Ever since the ubiquitous Liberty Bell slot machine graced the American shores in the late 1800s, our obsession with slot machines has continuously evolved, and so has the technology behind them. From the original mechanical 3 wheelers, to Bally’s electro-mechanical slot in the 60s, to the video slot in the 70s and all the way up to the modern bells and whistles terminals with multi-denomination, multi-screen, multi-touch and multi-game terminals.
Let’s be frank, casino machines aren’t cheap. Typically ranging from $10,000 for a lower end slot up to $100,000 for a multi-seat roulette set up, it can take considerable time to get a significant ROI with a lot of the cost attributed to the complexity of the internal components. Each traditional slot machine has a built in Pseudo Random Number Generator (PRNG) to ensure fairness. The PRNG and other key algorithms including the Return to Player (RTP) are stored in firmware on a read only memory chip (EPROM) and then all of the internal components are certified by a gaming laboratory before being sealed up and placed on the gaming floor.
Given these complicated and expensive machine internals, it would seem that one of the only effective ways to lower the cost would be to remove the complexities of the terminals, right? And this is where server based gaming, or SBG, becomes particularly interesting.
Imagine a future casino floor that consists of nothing but low-cost desktop computers, hi-resolution screens with some connected peripherals; speakers, buttons, a coin and note acceptor, a TITO printer and a card reader. They can look and feel like normal slot machines to the players, but there’s one big difference; all of the real guts that make a slot machine work are stored digitally on a central server, providing incredible economies of scale with only one central system to certify, maintain and update.
The benefits however go far and beyond simple economies of scale for lowering capital expenses. On demand, an operator can deploy new slot games to one area of their casino, while changing another to only offer electronic black-jack or poker. In other cases, if players are using their loyalty card to play, a terminal could display recommended games based on the user’s history, offer higher denominations to VIPs, or even loyalty-based bonuses.
Even with a technology as new as server based gaming, there have been numerous evolutions. The latest generation is built predominantly upon web-based technology, therefore by nature it offers an omni-channel experience, so expect to see more and more operators developing combined online and land-based products.
However as with most progressive technology that threatens the incumbents, there has been an expected amount of resistance and lobbying to keep server based gaming in the dark, and the regulators certainly aren’t demonstrating a keen interest to clear an easy path either. Players have always been nervous that there’s a malicious, money hungry pit boss changing the payout behind the scene, making slots ‘tight’ or ‘loose’ as they see fit. Server based gaming may only contribute to this paranoia, but with the right support from the regulators and operators, players will be able to enjoy the new experience and understand the increased player protection in due time.
At Mediatech Solutions we are strong advocates of the advantages of server based gaming and we are fully committed to creating innovative technology solutions to service this maturing segment. Our latest omni-channel platform ‘IRIS’ is now powering a variety of different terminal manufacturers such as TAB Austria, eMagine and Suzo Happ, with content available from over 20 different providers. Our clients are now realising the potential of having a shared wallet between web, mobile and land-based products and multiple game providers on a single terminal from sports-betting to slots and even table games. The platform also allows for anonymous play, loyalty card login and mobile NFC login, creating an incredibly engaging, contemporary experience.
The future of server based gaming is surely very exciting for the industry and will herald a new wave of benefits for both players and operators in the form of significant cost savings for the operators, a much wider range of loyalty offerings and a dramatically improved full lifecycle experience for the players. Operators are becoming increasingly reliant on their technology service providers and are demanding a wider, higher quality range of products.
The challenges ahead may be complex, however as with the global development of online gaming regulation, server based gaming will make its way to the top of operators’ to-do lists in the coming years and for progressive operators, it can’t happen soon enough. It’s now up to the regulators and incumbent providers to join the push in the right direction.