Inside Asian Gaming

INSIDE ASIAN GAMING | July 2008 36 International Game Technology (IGT), the world’s leading slot machine supplier, commands greater revenue and resources than most of its competitors combined. This often spurs competitors to accuse IGT of being arrogant and monopolistic and harbouring illusions of grandeur and total market domination. In the past, IGT has demonstrated a pen- chant for filing patents and protecting its proprietary technology. In the server-based gaming realm, however, it appears to have done a 180º, becoming perhaps the indus- try’s staunchest advocate of open standards, despite announcing a research and develop- ment budget of a billion US dollars—much of it earmarked for work on server-based gaming—over the next five years. Further- more, it would be hard to argue IGT’s server- based strategy is founded on anything but humility, or at least realism. IGT senior vice president of systems development Rich Schneider comments: “I think where we’ve ended up as an industry is we’ve realized we can’t own the whole pie any more. You can’t go in and say I’m great at data warehous- ing, I’m great at data visualisation, I’m great at business intelligence, I’m great at slot ac- counting, I’m great at bonusing, I’m great at this, I’m great at that. You can be great at some things, you can be good at others, but you can’t be great at everything. “What you have to do is focus on those things that you’re great at, and be willing to say I’m going to give up that bit of that pie and figure out how I make my money adding the most value at what I’m great at. So that’s our strategy.” IGT has a total range of solutions ranging fromslotaccountingtodatavisualisation,and Mr Schneider believes “for most operators we will be able to provide a very compelling full suite of products.” He acknowledges, however, that some customers feel that by using niche solutions in certain areas, they can gain a competitive advantage.“Stations Casinos [an IGT customer], for example, have their own patron management system and secret way of evaluating players.They’ve put energy into that because they believe that’s the differentiator for them. They want to control that themselves and put their own flavour into that.” The flexibility provided by IGT’s server- based gaming system means “you can hook uptosomeone’spatronmanagementsystem, someone else’s CRM system, someone else’s business intelligence system. We think we have a great product for all those, but if people have invested in areas where they think there’s differentiation, then we’re going to have to interface with that,”says Mr Schneider.“We’re going to spend our money differentiating ourselves by the quality of applications we put on this architecture.” Mr Schneider foresees the rise of niche applications providers.“In the internet space, for example,lookat theMySpaceor Facebook people. It’s those little guys that created applications that nobody else thought of, that have generated entire markets that never existed before. We’ll be able to throw a lot of money at it, and we’ll have a lot of creative resources working.But there’s going to be those small companies out there that have the creative juices that are hard to instil in a big company like us.” Ahead of the little guys, IGT has already come up with a killer app of its own.The sb™ Service Window“is essentially like a browser that opens on the game screen [as the game window shrinks a bit on the screen] that allows the casino to communicate directly with the player in real time as they’re playing the machine.” In response to those who argue the players don’t want to be bothered by the window during their games, Mr Schneider says “no operator is going to interrupt a player during a session at an inappropriate time. Our view is that there are rational times during a normal session when a player frankly would welcome communication. “When they’re first putting their player tracking card in, when they’ve just won a big jackpot and have paused to bask in the glory if you will.When they’re cashing out or buying in. At those times, when the player isn’t actively engaged in play, I think he’s very receptive to communication. Any time you communicate with someone and give them good news—‘you’ve won something’, for example—I think those are welcome communications.” The Service Window enables the cost- effective provision of personalised service to all players. From displaying a menu of their favourite games when they sit down to play and insert their loyalty cards, to allowing them to experience promotional offers or order drinks at their seats, “it’s an entirely different level of customer service,” says Mr Schneider. “It’s a much more self- service world.” The advent of server-based gaming will lead to a new level of customer service and the rise of niche applications, according to IGT Senior Vice President of Systems Development Rich Schneider Server-Based Gaming Window on the Networked Floor The Service Window allows players to view and redeem comps and offers without having to leave their machine