US20090239661A1 - Method for surveying a player of a gaming device - Google Patents

Method for surveying a player of a gaming device Download PDF

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Publication number
US20090239661A1
US20090239661A1 US12407433 US40743309A US2009239661A1 US 20090239661 A1 US20090239661 A1 US 20090239661A1 US 12407433 US12407433 US 12407433 US 40743309 A US40743309 A US 40743309A US 2009239661 A1 US2009239661 A1 US 2009239661A1
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Prior art keywords
player
gaming device
method
gaming
survey
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Abandoned
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US12407433
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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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    • 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 survey system can be used to enhance player enjoyment by presenting the player with a survey at a time when the gameplay experience is fresh in the player's mind, or at other times when the player is willing to provide feedback information. Changes may be made to the player's profile stored on the gaming network in response to the survey answers, which can be used to tailor future games. Incentives may be provided to the player to encourage participation in the survey.

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 acquiring information about a player by survey.
  • BACKGROUND
  • Players play at gaming machines for a variety of reasons. Casinos and other game operators attempt to determine what a player likes and dislikes about the gaming experience, then make changes to make the experience more enjoyable. Marketing managers dream up promotions and evaluate the results of such promotions. The link between a promotion and results may be difficult to ascertain, however, because of the multitude of factors that may influence the results. For instance, a promotion may appear as though it “failed,” because overall play rates went down across a gaming floor, when in actuality the promotion was well received but the rate of play decreased due to another factor, such as weather.
  • Embodiments of the invention address these and other limitations of the prior art.
  • 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.
  • FIG. 5 is a flowchart illustrating an example method of making a survey request to a player at a gaming device and carrying out the survey according to embodiments of the invention.
  • FIG. 6 is a block diagram illustrating components in an example survey system for a gaming network.
  • 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 electromechanical 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 presenting the player with a survey at a time when the gameplay experience is fresh in the player's mind, or at other times when the player is willing to provide feedback information. Changes to the may be made to the player profile stored on the database 90 or generated by the gaming server 80 in response to the survey answers. Incentives may be provided to the player to encourage participation in the survey.
  • 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 messages message or the survey itself. 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 110 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 110 can generate messages to a player 120 over a wired player communication network 130, 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 110 can send messages to and receive messages from a wireless communication network 140, 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.
  • In operation the player communication server 110 generates a message to the player 120 over any one, or several, of the communication networks. For instance, the player communication server 110 may simultaneously send an email to the player's email address over the wired communication network 130 and send a text message over a wireless phone network 140. If the communication server 110 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 120 specified how the player preferred to communicate with the communication server 110, then the communication server would use the chosen network.
  • Devices attached to the networks 130, 140 facilitate communication with the player. For instance a personal computer (PC) 150 may be coupled to the wired communication network 130 while a cell phone may be coupled to the wireless communication network 140. It is possible that a single device can communicate over more than one network. For instance, the PC 150 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 140.
  • In some embodiments the survey system may initiate the survey over the gaming network 50 and the player likewise responds over the network. In such an example, the survey system generates questions on the gaming screen 20, preferably a touchscreen, and the player responds to the questions by providing answers back directly to the touchscreen. In other embodiments the player may use inputs on the player tracking unit 45 to communicate answers back to the survey system. In other embodiments, the player may print the survey at the ticket printer 38, complete the survey by writing directly on the printed tickets, then return the completed survey to a casino representative who inserts them into a scanner (not illustrated) coupled directly to the gaming network 50 to read the player's responses. The survey system then processes the survey results and may make changes to the player's stored profile, or provide certain benefits stored in the player's profile, as described in detail below.
  • In other embodiments the survey system may initiate the survey over the gaming network 50 but the player 120 completes the survey over one of the non-gaming networks 130, 140. In such an example the survey system invites the player to complete the survey at a gaming device 10, and gives the player the option of completing the survey on the device itself, or having the survey sent to an email address, for example. The player 120 then completes the survey at a later time, and sends the completed survey from the player's PC 150 over the communication network 130 to the player communication server 110.
  • In yet other embodiments the survey system initiates the survey over the non-gaming network 130, 140, such as by over the wireless phone network, and returns it over the same non-gaming network. Finally, it is possible for the survey system to initiate the survey over the non-gaming network, such as by inviting the player to go to a gaming device 10, and the player completes the survey at the gaming device itself, over the gaming network 50.
  • Additionally, the survey system may allow a player 120 to partially complete a survey using one method and to complete the survey using another method. This embodiment may be beneficial when the player started the survey but for some reason cannot complete it in one sitting.
  • An example method of conducting a player survey is illustrated in FIG. 4. A flow 100 generally describes processes that the survey system may use, although other methods are equally acceptable. The flow 200 begins at a process 202, and selects a time to attempt to survey the player 120. A logical time to offer a survey is at the end of a gaming session, when either the player has spent his or her credits to zero, or below the lowest denomination threshold, or when the player cashes out. At that time the player may suddenly find himself or herself with extra time and may be willing to complete a survey. The player's willingness may be increased by offering the player an incentive to complete the survey, as described below. Additionally, by selecting the end of a gaming session for offering the survey it is less likely to interrupt the player during an enjoyable gaming session.
  • Other events may also cause the survey system to initiate the survey dialogue with the player. For instance the survey system may generate the invite message after the player has experienced a winning outcome or a losing outcome. Threshold triggers may be used as well, such as initiating a survey after a large win occurs or after a long string of losses. Further, the survey system may use absolute triggers, such as when the credit meter exceeds a certain threshold or when it drops below a minimum value. Other survey triggers may include time spent at the gaming device, hour of day, day of year, etc. In some embodiments the survey system may purposely conduct surveys at different events, even with the same player, to determine if the answers to the survey questions change based on the particular state of game progress.
  • At a process 204, the survey is presented to the player, who may accept, deny or postpone answering the survey. The survey may be presented by a graphics or text box on the display 20, or by an audio message through the speaker 26 giving instructions. In other embodiments the survey may be presented by automatically printing a ticket from the ticket printer 38, or in other ways. If the survey is denied or postponed, at a process 210, the flow 200 loops back to the process 202 and play continues. The survey system may choose to represent the survey to the player at a later time, again in the process 204, if either the player rejected or postponed the first survey.
  • If instead the player accepted the survey, the flow 200 continues to a process 212, which continuously checks to see if the survey has been completed. If the survey was initially accepted, but the player changed his or her mind to postpone or cancel the survey, a process 214 detects this situation and loops back to the process 202 and re-starts the gaming session. If the player ended or postponed a partially completed survey, they may be given the chance to complete the survey later at the gaming device 10, or through one of the non-gaming networks 130, 140.
  • The survey may be general in nature or very specific. The survey may be relatively long, or very short, such as only one or two questions. An example short survey presented to a video poker player could be “you just got a big win with a flush. Do you prefer fewer big wins or a series of smaller wins that occur more often?”
  • When the survey is completed, the flow 200 continues to a process 216, where the survey results are analyzed, which is described with reference to FIG. 6 below. After the analysis is complete, the survey system may provide a benefit to the player in a process 222. The benefit may be available immediately, or it may be stored in the player profile on the gaming network 50 for later use. If the player does not have a present profile, for example the player is not an identified player, then the player may be given the option to open a player account, with the added incentive of being able to store the benefit for later use. Otherwise, the benefit, if any, is provided in the process 222, and is only available immediately. Finally, in a process 224, the existence of the benefit is communicated to the player, either over the gaming network 50 or over the non-gaming networks 130, 140 described above. The benefit communication in the process 224 need not be immediately at the conclusion of the survey, but may come at a later time.
  • FIG. 6 is a block diagram of an example embodiment of a survey system. In FIG. 6 a survey system 250 includes multiple components. Central to the survey system 250 is a survey generator 260, which is coupled to or includes a benefit generator 262. The benefit generator 262 is the process or sub-system that determines which benefits, if any, to provide to the player for having initiated or completed the survey. If the benefit generator 262 determines that the overall survey return rate is too low, it may globally increase the offer amount until a satisfactory return rate is realized. Also, if the survey system 250 desires survey feedback from a particular player, it may increase the benefit to be awarded until it secures the player's response. The benefit ultimately awarded may be advertised to the player before the survey begins, or in conjunction with the survey request, or it may be kept from the player until after the survey has been completed.
  • The survey generator 260 is also coupled to a player history 270, if available, and to a player profile 280. The player history 270 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. The player history 270 may be available for only those players identified to the network. In other embodiments the player history is limited to the particular gaming session during which the survey is offered to the player.
  • The player profile 280 includes information about the particular likes and dislikes of a player, either based on direct feedback from the player, such as from a previous survey, 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 280. Real-time calculations can also be made by the survey generator 260 or player profile history 280. For instance, if the player typically plays $80 at an average gaming session, and the player has already played $240, the survey generator 260 can assume that the player is having an exceptionally good time and may not be willing to be interrupted to take a survey. Likewise, if the player typically plays the credits down to zero but instead cashes out with $45 remaining, the survey generator 260 may determine that the player had reason to leave, and the likelihood of any survey being accepted is minimal. In such a case the survey generator 260 may invite the player to complete the survey at a later time over one of the non-gaming networks 130, 140.
  • The player profile 280 may additionally include a stored player benefit repository 282, where benefits may be stored over multiple gaming sessions. In some embodiments the player benefits are stored until the player uses them, while other benefits expire according to an expiration schedule, typically measured in time or number of games played.
  • The player history 270 also includes data in real-time from the casino floor streamed over the gaming network 50. In other words, if a survey offer has been made to the player and the player is willing to complete the survey, the survey generator 260 is informed of this information through the player history 270, which in turn receives the information directly from the gaming network 50. The survey generator 260 can also receive information directly from the player over the non-gaming networks 130, 140.
  • In operation, as described above, the survey generator 260 uses the player history 270, or other methods to determine an appropriate time to invite the player to complete the survey. It is important to know that the survey generator 260 may make survey requests to a player even if there is no player profile 280 or player history 270. In such a case the survey generator may not be well tailored to the particular player. If the player is not identified, however, it gives the survey system 250 a direct opportunity to ask the player why they do not play as an identified player.
  • After the survey is completed, the survey generator 260 or other process in the gaming network 50 analyzes the results, as illustrated in the process 216 of FIG. 5. The analysis may be minimal, and serve to only update the player profile 280 based on exactly what the survey results showed. In other embodiments the survey generator 260 may review information stored in the player history 270 and player profile 280 to determine if the survey response matches a prior survey response or a previously observed behavior. For instance if the survey response stated that a player preferred long gaming sessions, but the players' historical record showed that the player typically only plays short sessions, the survey answer may be flagged as suspect, or little weight given to the particular response.
  • In the process 222 of FIG. 5, the benefit generator 262 of FIG. 6 determines what benefit to offer the player to complete the survey or to award the player for having completed the survey. Particular benefits may include discounted game play for the same game the player was playing when the survey was completed, or for another game. The benefit generator 262 may be used as an advertising tool by simply awarding free or reduced play to a particular machine that is not well known or that is the subject of a current marketing promotion, without regard for player preference.
  • Other benefits may include an immediate award of a certain number of “player points,” which are typically accumulated in the player profile as is known in the art. Yet other benefits may be tailored by the player's answers or preferences indicated by the completed survey. For example if a survey question asked if the player would prefer a free spin over a direct award made to the credit meter, then one or more free spins could be added to the player benefits repository 282.
  • As described above, in some cases the benefits awarded by the benefit generator and stored in the player benefits repository 282 may expire if unused for a period of time or if a number of games pass without being redeemed.
  • Communicating the awarded benefits to the player occurs in the process 224 of FIG. 5, and may be embodied using any communication method described above. For example a simple way to communicate a credit award is to simply increase the credit meter, or by placing a “free spin” icon on player tracking systems that support such a feature. Other benefits may be communicated by the ticket printer 38, such as by printing a free-play coupon, which may work at the present gaming device 10 or on another device. In such a case, the award may include directions or an explanation to the player so that the player can find the second game or location of the subject of the award. 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.
  • In other embodiments the benefits may be communicated to the player through the non-gaming networks 130, 140. For instance, the benefit generator 262 or survey generator 260 may send a text message to the player's cell phone over the wireless network 140 (FIG. 4). The message may include directions to the game as well as a certain message that the player codes into the gaming device to retrieve his or her reward. A coded message may also serve as an invitation to take a survey. Such a message may be in the form of “take a survey and play 10 games free on us. Use code 00117 on any gaming device to take the survey and claim the free games.” Other messages may require some commitment from the player as well, such as “play over 25 games on any video poker game and we'll offer you a survey. Complete the survey for 10 free games.” Other offers may include monetary commitment, such as “Wager over $25 (total) within the next three days to qualify to take our survey. Complete the survey and we will give you 10 free games on any slot.”
  • Based on the various factors available to the survey generator 260, 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 survey generator 260, based on player history, determines that it is likely that the player is a highly valued player, an offer to take a survey may be made that is more generous than to a non-highly valued player. Other offers may be made to players based on demographics, such as age or hometown, so that the survey can be tailored to that particular demographic.
  • The survey system described above may increase the enjoyment of players by introducing them to games or other features/services that players may be unaware of or by providing them special benefits for participating. At the same time, the gaming network 50 may receive valuable information in return so that it can tailor future games to the particular likes and dislikes of the player, to make a more rewarding player experience.
  • 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 (38)

  1. 1. A method for surveying a player of a gaming device comprising:
    selecting a player of a gaming device;
    presenting at least one survey question to the player at the gaming device; and
    receiving a response from the player at the gaming device.
  2. 2. The method of claim 1 further comprising presenting at least one survey question to the player at the gaming device in response to play of substantially all credits on a credit meter at the gaming device.
  3. 3. The method of claim 1 further comprising presenting at least one survey question to the player at the gaming device in response to the player cashing out substantially all of the credits on a credit meter at the gaming device.
  4. 4. The method of claim 1 further comprising presenting at least one survey question to the player at the gaming device in response to a winning outcome on the gaming device.
  5. 5. The method of claim 1 further comprising presenting at least one survey question to the player at the gaming device in response to a losing outcome on the gaming device.
  6. 6. The method of claim 1 further comprising presenting at least one survey question to the player at the gaming device in response to a credit balance on the gaming machine rising above a predefined threshold.
  7. 7. The method of claim 1 further comprising presenting at least one survey question to the player at the gaming device in response to a credit balance on the gaming machine falling below a predefined threshold.
  8. 8. The method of claim 1 further including:
    tracking the player's play; and
    presenting at least one survey question to the player at the gaming device in response to at least one predefined criterion related to the tracked play.
  9. 9. The method of claim 1 wherein the survey question relates to game play experienced by the player.
  10. 10. The method of claim 1 further comprising providing an incentive for the player to respond to the at least one survey question.
  11. 11. The method of claim 10 wherein the incentive comprises discounted game play on at least one of the gaming device being played by the player and a different gaming device.
  12. 12. The method of claim 10 wherein the gaming device is associated with a player-tracking network and wherein the incentive comprises player-tracking points added to an account associated with the player of the gaming device.
  13. 13. The method of claim 1 wherein the method further comprises modifying at least one of a game played on the gaming device and a game played on a different gaming device based at least in part on the response received from the player at the gaming device.
  14. 14. The method of claim 1 wherein a first game is played on the gaming device and wherein the method further comprises recommending a second game to the player based at least in part on the response received from the player at the gaming device.
  15. 15. The method of claim 14 wherein the recommendation 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.
  16. 16. The method of claim 14 wherein the method further comprises providing an incentive for the player to play the recommended game.
  17. 17. The method of claim 16 wherein the incentive comprises discounted game play on at least one of the gaming device being played by the player and a different gaming device.
  18. 18. The method of claim 17 wherein the incentive is valid only during a predefined period of time.
  19. 19. The method of claim 16 wherein the gaming device is associated with a player-tracking network and wherein the incentive comprises player-tracking points added to an account associated with the player of the gaming device.
  20. 20. A method for surveying a player of a gaming device on a network of gaming devices comprising:
    identifying a player of a gaming device;
    presenting at least one survey question to the player at the gaming device;
    receiving a response from the player at the gaming device;
    tracking the player's play on gaming devices on the network; and
    modifying a game on at least one of the gaming devices based at least in part on the response received from the player.
  21. 21. The method of claim 20 further comprising presenting at least one survey question to the player at the gaming device in response to play of substantially all of the credits on a credit meter at the gaming device.
  22. 22. The method of claim 20 further comprising presenting at least one survey question to the player at the gaming device in response to the player cashing out substantially all of the credits on a credit meter at the gaming device.
  23. 23. The method of claim 20 wherein the survey question relates to game play experienced by the player.
  24. 24. The method of claim 20 further comprising providing an incentive for the player to respond to the at least one survey question.
  25. 25. The method of claim 24 wherein the incentive comprises discounted game play on at least one of the gaming device being played by the player and a different gaming device.
  26. 26. The method of claim 24 wherein the gaming device is associated with a player-tracking network and wherein the incentive comprises player-tracking points added to an account associated with the player of the gaming device.
  27. 27. A method for surveying a player of a gaming device on a network of gaming devices comprising:
    identifying a player of a first game on a gaming device;
    presenting at least one survey question to the player at the gaming device;
    receiving a response from the player at the gaming device;
    tracking the player's play on gaming devices on the network; and
    recommending a second game to the player based at least in part on the response received from the player at the gaming device.
  28. 28. The method of claim 27 further comprising presenting at least one survey question to the player at the gaming device in response to play of substantially all credits on a credit meter at the gaming device.
  29. 29. The method of claim 27 further comprising presenting at least one survey question to the player at the gaming device in response to the player cashing out substantially all of the credits on a credit meter at the gaming device.
  30. 30. The method of claim 27 wherein the survey question relates to game play experienced by the player.
  31. 31. The method of claim 27 further comprising providing an incentive for the player to respond to the at least one survey question.
  32. 32. The method of claim 31 wherein the incentive comprises discounted game play on at least one of the gaming device being played by the player and a different gaming device.
  33. 33. The method of claim 31 wherein the gaming device is associated with a player-tracking network and wherein the incentive comprises player-tracking points added to an account associated with the player of the gaming device.
  34. 34. The method of claim 27 wherein the recommendation is made via at least one of a screen associated with the gaming device, a cell phone associated with the player, and a ticket printed at the gaming device.
  35. 35. The method of claim 27 wherein the method further comprises providing an incentive for the player to play the recommended second game.
  36. 36. The method of claim 35 wherein the incentive comprises discounted game play on at least one of the gaming device being played by the player and a different gaming device.
  37. 37. The method of claim 36 wherein the incentive is valid only during a predefined period of time.
  38. 38. The method of claim 35 wherein the gaming device is associated with a player-tracking network and wherein the incentive comprises player-tracking points added to an account associated with the player of the gaming device.
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