Megatouch Live will stay connected to expand player features, operator services and revenue opportunities. AMI hosts its first virtual trade show, broadcasting live to 24 locations
KING OF PRUSSIA, PA -- Like digital jukeboxes and video golf, the touchscreen game remains an indispensable offering for many amusement operators. New flat-screen form factors, faster processing power and innovative games have helped advance touchscreen products in recent years. But ubiquitous smartphones have offset these advances, making them less appealing in more and more markets.
AMI Entertainment Network Inc., which makes Megatouch, the world's leading touchscreen amusement product, is hoping to reinvent the touch videogame for players and operators. This week, the company unveiled Megatouch Live, a new platform that uses broadband connectivity to deliver a wide variety of new services.
Additionally, AMI president and chief executive Mike Maas announced that Megatouch Live will roll out as a subscription service, borrowing from the digital jukebox model, in which AMI will share 20% of the revenues earned by games on the network.
Perhaps as far-reaching as Megatouch Live itself is the way AMI might be launching products in the future. The new product and business model were unveiled during Live With AMI, a live broadcast that was transmitted in real time to 24 locations, most of them in the U.S. Maas hosted the 90-minute program with AMI creative director A.J. Russo and product manager Bill Layne in front of a live audience in King of Prussia, PA, that aired at noon on Sept. 27.
Maas described Live With AMI as a virtual trade show that needs only four hours for a major product launch compared to four days at a conventional show. AMI representatives and products were on hand at all participating locations, where operator audience members took part in a live Q&A (by texting questions) and were later treated to food and giveaways.
"This is the first time a virtual trade show broadcast has ever happened on this scale in the coin-op industry," Maas noted.
During the presentation, Maas introduced the ML-1, the first countertop terminal that runs Megatouch Live. The ML-1 features a 22" multi-touch display, allowing several users to play games together. It connects to the AMI network through Ethernet, Wi-Fi, 3G or 4G.
Megatouch Live is a cloud-based system that enables players to track scores and performances from any ML-1 machine. Players can collect points from new in-game challenges, share scores with friends through Facebook Connect and see how their own high scores compare with the top players around the world.
The new Megatouch platform also introduces a novel way for players to dominate their favorite games with "tokens," a virtual currency that can be redeemed for special powers and abilities in any ML-1 game. Tokens can be purchased and redeemed at any ML-1 machine, and are tied directly to a player's Megatouch Live account.
In addition to in-game challenges and tokens, Megatouch Live will offer global leaderboards. High-score leaderboards have always been available on Megatouches, but only on the minority connected units. Megatouch Live has greater ranking capability because all machines will be connected. Leaderboards will rank players globally and monthly across the network, and locally by location.
"Megatouch Live isn't just gaming, it's social gaming," says Russo. "It's always connected, so players can interact with friends and rivals right from the machine, whether that means bragging about a new high score or just letting their friends know where they're hanging out to play."
Players can also get their friends in on the action through the new Megatouch Battle Arena, which pits two players head-to-head through simultaneous play on the ML-1's wide-format screen. The ML-1 will ship with such new games as Discovery and Luxor 3, along with returning classics like Photo Hunt and Tri Towers that include updated graphics and exclusive Megatouch Live features. Some 39 HD games will initially be available for the new system, and several more will follow.
The ML-1 is the first Megatouch machine built on Microsoft Windows Embedded Standard 7, a high-performance platform that delivers the power, familiarity and reliability of the Windows 7 operating system. Earlier Megatouch systems are Linux-based.
With Megatouch Live, AMI is sharing in the gameplay revenue stream for the first time, which makes it even more important to ensure an engaging player experience that will result in profits for every member in the distribution chain, primarily the operator.
Always-on connectivity means that new game titles and updates can be pushed out immediately, without the need for operators to find time to do the installation themselves. Operators no longer have to wait for AMI's twice-yearly game updates; when a new game is ready, it can be uploaded to ML-1 clients immediately. And because AMI is sharing in the cashbox, the company will not charge operators for new games and system updates. All content is free, and new hardware will reportedly be priced less than previous hardware generations.
"Because we will be getting 20% of the cashbox, we share the risk," Maas said, "and we have incentive to continue to innovate and earn more."
To keep the games up and running, Megatouch Live hardware is designed to reduce the need for maintenance. The ML-1's touchscreen can auto-calibrate, and most components in the game cabinet can be easily accessed without tools. The cabinet's airflow mechanics are designed to move cool air over the hard drive, motherboard and LCD assembly, while pushing warm air (generated by the power supply) directly out.
All Megatouch Live settings can be accessed and managed at amioperator.com.
AMI still plans to offer and support its legacy videogame systems, including the Megatouch Aurora and Megatouch Rx. The manufacturer released its 2012 update several weeks ago. | SEE STORY
Megatouch Live and legacy machines will be compatible when it comes to tournaments. The new system has a feature, called Tournamaxx Classic, that will allow it to schedule and run Tournamaxx events on.
"Megatouch Live and the ML-1 have reinvented coin-op touchscreen gaming," the AMI chief executive said. "It's an all-new player experience that's fun, fast-moving and really exciting."
PHOTO: From left, AMI's A.J. Russo, Mike Maas and Bill Layne introduce Megatouch Live during company's first virtual trade show. The live broadcast took place at the Radisson Valley Forge Hotel in King of Prussia, PA.