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SWPs: riding the crest of a wave

Licensed or unlicensed, those games that permit players to use knowledge and skill against the machine- and other players – are thriving and look set to continue to do so.

The SWP skill with prizes game has been something of a phenomenon, particularly in the UK, over recent years. The idea of using skill or knowledge to beat the machine and win prizes has proved extremely attractive to the coin-op playing public. And we have now entered the era of the tournament, where individuals can compete against others to win large cash prizes, making the genre even more appealing.
Major UK operator Gamestec has a range of new games available on its Gamesnet terminals. However, one game that has continued to perform particularly well since its launch is the official Deal Or No Deal quiz game, which has seen record takings. Gamestec teamed up with game developer and manufacturer Bell –Fruit and independent producer Endemol UK to launch Deal Or No Deal, which is based on the hit UK daytime TV show. The game format is extremely similar to the actual show.

     

Gamestec is also about to launch the official Deal Or No Deal UK tournament where players can win a jackpot of up to £ 1,000.
Following on from the huge success of Bullseye, Gamestec’s next up and coming SWP game is Bullseye’s Star Prize. The new game is based on the original game show and has been updated. It also features original hosts Jim Bowen and Tony Green’s voices. Bullseye stayed at the top of the gaming charts until Deal Or No Deal was released and was one of the most popular SWP games in the UK. Gamestec is certain that Bullseye’s Star Prize will also be a huge hit.

Both Deal Or No Deal and Bullseye’s Star Prize will also be available as £ 1 price of play and £ 40 jackpot versions as well as the original 50p price of play and £ 20 jackpot game versions. This is due to the recent regulation changes regarding the Amusement Machine Licensed Duty fee.
Gamestec is currently leasing with all of its game developers to take advantage of the new regulations and convert all of its games to £ 1 per play and £ 40 jackpot as well as continuing to offer players the option of 50p/ £ 20 jackpot- ensuring players still receive value for money.


After much research and analysis, Gamestec has found that simple game formats make the most successful games. The success of a game can also depend on the availability of it. As much of Gamestec’s estate is networked, the latest games can be sent directly to site and can then be downloaded immediately offering players the latest gaming content and he best games.

Branded games also perform particularly well as certain brands are very recognizable and a strong brand will Seller itself. Players tend to be drawn to branded games, as they are familiar will the rules and game play. A game like Deal Or No Deal, which has been taken from a TV show, will attract a wider range of players because so many people already watch the show.
Gamestec advises that when developing a branded game the brand come first, the game concept second. Designing a game and then adding a brand to it at a later stage can be highly risky, as the game may not always be fitting to the brand,” according to managing director Rolf Nielsen. Bell-Fruit Games has long enjoyed an ‘unparalleled reputation for successful branded SWPs,’ from the darts-themed Treble Top, through Top Of The Pops to Ant & Dec’s Saturday Night Takeaway, games which capitalize on an already familiar and popular game structure for maximum player appeal.

Deal Or No Deal is no exception to this rule, Bell-Fruit’s Maria Kidulis told InterGame: In fact it is probably the best example of a compelling game show format making a successful crossover to SWP.” All the irresistible ingredients from the show – choosing boxes to eliminate while avoiding the big values, beating the banker, deciding whether to ‘Deal Or No Deal’ at each opportunities – are replicated in a package that also includes over 20,000 questions and the chance to win a cash prize. Bespoke commentary from TV host Noel Edmonds adds further authenticity.
Acquiring a brand such as Deal Or No Deal is a coup in itself,” added Kidulis, as it involved negotiation with the worldwide property owner Endemot for exclusive e rights in several UK market sectors. With approval required for every aspect of the product, BFG has ensured the development process remains consistent with the brand as well as providing maximum player appeal. Happily, the two aims have the same result – an SWP so popular it has outperformed any other game on any site,” she told us.
Integrating successful brands into BFS’s product portfolio continues, so players should be on the look-out for some ‘very exciting’ games in the future. On the subject of the difference between the UK SWP and the international market place, Kidulis said: Deal Or No Deal is riding high in a market unique to the UK, one that provides the player with opportunities to win cash prizes as well as the entertainment / skill element. Territories outside the UK are not permitted to offer cash awards, hence the category change from SWP to SXP (skill Without Prizes). The two categories are therefore completely non-interchangeable.”

In the view of inspired Gaming chief Russell Hoyle, UK SWP games by nature of the prize element have always led the need for a dedicated and specific type of game design. International skill games have traditionally not involved the prize element, other than perhaps through the provision of tournament prizes. Recently at Inspired we have worked hard with developers to build on the repeat play appeal that comes from games with high score tables, and encouraging local competition within a specific venue,” Hoyle told InterGame.
He went on to explain that the UK style of SWP games has led to the development of games that appeal to players playing in groups rather than solo, which appears to be more the case with more compact international style products that tend to appeal to a single user. Hoyle added: Licenses can add to a successful game design and enhance the appeal of what has to be a solid core base game design. It is important to say, however, that a license cannot make a poor game good, it can only make a good game better.”

Inspired has seen a number of games without licenses remain near the top of the popularity charts over the last two years, which proves that games with a great theme and the combination of delivering value for money and the elements of ‘near miss’ can make for a really compelling experience.
Inspired has been carrying out a profiling exercise on its estate which has led the company to understand more about the role of certain games in attracting players to the itbox (Inspired’s games cabinet). We have found that licensed games do serve as an initial appeal particularly in certain parts of our retailers outlets,” Hoyle pointed out. The firm has therefore developed an alternative menu of content promoting two different ranges of games for different parts of its retailers’ estates. Clearly a specific license that also lowers the barrier to entry for the player because they recognize both the formal of the license as well as general awareness of it, also helps,” he added.

Although Inspired would of course like to see players everywhere having a go on its itboxes, Hoyle believes that the traditional UK ‘pub quiz’ will never die. He told us: I believe there are many opportunities for us to develop applications that potentially link to the existing ‘pub quiz’ and indeed build on the fantastic success of such interactive success of such interactive formats in the pub.” Inspired now offers time based tournaments that see players competing for prizes building towards a final date. In addition, it has launches in-venue mini tournaments that see players compete for a guaranteed local prize.
With over 9,000 itboxes around the UK there aren’t many venues that we are not represented in,” revealed Holye. In addition to the full range of pubs from the high street to the local community pub, we have also had strong success in members clubs and even in staff rooms in major retail outlets.”
He believes that the key to a great performing itbox is where the pub management and staff take an active interest in encouraging play on new games and recommending games to their customers. Managers and staff can also play an active role in encouraging participation on tournament games as they approach their final days.

Inspired has undertaken a number of pieces of research to try and better understand its players. Hoyle said: We like to think that we have begun to build a picture of what works and doesn’t work across the itbox. On the grounds that we can never really understand all our players and outlets, we have recently added a feature called Managers Choice to the itbox.” This feature allows local staff to bring back one of the 100-plus games that have previously been on the itbox, which may have been removed over time to make way for new games. Inevitably, Inspired may have removed a local favourite from time to time and this feature allows the staff to bring it back for their customers’ benefit.
We believe that we have an excellent mix of the best games from all of the major developers in the UK along with a dedicated group of games that are exclusive to itbox. Indeed, currently six out of the top 10 performing games on the itbox are exclusively available on our network.”
According to Hoyle, no-one is paying out more money in tournament prizes. Inspired has given away over £ 80,000 in tournament prizes and is running tournaments every two weeks with prizes worth over £ 80,00 in each tournament. Additionally, he claims that new games get to Inspired’s machines faster than anyone else. Every one of its 9,000 itboxes is broadband connected, which means that the firm can distribute new games out to its estate faster than anyone else, getting them earning money for its clients way before its competitors can distribute their CDs.

      Inspired now has variations of the itbox deployed in three countries outside the UK. It recently signed an exclusive deal for the supply of skill gaming terminals with Tabcorp in Australia. It also has product in Europe, installed in Italy and Holland.
After a long reign as most played game on itbox in the UK, Bullseye has been knocked off the top spot by new quiz game Nuts, less than a month since it launched. Since Inspired Broadcast Networks and IPC ignite! Joined forces to bring the men’s lifestyle brand to over 8,000 pubs across the UK, the Nuts quiz has become the itbox’s most played game.

There are historical and current examples of unlicensed games which to do not rely on license for their success. Clearly a good license enhances a good game, but there are many examples of good license that don’t work too!

Built and designed by inspired, the Nuts-branded skill game captures the essence of the brand and features a range of franchises direct from the magazine, along with celebrity pictures and content exclusive to the itbox. As well as providing the Nuts brand with exposure in pubs across the country, the game and itbox are marketed in Nuts and Loaded magazines and the IPC ignite! Portfolio of websites.
The success of the game further confirms the marketing potential and targeting possibilities on offer to popular lifestyle brands through the itbox, the UK’s leading networked SWP entertainment terminal. The itbox goes further than traditional promotional methods such as beer mats and print media to provide a fully hands-on experience to an increasingly hard to reach target market,” Anne De Kerckhove, COO of Inspired, told InterGame.

She concluded: The partnership between Nuts and the itbox has been one of our most successful do date. We’re thrilled at the phenomenal popularity of the game among Britain’s pub goers, but not surprised. Nuts is a brand perfectly matched to our core audience and proves testament to the opportunities presented by the itbox.”
This game developmentexpertise is what sets the UK SWP market aside from the generic skill market that exists in overseas jurisdictions and is the main reason that the UK market space is dominated by relatively few content development companies,” Davies told InterGame.
He doesn’t believe that licensing a product guarantees success for it. A good game mechanic is fundamental,” he told us. Who Wants To Be A Millionaire works primarily because the game mechanics is simple to understand. The profile of the brand is the icing on the cake. There are historical and current examples of unlicensed games such as Hangman, Pub Quiz, Stand & Deliver and Triple Towers, which do not rely on licenses for their success.
Clearly a good license enhances a good game,” Davies continued, but there are many examples of good license that don’t work too!” Good licenses do draw traffic, but only good games will generate repeat play. If you get a strong license with a good game mechanic then customers will keep coming back to play. Monopoly is a good example of this.”

                    Davies Media’s games go though a stringent testing process, both internally for placement on the IND:E platform and IND:E derivatives and externally with other platform providers. On this basis, Games Media does not have sufficient data to suggest that specific games work better in certain types of establishments than others. His firm aims to appeal to as wide an audience as possible as a result. Niche games are not our bag,” he added.
As a company, Games Media invests in market research and strives to understand player preference, motivation, aspiration and expectation. On-site research, focus groups, online research and internal player panels are all approaches Games Media uses in providing the development team with the right market data to evolve games design.
We have a pretty good idea who our players are, but there is still a lot we cab learn,” he admitted. Davis believes that expertise, experience, knowledge and focus differentiate Games Media from its competitors. We concentrate purely on games design and sales and marketing. We have no other business activity distractions such as manufacturing or operating, which leaves us free to concentrate resource on what we are good at – designing and developing compelling games,” he told us. Games Media has a number of overseas developments in play at the moment. One major focus is on the Australasian market and Games Media SWP content is already featured on terminals in this market. We will be making further announcements regarding our overseas activities in the near future,” Davies concluded.
FatSpanner is one of a handful of companies that is totally dedicated to the UK SWP market and since its inception in 2002 has made some major contributions to this growing sector. Germaine Ash, a founder director, was responsible for the shaping of this market even before then when, still at Maygay, she designed the cabinet which later became known as the itbox.
A year later she designed the ground-breaking cabinet which was first manufactured under license by Games Warehouse and named the Paragon and a year after that she redeveloped it and FatSpanner sold the design rights of the Paragon 2 to Games Warehouse. Since then FatSpanner has designed and successfully marketed the SLM cabinet which was used for FatSpanner’s own SWP terminal FatBox, Channel 1’s alternative IND:E cabinet and Crown’s FOBT, totaling 1,500 cabinets to date.

Licenses are very important but not indispensable. Particularly due to the number of games on one screen, the players may find it hard to choose a game. A license offers instant reorganization and will likely be selected above non-licensed games.

The FatBox was intended as an alternative SWP terminal to the Paragon and the IND:E. offering the operator the choice to purchase an SWP machine which doesn’t require an annual license fee or a pay as you go” smart card. The first FatBox machines were developed as rebuilds on used Maygay Evolution and JPMproteus cabinets. Following the completion of the SLIM cabinet, the FatBox has also been sold as a new machine and to date approximately 500 FatBox machines have been produced.
FatSpanner has now developed a completely new terminal which will be launched at the London Preview show next month. The OPEN (Open Platform Entertainment Network), which will use a 19ins version of the SLIM cabinet, promises to have more games on screen, more games off screen and more games changed every week than its competitors.

The OPEN terminal is designed to be networked and can offer upload (game and performance data) and download (new game updates) capabilities via ADSL or just upload capabilities with GPRS. Additional features have also been include in the OPEN shell that will maximize the player’s experience and hopefully result in higher cashbox performance.
FatSpanner will also be launching its Core SWP terminal at the Preview. The cabinet has a 23ins widescreen touchscreen in portrait mode and was first seen at this year’s ATEI. The Core takes advantage of the recent removal of AMLD on SWP games and proposes a few select games on £ 1 play, based on existing proven SWP games that have been modified for the new display format and for the new price of play, undoubtedly providing players with an enhanced game experience.

                               We’ve been developing SWP games for the last five years at a rate of approximately five games per year but only made a name for ourselves when Bullseye, the licensed game jointly developed with Cosmic Concepts, made the top spot on all platform,” said the company’s Alfio Monterosso.
The game has kept this position for almost two years and recent fierce competitions has threatened to change this. The Bullseye sequel, Bullseye Star Prize, just released, will hopefully help Bullseye regain its title. License are very important but not indispensable. Particularly due to the number of games on one screen, the player may find it hard to choose a game. A license offers instant recognition and will likely be selected above non-licensed games.
However, as most developers will already know, a license can make a good game better, but won’t make a bad game good. We’re constantly looking at licensing options and so far have the UK SWP licenses for Bullseye, Blockbusters, Boggle, Violent Veg and Football Manager.
The SWP market is unique to the UK. In other countries, due to the prizes on offer, SWP games would be classed as gaming machines and would therefore attract the same duties and approval processes and would ultimately have to perform as well as gaming machines to be successful. Even though UK SWP terminal performance has been improvements over time, it has never matched AWP figures. Therefore it is unlikely that SWPs will become available in other countries where legislation does not classify an SWP as a different product to an AWP.

The SWP market is unique to the UK. In other countries, due to the prizes on offer, SWP games would be classed as gaming machines and would therefore attract the same duties and approval processes and would ultimately have to perform as well as gaming machines to be successful.

Fatspanner is currently concentrating its efforts on the UK market only, which is still growing and has seen its terminals grow to approximately 20,000 units in the last few years. For this purpose, we have recently moved to new, larger premises which will allow us to comfortably manufacture up to 3,000 units per year, double our current production capacity.”

 

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