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Publication numberUS20060084488 A1
Publication typeApplication
Application numberUS 11/294,846
Publication date20 Apr 2006
Filing date5 Dec 2005
Priority date19 Sep 2000
Publication number11294846, 294846, US 2006/0084488 A1, US 2006/084488 A1, US 20060084488 A1, US 20060084488A1, US 2006084488 A1, US 2006084488A1, US-A1-20060084488, US-A1-2006084488, US2006/0084488A1, US2006/084488A1, US20060084488 A1, US20060084488A1, US2006084488 A1, US2006084488A1
InventorsMichael Kinsley, Steven LeMay, Jamal Benbrahim
Original AssigneeIgt
Export CitationBiBTeX, EndNote, RefMan
External Links: USPTO, USPTO Assignment, Espacenet
Bonusing digital media
US 20060084488 A1
Abstract
This invention provides a gaming machine able to provide entertainment content (e.g. ring tones, videos, music, etc.) from entertainment content sources located within the gaming machine or outside of the gaming machine. A player may be presented with entertainment content options that may be accessed via the gaming machine or via another device. In some implementations of the invention, a player may be offered the option of transferring entertainment content to another device (e.g., a cellular telephone, a personal digital assistant or a portable memory device). The option of providing the entertainment content may be granted in various circumstances, e.g., in response to an aspect of a player's gaming on the gaming machine and/or an aspect of the player's gaming history. In some implementations, entertainment content may be offered as an inducement to join a player tracking program.
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Claims(24)
1. A method of providing entertainment content, the method comprising:
receiving a wager for a game of chance on a gaming machine;
providing the game of chance on the gaming machine;
presenting entertainment content options on the gaming machine; and
transferring entertainment content to a portable output device.
2. The method of claim 1, wherein the entertainment content options comprise one or more of a ring tone, an audio clip, a video clip, a music video, a game and an image.
3. The method of claim 1, wherein the presenting step is in response to an event in a player's gaming history.
4. The method of claim 1, wherein the presenting step depends on a wagering amount.
5. The method of claim 1, wherein a complete entertainment content unit comprises a plurality of entertainment content segments and wherein the transferring step comprises:
transferring one entertainment content segment after a first goal is attained; and
transferring another entertainment content segment after a second goal is attained.
6. The method of claim 1, wherein the presenting step comprises at least one of presenting a GUI on a display of the gaming machine and making an audio presentation.
7. The method of claim 1, wherein the portable output device comprises a cellular telephone, wherein the transferring step comprises transferring entertainment content to the cellular telephone.
8. The method of claim 1, wherein the portable output device comprises at least one of a personal digital assistant, a cellular telephone, an iPod, an MP3 player and a portable storage device.
9. The method of claim 1, wherein the portable output device is configured for communication with an interface of the gaming machine and wherein the transferring step comprises transferring the entertainment content to the portable output device via the interface.
10. The method of claim 1, further comprising the step of offering the entertainment content as an inducement to enroll in a player tracking program.
11. The method of claim 3, wherein the event comprises at least one of attaining a level of a player tracking program, playing a wagering game for a predetermined time, accumulating a predetermined number of bonus points, playing a wagering game for a predetermined number of times and wagering at least a predetermined amount.
12. The method of claim 5, wherein a complete entertainment content unit comprises N entertainment content segments and wherein all N entertainment content segments are transferred only after N goals are attained.
13. The method of claim 5, wherein a complete entertainment content unit comprises N entertainment content segments and wherein all N entertainment content segments are transferred after fewer than N goals are attained.
14. The method of claim 5, further comprising offering to transfer at least one entertainment content segment in exchange for a credit.
15. The method of claim 5, further comprising awarding at least one entertainment content segment of a second entertainment content unit after a player has obtained all entertainment content segments of a first entertainment content unit.
16. The method of claim 5, wherein the first and second goals comprise at least one of attaining a level of a player tracking program, playing a wagering game for a predetermined time, accumulating a predetermined number of bonus points, playing a wagering game for a predetermined number of times and wagering at least a predetermined amount.
17. A gaming method, comprising:
providing at least one game on a first device;
identifying a second device; and
offering to transfer entertainment content to the second device in response to a predetermined criterion relating to gaming on the first device.
18. The method of claim 17, wherein the first device is a gaming machine configured to provide wagering games and wherein the predetermined criterion comprises at least one of a predetermined level of a player tracking program, a predetermined time of playing a wagering game, a predetermined number of accumulated bonus points, a predetermined number of times that a wagering game has been played and a predetermined amount of wagering.
19. The method of claim 17, wherein a complete entertainment content unit comprises a plurality of entertainment content segments and wherein the offering step comprises:
offering to transfer one entertainment content segment after a first goal is attained; and
offering to transfer another entertainment content segment after a second goal is attained.
20. The method of claim 17, wherein the second device comprises at least one of a personal digital assistant, a cellular telephone, an iPod, an MP3 player and a portable storage device.
21. The method of claim 17, wherein the first device is a gaming machine configured to provide wagering games, wherein the predetermined criterion comprises a determination that a player tracking function of the gaming machine is not in use and wherein the offering step comprises an inducement to join a player tracking program.
22. A gaming machine, comprising:
means for receiving a wager for a game of chance;
means for providing the game of chance, the providing means comprising a display device;
a logic device configured to control the display device to present entertainment content options on the gaming machine; and
means for transferring entertainment content to a portable output device.
23. The gaming machine of claim 22, wherein the transferring means comprises an output device of the gaming machine.
24. The gaming machine of claim 22, wherein the transferring means comprises a network interface for communicating instructions to another device to transmit the entertainment content to the portable output device.
Description
CROSS-REFERENCE TO RELATED APPLICATION

This is a continuation-in-part of U.S. patent application Ser. No. 10/978,043, entitled “PLAY PER VIEW” and filed on Oct. 28, 2004, which is a continuation of U.S. patent application Ser. No. 09/665,526, entitled “METHOD AND APPARATUS FOR PROVIDING ENTERTAINMENT CONTENT ON A GAMING MACHINE” and filed on Sep. 19, 2000, both of which are hereby incorporated by reference in their entirety and for all purposes.

BACKGROUND OF THE INVENTION

This invention relates to entertainment content for gaming machines such as slot machines and video poker machines. More particularly, the present invention relates to methods of providing entertainment content to a player playing a game on the gaming machine.

As technology in the gaming industry progresses, the traditional mechanically driven reel slot machines are being replaced with electronic counterparts having CRT, LCD video displays or the like. These video/electronic gaming advancements enable the operation of more complex games, which would not otherwise be possible on mechanical-driven gaming machines. Gaming machines such as slot machines and video poker machines are becoming increasingly popular. Part of the reason for their increased popularity is the nearly endless variety of games that can be implemented on gaming machines utilizing advanced electronic technology.

There are a wide variety of associated devices that can be connected to a gaming machine such as a slot machine or video poker machine. Some examples of these devices are lights, ticket printers, card readers, speakers, bill validators, ticket readers, coin acceptors, display panels, key pads, coin hoppers and button pads. Many of these devices are built into the gaming machine or components associated with the gaming machine such as a top box that usually sits on top of the gaming machine.

Typically, utilizing a master gaming controller, the gaming machine controls various combinations of devices that allow a player to play a game on the gaming machine and also encourage game play on the gaming machine. For example, a game played on a gaming machine usually requires a player to input money or indicia of credit into the gaming machine, indicate a wager amount, and initiate a game play. These steps require the gaming machine to control input devices, including bill validators and coin acceptors, to accept money into the gaming machine and recognize user inputs from devices, including key pads and button pads, to determine the wager amount and initiate game play. After game play has been initiated, the gaming machine determines a game outcome, presents the game outcome to the player and may dispense an award of some type depending on the outcome of the game.

For gaming machine operators, an important aspect of operating a gaming machine is determining the game playing habits of individual game players. When the game playing habits of an individual player are known, the gaming machine operator may provide incentives corresponding to the game playing habits of the individual game player to encourage additional game play. For example, the gaming machine operator may provide an individual player with coupons for free meals, free rooms or discounted game play depending on their game playing habits.

Typically, on a casino floor with many gaming machines, many gaming machines remain idle while other gaming machines are being utilized by players playing games. When idle, a gaming machine does not generate revenue for the owner of the gaming machine. Thus, gaming hardware or methods that encourage additional game play on a gaming machine and/or generate revenue independent of the game play on a gaming machine are always sought after by gaming machine operators.

In view of the above, it would be desirable to provide methods and devices that create novel incentives for additional game play on gaming machines.

SUMMARY OF THE INVENTION

This invention addresses the needs indicated above by providing a gaming machine able to provide entertainment content (e.g. ring tones, videos, music, etc.) from entertainment content sources located within the gaming machine or outside of the gaming machine. A player may be presented with entertainment content options that may be accessed via the gaming machine or via another device. In some implementations of the invention, a player may be offered the option of transferring entertainment content to another device (e.g., a cellular telephone, a personal digital assistant or a portable memory device).

The option of providing the entertainment content may be granted in various circumstances, e.g., in response to an aspect of a player's gaming on the gaming machine and/or an aspect of the player's gaming history. The aspect may be, for example, attaining a level of a player tracking program, playing a wagering game for a predetermined time, accumulating a predetermined number of bonus points, playing a wagering game for a predetermined number of times and/or wagering at least a predetermined amount.

Some implementations of the invention involve methods for providing entertainment content. One such method includes these steps: receiving a wager for a game of chance on a gaming machine; providing the game of chance on the gaming machine; presenting entertainment content options on the gaming machine; and transferring entertainment content to a portable output device. The entertainment content options may comprise one or more of a ring tone, an audio clip, a video clip, a music video, a game and an image. The method may include the step of offering the entertainment content as an inducement to enroll in a player tracking program.

The presenting step may be in response to an event in a player's gaming history. The event may be at least one of attaining a level of a player tracking program, playing a wagering game for a predetermined time, accumulating a predetermined number of bonus points, playing a wagering game for a predetermined number of times and wagering at least a predetermined amount. The presenting step may depend on a wagering amount. The presenting step may include at least one of presenting a GUI on a display of the gaming machine and making an audio presentation.

According to some aspects of the method, a complete entertainment content unit comprises a plurality of entertainment content segments. If so, the transferring step may involve transferring one entertainment content segment after a first goal is attained and transferring another entertainment content segment after a second goal is attained. The first and second goals may include at least one of attaining a level of a player tracking program, playing a wagering game for a predetermined time, accumulating a predetermined number of bonus points, playing a wagering game for a predetermined number of times and wagering at least a predetermined amount.

The method can involve awarding at least one entertainment content segment of a second entertainment content unit after a player has obtained all entertainment content segments of a first entertainment content unit. The method may involve offering to transfer at least one entertainment content segment in exchange for a credit.

A complete entertainment content unit may comprise N entertainment content segments. According to some implementations, all N entertainment content segments are transferred only after N goals are attained. However, all N entertainment content segments may be transferred after fewer than N goals are attained.

The portable output device may be at least one of a personal digital assistant, a cellular telephone, an iPod, an MP3 player and a portable storage device. If the portable output device is a cellular telephone, the transferring step may involve transferring entertainment content to the cellular telephone. The portable output device may be configured for communication with an interface of the gaming machine and the transferring step may comprise transferring the entertainment content to the portable output device via the interface.

Alternative gaming methods are disclosed herein. One such method includes these steps: providing at least one game on a first device; identifying a second device; and offering to transfer entertainment content to the second device in response to a predetermined criterion relating to gaming on the first device.

The first device may be a gaming machine configured to provide wagering games. The predetermined criterion may comprise at least one of a predetermined level of a player tracking program, a predetermined time of playing a wagering game, a predetermined number of accumulated bonus points, a predetermined number of times that a wagering game has been played and a predetermined amount of wagering.

A complete entertainment content unit may comprise a plurality of entertainment content segments. The offering step may include offering to transfer one entertainment content segment after a first goal is attained; and offering to transfer another entertainment content segment after a second goal is attained.

The second device may comprise at least one of a personal digital assistant, a cellular telephone, an iPod, an MP3 player and a portable storage device. The first device may be a gaming machine configured to provide wagering games. The predetermined criterion may comprise a determination that a player tracking function of the gaming machine is not in use. The offering step may comprise an inducement to join a player tracking program.

Some embodiments of the invention provide a gaming machine, comprising: and apparatus for receiving a wager for a game of chance; hardware and software for providing the game of chance, the hardware including a display device; a logic device configured to control the display device to present entertainment content options on the gaming machine; and an interface for transferring entertainment content to a portable output device.

The interface may be configured for directly transferring entertainment content from the gaming machine to the portable output device. Alternatively, the interface may comprise a network interface for communicating instructions to another device to transmit the entertainment content to the portable output device.

The methods described herein may be implemented, at least in part, by software, hardware and/or firmware of a gaming machine and/or devices in communication with a gaming machine. These and other features of the present invention will be presented in more detail in the following detailed description of the invention and the associated figures.

BRIEF DESCRIPTION OF THE DRAWINGS

FIG. 1 is a perspective drawing of a gaming machine for one embodiment of this invention.

FIG. 2 is a block diagram of gaming machines connected to an entertainment content network.

FIG. 3 is a flow chart depicting a method for providing entertainment content according to some implementations of the invention.

FIG. 4 is a flow chart depicting a method for enhancing player interest on a gaming machine by providing entertainment content according to alternative implementations of the invention.

FIG. 5 is a block diagram of the inside of a gaming machine having a top box and other devices.

FIG. 6 is a block diagram of a network device that may be configured to perform, at least in part, some methods of the invention.

DESCRIPTION OF THE PREFERRED EMBODIMENTS

In this application, numerous specific details are set forth in order to provide a thorough understanding of the present invention. It will be obvious, however, to one skilled in the art, that the present invention may be practiced without some or all of these specific details. In other instances, well known process steps have not been described in detail in order not to obscure the present invention. Moreover, the steps of at least some of the methods described herein are not necessarily performed in the order indicated.

Some embodiments of the invention provide a gaming machine able to provide entertainment content (e.g. ring tones, videos, music, etc.) from entertainment content sources located within the gaming machine or outside of the gaming machine. A player may be presented with entertainment content options in various circumstances and/or according to various criteria. In some implementations, the entertainment content options may be accessed via the gaming machine. In other implementations of the invention, a player may be offered the option of transferring entertainment content to another device (e.g., a cellular telephone, a personal digital assistant or a portable memory device).

A gaming machine may offer entertainment content options in response to an aspect of a player's gaming on the gaming machine and/or an aspect of the player's gaming history. For example, entertainment content options may be offered when a player accumulates a predetermined number of bonus points. Alternatively, entertainment content options may be offered when a plays one or more wagering games on the gaming machine for a predetermined time, plays a predetermined number of a wagering game and/or wagers at least a predetermined amount.

Entertainment content options may be offered when a player attains a level of a player tracking program. Alternatively, entertainment content options may be offered when it is determined (e.g., by the gaming machine, an employee of a gaming establishment, etc.) that a player is not currently using a player tracking function of a gaming machine. The offer may be an inducement to enroll in the player tracking program.

According to some implementations of the invention, a complete entertainment content unit comprises a plurality of entertainment content segments. For example, the entertainment content unit may be an entire movie, sporting event, performance, etc. In such implementations, the gaming machine may offer to transfer one entertainment content segment after a first goal is attained, may offer to transfer another entertainment content segment after a second goal is attained, etc.

These and other implementations of the invention will be described in more detail with reference to the drawings. Turning first to FIG. 1, a video gaming machine 2 of the present invention is shown. Machine 2 includes a main cabinet 4, which generally surrounds the machine interior (not shown) and is viewable by users. The main cabinet includes a main door 8 on the front of the machine, which opens to provide access to the interior of the machine. Attached to the main door are player-input switches or buttons 32, a coin acceptor 28, and a bill validator 30, a coin tray 38, and a belly glass 40. Viewable through the main door is a video display monitor 34 and an information panel 36. The main display monitor 34 will typically be a cathode ray tube, high resolution flat-panel LCD, or other conventional electronically controlled video monitor. The gaming machine 2 includes a top box 6, which sits on top of the main cabinet 4. A second display monitor 42 may be provided in the top box or elsewhere. The second display monitor may also be a cathode ray tube, high resolution flat-panel LCD or other conventional electronically controlled video monitor. It will be appreciated that various aspects of the invention could be embodied in gaming machines having either more than or fewer than 2 displays.

Typically, after a player has initiated a game on the gaming machine, one purpose of the main display monitor 34 and the second display monitor 42 is the visual display of a game outcome presentation, including bonus games, controlled by a master gaming controller. Also, the main display monitor 34 and the second display monitor 42 may also be utilized to display entertainment content some of which may be provided independently of the game outcome presentation. For example, entertainment content options may be provided in response to one or more aspects of a player's gaming history and/or game play on the gaming machine. For example, entertainment content options may be provided when a player attains a predetermined level of a player tracking program. Alternatively, entertainment content options may be provided after a player has played a wagering game for a predetermined time, accumulated a predetermined number of bonus points, played a wagering game for a predetermined number of times or wagered at least a predetermined amount.

In some implementations of the invention, the player may be presented with an option of transferring entertainment content to another device. The device may be, for example, a cellular telephone, an iPod™ or other portable audio player, a ROKR™, a portable digital assistant, a portable video player, a portable memory device, etc. The entertainment content options that may be provided to the second device may include, e.g., ring tones (used broadly herein to include ring-back tones), videos, games, music, digital images, etc. In some such implementations, the entertainment content may be transferred directly from the gaming machine to the second device by a wired or wireless interface. In alternative implementations, the gaming machine may send instructions to another networked device (e.g., to entertainment server 200 of FIG. 2).

In alternative implementations, broadcast events, including television programming, may be provided to the main display monitor 34 and the secondary display monitor 42 via a cable link or other suitable link from outside of the gaming machine. All or some subset of the programming provided by a television broadcaster may be displayed as entertainment content on one or both of the video displays. Television programming content of particular interest to casino operators and game players may include, for example, sporting events, talk shows, game shows, soap operas, advertisements, situation comedies, etc. In addition, broadcasts of competitive events on which the player can wager may be displayed. For example, dog racing or horse racing events may be displayed as content on the video display. In such events, there is typically a rather long down time between races. During this period, the player may play the gaming machine. Then, when a race begins, the player focuses his or her attention on that event without needing to leave his position at the gaming machine. Also, the television programming entertainment content may be displayed while a player is engaged in playing a game on the gaming machine or between games. Similarly, the entertainment content may include information available on the Internet, including the World Wide Web.

Returning to the gaming machine in FIG. 1, the information panel 36 may be a back-lit, silk screened glass panel with lettering to indicate general game information including, for example, the number of coins played. The bill validator 30, player-input switches 32, video display monitor 34, and information panel are devices used to play a game on the game machine 2. The devices are controlled by a master gaming controller that is housed inside the main cabinet 4 of the machine 2. Many possible games, including traditional mechanical slot games, video slot games, video poker, video pachinko and keno, may be provided with gaming machines of this invention.

The top box 6 houses a number of devices, which may be used to add features to a game being played on the gaming machine 2, including speakers 10, 12, 14, a ticket printer 18 which prints bar-coded tickets 20, a key pad 22, a florescent display 16 and a card reader 24 for entering a magnetic striped cards. The speakers may be used to project sound effects as part of a game outcome presentation. The key pad 22, the florescent display 16 and the card reader 24 may be used to enter and display player tracking information. As another example, the player may enter playing tracking information and identification information using the card reader 24 and the main video display 34 where the main video display may be used as a touch screen to enter information. Player tracking information may be entered into the gaming machine before a player initiates a game on the gaming machine. Typically, the player's incentive to enter player tracking information into the gaming machine 2 is the potential for receiving rewards related to the amount of a player's game play.

In addition to enabling player tracking services, the key pad 22, displays (including but not limited to the florescent display 16) and/or the card reader 24 may be used to enter identification information that enables a player to access entertainment content and/or to send or receive free personal messages (e.g., audio, video or text messages) on the gaming machine or another device. In some implementations, such activity is independent of game play and game outcome presentation on the gaming machine 2. For example, a player may touch a GUI displayed on an area of a display device to select desired entertainment content and/or a desired mode of receiving the entertainment content. A player may, for example, select a ring tone and also indicate a telephone number of a cellular telephone or similar device for receipt of the ring tone. Alternatively, the player may select music, a video, etc., and choose to have the entertainment content downloaded to another device via the gaming machine via a wired port (e.g., a USB port) or a wireless port. The player may be provided the option of indicating a telephone number, an email address, an IP address, etc., for receipt of the entertainment content.

In some implementations of the invention, a player may enter a personal identification number into the gaming machine 2 using the key pad 22 that allows the player to receive entertainment content such as viewing a movie or a broadcast event. As another example, after entering the personal identification number, the player may be allowed to receive a personal message indicating a table is ready at a restaurant in the casino or to receive a personal message containing information on a sporting event such as a score of personal interest to the player utilizing the gaming machine.

The identification information may be separate from the player tracking information, may be ascertained from the player tracking information or may be in addition to the player tracking information entered into a gaming machine by the player utilizing a gaming machine. For example, the player may utilize an identification number as the identification information that is independent of any player tracking information entered into the gaming machine. The identification number may allow a player to send or receive a particular personal message (e.g. a dinner reservation is ready) or a number of personal messages during a certain time period.

In addition to the devices described above, the top box 6 may contain different or additional devices than shown in the FIG. 1. For example, the top box may contain a bonus wheel or a back-lit silk screened panel which may be used to add bonus features to the game being played on the gaming machine. During a game, these devices are controlled and powered, in part, by circuitry (not shown) housed within the main cabinet 4 of the machine 2. Understand that gaming machine 2 is but one example from a wide range of gaming machine designs on which the present invention may be implemented. For example, not all suitable gaming machines have top boxes or player tracking features. Further, some gaming machines have two or more game displays—mechanical and/or video, while others are designed for bar tables and have displays that face upwards.

As another example, a game may be generated on a host computer and may be displayed on a remote terminal or a remote gaming device. The remote gaming device may be connected to the host computer via a network of some type such as a local area network, a wide area network, an intranet or the Internet. The remote gaming device may be a portable gaming device such as but not limited to a cell phone, a personal digital assistant, and a wireless game player. Images rendered from 3-D gaming environments may be displayed on portable gaming devices that are used to play a game of chance. Further, a gaming machine or server may include gaming logic for commanding a remote gaming device to render an image from a virtual camera in a 3-D gaming environments stored on the remote gaming device and to display the rendered image on a display located on the remote gaming device. Thus, those of skill in the art will understand that the present invention, as described below, can be deployed on most any gaming machine now available or hereafter developed.

Some preferred gaming machines of the present assignee are implemented with special features and/or additional circuitry that differentiates them from general-purpose computers (e.g., desktop PC's and laptops). Gaming machines are highly regulated to ensure fairness and, in many cases, gaming machines are operable to dispense monetary awards of multiple millions of dollars. Therefore, to satisfy security and regulatory requirements in a gaming environment, hardware and software architectures may be implemented in gaming machines that differ significantly from those of general-purpose computers. A description of gaming machines relative to general-purpose computing machines and some examples of the additional (or different) components and features found in gaming machines are described below.

At first glance, one might think that adapting PC technologies to the gaming industry would be a simple proposition because both PCs and gaming machines employ microprocessors that control a variety of devices. However, because of such reasons as 1) the regulatory requirements that are placed upon gaming machines, 2) the harsh environment in which gaming machines operate, 3) security requirements and 4) fault tolerance requirements, adapting PC technologies to a gaming machine can be quite difficult. Further, techniques and methods for solving a problem in the PC industry, such as device compatibility and connectivity issues, might not be adequate in the gaming environment. For instance, a fault or a weakness tolerated in a PC, such as security holes in software or frequent crashes, may not be tolerated in a gaming machine because in a gaming machine these faults can lead to a direct loss of funds from the gaming machine, such as stolen cash or loss of revenue when the gaming machine is not operating properly.

For the purposes of illustration, a few differences between PC systems and gaming systems will be described. A first difference between gaming machines and common PC based computers systems is that gaming machines are designed to be state-based systems. In a state-based system, the system stores and maintains its current state in a non-volatile memory, such that, in the event of a power failure or other malfunction the gaming machine will return to its current state when the power is restored. For instance, if a player was shown an award for a game of chance and, before the award could be provided to the player the power failed, the gaming machine, upon the restoration of power, would return to the state where the award is indicated. As anyone who has used a PC, knows, PCs are not state machines and a majority of data is usually lost when a malfunction occurs. This requirement affects the software and hardware design on a gaming machine.

A second important difference between gaming machines and common PC based computer systems is that for regulation purposes, the software on the gaming machine used to generate the game of chance and operate the gaming machine has been designed to be static and monolithic to prevent cheating by the operator of gaming machine. For instance, one solution that has been employed in the gaming industry to prevent cheating and satisfy regulatory requirements has been to manufacture a gaming machine that can use a proprietary processor running instructions to generate the game of chance from an EPROM or other form of non-volatile memory. The coding instructions on the EPROM are static (non-changeable) and must be approved by a gaming regulators in a particular jurisdiction and installed in the presence of a person representing the gaming jurisdiction. Any changes to any part of the software required to generate the game of chance, such as adding a new device driver used by the master gaming controller to operate a device during generation of the game of chance can require a new EPROM to be burnt, approved by the gaming jurisdiction and reinstalled on the gaming machine in the presence of a gaming regulator. Regardless of whether the EPROM solution is used, to gain approval in most gaming jurisdictions, a gaming machine must demonstrate sufficient safeguards that prevent an operator or player of a gaming machine from manipulating hardware and software in a manner that gives them an unfair and some cases an illegal advantage. The gaming machine should have a means to determine if the code it will execute is valid. If the code is not valid, the gaming machine must have a means to prevent the code from being executed. The code validation requirements in the gaming industry affect both hardware and software designs on gaming machines.

A third important difference between gaming machines and common PC based computer systems is the number and kinds of peripheral devices used on a gaming machine are not as great as on PC based computer systems. Traditionally, in the gaming industry, gaming machines have been relatively simple in the sense that the number of peripheral devices and the number of functions the gaming machine has been limited. Further, in operation, the functionality of gaming machines were relatively constant once the gaming machine was deployed, i.e., new peripherals devices and new gaming software were infrequently added to the gaming machine. This differs from a PC where users will go out and buy different combinations of devices and software from different manufacturers and connect them to a PC to suit their needs depending on a desired application. Therefore, the types of devices connected to a PC may vary greatly from user to user depending in their individual requirements and may vary significantly over time.

Although the variety of devices available for a PC may be greater than on a gaming machine, gaming machines still have unique device requirements that differ from a PC, such as device security requirements not usually addressed by PCs. For instance, monetary devices, such as coin dispensers, bill validators and ticket printers and computing devices that are used to govern the input and output of cash to a gaming machine have security requirements that are not typically addressed in PCs. Therefore, many PC techniques and methods developed to facilitate device connectivity and device compatibility do not address the emphasis placed on security in the gaming industry.

To address some of the issues described above, a number of hardware/software components and architectures are utilized in gaming machines that are not typically found in general purpose computing devices, such as PCs. These hardware/software components and architectures, as described below in more detail, include but are not limited to watchdog timers, voltage monitoring systems, state-based software architecture and supporting hardware, specialized communication interfaces, security monitoring and trusted memory.

A watchdog timer is normally used in IGT gaming machines to provide a software failure detection mechanism. In a normally operating system, the operating software periodically accesses control registers in the watchdog timer subsystem to “re-trigger” the watchdog. Should the operating software fail to access the control registers within a preset timeframe, the watchdog timer will timeout and generate a system reset. Typical watchdog timer circuits contain a loadable timeout counter register to allow the operating software to set the timeout interval within a certain range of time. A differentiating feature of the some preferred circuits is that the operating software cannot completely disable the function of the watchdog timer. In other words, the watchdog timer always functions from the time power is applied to the board.

IGT gaming computer platforms preferably use several power supply voltages to operate portions of the computer circuitry. These can be generated in a central power supply or locally on the computer board. If any of these voltages falls out of the tolerance limits of the circuitry they power, unpredictable operation of the computer may result. Though most modern general-purpose computers include voltage monitoring circuitry, these types of circuits only report voltage status to the operating software. Out of tolerance voltages can cause software malfunction, creating a potential uncontrolled condition in the gaming computer. Gaming machines of the present assignee typically have power supplies with tighter voltage margins than that required by the operating circuitry. In addition, the voltage monitoring circuitry implemented in IGT gaming computers typically has two thresholds of control. The first threshold generates a software event that can be detected by the operating software and an error condition generated. This threshold is triggered when a power supply voltage falls out of the tolerance range of the power supply, but is still within the operating range of the circuitry. The second threshold is set when a power supply voltage falls out of the operating tolerance of the circuitry. In this case, the circuitry generates a reset, halting operation of the computer.

The standard method of operation for IGT slot machine game software is to use a state machine. Different functions of the game (bet, play, result, points in the graphical presentation, etc.) may be defined as a state. When a game moves from one state to another, critical data regarding the game software is stored in a custom non-volatile memory subsystem. This is critical to ensure the player's wager and credits are preserved and to minimize potential disputes in the event of a malfunction on the gaming machine.

In general, the gaming machine does not advance from a first state to a second state until critical information that allows the first state to be reconstructed is stored. This feature allows the game to recover operation to the current state of play in the event of a malfunction, loss of power, etc that occurred just prior to the malfunction. After the state of the gaming machine is restored during the play of a game of chance, game play may resume and the game may be completed in a manner that is no different than if the malfunction had not occurred. Typically, battery backed RAM devices are used to preserve this critical data although other types of non-volatile memory devices may be employed. These memory devices are not used in typical general-purpose computers.

As described in the preceding paragraph, when a malfunction occurs during a game of chance, the gaming machine may be restored to a state in the game of chance just prior to when the malfunction occurred. The restored state may include metering information and graphical information that was displayed on the gaming machine in the state prior to the malfunction. For example, when the malfunction occurs during the play of a card game after the cards have been dealt, the gaming machine may be restored with the cards that were previously displayed as part of the card game. As another example, a bonus game may be triggered during the play of a game of chance where a player is required to make a number of selections on a video display screen. When a malfunction has occurred after the player has made one or more selections, the gaming machine may be restored to a state that shows the graphical presentation at the just prior to the malfunction including an indication of selections that have already been made by the player. In general, the gaming machine may be restored to any state in a plurality of states that occur in the game of chance that occurs while the game of chance is played or to states that occur between the play of a game of chance.

Game history information regarding previous games played such as an amount wagered, the outcome of the game and so forth may also be stored in a non-volatile memory device. The information stored in the non-volatile memory may be detailed enough to reconstruct a portion of the graphical presentation that was previously presented on the gaming machine and the state of the gaming machine (e.g., credits) at the time the game of chance was played. The game history information may be utilized in the event of a dispute. For example, a player may decide that in a previous game of chance that they did not receive credit for an award that they believed they won. The game history information may be used to reconstruct the state of the gaming machine prior, during and/or after the disputed game to demonstrate whether the player was correct or not in their assertion.

Another feature of gaming machines, such as IGT gaming computers, is that they often contain unique interfaces, including serial interfaces, to connect to specific subsystems internal and external to the slot machine. The serial devices may have electrical interface requirements that differ from the “standard” EIA 232 serial interfaces provided by general-purpose computers. These interfaces may include EIA 485, EIA 422, Fiber Optic Serial, optically coupled serial interfaces, current loop style serial interfaces, etc. In addition, to conserve serial interfaces internally in the slot machine, serial devices may be connected in a shared, daisy-chain fashion where multiple peripheral devices are connected to a single serial channel.

The serial interfaces may be used to transmit information using communication protocols that are unique to the gaming industry. For example, IGT's Netplex is a proprietary communication protocol used for serial communication between gaming devices. As another example, SAS is a communication protocol used to transmit information, such as metering information, from a gaming machine to a remote device. Often SAS is used in conjunction with a player tracking system.

IGT gaming machines may alternatively be treated as peripheral devices to a casino communication controller and connected in a shared daisy chain fashion to a single serial interface. In both cases, the peripheral devices are preferably assigned device addresses. If so, the serial controller circuitry must implement a method to generate or detect unique device addresses. General-purpose computer serial ports are not able to do this.

Security monitoring circuits detect intrusion into an IGT gaming machine by monitoring security switches attached to access doors in the slot machine cabinet. Preferably, access violations result in suspension of game play and can trigger additional security operations to preserve the current state of game play. These circuits also function when power is off by use of a battery backup. In power-off operation, these circuits continue to monitor the access doors of the slot machine. When power is restored, the gaming machine can determine whether any security violations occurred while power was off, e.g., via software for reading status registers. This can trigger event log entries and further data authentication operations by the slot machine software.

Trusted memory devices are preferably included in an IGT gaming machine computer to ensure the authenticity of the software that may be stored on less secure memory subsystems, such as mass storage devices. Trusted memory devices and controlling circuitry are typically designed to not allow modification of the code and data stored in the memory device while the memory device is installed in the slot machine. The code and data stored in these devices may include authentication algorithms, random number generators, authentication keys, operating system kernels, etc. The purpose of these trusted memory devices is to provide gaming regulatory authorities a root trusted authority within the computing environment of the slot machine that can be tracked and verified as original. This may be accomplished via removal of the trusted memory device from the slot machine computer and verification of the secure memory device contents is a separate third party verification device. Once the trusted memory device is verified as authentic, and based on the approval of the verification algorithms contained in the trusted device, the gaming machine is allowed to verify the authenticity of additional code and data that may be located in the gaming computer assembly, such as code and data stored on hard disk drives. A few details related to trusted memory devices that may be used in the present invention are described in U.S. Pat. No. 6,685,567 from U.S. patent application Ser. No. 09/925,098, filed Aug. 8, 2001 and titled “Process Verification,” which is incorporated herein in its entirety and for all purposes.

Mass storage devices used in a general purpose computer typically allow code and data to be read from and written to the mass storage device. In a gaming machine environment, modification of the gaming code stored on a mass storage device is strictly controlled and would only be allowed under specific maintenance type events with electronic and physical enablers required. Though this level of security could be provided by software, IGT gaming computers that include mass storage devices preferably include hardware level mass storage data protection circuitry that operates at the circuit level to monitor attempts to modify data on the mass storage device and will generate both software and hardware error triggers should a data modification be attempted without the proper electronic and physical enablers being present.

Returning to the example of FIG. 1, when a user selects a gaming machine 2, he or she inserts cash through the coin acceptor 28 or bill validator 30. Additionally, the bill validator may accept a printed ticket voucher that may be accepted by the bill validator 30 as an indicium of credit. Once cash or another indicium of credit has been accepted by the gaming machine, the resulting credits may be used to play a game on the gaming machine. Typically, the player may use all or part of the cash entered into the gaming machine to make a wager on a game play. Depending on the amount of the wager on a game or for a fee, a player may be able to access various entertainment content sources, at least for a length of time. For example, a wager on a game above a certain threshold amount may enable a player to watch a broadcast event or to access the World Wide Web for up to a predetermined length of time on the gaming machine 2. In addition, cash or indicia of credit entered into the gaming machine may be used to purchase entertainment content independent of a wager made on a game on the gaming machine. For example, for a 10 dollar fee, a player may view a movie on the gaming machine. While watching the movie on the gaming machine, the player may play games on the gaming machine or just watch the movie.

During the course of a game, a player may be required to make a number of decisions which affect the outcome of the game. For example, a player may vary his or her wager, select a prize, or make game-time decisions that affect the game play. These choices may be selected using the player-input switches 32, the main video display screen 34 or using some other device which enables a player to input information into the gaming machine including a key pad, a touch screen, a mouse, a joy stick, a microphone and a track ball.

When a game is not being played on the gaming machine or during particular game operational modes, the player may select an entertainment content source using the above-mentioned inputs. In some implementations of the invention, the entertainment content is independent of a game being played on the gaming machine. However, in alternative implementations, the proffered entertainment content may relate to game play on the machine. For example, the player may be offered the opportunity to download an audio or video clip that is associated with winning a prize on the gaming machine. For example, the player may choose to set his or her ring tone to be the sound that the gaming machine produces when a player wins a jackpot.

The entertainment content source may include, for instance, a storage device of the gaming machine, a CD player, an FM/AM tuner, a VHS player, a DVD player, a TV tuner, a musical jukebox, a video jukebox, a computer, a server and a media software application. It will be appreciated, however, that any information source may be utilized.

Before playing a game, a player may select the video jukebox, which may contain a DVD player loaded with many DVDs, as the entertainment content source and preview a movie on at least one of the display screens on the gaming machine 2. The DVDs may be stored on the gaming machine 2 or in a central location separate from the gaming machine. The visual display of the output from the video jukebox may be viewed by the player on the main video display screen 34 or the secondary video display screen 42. The sound for the movie may be projected by the speakers 10, 12 and 14 on the gaming machine or a player may listen to the movie through headphones. The entertainment content received on the headphones may also be enabled through a wireless or wired communication interface to the gaming machine or some other device located within the casino.

The game player may also use the player input switches 32, key pad 22, and other input devices to control a feature of the entertainment content. For example, when the entertainment content is a movie, the player input switches 32 and key pad may be operated to fast forward, stop or pause the movie. When the entertainment content is accessing the World Wide Web through a web browser, the player input switches 32 and key pad may be used to operate the web browser.

During certain game events, the gaming machine 2 may display visual and auditory effects that can be perceived by the player. These effects add to the excitement of a game, which makes a player more likely to continue playing. Auditory effects include various sounds that are projected by the speakers 10, 12, 14. Visual effects include flashing lights, strobing lights or other patterns displayed from lights on the gaming machine 2 or from lights behind the belly glass 40. After the player has completed a game, the player may receive game tokens from the coin tray 38 or the ticket 20 from the printer 18, which may be used for further games or to redeem a prize. Further, the player may receive a ticket 20 for food, merchandise, or games from the printer 18. In some embodiments, the tickets may be used by a game player to obtain entertainment content. A ticket, for instance, may be printed with a “free movie” that allows a player to access a movie from the gaming machine that printed the ticket or another gaming machine.

Some advantages of providing gaming machines with the entertainment content choices described above are 1) increasing a player's interest in utilizing a gaming machine for longer periods of time and 2) providing more revenue generating uses for the gaming machine. Both of these advantages increase the potential profits that may be obtained from a gaming machine. In addition, any entertainment content services which attract a player to utilize a gaming machine, even activities that do not directly involve game playing, may indirectly increase gaming machine revenues because once a player is utilizing a gaming machine for any function the probability that a game playing session or other revenue generating activity will be initiated on the gaming machine is greatly increased.

Greater versatility in providing entertainment content and other features may be obtained when gaming machines are part of a network. A simplified version of one such network is depicted in FIG. 2. However, the present invention may be practiced with a variety of other network topologies, including but not limited to those described in U.S. patent application Ser. No. 11/225,407, entitled “METHODS AND DEVICES FOR MANAGING GAMING NETWORKS” and filed on Sep. 12, 2005, which is hereby incorporated by reference.

FIG. 2 is a block diagram of a plurality of gaming machines, 245, 250 and 255, connected to an entertainment content network 225. Gaming machines 245, 250 and 255 are connected in a gaming machine loop 260 on a casino floor. The gaming machine loop 260 may be a series of fiber optic connections between the gaming machines or some other wire or wireless connection scheme. These gaming machines may be physically proximate to one another on the casino floor or spread out over the casino floor.

Gaming machines 245, 250, 255 and 256 are illustrated with different combinations of entertainment content and game presentations on the main video display screen 34 and secondary video display screen 42. For example, on gaming machine 245, a game presentation 290 is displayed on the main display screen 34 and advertising entertainment content 280 is displayed on the secondary display 42. In another embodiment, a picture in a picture display 257 is implemented on the main display screen 34 on gaming machine 256. As described elsewhere herein, a player may operate the input switches 32, interact with graphical user interfaces (“GUIs”) on a touch screen, etc., in order to indicate game decisions, select entertainment content and/or adjust features of the entertainment content.

On the gaming machine 250, the movie display 275, displayed on the main video display screen 34, occupies nearly the entire screen. In this embodiment, the player at the gaming machine may be only viewing a movie and may not be engaged in any game play. In another example, the player may be previewing movies, which may be selected as a prize for the game played on the gaming machine 255. Thus, after previewing the movies, the player may engage in game play. In general, the gaming features and entertainment content features available on gaming machines allow many different sequences of game play and entertainment content utilization by the player. Game play and entertainment content utilization by the player may occur in a simultaneous manner and/or in a sequential manner.

Referring now to gaming machine 255, a web browser 296 connected to the World Wide Web or some other information network is displayed on the secondary display screen 42. As an example, the web browser may be used to obtain information from the World Wide Web, receive electronic mail or perform other information services available through the Internet, Intranet or other network. The main display screen 34 may be a split window. For example, the window may be split into three parts: 1) a game presentation 290; 2) entertainment content, which is a broadcast event 284 in this example; and 3) touch screen controls 282. The game presentation 290 may be used to play a game on the gaming machine where the touch screen controls 282 and the input switches 32 are used to control game inputs. The broadcast event 284 may be a live or pre-recorded performance, television programming, sporting event, etc. The broadcast event 284 may be obtained from sources generally available to the public (e.g. broadcast events) or may be in-house or special programming (e.g. pay per view).

In this example, the gaming machines 245, 250, 255 are connected to an entertainment service network 225 and may communicate with other devices on this network and other networks. This entertainment service network 225 may offer entertainment content and other services to connected gaming machines and other devices, such as portable memory device 233, cellular telephone 285 and/or PDA 295. The network may utilize any suitable protocol or group of protocols such as USB, Ethernet, TCP/IP and the like for intercommunication. Examples of devices that may reside on this network include an entertainment server 200 containing entertainment content sources (e.g. a CD player, an FM/AM tuner, a VHS player, a DVD player, a TV tuner, a musical jukebox, a video jukebox, a computer, a server, media software applications and the like), a prize server 215, a casino services server 220, a player tracking server 210, and a player coordination server 226.

The entertainment service network 225 may be comprised of fiber optic connections, copper Ethernet connections, wireless connections or any combinations thereof of the three types of connections. The entertainment service network 225 may include a local area network within one location (such as a casino), a bonus game network and/or a cashless system network. In addition, the entertainment service network 225 may be connected to a wide area network connecting many physical locations such as a wide area progressive network.

Here, entertainment service network 225 is configured for communication with network 230, which comprises the Internet in this example. However, network 230 may also comprise, or be in communication with, other networks such as a telephone network (e.g., a cellular telephone network), Network A 235 and Network B 240. For example, Network A 235 may be a wide area progressive network and Network B 240 may be an entertainment service network at another casino.

Accordingly, access to the gaming machine may be limited by an internal firewall within the gaming machine. The internal firewall may be hardware, software or combinations of both that prevent illegal access of the gaming machine by an outside entity connected to the gaming machine. For instance, an illegal access may be an attempt to plant a program in the gaming machine that alters the operation of the gaming machine from a World Wide Web site. The internal firewall is designed to prevent someone such as a hacker from gaining illegal access to the gaming machine and tampering with it in some manner. The gaming machines 245, 250, 255 and 260 may contain internal firewalls.

The touch screen controls 282 and input switches 32 may be used to operate features of the entertainment content and/or perform game play on the gaming machine. For example, the touch screen controls 282 may be used to select entertainment content from a displayed menu, utilize features of the web browser 296, to change the television programming content (e.g. change channels) and/or for game play on the gaming machine.

The displayed features of the touch screen controls 282 may change according to what features of the entertainment content or the gaming machine are being utilized. For instance, when television programming is being viewed on the display screen, then features that allow a player to adjust the volume or change the channel may be displayed on the touch screen. When a movie or a musical selection is being displayed on the display screen, then features that enable a player to adjust the volume, change the channel, forward, reverse, stop or pause may be displayed on the display screen. When a player utilizes the touch screen controls 282 or the input switches 32, input signals indicating a particular operation are sent to a logic device (e.g., the master gaming controller) within the gaming machine and the operation may be performed. For example, when a player hits a button to fast forward a movie, then the gaming machine directs the entertainment content source (i.e. a DVD player) to perform the operation.

In one embodiment of the present invention, after a player enters player tracking information (e.g. using the card reader 24 or some other input device) and the player tracking information is sent to the player tracking server 210, the player tracking server 210 may examine a player's information profile stored on the player tracking server 210. The information profile may contain information regarding a player's past game playing habits and past entertainment content utilization. Applying software that evaluates the information profile, the player tracking server 210 may transmit instructions to the gaming machine to display entertainment content of particular interest to a game player playing a game on the gaming machine. For example, the gaming machine may display advertisements, news, stock quotes, electronic mail messages, movie selections, musical selections broadcast events and other entertainment content of interest to the player playing the game on the gaming machine. By personalizing the messages sent to a player playing a game on the gaming machine, players may be encouraged to increase the amount of their game play on the gaming machine.

In general, personalized entertainment content, personalized messages and personalized services on a gaming machine may be implemented without the player tracking server 210. As described with reference to FIG. 1, a player may enter identification information on the gaming machine. The identification information may be independent of the player tracking information or share elements of the player tracking information. After the gaming machine receives the identification information, the gaming machine may send the identification information to a server including the player coordination server 226. The player coordination server may assign a communication identifier to the gaming machine. For example, when the player coordination server 226 and the gaming machines 245, 250 and 255 use a TCP/IP communication protocol, the gaming machines may be assigned an IP address when a player enters identification information into the gaming machine.

Using the IP address and an appropriate communication protocol, personal messages may be sent to a gaming machine from different information sources located outside the gaming machine for a particular player playing utilizing the gaming machine. A restaurant employee (e.g. the information source), for example, may send a personal message in the form of e-mail or some other electronic message to a player playing a game on the a gaming machine indicating a dinner reservation is ready. The process may include: 1) a restaurant employee typing a message indicating the reservation is ready into a computer; 2) the computer sending the message to the casino services server 220; 3) the casino service server 220 sending a message to the player coordination server 226 requesting the IP address of the gaming machine or other communication identifier of the gaming machine where the player is located; 4) the player coordination server 226 establishing a communication link between the casino server and the gaming machine including 245, 250 and 255; and 5) the casino server 220 sending a message to one of the gaming machines 245, 250, and 255. In addition, advertisements or news of particular interest to a player based on a player's information profile stored on the player coordination server 226 may be sent to the player. In this example, the player coordination server 226 essentially functions as a message router. Message routing technology that may perform some of these functions is available from CISCO Technologies, San Jose, Calif.

In other embodiments, voice messages or electronic messages may be sent to a first player on a gaming machine from a hotel/casino employee performing a hotel/casino service and from a second player on a different gaming machine attempting to locate or communicate with the first player. The voice messages may be implemented using a Voice over IP technology available from CISCO Technologies, San Jose, Calif. In addition, a player on the gaming machines may receive the personal message from an entertainment content source being utilized as the information source. For example, the information source may be selected from the group consisting of the CD player, the FM/AM tuner, the VHS player, the DVD player, the TV tuner, the musical jukebox, the video jukebox, the computer, the server or the media software application. The entertainment content from the information source may be personalized to sustain the player's interest in utilizing the gaming machine. For instance, musical selections from a musical jukebox may be sent to the gaming machine based upon a player profile stored within the player coordination server 226 or targeted advertising, which may only be of interest to select players, may be sent to a select player based upon their player profile stored within the player coordination server 226.

After the gaming machine receives the personal message from the information source, the gaming machine outputs the personal message to an output device appropriate for the message. For example, an electronic mail messages, stock quotes, news, prize information or advertisements of interest to the player playing the game on the gaming machine may be displayed on the monitor, the LCD, the florescent display on the gaming machine. In addition, these visual messages may be output to a personal digital assistant, a pager, cell phone or the head-mounted video display carried or worn by the player. An audio message for the player may be output to a sound projection device on the gaming machine, headphones worn by the player or a cell phone carried by the player.

Turning now to FIG. 3, a flow chart depicts method 300 for providing entertainment content according to some implementations of the invention. The steps of method 300 will be described, where appropriate, with reference to the features of FIG. 2.

In step 305, it is determined (e.g., by a logic device of a gaming machine) that a predetermined condition has been satisfied. According to some implementations of the invention, the predetermined condition for accessing entertainment content may be: 1) a wager amount made on a single game play; 2) an average or total wager amount over a period of time made by the player; and/or 3) another aspect of or event in a game playing history of the player obtained from player tracking information or some other source. The games of primary interest to the assignee are wagering games, but method 300 is not so limited. The event may be, for example, attaining a level of a player tracking program, playing a wagering game for a predetermined time, accumulating a predetermined number of bonus points, playing a wagering game for a predetermined number of times, etc.

In some implementations of the invention, the predetermined condition of step 305 is the player's acceptance of an offer to enroll in a player tracking program. In some such implementations, prior to step 305 a player may have received an audio and/or visual inducement to receive entertainment content in return for joining the player tracking program. The player's acceptance may be determined, for example, by the player's entry of the required information via an input device of a gaming machine.

In yet other implementations, the predetermined condition of step 305 may be the receipt of a monetary credit or the like. To access entertainment content on the gaming machines 245, 250 255 and 256, a player may be required to input an indicium of credit for the selected entertainment content or to commit an indicium of credit already available on the gaming machine. The gaming machine may notify the player of the required amount by displaying a message of some type to the player. For example, after a player has selected a video jukebox as the entertainment source, the gaming machine may display a message such as “please deposit 5 credits” or “the selected entertainment content source requires 5 credits, hit button A to commit this amount.” The entertainment content source will then be initiated when the required funds have been made available to the gaming machine. In this manner, a player may access an entertainment content source without initiating game play on the gaming machine i.e. by making a wager on a game.

After the determination of step 305 has been made, entertainment content options are displayed in step 310. Entertainment content options may be presented in different ways according to various implementations of the invention. For example, a list may be displayed on an output device of the gaming machine. The entertainment content options may be displayed on a first display and the entertainment content (and/or samples thereof, such as video clips) may be provided on a second display. One such implementation is depicted on gaming machine 250, wherein a content list 265 of entertainment content options and/or sources is displayed on the secondary video screen 42 while entertainment content (a movie in this example) is displayed on the main display screen 34.

Entertainment content options may be provided, at least in part, in audio format. For example, ring tones or other music clips may be previewed by a player prior to selecting them. In some implementations, a player may receive an audio and/or visual prompt to take an action relating to entertainment content options.

In some embodiments, the entertainment content list 265 may indicate entertainment content sources such as a CD player, an FM/AM tuner, a VHS player, a DVD player, a TV tuner, a musical jukebox, a video jukebox, a computer, a server and a media software application. However, in alternative embodiments, the entertainment content is indicated on the content list but the entertainment content sources are not. The entertainment content source may be located physically within the gaming machine or at a location outside of the gaming machine but in communication with the gaming machine.

The content list 265 may be presented as a series of menus. For example, after selecting the DVD player as the entertainment content source from the content list 265, the content list 265 may display a list of DVD titles, which the player may select for viewing on the gaming machine. Further, the entertainment content list 265 may be personalized to the individual player. The entertainment content list, for instance, may display DVD titles that are of particular interest to a game player.

In some implementations, the entertainment content list is organized and/or searchable by category. For example, within a “ring tones” category, there may be “real” and “polyphonic” (a/k/a “poly”) subcategories. Within each of these subcategories may be various musical genres, such as “Country,” “Hip Hop,” “Jazz,” “Reggae,” “Techno,” etc. Similar categories and subcategories could be used for other types of entertainment content. Alternatively, or additionally, a content list could allow a user to search by artist, by performance, or by other applicable criteria depending on the type of entertainment content. For example, movies may be searchable by director, by a featured actor or actress, by the type of movie (comedy, drama, horror), etc. Sporting events may be searchable by the type of sport, location, team (if applicable), date and/or by a featured athlete (e.g., Boxing/Mohammed Ali/Manila). Similarly, artistic performances may be searchable by artist/group, type of performance, location, etc. (e.g., Cirque du Soleil/“O”/Bellagio/September 2005).

In step 315, an entertainment content selection is received. For example, an entertainment content selection may be indicated by a player's interaction with an input device of the gaming machine and/or by interacting with a graphical user interface displayed on the gaming machine. In one such example, a user may select entertainment content by touching a screen used for displaying entertainment content options in step 310.

In step 320, the entertainment content is output. Step 320 may be performed in various ways according to different embodiments of the invention. For example, entertainment content from an entertainment source may be output to one or more output devices on the gaming machine. The output devices may include a video display screen, speakers and the like residing on the gaming machine.

Alternatively (or additionally), entertainment content may be transferred to a device that is separate from the gaming machine, e.g., a cell phone (such as cell phone 285), a pager, an iPod™, a personal digital assistant (such as PDA 295) or portable memory device (such as memory device 233). Accordingly, in some implementations the gaming machine is configured with wired or wireless interfaces configured for transferring such entertainment content.

Moreover, in some such implementations a player may be required to specify a device and/or a method for transferring the entertainment content. For example, a player may be required to indicate a telephone number in order to transfer a selected ring tone to cellular telephone 285. A player may be prompted to indicate that a designated interface (e.g., a USB port) of the gaming machine will be used to transfer entertainment content to portable memory device 233, an iPod™, etc. Alternatively, a player may be required to input an IP address, an email address, etc., for receiving entertainment content on PDA 295.

In general, the entertainment content source may be any device capable of delivering entertainment content to the gaming machine. The entertainment content source may be adapted for use by a gaming machine and may operate only during selected operational modes of the gaming machine. By way of example, when the DVD player is utilized by the gaming machine as an entertainment content source, the DVD player may be adapted to respond to input signals from the gaming machine such as pause or stop. The input signals to the DVD player may be initiated by the master gaming controller on the gaming machine independently of player input or in response to player input. When a gaming machine is not used for a certain period of time, for example, the master gaming controller may transmit signals to the DVD player to obtain output signals for at least one of the video display screens on the gaming machine.

For instance, after entering player tracking information on the gaming machine, a player that has wagered a certain amount over a certain period of time may be granted free access to an entertainment content source such as the musical jukebox, a server providing ring tones or other entertainment content, etc. In another example, a player may only access certain entertainment content sources based upon their player tracking information i.e. only a player with a particular game playing history may be able to access electronic e-mail on the gaming machine.

In alternative implementations of the invention, for each of the access modes to the entertainment content sources described above (e.g. inserting a required amount of indicia of credit into the gaming machine to access the entertainment content source, making a wager of a certain amount or a game playing history obtained from player tracking information), a total access time to the entertainment content source may be determined by the master gaming controller on the gaming machine. A table may be stored in internal memory on the gaming machine relating: 1) the required indicia of credit amount or fee; 2) the amount of a wager made on a game play; and 3) a game playing history events versus access to a particular entertainment content source for an amount of time (e.g. total access time).

For example, for 2 credits, a player may access an in-house TV programming source for 5 minutes. For a wager of 5 credits on a game play, the player may access the in-house TV programming source for 5 minutes. For wagering 100 credits over a period of 3 hours, the player may access the in-house TV programming source for 5 minutes. After access to an entertainment content source has been initiated and a total access time has been determined, the master gaming controller may monitor the amount of time the entertainment content source has been accessed against the determined total access time. When the amount of time the entertainment content source has been accessed exceeds the granted total access time, access to the entertainment content source may be terminated unless a player performs another operation such as committing more credits on the gaming machine towards access to the entertainment content source.

After receiving an entertainment source selection satisfying the predetermined conditions required to access the entertainment content source and determining a total access time to the entertainment content source, the entertainment content is transmitted to an output device on the gaming machine. For example, upon receiving a selection of a movie title by a player, the DVD player may transmit video signals to one of the display screens on the gaming machine or to a head mounted display worn by the player. The corresponding audio signals from the DVD player may be sent to speakers on the gaming machine or to headphones worn by the player. Typically, the output from the entertainment content source may not depend on the game play on the gaming machine e.g. game play decisions made by the player while playing the gaming machine may not affect output from the entertainment content source.

However, in other implementations of the invention, entertainment content is provided without reference to a total access time to the entertainment content source. In some such implementations, a complete entertainment content unit is provided to the gaming machine or to another device. e.g., as described above. In other such implementations, a complete entertainment content unit comprises a plurality of entertainment content segments. For example, one segment may be a video segment corresponding to part of a sporting event (e.g., a single round of a boxing match, a quarter of a basketball game, etc.), to a portion of a movie or of a performance, etc. A player is offered one or more of the segments after meeting predetermined criteria, meeting predetermined goals, etc. The player must continue to accrue segments if the player wishes to have a complete entertainment content unit.

Some such implementations will now be described with reference to FIG. 4. Here, method 400 begins when one or more games are provided on a gaming machine (step 405). The games of primary interest to the assignee are wagering games, but method 400 is not so limited.

In step 410, it is determined (e.g., by a logic device of a gaming machine, a server or another device on the network, etc.) whether a player has satisfied a predetermined condition. As described above with reference to method 300, the predetermined condition may be: a wager amount made on a single game play; an average or total wager amount over a period of time made by the player; and/or another aspect of or event in a game playing history of the player obtained from player tracking information or some other source. The event may be, for example, attaining a level of a player tracking program, playing a wagering game for a predetermined time, accumulating a predetermined number of bonus points, playing a wagering game for a predetermined number of times, etc.

If a condition is satisfied, the player is offered a first entertainment content segment. If the player accepts the offer, the player may or may not be prompted to indicate delivery instructions (step 425). For example, in some implementations the first entertainment content segment may be delivered to the gaming machine itself without the need for further input from the player. However, if the player chooses to have the first entertainment content segment transferred to another device, such as a cellular telephone, a PDA, a portable memory device, etc., the player may need to indicate a telephone number, IP address, output interface, etc., as described above. In step 430, the entertainment content segment is delivered.

In step 435, it is determined whether the player wants to continue gaming. In some implementations, the player will receive a prompt, e.g., on a display of the gaming machine, asking the player whether he or she desires to continue gaming. In other implementations, a player's desire to continue gaming will be presumed from a positive monetary credit balance or from one or more other pertinent criteria. In some implementations of the invention, a player must continue to play on a particular gaming machine in order to continue to accrue credits, bonus points, etc., that are the relevant predetermined conditions for receiving additional entertainment content segments.

Accordingly, if it is determined in step 435 that the player does not wish to continue gaming, the process ends (step 440). In some such implementations, if the player wishes to obtain the complete entertainment content unit but quits playing before doing so, the player would need to start over during the next gaming session and re-earn the rights to entertainment content segments already earned by the player. For example, if the complete entertainment content unit had 7 entertainment content segments and the player had earned 4 of these entertainment content segments before quitting game play, the player would need to re-earn the rights to the first 4 entertainment content segments during a subsequent gaming session before earning the right to the 5th entertainment content segment.

However, in alternative implementations, credits or the like may be accrued for the same complete entertainment content unit during more than one gaming session and/or on more than one gaming machine. For example, if the complete entertainment content unit had 7 entertainment content segments and the player had earned 4 of these entertainment content segments before quitting game play, the player could earn the right to the 5th entertainment content segment during a subsequent gaming session without re-earning the rights to the first 4 entertainment content segments.

There may or may not be a one-to-one mapping between entertainment content segments earned and goals attained. For example, in some implementations, a complete entertainment content unit comprises N entertainment content segments and all N entertainment content segments are transferred only after all N goals are attained. However, in other implementations, a complete entertainment content unit comprises N entertainment content segments but all N entertainment content segments may be transferred after fewer than N goals are attained. For example, most of the entertainment content segments may be transferred after the player attains certain gaming thresholds but at least one entertainment content segment may be transferred according to another criterion, e.g., in exchange for a monetary credit.

In some implementations, additional entertainment content segments may be awarded in order to induce a player to continue game play. For example, after a player has obtained all entertainment content segments of a first entertainment content unit, at least one entertainment content segment of a second entertainment content unit may be awarded. Alternatively, or additionally, a player may be awarded increasing numbers of entertainment content segments as the player continues game play or reaches other predetermined thresholds, e.g., wagering thresholds. For example, during a time that a player is wagering the first $100, individual entertainment content segments will be awarded for satisfying predetermined criteria, but during a time that a player is wagering the second $100, 2 entertainment content segments will be awarded for satisfying comparable predetermined criteria.

FIG. 5 is a block diagram of a gaming machine having a top box 6 and other internal components. As described with reference to FIG. 1, the gaming machine 2 includes a main cabinet 4 and the top box 6 located on top of the main cabinet. The secondary display 42, the main display 34, audio signal processor 534, a video signal processor 536, hard drive 532, audio/video output 542, CD-DVD drive 530 and main communication board 510 are connected to the master gaming controller 524. The master gaming controller 524 controls the presentation of games on the gaming machine and may control the operation of entertainment content sources connected to the gaming machine.

The audio signal processor 534 and the video signal processors 536 may be media software applications designed to process digital signals stored on the hard drive 532 or received from the CD-DVD drive 530. For example, the entertainment partition 528 of the hard drive may contain audio files stored in an MP-3 format or video files stored in an MPEG format. The audio signal processor 534 and video signal processor 536 may be media software applications residing in memory accessible to the master gaming controller 524. Examples of media software applications may include audio players, image viewers, movie players and a web browser. Typically, the audio processors and video signal processor include a number of hardware components. A more complete discussion of the use of hardware components used for multimedia application on a gaming machine is provided in commonly assigned, copending U.S. patent application Ser. No. 08/911,254 entitled GAMING MACHINES PROVIDING BONUS GAMES filed Aug. 8, 1997, the entire specification of which is incorporated herein by reference.

The media software applications may operate on the audio and video files stored on the hard drive enabling video or audio signals to be output to an output device on the gaming machine. In addition, the audio signals and video signals may be output to the output devices residing outside of the gaming machine via the audio/visual output 542. For example, a headphone jack allowing a player to plug in a set of headphones into gaming machine may be one component of the audio/visual output 542. As another example, the audio/visual output may contain a wireless interface allowing the gaming machine to communicate with output devices not physically connected to the gaming machine including pagers, cell phones and personal digital assistants.

The audio and video files may be down-loaded to the gaming machine via the CD-DVD drive 530 and stored in the entertainment partition of the hard drive 522. In addition audio/video files or feeds (e.g. a television program feed containing various audio/video signals) may be sent to the gaming machine 2 via the remote feed 514 and the main communication board 510 connected to the master gaming controller. The audio and the video signals may be processed by the audio signal processor 534 and the video signal processor 536. For example, the entertainment server, as described with reference to FIG. 2, may contain the video jukebox, the audio jukebox, and the television programming that is accessible to the gaming machine 2 over the entertainment service network. A player utilizing the gaming machine may make selections from the video jukebox and the audio jukebox on the entertainment server from a list of selections displayed on the gaming machine.

FIG. 6 illustrates an example of a network device that may be configured for implementing some methods of the present invention. Network device 660 includes a master central processing unit (CPU) 662, interfaces 668, and a bus 667 (e.g., a PCI bus). Generally, interfaces 668 include ports 669 appropriate for communication with the appropriate media. In some embodiments, one or more of interfaces 668 includes at least one independent processor and, in some instances, volatile RAM. The independent processors may be, for example, ASICs or any other appropriate processors. According to some such embodiments, these independent processors perform at least some of the functions of the logic described herein. In some embodiments, one or more of interfaces 668 control such communications-intensive tasks as encryption, decryption, compression, decompression, packetization, media control and management. By providing separate processors for the communications-intensive tasks, interfaces 668 allow the master microprocessor 662 efficiently to perform other functions such as routing computations, network diagnostics, security functions, etc.

The interfaces 668 are typically provided as interface cards (sometimes referred to as “linecards”). Generally, interfaces 668 control the sending and receiving of data packets over the network and sometimes support other peripherals used with the network device 660. Among the interfaces that may be provided are FC interfaces, Ethernet interfaces, frame relay interfaces, cable interfaces, DSL interfaces, token ring interfaces, and the like. In addition, various very high-speed interfaces may be provided, such as fast Ethernet interfaces, Gigabit Ethernet interfaces, ATM interfaces, HSSI interfaces, POS interfaces, FDDI interfaces, ASI interfaces, DHEI interfaces and the like.

When acting under the control of appropriate software or firmware, in some implementations of the invention CPU 662 may be responsible for implementing specific functions associated with the functions of a desired network device. According to some embodiments, CPU 662 accomplishes all these functions under the control of software including an operating system and any appropriate applications software.

CPU 662 may include one or more processors 663 such as a processor from the Motorola family of microprocessors or the MIPS family of microprocessors. In an alternative embodiment, processor 663 is specially designed hardware for controlling the operations of network device 660. In a specific embodiment, a memory 661 (such as non-volatile RAM and/or ROM) also forms part of CPU 662. However, there are many different ways in which memory could be coupled to the system. Memory block 661 may be used for a variety of purposes such as, for example, caching and/or storing data, programming instructions, etc.

Regardless of network device's configuration, it may employ one or more memories or memory modules (such as, for example, memory block 665) configured to store data, program instructions for the general-purpose network operations and/or other information relating to the functionality of the techniques described herein. The program instructions may control the operation of an operating system and/or one or more applications, for example.

Because such information and program instructions may be employed to implement the systems/methods described herein, the present invention relates to machine-readable media that include program instructions, state information, etc. for performing various operations described herein. Examples of machine-readable media include, but are not limited to, magnetic media such as hard disks, floppy disks, and magnetic tape; optical media such as CD-ROM disks; magneto-optical media; and hardware devices that are specially configured to store and perform program instructions, such as read-only memory devices (ROM) and random access memory (RAM). The invention may also be embodied in a carrier wave traveling over an appropriate medium such as airwaves, optical lines, electric lines, etc. Examples of program instructions include both machine code, such as produced by a compiler, and files containing higher-level code that may be executed by the computer using an interpreter.

Although the system shown in FIG. 6 illustrates one specific network device of the present invention, it is by no means the only network device architecture on which the present invention can be implemented. For example, an architecture having a single processor that handles communications as well as routing computations, etc. is often used. Further, other types of interfaces and media could also be used with the network device. The communication path between interfaces may be bus based (as shown in FIG. 6) or switch fabric based (such as a cross-bar).

While this invention is described in terms of preferred embodiments, there are alterations, permutations, and equivalents that fall within the scope of the invention. It should also be noted that there are many alternative ways of implementing the present invention. It is therefore intended that the invention not be limited to the preferred embodiments described herein, but instead that the invention should be interpreted as including all such alterations, permutations, and equivalents as fall within the true spirit and scope of the present invention.

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Classifications
U.S. Classification463/16, 463/30, 463/35
International ClassificationA63F9/24
Cooperative ClassificationG07F17/3223, G07F17/3244, G07F17/3227, G07F17/32
European ClassificationG07F17/32K, G07F17/32C6, G07F17/32E2, G07F17/32
Legal Events
DateCodeEventDescription
5 Dec 2005ASAssignment
Owner name: IGT, NEVADA
Free format text: ASSIGNMENT OF ASSIGNORS INTEREST;ASSIGNORS:KINSLEY, MICHAEL;LEMAY, STEVEN G.;BENBRAHIM, JAMAL;REEL/FRAME:017334/0234;SIGNING DATES FROM 20051101 TO 20051129