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Black-out VIP areas have become a staple on the exhibition circuit as manufacturers seek to keep new technology close to their chests.

Here are definite signs that new gaming technology is currently having a pronounced affect on the gaming industry. While no one is prepared to argue that the focus has shifted from being game to hi-tech-centric, increased functionality and flexibility of operation, and usability and comfort for the player, is certainly more prominent than games right now. 2005 was the year of progressives, IC cards, linked and standalone systems, and multi-player terminals. 2006, on the other hand, looks likely to be marked out by new platform it launches, from Sega’s Lindbergh to Casino Technology’s Gemini, each looking to match the expectations of the player and the functionality demanded by the operator. And then there’s the introduction in downloadable content, with gaming platforms and terminals for casino betting, amusement and gaming, all launching with new systems and increased connectivity.

Proof of this has been shown at the most recent trade events, though to be more accurate it’s what’s not be shown that’s of the most significance. Blackout VIP areas have become a staple on the exhibition circuit as manufacturers seek to keep their new technology as close to their chests as possible. What’s most interesting, talking to the operators who have been shown all this secret kit, is how the manufacturers are now developing both sides of their business in tandem. There’s the games on show on the stand, and the downloadable ‘secret stuff’ shown in the back-room to ‘select; individuals.

Downloading games within local and wide area networks is undoubtedly going to be the hot topic at forthcoming events. Today, around 90 per cent of the amusement and gaming market is manufacturing standalone games, though every prediction is that this figure has to shift towards increased downloadable provision. Infrastructure for downloadable content is a major issue across Europe, but the benefits to operators and government regulators of this technology suggests that its introduction could be much more rapid than previously supposed. Five to 10 years has been the conservative estimate to date, but that’s being revised quickly by operators keen to exploit a competitive and first-mover advantage from these systems. Where the big operators go, the rest will follow and the landscape of the industry could be very different in a relatively short period of time. Great online poker games can appear on any platform and utilize any technology, but it’s the merging of content and technology that will be the key to industry development.



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