US20090239660A1 - Method for providing incentives for a player to play a gaming device - Google Patents

Method for providing incentives for a player to play a gaming device Download PDF

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US20090239660A1
US20090239660A1 US12/407,417 US40741709A US2009239660A1 US 20090239660 A1 US20090239660 A1 US 20090239660A1 US 40741709 A US40741709 A US 40741709A US 2009239660 A1 US2009239660 A1 US 2009239660A1
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player
game
play
method
gaming device
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US12/407,417
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John F. Acres
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Patent Investment and Licensing Co
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Acres-Fiore Patents
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Priority to US12/407,417 priority patent/US20090239660A1/en
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Publication of US20090239660A1 publication Critical patent/US20090239660A1/en
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Assigned to PATENT INVESTMENT & LICENSING COMPANY, FORMERLY KNOWN AS ACRES-FIORE PATENTS, FORMERLY KNOWN AS ACRES-FIORE, INC. reassignment PATENT INVESTMENT & LICENSING COMPANY, FORMERLY KNOWN AS ACRES-FIORE PATENTS, FORMERLY KNOWN AS ACRES-FIORE, INC. RELEASE BY SECURED PARTY (SEE DOCUMENT FOR DETAILS). Assignors: BALLY GAMING INC.
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    • GPHYSICS
    • G07CHECKING-DEVICES
    • G07FCOIN-FREED OR LIKE APPARATUS
    • G07F17/00Coin-freed apparatus for hiring articles; Coin-freed facilities or services
    • G07F17/32Coin-freed apparatus for hiring articles; Coin-freed facilities or services for games, toys, sports or amusements, e.g. casino games, online gambling or betting
    • GPHYSICS
    • G07CHECKING-DEVICES
    • G07FCOIN-FREED OR LIKE APPARATUS
    • G07F17/00Coin-freed apparatus for hiring articles; Coin-freed facilities or services
    • G07F17/32Coin-freed apparatus for hiring articles; Coin-freed facilities or services for games, toys, sports or amusements, e.g. casino games, online gambling or betting
    • G07F17/3225Data transfer within a gaming system, e.g. data sent between gaming machines and users
    • G07F17/3227Configuring a gaming machine, e.g. downloading personal settings, selecting working parameters
    • GPHYSICS
    • G07CHECKING-DEVICES
    • G07FCOIN-FREED OR LIKE APPARATUS
    • G07F17/00Coin-freed apparatus for hiring articles; Coin-freed facilities or services
    • G07F17/32Coin-freed apparatus for hiring articles; Coin-freed facilities or services for games, toys, sports or amusements, e.g. casino games, online gambling or betting
    • G07F17/3225Data transfer within a gaming system, e.g. data sent between gaming machines and users
    • G07F17/3232Data transfer within a gaming system, e.g. data sent between gaming machines and users wherein the operator is informed
    • G07F17/3237Data transfer within a gaming system, e.g. data sent between gaming machines and users wherein the operator is informed about the players, e.g. profiling, responsible gaming, strategy/behavior of players, location of players
    • GPHYSICS
    • G07CHECKING-DEVICES
    • G07FCOIN-FREED OR LIKE APPARATUS
    • G07F17/00Coin-freed apparatus for hiring articles; Coin-freed facilities or services
    • G07F17/32Coin-freed apparatus for hiring articles; Coin-freed facilities or services for games, toys, sports or amusements, e.g. casino games, online gambling or betting
    • G07F17/3244Payment aspects of a gaming system, e.g. payment schemes, setting payout ratio, bonus or consolation prizes
    • G07F17/3255Incentive, loyalty and/or promotion schemes, e.g. comps, gaming associated with a purchase, gaming funded by advertisements

Abstract

An incentive offering system can be used to enhance player enjoyment by making targeted suggestions to the player. Specifically, this system can evaluate player preferences, as evidenced by prior playing styles or by other methods, and suggest other games that have similar qualities that the player seems to prefer. Non-game offers may be made as well. Player histories may be evaluated in real-time to help the offering system determine the best offer to make to the player. Player values and casino resources may also be considered. Some offers may be complementary, while others may require some amount of cost or effort by the player.

Description

    RELATED APPLICATIONS
  • This application claims priority to provisional application 61/038,548 filed Mar. 21, 2008, entitled Gaming Systems and Methods, the contents of which are hereby incorporated by reference.
  • FIELD OF THE INVENTION
  • This disclosure relates generally to personalized gaming, and more particularly to helping the player discover different opportunities that the player may enjoy.
  • BACKGROUND
  • Players play at gaming machines for a variety of reasons. At two ends of the enjoyment spectrum, one player may be seriously engaged with a particular game or style of game and gain tremendous enjoyment from playing it. At the other end, a player may simply be playing a game to pass time while waiting for something more enjoyable to do. In some cases, these behaviors can be found in the same player at different times. Embodiments of the invention can be used to potentially enhance the enjoyment of both of these types of players, and for other players along the spectrum as well.
  • BRIEF DESCRIPTION OF THE DRAWINGS
  • FIG. 1A is a functional block diagram that illustrates a gaming device according to embodiments of the invention.
  • FIG. 1B is an isometric view of the gaming device illustrated in FIG. 1A.
  • FIGS. 2A, 2B, and 2C are detail diagrams of exemplary types of gaming devices according to embodiments of the invention.
  • FIG. 3 is a functional block diagram of networked gaming devices according to embodiments of the invention.
  • FIG. 4 is a block diagram illustrating an example communication system between a gaming network and a player separate from the standard gaming network, according to embodiments of the invention.
  • FIG. 5 is a flowchart illustrating an example method of making an incentive offer to a player at a gaming device according to embodiments of the invention.
  • FIG. 6 is a block diagram illustrating components in an example system for deciding what offers to make a player, according to embodiments of the invention.
  • DETAILED DESCRIPTION
  • FIGS. 1A and 1B illustrate example gaming devices according to embodiments of the invention.
  • Referring to FIGS. 1A and 1B, a gaming device 10 is an electronic gaming machine. Although an electronic gaming machine or “slot” machine is illustrated, various other types of devices may be used to wager monetarily based credits on a game of chance in accordance with principles of the invention. The term “electronic gaming device” is meant to include various devices such as electro-mechanical spinning-reel type slot machines, video slot machines, and video poker machines, for instance. Other gaming devices may include computer-based gaming machines, wireless gaming devices, multi-player gaming stations, modified personal electronic gaming devices (such as cell phones), personal computers, server-based gaming terminals, and other similar devices. Although embodiments of the invention will work with all of the gaming types mentioned, for ease of illustration the present embodiments will be described in reference to the electronic gaming machine 10 shown in FIGS. 1A and 1B.
  • The gaming device 10 includes a cabinet 15 housing components to operate the gaming device 10. The cabinet 15 may include a gaming display 20, a base portion 13, a top box 18, and a player interface panel 30. The gaming display 20 may include mechanical spinning reels (FIG. 2A), a video display (FIGS. 2B and 2C), or a combination of both spinning reels and a video display (not shown). The gaming cabinet 15 may also include a credit meter 27 and a coin-in or bet meter 28. The credit meter 27 may indicate the total number of credits remaining on the gaming device 10 that are eligible to be wagered. In some embodiments, the credit meter 27 may reflect a monetary unit, such as dollars. However, it is often preferable to have the credit meter 27 reflect a number of ‘credits,’ rather than a monetary unit. The bet meter 28 may indicate the amount of credits to be wagered on a particular game. Thus, for each game, the player transfers the amount that he or she wants to wager from the credit meter 27 to the bet meter 28. In some embodiments, various other meters may be present, such as meters reflecting amounts won, amounts paid, or the like. In embodiments where the gaming display 20 is a video monitor, the information indicated on the credit meters may be shown on the gaming display itself 20 (FIG. 2B).
  • The base portion 13 may include a lighted panel 14, a coin return (not shown), and a gaming handle 12 operable on a partially rotating pivot joint 11. The game handle 12 is traditionally included on mechanical spinning-reel games, where the handle may be pulled toward a player to initiate the spinning of reels 22 after placement of a wager. The top box 18 may include a lighted panel 17, a video display (such as an LCD monitor), a mechanical bonus device (not shown), and a candle light indicator 19. The player interface panel 30 may include various devices so that a player can interact with the gaming device 10.
  • The player interface panel 30 may include one or more game buttons 32 that can be actuated by the player to cause the gaming device 10 to perform a specific action. For example, some of the game buttons 32 may cause the gaming device 10 to bet a credit to be wagered during the next game, change the number of lines being played on a multi-line game, cash out the credits remaining on the gaming device (as indicated on the credit meter 27), or request assistance from casino personnel, such as by lighting the candle 19. In addition, the player interface panel 30 may include one or more game actuating buttons 33. The game actuating buttons 33 may initiate a game with a pre-specified amount of credits. On some gaming devices 10 a “Max Bet” game actuating button 33 may be included that places the maximum credit wager on a game and initiates the game. The player interface panel 30 may further include a bill acceptor 37 and a ticket printer 38. The bill acceptor 37 may accept and validate paper money or previously printed tickets with a credit balance. The ticket printer 38 may print out tickets reflecting the balance of the credits that remain on the gaming device 10 when a player cashes out by pressing one of the game buttons 32 programmed to cause a ‘cashout.’ These tickets may be inserted into other gaming machines or redeemed at a cashier station or kiosk for cash.
  • The gaming device 10 may also include one or more speakers 26 to transmit auditory information or sounds to the player. The auditory information may include specific sounds associated with particular events that occur during game play on the gaming device 10. For example, a particularly festive sound may be played during a large win or when a bonus is triggered. The speakers 26 may also transmit “attract” sounds to entice nearby players when the game is not currently being played.
  • The gaming device 10 may further include a secondary display 25. This secondary display 25 may be a vacuum fluorescent display (VFD), a liquid crystal display (LCD), a cathode ray tube (CRT), a plasma screen, or the like. The secondary display 25 may show any combination of primary game information and ancillary information to the player. For example, the secondary display 25 may show player tracking information, secondary bonus information, advertisements, or player selectable game options.
  • The gaming device 10 may include a separate information window (not shown) dedicated to supplying any combination of information related to primary game play, secondary bonus information, player tracking information, secondary bonus information, advertisements or player selectable game options. This window may be fixed in size and location or may have its size and location vary temporally as communication needs change. One example of such a resizable window is International Game Technology's “service window”. Another example is Las Vegas Gaming Incorporated's retrofit technology which allows information to be placed over areas of the game or the secondary display screen at various times and in various situations.
  • The gaming device 10 includes a microprocessor 40 that controls operation of the gaming device 10. If the gaming device 10 is a standalone gaming device, the microprocessor 40 may control virtually all of the operations of the gaming devices and attached equipment, such as operating game logic stored in memory (not shown) as firmware, controlling the display 20 to represent the outcome of a game, communicating with the other peripheral devices (such as the bill acceptor 37), and orchestrating the lighting and sound emanating from the gaming device 10. In other embodiments where the gaming device 10 is coupled to a network 50, as described below, the microprocessor 40 may have different tasks depending on the setup and function of the gaming device. For example, the microprocessor 40 may be responsible for running the base game of the gaming device and executing instructions received over the network 50 from a bonus server or player tracking server. In a server-based gaming setup, the microprocessor 40 may act as a terminal to execute instructions from a remote server that is running game play on the gaming device.
  • The microprocessor 40 may be coupled to a machine communication interface (MCI) 42 that connects the gaming device 10 to a gaming network 50. The MCI 42 may be coupled to the microprocessor 40 through a serial connection, a parallel connection, an optical connection, or in some cases a wireless connection. The gaming device 10 may include memory 41 (MEM), such as a random access memory (RAM), coupled to the microprocessor 40 and which can be used to store gaming information, such as storing total coin-in statistics about a present or past gaming session, which can be communicated to a remote server or database through the MCI 42. The MCI 42 may also facilitate communication between the network 50 and the secondary display 25 or a player tracking unit 45 housed in the gaming cabinet 15.
  • The player tracking unit 45 may include an identification device 46 and one or more buttons 47 associated with the player tracking unit 45. The identification device 46 serves to identify a player, by, for example, reading a player-tracking device, such as a player tracking card that is issued by the casino to individual players who choose to have such a card. The identification device 46 may instead, or additionally, identify players through other methods. Player tracking systems using player tracking cards and card readers 46 are known in the art. Briefly summarizing such a system, a player registers with the casino prior to commencing gaming. The casino issues a unique player-tracking card to the player and opens a corresponding player account that is stored on a server or host computer, described below with reference to FIG. 3. The player account may include the player's name and mailing address and other information of interest to the casino in connection with marketing efforts. Prior to playing one of the gaming devices in the casino, the player inserts the player tracking card into the identification device 46 thus permitting the casino to track player activity, such as amounts wagered, credits won, and rate of play.
  • To induce the player to use the card and be an identified player, the casino may award each player points proportional to the money or credits wagered by the player. Players typically accrue points at a rate related to the amount wagered, although other factors may cause the casino to award the player various amounts. The points may be displayed on the secondary display 25 or using other methods. In conventional player tracking systems, the player may take his or her card to a special desk in the casino where a casino employee scans the card to determine how many accrued points are in the player's account. The player may redeem points for selected merchandise, meals in casino restaurants, or the like, which each have assigned point values. In some player tracking systems, the player may use the secondary display 25 to access their player tracking account, such as to check a total number of points, redeem points for various services, make changes to their account, or download promotional credits to the gaming device 10. In other embodiments, the identification device 46 may read other identifying cards (such as driver licenses, credit cards, etc.) to identify a player and match them to a corresponding player tracking account. Although FIG. 1A shows the player tracking unit 45 with a card reader as the identification device 46, other embodiments may include a player tracking unit 45 with a biometric scanner, PIN code acceptor, or other methods of identifying a player to pair the player with their player tracking account.
  • During typical play on a gaming device 10, a player plays a game by placing a wager and then initiating a gaming session. The player may initially insert monetary bills or previously printed tickets with a credit value into the bill acceptor 37. The player may also put coins into a coin acceptor (not shown) or a credit, debit or casino account card into a card reader/authorizer (not shown). One of skill in the art will readily see that this invention is useful with all gambling devices, regardless of the manner in which wager value-input is accomplished.
  • The credit meter 27 displays the numeric credit value of the money inserted dependent on the denomination of the gaming device 10. That is, if the gaming device 10 is a nickel slot machine and a $20 bill inserted into the bill acceptor 37, the credit meter will reflect 400 credits or one credit for each nickel of the inserted twenty dollars. For gaming devices 10 that support multiple denominations, the credit meter 27 will reflect the amount of credits relative to the denomination selected. Thus, in the above example, if a penny denomination is selected after the $20 is inserted the credit meter will change from 400 credits to 2000 credits.
  • A wager may be placed by pushing one or more of the game buttons 32, which may be reflected on the bet meter 28. That is, the player can generally depress a “bet one” button (one of the buttons on the player interface panel 30, such as 32), which transfers one credit from the credit meter 27 to the bet meter 28. Each time the button 32 is depressed an additional single credit transfers to the bet meter 28 up to a maximum bet that can be placed on a single play of the electronic gaming device 10. The gaming session may be initiated by pulling the gaming handle 12 or depressing the spin button 33. On some gaming devices 10, a “max bet” button (another one of the buttons 32 on the player interface panel 30) may be depressed to wager the maximum number of credits supported by the gaming device 10 and initiate a gaming session.
  • If the gaming session does not result in any winning combination, the process of placing a wager may be repeated by the player. Alternatively, the player may cash out any remaining credits on the credit meter 27 by depressing the “cash-out” button (another button 32 on the player interface panel 30), which causes the credits on the credit meter 27 to be paid out in the form of a ticket through the ticket printer 38, or may be paid out in the form of returning coins from a coin hopper (not shown) to a coin return tray.
  • If instead a winning combination (win) appears on the display 20, the award corresponding to the winning combination is immediately applied to the credit meter 27. For example, if the gaming device 10 is a slot machine, a winning combination of symbols 23 may land on a played payline on reels 22. If any bonus games are initiated, the gaming device 10 may enter into a bonus mode or simply award the player with a bonus amount of credits that are applied to the credit meter 27.
  • FIGS. 2A to 2C illustrate exemplary types of gaming devices according to embodiments of the invention. FIG. 2A illustrates an example spinning-reel gaming machine 10A, FIG. 2B illustrates an example video slot machine 10B, and FIG. 2C illustrates an example video poker machine 10C.
  • Referring to FIG. 2A, a spinning-reel gaming machine 10A includes a gaming display 20A having a plurality of mechanical spinning reels 22A. Typically, spinning-reel gaming machines 10A have three to five spinning reels 22A. Each of the spinning reels 22A has multiple symbols 23A that may be separated by blank areas on the spinning reels 22A, although the presence of blank areas typically depends on the number of reels 22A present in the gaming device 10A and the number of different symbols 23A that may appear on the spinning reels 22A. Each of the symbols 22A or blank areas makes up a “stop” on the spinning reel 22A where the reel 22A comes to rest after a spin. Although the spinning reels 22A of various games 10A may have various numbers of stops, many conventional spinning-reel gaming devices 10A have reels 22A with twenty two stops.
  • During game play, the spinning reels 22A may be controlled by stepper motors (not shown) under the direction of the microprocessor 40 (FIG. 1A). Thus, although the spinning-reel gaming device 10A has mechanical based spinning reels 22A, the movement of the reels themselves is electronically controlled to spin and stop. This electronic control is advantageous because it allows a virtual reel strip to be stored in the memory 41 of the gaming device 10A, where various “virtual stops” are mapped to each physical stop on the physical reel 22A. This mapping allows the gaming device 10A to establish greater awards and bonuses available to the player because of the increased number of possible combinations afforded by the virtual reel strips.
  • A gaming session on a spinning reel slot machine 10A typically includes the player pressing the “bet-one” button (one of the game buttons 32A) to wager a desired number of credits followed by pulling the gaming handle 12 (FIGS. 1A, 1B) or pressing the spin button 33A to spin the reels 22A. Alternatively, the player may simply press the “max-bet” button (another one of the game buttons 32A) to both wager the maximum number of credits permitted and initiate the spinning of the reels 22A. The spinning reels 22A may all stop at the same time or may individually stop one after another (typically from left to right) to build player anticipation. Because the display 20A usually cannot be physically modified, some spinning reel slot machines 10A include an electronic display screen in the top box 18 (FIG. 1B), a mechanical bonus mechanism in the top box 18, or a secondary display 25 (FIG. 1A) to execute a bonus.
  • Referring to FIG. 2B, a video gaming machine 10B may include a video display 20B to display virtual spinning reels 22B and various other gaming information 21B. The video display 20B may be a CRT, LCD, plasma screen, or the like. It is usually preferable that the video display 20B be a touchscreen to accept player input. A number of symbols 23A appear on each of the virtual spinning reels 22B. Although FIG. 2B shows five virtual spinning reels 22B, the flexibility of the video display 20B allows for various reel 22B and game configurations. For example, some video slot games 10B spin reels for each individual symbol position (or stop) that appears on the video display 20B. That is, each symbol position on the screen is independent of every other position during the gaming sessions. In these types of games, very large numbers of pay lines or multiple super scatter pays can be utilized since similar symbols could appear at every symbol position on the video display 20B. On the other hand, other video slot games 10B more closely resemble the mechanical spinning reel games where symbols that are vertically adjacent to each other are part of the same continuous virtual spinning reel 22B.
  • Because the virtual spinning reels 22B, by virtue of being computer implemented, can have almost any number of stops on a reel strip, it is much easier to have a greater variety of displayed outcomes as compared to spinning-reel slot machines 10A (FIG. 2A) that have a fixed number of physical stops on each spinning reel 22A.
  • With the possible increases in reel 22B numbers and configurations over the mechanical gaming device 10A, video gaming devices 10B often have multiple paylines 24 that may be played. By having more paylines 24 available to play, the player may be more likely to have a winning combination when the reels 22B stop and the gaming session ends. However, since the player typically must wager at least a minimum number of credits to enable each payline 24 to be eligible for winning, the overall odds of winning are not much different, if at all, than if the player is wagering only on a single payline. For example, in a five line game, the player may bet one credit per payline 24 and be eligible for winning symbol combinations that appear on any of the five played paylines 24. This gives a total of five credits wagered and five possible winning paylines 24. If, on the other hand, the player only wagers one credit on one payline 24, but plays five gaming sessions, the odds of winning would be identical as above: five credits wagered and five possible winning paylines 24.
  • Because the video display 20B can easily modify the image output by the video display 20B, bonuses, such as second screen bonuses are relatively easy to award on the video slot game 10B. That is, if a bonus is triggered during game play, the video display 20B may simply store the resulting screen shot in memory and display a bonus sequence on the video display 20B. After the bonus sequence is completed, the video display 20B may then retrieve the previous screen shot and information from memory, and re-display that image.
  • Also, as mentioned above, the video display 20B may allow various other game information 21B to be displayed. For example, as shown in FIG. 2B, banner information may be displayed above the spinning reels 22B to inform the player, perhaps, which symbol combination is needed to trigger a bonus. Also, instead of providing a separate credit meter 27 (FIG. 1A) and bet meter 28, the same information can instead be displayed on the video display 20B. In addition, “soft buttons” 29B such as a “spin” button or “help/see pays” button may be built using the touch screen video display 20B. Such customization and ease of changing the image shown on the display 20B adds to the flexibility of the game 10B.
  • Even with the improved flexibility afforded by the video display 20B, several physical buttons 32B and 33B are usually provided on video slot machines 10B. These buttons may include game buttons 32B that allow a player to choose the number of paylines 24 he or she would like to play and the number of credits wagered on each payline 24. In addition, a max bet button (one of the game buttons 32B) allows a player to place a maximum credit wager on the maximum number of available paylines 24 and initiate a gaming session. A repeat bet or spin button 33B may also be used to initiate each gaming session when the max bet button is not used.
  • Referring to FIG. 2C, a video poker gaming device 10C may include a video display 20C that is physically similar to the video display 20B shown in FIG. 2B. The video display 20C may show a poker hand of five cards 23C and various other player information 21C including a paytable for various winning hands, as well as a plurality of player selectable soft buttons 29C. The video display 20C may present a poker hand of five cards 23C and various other player information 21C including a number of player selectable soft (touch-screen) buttons 29C and a paytable for various winning hands. Although the embodiment illustrated in FIG. 3C shows only one hand of poker on the video display 20C, various other video poker machines 10C may show several poker hands (multi-hand poker). Typically, video poker machines 10C play “draw” poker in which a player is dealt a hand of five cards, has the opportunity to hold any combination of those five cards, and then draws new cards to replace the discarded ones. All pays are usually given for winning combinations resulting from the final hand, although some video poker games 10C may give bonus credits for certain combinations received on the first hand before the draw. In the example shown in FIG. 2C a player has been dealt two aces, a three, a six, and a nine. The video poker game 10C may provide a bonus or payout for the player having been dealt the pair of aces, even before the player decides what to discard in the draw. Since pairs, three of a kind, etc. are typically needed for wins, a player would likely hold the two aces that have been dealt and draw three cards to replace the three, six, and nine in the hope of receiving additional aces or other cards leading to a winning combination with a higher award amount. After the draw and revealing of the final hand, the video poker game 10C typically awards any credits won to the credit meter.
  • The player selectable soft buttons 29C appearing on the screen respectively correspond to each card on the video display 20C. These soft buttons 29C allow players to select specific cards on the video display 20C such that the card corresponding to the selected soft button is “held” before the draw. Typically, video poker machines 10C also include physical game buttons 32C that correspond to the cards in the hand and may be selected to hold a corresponding card. A deal/draw button 33C may also be included to initiate a gaming session after credits have been wagered (with a bet button 32C, for example) and to draw any cards not held after the first hand is displayed.
  • Although examples of a spinning reel slot machine 10A, a video slot machine 10B, and a video poker machine 10C have been illustrated in FIGS. 2A-2C, gaming machines and various other types of gaming devices known in the art are contemplated and are within the scope of the invention.
  • FIG. 3 is a block diagram illustrating networked gaming devices according to embodiments of the invention. Referring to FIG. 3, multiple electronic gaming devices (EGMs) 70, 71, 72, 73, 74, and 75 may be coupled to one another and coupled to a remote server 80 through a network 50. For ease of understanding, gaming devices or EGMs 70, 71, 72, 73, 74, and 75 are generically referred to as EGMs 70-75. The term EGMs 70-75, however, may refer to any combination of one or more of EGMs 70, 71, 72, 73, 74, and 75. Additionally, the gaming server 80 may be coupled to one or more gaming databases 90. These gaming network 50 connections may allow multiple gaming devices 70-75 to remain in communication with one another during particular gaming modes such as tournament play or remote head-to-head play. Although some of the gaming devices 70-75 coupled on the gaming network 50 may resemble the gaming devices 10, 10A, 10B, and 10C shown in FIGS. 1A-1B and 2A-2C, other coupled gaming devices 70-75 may include differently configured gaming devices. For example, the gaming devices 70-75 may include traditional slot machines 75 directly coupled to the network 50, banks of gaming devices 70 coupled to the network 50, banks of gaming devices 70 coupled to the network through a bank controller 60, wireless handheld gaming machines 72 and cell phones 73 coupled to the gaming network 50 through one or more wireless routers or antennas 61, personal computers 74 coupled to the network 50 through the internet 62, and banks of gaming devices 71 coupled to the network through one or more optical connection lines 64. Additionally, some of the traditional gaming devices 70, 71, and 75 may include electronic gaming tables, multi-station gaming devices, or electronic components operating in conjunction with non-gaming components, such as automatic card readers, chip readers, and chip counters, for example.
  • Gaming devices 71 coupled over an optical line 64 may be remote gaming devices in a different location or casino. The optical line 64 may be coupled to the gaming network 50 through an electronic to optical signal converter 63 and may be coupled to the gaming devices 71 through an optical to electronic signal converter 65. The banks of gaming devices 70 coupled to the network 50 may be coupled through a bank controller 60 for compatibility purposes, for local organization and control, or for signal buffering purposes. The network 50 may include serial or parallel signal transmission lines and carry data in accordance with data transfer protocols such as Ethernet transmission lines, Rs-232 lines, firewire lines, USB lines, or other communication protocols. Although not shown in FIG. 3, substantially the entire network 50 may be made of fiber optic lines or may be a wireless network utilizing a wireless protocol such as IEEE 802.11 a, b, g, or n, Zigbee, RF protocols, optical transmission, near-field transmission, or the like.
  • As mentioned above, each gaming device 70-75 may have an individual processor 40 (FIG. 1A) and memory 41 to run and control game play on the gaming device 70-75, or some of the gaming devices 70-75 may be terminals that are run by a remote server 80 in a server based gaming environment. Server based gaming environments may be advantageous to casinos by allowing fast downloading of particular game types or themes based on casino preference or player selection. Additionally, tournament based games, linked games, and certain game types, such as BINGO or keno may benefit from at least some server 80 based control.
  • Thus, in some embodiments, the network 50, server 80, and database 90 may be dedicated to communications regarding specific game or tournament play. In other embodiments, however, the network 50, server 80, and database 90 may be part of a player tracking network. For player tracking capabilities, when a player inserts a player tracking card in the card reader 46 (FIG. 1A), the player tracking unit 45 sends player identification information obtained on the card reader 46 through the MCI 42 over the network 50 to the player tracking server 80, where the player identification information is compared to player information records in the player database 90 to provide the player with information regarding their player account or other features at the gaming device 10 where the player is wagering. Additionally, multiple databases 90 and/or servers 80 may be present and coupled to one or more networks 50 to provide a variety of gaming services, such as both game/tournament data and player tracking data.
  • The various systems described with reference to FIGS. 1-3 can be used in a number of ways. For instance, the systems can be used to track data about various players. The tracked data can be used by the casino to provide additional benefits to players, such as extra bonuses or extra benefits such as bonus games and other benefits as described above. These added benefits further entice the players to play at the casino that provides the benefits.
  • This system can be used to enhance player enjoyment by making targeted suggestions to the player. Specifically, this system can evaluate player preferences, as evidenced by prior playing styles or by other methods, and suggest other games that that have similar qualities that the player seems to prefer.
  • When the offering system detects play at a gaming device, it analyzes multiple factors about the player and the playing session. In gaming systems where the player is an identified player, as described above, the offering system has access to a history of the player's actions. Details such as average wager, wagering style, average length of session, etc. and other variables described below may be considered as to whether to make an offer and, if an offer is made, what offer to make. If such information is not available on a stored player history, for example if the player is un-identified, information gathered from the present gaming session may be used instead, or in conjunction with other non-player-specific information described below. When the player “cashes out” or spends all of his or her credits, or at other times, the system generates an invitation to the player to try another activity. In most embodiments the other activity is an invitation to try a second game, but embodiments of the invention need not necessarily be limited to only game suggestions. Choosing which offer to make to the player, if any, is described below, after the process of how to make the offer to the player is described.
  • There are multiple ways to make an offer to a player. For purposes of this discussion, assume that the offering system has determined that it will make an offer to the player that the player try a second game. The second game may have qualities that the system has reason to believe the player will enjoy. For instance, by analyzing past play behavior, the offering system calculates that there is a likelihood that the player prefers extremely volatile gameplay. A volatile game is one that may pay infrequently, but tends to make larger awards to the player than non-volatile games, even though, over time, both the volatile and non-volatile games converge on the same payback percentage. The offering system then, having determined that the player prefers volatile games, makes an offer of free games to a new game having similar volatility to the one the player finished playing. The offer may be made when the player cashes out of the current game, or at another time.
  • As described above, there are multiple ways to communicate with the player, and embodiments of the invention may use any or all of them, in any combination. For instance, with reference to FIG. 1A, communication sent through the gaming network 50 (FIG. 3) can be presented to the player directly through the gaming display 20, such as by generating a text or graphics window on the display that contains the message or offer. In other embodiments, the messages can be presented on the secondary display 25, or on a display associated with the player tracking system 45. Still further messages can be printed by the ticket printer 38, which automatically (or with player action) print directly for the player. The speaker 26 may be used for announcing messages by speech or by sounds or series of sounds that indicate to the player that a message is being presented to them.
  • Some embodiments of the invention use a communication network that is separate from the gaming network 50 to communicate with a player. With reference to FIG. 4, a player communication server 102 is coupled to the gaming network 50 and communicates directly with the gaming network. Stored within the player profile on the gaming network is contact information for the player, such as email address, cell phone number, personalized Uniform Resource Locator, such as for a social network, etc. The player communication server 102 can generate messages to a player 104 over a wired player communication network 110, which is likely an existing network such as a distributed LAN, coax cable or phone lines and using protocols such as Ethernet, Token Ring, etc. Additionally the player communication server 102 can send messages to and receive messages from a wireless communication network 112, such as a cell phone network, local wi-fi, metropolitan area network such as wi-max, or 3G or other phone data network or over a standard cellular phone network.
  • The player communication server 102 can generate a message to the player 104 over any one, or several, of the communication networks. For instance, the player communication server 102 may simultaneously send an email to the player's email address over the wired communication network 110 and send a text message over a wireless phone network 112. If the communication server 102 receives a response over one of the networks, for example, a reply text message, it may send future correspondence over only that communication path. Of course, if the message from the player 104 specified how the player preferred to communicate with the communication server 102, then the communication server would use the chosen network.
  • Devices attached to the networks 110, 112 facilitate communication with the player. For instance a personal computer (PC) 116 may be coupled to the wired communication network 110 while a cell phone 118 may be coupled to the wireless communication network 112. It is possible that a single device can communicate over more than one network. For instance, the PC 116 may include both an Ethernet card for wired communication over the Internet as well as a wireless card to communicate over the wireless communication network 112. An example method of presenting an offer to a player is illustrated in FIG. 5. A flow 120 generally describes processes that the offering system can use to make an offer to a player. The flow 120 begins at a start process, and in a process 124 the offering system determines that a player is playing a gaming device. In a process 126, the offering system analyzes factors available to it, described below, that are used to make the offering decision and may determine to make an offer to the player based on those or other factors. In a determination process 130, the flow 120 determines whether the offering system has determined to make the player an offer. During the majority of gameplay time there is no offer being made (for example, the player is in the middle of a game session), and the flow 120 exits the determination process 130 in the NO direction and loops back to the process 124.
  • When the offering system determines to make an offer to the player, the flow 120 exits the determination process 130 in the YES direction to a process 132, where the offer is made. As described above, the offer may be made through the ticket printer 38, player tracking system 45, main gaming display 20, secondary display 25, through the speaker 26, or any combination thereof. Additionally, the offer may be made over a non-gaming network such as 110, 112, by, for example, sending a text message, which may be personalized, to the player's cell phone 118. In one example the offering system generates an offer to the player to play a second game, by generating a message on the gaming display 20, and offers the player five free spins, if the player plays the second game within the next hour. In another example the offering system generates an offer to play a second game by generating an email to the player's PC 116, having a message to return to the gaming floor within the next two days, type a particular code (which indexes the particular offer) into the gaming device, and the player will be given seven free spins.
  • The flow 120 continues to a decision process 140. If the offer is made to the player to play a second game, the second game may be located on the same gaming device on which the player is currently playing, or may be on a another gaming device or elsewhere in the casino. If the second game is not on the present gaming device, the flow 120 exits the process 140 in the NO direction. In such a case, the offering system may include directions or an explanation to the player in a process 142 so that the player can find the second game or location of the subject of the offer. For example, the directions can take the form of text directions or a map printed on the ticket printer 38 so that the player may find the second game. In some cases the second game may be in a remote location, such as a second casino. In such an embodiment the ticket printer 38 could print a transportation voucher for the player to travel to the second location. Most multi-property casinos have a shuttle bus that operates between the properties, and the printed directions may inform the player to go to the shuttle departure area and show the ticket to the driver. In other cases the ticket printer 38 may print a cab or other transportation voucher. In yet other examples, directions to the second gaming machine may be sent in a text message to the players cellular phone 118.
  • If instead the decision process 140 exits in the YES direction, meaning that the second game is on the device itself, then the second game is effected on the gaming device 70 on which the player is playing in a process 144. If the gaming device 70 includes multiple games stored within it, and the second game is already one of those stored games, then effecting the second game may be as simple as switching to the second game. In other embodiments the gaming device 70 includes memory such that the second game may be downloaded over the gaming network 50 directly to the gaming device 70. After the gaming device 70 has downloaded the new game, the gaming device then switches to the newly downloaded game.
  • After the processes 142 or 144 are completed, the flow 120 loops back to the process 124, where the player is again playing the gaming device. The player may be playing the second game, as offered, or may be still playing the first game or even another game. The offering system may include the information of whether the player accepted the offer in deciding whether to offer the player yet another game, as described below.
  • FIG. 6 is a block diagram of an example embodiment of an offering system. In FIG. 6 an offering system 200 includes multiple components. Central to the offering system 200 is a benefit matching server 210, which includes a continuous tuning portion 212. The continuous tuning portion 212 monitors the response of the player or players after offers have been made to them over the gaming network 50, or other data collected on the gaming network, then makes continuous adjustments to the benefit matching server 210 based on this feedback. If the tuning portion 212 determines that particular offers are being accepted while others are not, the tuning portion may increase the value of the non-accepted offers. For instance, if the tuning portion 212 determines that players switch to game A 30% of the time with an offer of five free games, but that players only switch to game B 10% of the time, the tuning portion 212 may cause the benefit matching server to increase the offer to play game B to ten free games.
  • The benefit matching server 210 accepts input from a variety of sources, such as a player value system 220, which provides a player “value,” as determined by historical play, or a potential player value based on other data factors. Information such as average wager, total amount wagered, relative price of a rented casino hotel room, etc., can all factor into valuing a player, as described in co-pending patent application Ser. No. 12/166,150, entitled Player Value Determination System, which is incorporated herein by reference.
  • Additionally coupled to the benefit matching server 210 is a player history 230, which is coupled to and gets information from the gaming network 50. The player history 230 includes all of the information known about a player, including whether the player is identified to the network or not. The most information is known about identified players, of course, because information from multiple past gaming sessions is stored during or after each session and averages and comparisons to the averages can be made for each subsequent gaming session. For instance, if a player has had 30 previous gaming sessions, and the average session lasts 45 minutes, while the longest was 75 minutes, it is likely that the player will not play for an entire afternoon. The offering system 200 can use this information to determine whether to make an offer to the player, and when to make such an offer.
  • The player history 230 also includes information about the particular likes and dislikes of a player, either based on direct feedback from the player or based on observation. Information such as average budget, wagering history cashout behavior, volatility preferences, and style of play can all be used to generate a player profile. The profile is stored with and becomes part of the player history 230. Real-time calculations can also be made by the player history 230 or benefit matching server 210. For instance, if the player typically plays $80 at an average gaming session, and the player has already played $240, the benefit matching server 210 can assume that the player is having an exceptionally good time. Likewise, if the player typically plays the credits down to zero but instead cashes out with $45 remaining, the benefit matching server 210 may determine that the player had reason to leave, and the likelihood of any offer being accepted is minimal.
  • The player history 230 also includes data in real-time from the casino floor streamed over the gaming network 50. In other words, if an offer has been made to the player and the player accepts the offer, the benefit matching server 210 is informed of this information through the player history 230, which in turn received the information directly from the gaming network 50. In this way the continuous tuning portion 212 can monitor player behavior and the effect, including real-time effect, of making offers to various players on a gaming floor.
  • To make the best decisions of what offers can or should be made, the benefit matching server 210 also includes a listing of available game resources 240, which may also receive real-time data from the gaming floor. For instance, if there are fourteen “I Love Lucy” games on the gaming floor and all of them are in use, it could be frustrating for a player to receive an invitation to play the game when none are available to be played. Therefore, the benefit matching server 210 may use information gathered from the available resources 240 to make offers only for accessible games. Additionally, the available game resources 240 may work in conjunction with the benefit matching server 210 to determine if a second game is nearby the player. In other words, any game suggested by the offering system 200 should preferably be somewhat nearby the player, so that the player need not walk all the way across the casino just to play the nearest available game. By analyzing real-time casino game resources and only making offers to nearby games, this problem may be avoided.
  • In operation, as described above, the benefit matching server 210 combines the player history 230, even if it is only the present gaming session for an unidentified player, with the player value 220, if available, along with the available game resources 240, if available, to determine an appropriate offer to be made to a player. It is important to know that the benefit matching server 210 may make offers or recommendations to a player even if none of the value 220, history 230 or resources 240 is known, but in such a case the offer will not be well tailored to the particular player. It is much more likely that the offer will be accepted if at least some personal information is included in the calculus.
  • A typical offer is an offer to a player of a first game to play a similar game. For example, if the benefit matching server 210 detects that a particular player plays faster on a certain type of game, which may indicate an increased interest, the benefit matching server 210 may make an offer to the player to play another game similar to the type of game the player is currently playing.
  • The offer itself may be almost any type of offer. For instance, the offer may be an offer of free games for a particular game, or the offer may be for reduced cost games. In a simple form, the offer may be simply “we invite you to play our new ‘Spinning Blazes’ game, and we'll give you $10.00 credit to try it.” The offer may include time restrictions, such as “return tomorrow between 1:00 pm and 4:00 pm and play seven free video poker games.” The time restrictions may be based on a redemption period that has a particular start and stop time, or may only include an expiration date. For instance, the offer may state “play ten ‘I Love Lucy’ games within the next three hours on us.” Other time restrictions may be based on the number of games played, for instance “two free plays on any video reel game in the casino, but they must be played before you play your next physical reel game.”
  • Other offers may be for discount plays—for instance, “For the next 15 minutes, all video poker games are discounted 60% for you, take advantage of this NOW.” Offers may be made with time restrictions “built-in” to the offer. For instance, the offer may state “Play lucky seven with Halo bonus—50% off five games if played by tomorrow, 10% off five games if played after tomorrow but before Sunday.” Offers may also be made that include a match made by the player, such as “put up $20, and we'll match it if you play our new game ‘Red Ryder’.”
  • Yet other offers may include play restrictions. For instance, the offer may state “if you play more than 50 games tomorrow at ‘max-bet’ you will receive 10 games free to a newly introduced game.” Progress toward the offer may be shown to the player on the gaming display 20, player tracking system 45, secondary display 25, or in other manners.
  • Based on the various factors available to the benefit matching server 210, such as demographic or other data, offers may vary between players or even between particular gaming sessions of the same player. For instance, if the benefit matching server 210 determines that it is likely that the player is a highly valued player, based on input from the player value 220, an offer may be made that is more generous than to a non-highly valued player. Other offers may be made to players based on age. Some games may be only offered to particular players, while other offers may be made for different levels of discount, depending on the player. Any of the other factors may also influence the benefit matching server 210 to make a particular award. In some embodiments the offers are initially made at random, at least to some players, then the continuous tuning portion 212 tracks the offers and modifies the parameters within the benefit matching server 210 to maximize the desired response. One desired response is that players accept the offers. Another desired response is that players play the suggested game with their own money because they like it so well.
  • Offers may be specifically targeted based on an observed style of play. For instance, if the player at a gaming device 70 spends more time at game B as opposed to other games, then the benefit matching server 210 may select another game for which to make an offer that has qualities similar to game B. Other factors that are tracked by the benefit matching server 210 may include volatility of the game, amount of wagers, and payback percentage, among others. For instance, if a player, based on the stored history, tends to favor games with the highest payback percentage, then the benefit matching server 210 may make an offer to play another high payback percentage game, which may incite the player to play more and have a more enjoyable time.
  • Such factors, and others, may be used by the benefit matching server 210 to determine when to make the offer. Typically, an offer is made at the conclusion of a gaming session, for instance when the player cashes out or all remaining credits are spent. However, various other factors may act as triggers within the benefit matching server 210 to cause an offer to be made. For example, a player may change his or her rate of play, either going to very fast play or to very slow play. Slow play may indicate the player is becoming bored, or trying to conserve credits, and therefore the player may be increasingly willing to accept an offer for free or discount games. Other factors may include change in wager size, periods of pause within a gaming session, and the number of credits remaining on the credit meter at cashout.
  • Offers may be accepted in a number of ways. If the offer was communicated through a ticket printed at the ticket printer 38, as described above, the player may simply insert the ticket into the new machine. The gaming device 70 then reads codes from the ticket, communicates to the benefit matching server 210 or other apparatus on the gaming network 50, which automatically transfers credits to the new game. In other embodiments, the offer is ‘stored’ on the player tracking server 80 so that a player need not manage any ticket. In this embodiment, the player simply inserts his or her playing card into the target machine, or otherwise provides identification, the player tracking server 80 or benefit matching server 210 recognizes that the offer is being accepted, and transfers the credits or other award directly to the gaming device 70, without further action from the player. If the offer was communicated through an email, the player may bring a print of the email to the gaming floor, type in a particular set of codes to reference the offer, and retrieve the offer. In other embodiments the offering system only makes one offer outstanding at any time, and the act of simply identifying the player to the gaming network 50 causes the offering system to recognize that the outstanding offer is unused and still exists.
  • The offering system described above may increase the enjoyment of players by introducing them to games or other features/services that players may be unaware of. In other cases, an offering system may serve as an advertising vehicle for introducing new games and services to casino patrons.
  • Some embodiments of the invention have been described above, and in addition, some specific details are shown for purposes of illustrating the inventive principles. However, numerous other arrangements may be devised in accordance with the inventive principles of this patent disclosure. Further, well known processes have not been described in detail in order not to obscure the invention. Thus, while the invention is described in conjunction with the specific embodiments illustrated in the drawings, it is not limited to these embodiments or drawings. Rather, the invention is intended to cover alternatives, modifications, and equivalents that come within the scope and spirit of the inventive principles set out in the appended claims.

Claims (46)

1. A method for inducing a player of a first game on an electronic gaming device at a gaming station to play a second game comprising:
determining that the player has begun play of the first game;
communicating to the player at the gaming station about the second game; and
offering to the player at the gaming station an incentive to play the second game.
2. The method of claim 1 wherein the second game is on a second electronic gaming device at a second gaming station.
3. The method of claim 2 further comprising indicating to the player where the second gaming station is located.
4. The method of claim 1 further comprising:
downloading the second game to the electronic gaming device; and
allowing the player to play the second game on the electronic gaming device.
5. The method of claim 1 further comprising:
tracking the player's play of games on a plurality of gaming devices;
comparing the tracked play with play characteristics of a plurality of different games;
selecting at least one of the plurality of different games; and
identifying the selected game as the second game.
6. The method of claim 5 wherein the play characteristics include at least one of volatility and payback percentage.
7. The method of claim 1 wherein the incentive is effective immediately.
8. The method of claim 1 wherein the incentive is effective after a predefined lapse of time.
9. The method of claim 1 wherein the incentive comprises at least one free play of the second game.
10. The method of claim 1 wherein the incentive comprises discounted play for at least one play of the second game.
11. The method of claim 1 further comprising communicating to the player at the gaming station about the second game in response to an indication that the player is preparing to conclude play on the first game.
12. The method of claim 1 wherein the incentive offer is made via at least one of a portable electronic communicator, a computing device connected to a computer network, a screen associated with the gaming device, a cell phone associated with the player, and a ticket printed at the gaming device.
13. A method for inducing a player to play an electronic gaming device comprising:
detecting the player playing a first game at a first electronic gaming device;
suggesting to the player at the first electronic gaming device that the player play a second game at a second electronic gaming device; and
offering to the player at the first electronic gaming device an incentive to play the second game at the second electronic gaming device.
14. The method of claim 13 further comprising indicating to the player where the second gaming station is located.
15. The method of claim 13 further comprising:
tracking the player's play of games on a plurality of gaming devices;
comparing the tracked play with play characteristics of a plurality of different games;
selecting at least one of the plurality of different games; and
identifying the selected game as the second game.
16. The method of claim 15 wherein the play characteristics include at least one of volatility and payback percentage.
17. The method of claim 13 wherein the incentive is effective immediately.
18. The method of claim 13 wherein the incentive is effective after a predefined lapse of time.
19. The method of claim 13 wherein the incentive comprises at least one free play of the second game.
20. The method of claim 13 wherein the incentive comprises discounted play for at least one play of the second game.
21. The method of claim 13 further comprising communicating to the player at the first electronic gaming device about the second game in response to an indication that the player is preparing to conclude play on the first electronic gaming device.
22. The method of claim 13 wherein the incentive offer is made via at least one of a portable electronic communicator, a computing device connected to a computer network, a screen associated with the gaming device, a cell phone associated with the player, and a ticket printed at the gaming device.
23. A method for operating a plurality of networked gaming devices comprising:
tracking at least one player of the networked gaming devices;
storing data related to the tracked player, including data related to the player's play of the networked gaming devices;
identifying the tracked player at a first one of the gaming devices;
communicating to the player at the first gaming device about a second gaming device;
offering to the player at the first gaming device an incentive to play the second gaming device; and
basing at least one of (a) the identity of the second gaming device and (b) the incentive, at least in part, on the stored data.
24. The method of claim 23 further comprising indicating to the player where the second gaming device is located.
25. The method of claim 23 wherein storing data related to the tracked player further comprises storing demographic data related to the tracked player.
26. The method of claim 25 wherein the demographic date includes the player's age.
27. The method of claim 26 wherein the incentive is effective only during at least one predefined time period.
28. The method of claim 23 wherein the incentive is effective only during at least one predefined time period.
29. The method of claim 23 wherein the incentive is effective immediately.
30. The method of claim 23 wherein the incentive is effective after a predefined lapse of time.
31. The method of claim 23 wherein the incentive comprises at least one free play of the second gaming device.
32. The method of claim 23 wherein the incentive comprises discounted play for at least one play of the second gaming device.
33. The method of claim 23 further comprising communicating to the player at the gaming station about the second gaming device in response to an indication that the player is preparing to conclude play on the first gaming device.
34. The method of claim 14 wherein the incentive offer is made via at least one of a portable electronic communicator, a computing device connected to a computer network, a screen associated with the gaming device, a cell phone associated with the player, and a ticket printed at the gaming device.
35. A method for inducing a player of a first game on an electronic gaming device at a gaming station to play a second game comprising:
observing the player's play on the first game;
storing data related to the observed play;
suggesting to the player at the gaming station that the player play a second game;
offering to the player at the gaming station an incentive to play the second game; and
basing at least one of (a) the identity of the second game and (b) the incentive, at least in part, on the stored data.
36. The method of claim 35 wherein the second game is on a second electronic gaming device at a second gaming station.
37. The method of claim 36 further comprising indicating to the player where the second gaming station is located.
38. The method of claim 35 further comprising:
downloading the second game to the electronic gaming device; and
allowing the player to play the second game on the electronic gaming device.
39. The method of claim 35 further comprising:
tracking the player's play of games on a plurality of gaming devices;
comparing the tracked play with play characteristics of a plurality of different games:
selecting at least one of the plurality of different games; and
identifying the selected game as the second game.
40. The method of claim 39 wherein the play characteristics include at least one of volatility and payback percentage.
41. The method of claim 35 wherein the incentive is effective immediately.
42. The method of claim 35 wherein the incentive is effective after a predefined lapse of time.
43. The method of claim 35 wherein the incentive comprises at least one free play of the second game.
44. The method of claim 35 wherein the incentive comprises discounted play for at least one play of the second game.
45. The method of claim 35 further comprising communicating to the player at the gaming station about the second game in response to an indication that the player is preparing to conclude play on the first game.
46. The method of claim 35 wherein the incentive offer is made via at least one of a portable electronic communicator, a computing device connected to a computer network, a screen associated with the gaming device, a cell phone associated with the player, and a ticket printed at the gaming device.
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