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SERVER-BASED GAMING
In a nutshell
T
he server-based model is significant because it separates the activity of gaming from the
physical machine. Indeed, in principle any machine could offer any game, and be customised
to the individual player rather than the location, the operator, or the hardware maker –
although in practice, of course, there are likely to remain practical limitations on this ultimate
flexibility.
And the logical conclusion of this is that the gaming offer should cease to be hardware-
dependent; it should move to a model more like that of the PC games industry, or indeed the film or
music businesses or any number of other sectors, where the companies producing content and those
building the facilitating hardware are distinct, with widely agreed technical standards ensuring that
the content and the machine will work together.
game software is stored only on the server and not on considerations, notably the requirement for
the individual machines. broadband-capable computer cabling throughout the
casino floor. However, suppliers are seeing new
Says Aristocrat CEO Jamie Odell: “Network gaming casinos go straight to the server-based model,
is the next big technology shift for the gaming particularly in the developing markets – and for
industry worldwide, as it combines dynamic game others, there is no reason that server-based gaming
control, multi-vendor content, floor management and cannot co-exist with the more traditional model.
configuration into a single solution, which has been a
goal for machine manufacturers and operators over It is true that server-based gaming systems have not
many years.” swept away all that preceded them, and by all
estimates they still account for only a small minority
In practice of gaming positions in existence, although their
prevalence does vary widely by territory. Yet the
In the future envisioned by server-based gaming’s industry is effectively unanimous now that some form
proponents (and it doesn’t have any real opponents), of server-based gaming is the way of the future.
operators can link up entire international casino
networks. A player who has enjoyed a certain game in And though technology is the key, technical
Las Vegas on Tuesday could be recognised by the superiority is not the rationale. The real potential of
system in London on Thursday, and that same game server-based gaming lies not only in unshackling
made instantly available with local adjustments as software and hardware, but in customising the player
necessary; perhaps the customer might even resume experience – a new imperative that reflects thinking
playing an uncompleted earlier game. in many other sectors such as retail, where the prized
relationship with the individual customer has led to
the successful development of programmes such as
The real potential of server-
loyalty cards. IGT, for example, calls this “experience
management”and dubs its system sbX.
based gaming lies not only
in unshackling software and
What they’re offering
hardware, but in
Other vendors are taking a similar
customising the player
tack. Bally’s iView Display Manager –
a recent extension of its server-based
experience
iView system – is described by the firm as “a new
delivery system for customised marketing at the
point of play; a way to offer self-service features for
In practice, however, the first step toward server- players such as ordering a favourite drink; and a
based gaming is to link together the machines on one new way to offer second-chance-to-win bonusing
site via a local area network (LAN) rather than and tournament events”. This messaging is displayed
immediately implementing this kind of ambitious in separate panels from the game so as not to
wide area network (WAN). interrupt play.
And for most sites, the switch to server-based Indeed, all the major suppliers are increasing their
gaming is not an overnight one. There are regulatory activity in server-based gaming, whether through new
issues as the gaming intelligence shifts to a different product development or alliances with others.
system, and there are also infrastructure
SEPTEMBER 2009 27
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