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SERVER-BASED GAMING
A quiet
revolution
The slow but steady march of server-based systems into the world’s
casinos is just the beginning of a new way of delivering games. It
could transform the experience for players and management alike,
writes Barnaby Page
W
hen Casino International last took a in computing – processing power and intelligence
close look at server-based gaming, reside largely on a central server rather than inside
our theme was “evolution rather each terminal.
than revolution”. But while
continuing evolution may seem And the possibilities don’t end there. Once a game
slow to those undergoing it, in retrospect it will is server-based, it can be delivered through channels
appear revolutionary, for the potential unlocked by other than the casino floor, for example on mobile
the deceptively simple concept of server-based phones or home PCs (regulatory environment
gaming is only just beginning to be exploited. permitting). Multiple instances of the same game can
be linked, for example so that many players can
Typically bringing its benefits to slots, but also compete for a progressive jackpot.
potentially applicable to digital versions of table
games, server-based gaming relocates much or all of
the computing power needed to deliver the gaming
experience from the machine on the casino floor to a
For most sites, the switch to
central server.
server-based gaming is not
Some in the industry make a distinction between
an overnight one – but
server-supported gaming (SSG), in which games are suppliers are seeing new
downloaded from the server to the individual
machine and run there, and server-based gaming
casinos go straight to the
(SBG), in which the game actually runs on the server server-based model
and the player interacts with it in real time. In effect
the gaming machine becomes just the interface.
The ease of access to any game in an operator’s
And while this distinction may sound technical, it’s catalogue is also likely to lead to a “long tail”
an important one, for although there are real benefits phenomenon – there will still be some players
to downloading games – a wider choice for players, choosing older games which would otherwise have
and an easier upgrade process for management – it’s been unavailable, and therefore non-revenue-
when the games actually run on the server that the generative. Other bottom-line effects include lower
full possibilities of server-based gaming kick in. The capital and maintenance costs for the gaming
player experience can be customised even as the machines themselves – because they are simpler.
individual moves from one machine to another,
appropriate marketing messages can be sent direct to There are also management benefits invisible to
the displays, game features can be adjusted according the player but significant to the casino operator. All
to what’s happening across the whole casino floor game activity can be monitored in real time and
rather than just on one machine, and so on. The transactions can be fed straight into accounting
concept is similar to the “thin client” much discussed systems. Security is also enhanced, since the full
26 SEPTEMBER 2009
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