing on the C line may cause the outcome generator to determine that a Win has occurred and that an appropriate prize may be awarded. For example, five of a kind (e.g. 5 jacks “J”, 5 tens “10” etc) on the C line may result in a win.

In addition to the card symbols there are other symbols, including “traffic light” 405 symbols which may be function symbols and also “wild card” symbols 404. In this example, there are also “jackpot” symbols which, when selected, enable a jackpot prize to be awarded.

The diagram shown in FIG. 7 is one way of representing the symbols only. It will be appreciated that in other embodiments of the invention symbols may be represented in different ways, using any type of fancy artwork, or in any appropriate manner.

Games are operated based on player credit (which may be accumulated from previous games or may be entered by the player either as cash or from a player account). The players win entitlement may vary from game to game and may or may not be dependent on player selections. In most spinning wheel games, it is typical for the player entitlement to be affected by the amount they wager and selections they make (i.e. the nature of the wager). For example, a player's win entitlement may be based on how many lines they place a wager on in each game—i.e. minimum of one line up to the maximum number of lines allowed by the game (noting that not all permutations of win lines may be available for selection). Such win lines are typically formed by a combination of displayed symbol positions, one from each reel, the symbol positions being located relative to one another such that they form a line.

In many games, the player's win entitlement is not strictly limited to the lines they have selected. For example, “scatter” pays may be rewarded independently of a player's selection of pay lines and are an inherent part of the win entitlement.

Referring to FIG. 8, further functional components of an embodiment of the present invention are illustrated. A credit meter 308 is arranged to monitor the amount of credit available to a player playing the game. The credit meter 308 may be implemented by a credit mechanism (such as credit mechanism 52 of FIG. 1, credit mechanism 24 of FIG. 2, hardware meters 104 of FIG. 3 or processor 102 and memory 103 of FIG. 3, or processor 62 and memory 64 in FIG. 1, or the game server 205 in FIG. 5) and associated programming.

As discussed previously, many jurisdictions require that a set proportion of wagered credit is paid out by the gaming system as “return to player” (RTP). In many venues, the RTP of individual gaming terminals (e.g. individual gaming terminal, EGM or other player console) is set to be low so that other aspects of the venue can be funded, by linked prizes such as linked jackpots, etc. This can make it difficult for individual machines to attract players. In many cases, the player may not care which individual terminal he is playing, as long as he is playing for the linked prize. This makes it more difficult for individual manufacturers to distinguish their gaming terminals.

In some venues, a linked loyalty system may also be funded from player credit, providing further incentive to suppress the RTP of individual terminals.

In an embodiment of the present invention, a credit accumulator 309 (FIG. 8) is provided, which is arranged to accumulate a proportion of credit input to be associated with any particular terminal. The credit accumulator 309 may be implemented by a processor and memory or credit meter, (such as meters 104 of FIG. 3, credit mechanism 52 of FIG. 1, credit mechanism 24 of FIG. 2, processor 102 and memory 103 of FIG. 3, processor 62 and memory 64 of FIG. 1, or game server 205 in FIG. 5) and appropriate software. The credit accumulator 309 is associated with an individual terminal. For example, the terminal may be an EGM such as that shown in FIG. 2, and the credit accumulator 309 is associated with that particular EGM. Alternatively, the terminal may be a console type terminal (203 of FIG. 5) served by a central server. In such an embodiment, the central server may implement a credit accumulator which is associated with a particular terminal i.e. the accumulated credit is not allocated to any other of the linked terminals.

A player may play for the accumulated credit at the terminal that the credit accumulator 309 is associated with. This creates an attraction to that particular terminal.

In this embodiment, the accumulated credit is played for via a feature game. Further, the accumulated credit may be played for by players who identify themselves to the player terminal as members of a loyalty scheme associated with the player terminal.

Because a portion of the credit entered into the player terminal is accumulated, this accumulated credit can be used to award higher prizes at the player terminal, than if the accumulated “pool” was not available. The total RTP of the terminal may remain unaffected. A proportion of the RTP is paid during play of the standard game (i.e. the game that is not associated with the accumulated portion of the credit). The other portion of the RTP is paid from the accumulated credit.

Identification of an eligible player may be by any means as discussed above. In this embodiment it is by magnetic card, via magnetic card reader (e.g. card reader 31 of FIG. 2, where the terminal is an EGM). Allowing only eligible players to play for the accumulated credit “pool” attracts players to become “loyal members” of a venue and, for example, particular manufactures EGM's.

FIGS. 9 and 10 show displays of an EGM, such as that illustrated in FIG. 2, in accordance with an embodiment of the present invention. In FIG. 9, the “loyalty mode is off”. A player is only allowed to play a base game, therefore, for credit which is available outside of the accumulated pool of credit. In this mode, any player may play the machine, but they can not play for the credit in the accumulator 309.

When the card reader 31 detects an insertion of a card, a loyalty mode is switched to “on” (FIG. 10). A player can now play for credit stored in the accumulator 309.

In this embodiment, the accumulated credit is played for via a feature game. A trigger in the standard game (display of FIGS. 9 and 10) is required to trigger the feature game, even when loyalty mode is on. In this embodiment, the trigger is three scattered “S” symbols. With loyalty mode off, even though the three S symbols are present, the feature game is not triggered. With loyalty mode “on” and three “S” symbols are selected, the feature game is triggered. Referring to FIG. 11, the feature game in this embodiment is a “pick the window” type of game. The player is invited to select one of eight spots 500 on the display. The display may be the same display area as FIGS. 8 or 10 or different display area (e.g. in a top box). The display selection may be via a touch screen interface, or any other type of interface. The player selects a spot. A prize associated with the selected spot is then revealed. The prize is taken from the accumulated credit in the credit accumulator 309.

This is one embodiment only, and many variations are of standard game and feature game may be implemented in accordance with the present invention. The standard game need not be a reel game, as in the above embodiment. It could, for example, be a keno or bingo type game, or any other type of game. The feature game need not be a “touch the spot” game but could be any other type of game. It could be a variation on the standard game. For example, it could be a further reel game where different combinations of symbols pay prizes out of the accumulated credit pool. In a further embodiment, the accumulated credit may be paid out as a prize, such as a jackpot prize, which is only offered to eligible players.

A game playing process in accordance with an embodiment of the present invention will now be summarised with reference to FIG. 12. At step 601 a player commences play of a gaming terminal such an EGM. At 602 a determination is made as to whether or not a bet has been made. If “yes”, a base or standard game is played in accordance with the bet (step 603). At step 604 it is determined whether a trigger condition has been met to play a feature game. If “no”, then play returns to the start, step 601. If “yes” than at step 605 it is determined whether a loyalty card has been received. This embodiment requires loyalty eligibility in order to enable play for the accumulated credit. If no loyalty card is detected, play returns to the start.

If a loyalty card has been inserted, a player is enabled to play the feature game for the accumulated credit (step 106).

The following examples give further variations on implementations of the present invention.

EXAMPLES

A game is installed at a venue.

The game is set with an RTP in the standard game (base plus standard features) of 87%

The game is also set with an additional percentage of all turnover to go to a pool (portion of accumulated credit)−say 4%.

The total return to player is 91%.

A player plays the game with a player card inserted:

The game software recognises that a player card is inserted and activates the “pool features” module in the software.

The game plays the standard game as per usual.

The standard game can have the usual betting options of betting on lines or reels, bets per line/reel, ante bet.

The standard game can have the usual prize features e.g. base game, feature games, ante bet rewards, jackpot prizes, linked prizes.

The “pool features” rewards the player from the pool

    • 1. Eligibility can include the following
      • a. only players who have inserted the player card are eligible
      • b. player cards could have different “levels” of players which entitles the players to different levels of feature
      • c. other ways
    • 2. Triggering a pool feature can be as follows
      • a. Related to a turnover on the machine
      • b. Related to a symbol combination on the machine (advertised or secret)
      • c. Related to a time period on the machine
      • d. Related to prizes paid on the machine
      • e. Related to an accumulation of prizes on a machine
      • f. Other ways
    • 3. Nature of the pool feature can be as follows
      • a. A progressive prize which is displayed and known to the player
      • b. A progressive prize which is not known to the player
      • c. A mystery prize
      • d. A game which awards a prize of advertised value
      • e. A game which awards a prize of unknown value
      • f. A series of free games
      • g. Other
    • 4. Funding the pool feature is from the percentage of turnover.
      • a. In one embodiment a percentage of all turnover on a game is accounted for in the machine and “stored” in a prize pool from which prizes are paid. (this is the easiest method to implement from an accounting view point)
      • b. Alternatively a percentage of turnover on games where the player card is inserted are accounted for in the machine
      • c. Additional purchase money bet by a player to purchase a feature could be put to a pool in addition to any turnover money
      • d. Other
    • 5. Presentation of the “pool feature” may be as follows
      • a. The pool feature is played and displayed on the machine
      • b. Additionally some pool features could be displayed on an overhead display visible to players at many machines (the show-off effect)
      • c. Special sounds are associated with “pool features”
      • d. Other

A player plays the game without a player card inserted:

The game plays only in the standard mode.

A percentage of turnover is accounted for in the “pool” meter.

The player can only receive “RTP” of 87% but contributes 91%.

In a further embodiment, eligibility may not be required to play for the pool feature. The pool feature may be open to all players. This still provides a different, attractive aspect of play at a gaming terminal.

In the above embodiment, a trigger is required to enable play of the feature game for the accumulated credit. In other embodiments, a trigger may not be necessary. Where player eligibility is required, for example, it may be sufficient that an eligible player is playing the terminal to enable play for the feature games (the player may, for example, elect to play the feature game(s) which they are eligible for).

As discussed above, the player terminals may be standalone terminals (e.g. EGMs) or may be terminals associated with a remote game server (thick client or thin client).

In the above described embodiments, player eligibility is determined by a magnetic card or other type of card. This may be a membership card, for example, identifying the owner as a member of a loyalty program, for example.

In another embodiment, eligible players may be identified by tokens. These tokens may be earned or purchased, for example. For example, one or more tokens could be earned by purchase of goods or services associated with a program e.g. associated with a venue associated with a loyalty program or other program which enables qualification for eligibility to play for the accumulated credit. Tokens may be any device, and in one embodiment are tickets that may be read by a device associated with the terminal e.g. a bill reader. The tokens may be associated with a venue where the terminals are located e.g. a club or casino. Purchasing of goods/services at the venue may enable a player to earn tokens so that they can be eligible to play for the accumulated portion of the credit. Earning of tokens may not be limited to purchase of goods and services, but could be by any means. The tokens could be purchased, for example.

In a further variation of the invention, feature games may be available on particular terminals that do not play for any accumulated credit, but are only able to be played by eligible players e.g. players in loyalty schemes such as discussed above. Players may purchase or earn tokens, such as tickets, for example, to enable them to play particular games available only to eligible players. In this embodiment, there is no accumulated portion of credit played for, only the opportunity to play feature games.

In the above embodiments, where there is credit accumulated, the accumulated portion of credit is used to play for prizes. In a further embodiment, the accumulated portion of credit may be used to buy feature games. That is eligible players (e.g. players identified as belonging to a loyalty system or otherwise able to access a particular game) can “buy” the game they wish to play e.g. a particular feature game, using credit from the accumulated portion of credit. This may be considered a “bonus” for the player as it allows an eligible player to obtain “free” games. In such an embodiment, a trigger may or may not be required to enable the eligible player to play a feature game and receive the accumulated portion of credit to pay for the feature game e.g. bet on various lines in a reel game, etc.

In the above embodiments, an eligible player may be recognised by any number of means e.g. a card reader reading a magnetic stripe card, non-contact card, reading a ticket or other token. The identification may be processed by a stand-alone terminal EGM, or by a networked system or by any other means.

It will be appreciated that the above-described embodiments may be implemented using the program code. The program code may be supplied in any number of ways, for example on a computer readable medium, such as disk or a memory card or as a data signal (by downloading it from a server).

In the claims which follow and in the preceding description of the invention, except where the context indicates otherwise due to express language or necessary implication, the word “comprise” or variations such as “comprises” or “comprising” is used in an inclusive sense, i.e. to specify the presence of the stated features but not to preclude the presence or addition of further features in various embodiments of the invention.

It will be appreciated by persons skilled in the art that numerous variations and/or modifications may be made to the invention as shown in the specific embodiments and/or aspects without departing from the spirit or scope of the invention as broadly described. The present embodiments and aspects are, therefore, to be considered in all respects as illustrative and not restrictive. Several embodiments are described above with reference to the drawings. These drawings illustrate certain details of specific embodiments that implement the systems and methods and programs of the present invention. However, describing the invention with drawings should not be construed as imposing on the invention any limitations associated with features shown in the drawings. It will be understood that the invention disclosed and defined in this specification extends to all alternative combinations of two or more of the individual features mentioned or evident from the text or drawings. All of these different combinations constitute various alternative aspects of the invention.

The present invention contemplates methods, systems and program products on any electronic device and/or machine-readable media suitable for accomplishing its operations. Certain embodiments of the present invention may be implemented using an existing computer processor and/or by a special purpose computer processor incorporated for this or another purpose or by a hardwired system, for example.

Embodiments within the scope of the present invention include program products comprising machine-readable media for carrying or having machine-executable instructions or data structures stored thereon. Such machine-readable media can be any available media that can be accessed by a general purpose or special purpose computer or other machine with a processor. By way of example, such machine-readable media may comprise RAM, ROM, PROM, EPROM, EEPROM, Flash, CD-ROM or other optical disk storage, magnetic disk storage or other magnetic storage devices, or any other medium which can be used to carry or store desired program code in the form of machine-executable instructions or data structures and which can be accessed by a general purpose or special purpose computer or other machine with a processor. When information is transferred or provided over a network or another communications connection (either hardwired, wireless, or a combination of hardwired or wireless) to a machine, the machine properly views the connection as a machine-readable medium. Thus, any such a connection is properly termed a machine-readable medium. Combinations of the above are also included within the scope of machine-readable media. Machine-executable instructions comprise, for example, instructions and data which cause a general purpose computer, special purpose computer, or special purpose processing machines to perform a certain function or group of functions.