BENSALEM, PA - Tests of the "Tavern Entertainment System" (TES) have begun in the Northeast, according to a joint announcement by Merit Industries and TouchTunes Music Corp. Initial results, officials say, show that networking Merit countertop games and TouchTunes jukeboxes are increasing customer use of both.
TES, which interconnects Merit "Megatouch" video games running Diamond Edition software and TouchTunes' "Genesis" digital music systems over a local-area network in the location, is being developed by both factories, which announced the new service in the third quarter of 2000.
By linking video and music equipment in a tavern environment, an operator can expand the capabilities of both devices. Music patrons will be able to select musical content residing on the jukebox's hard disk drive from a "Megatouch," which thus becomes a new point-of-purchase terminal for music. The Merit terminal will allow a customer to open a window to view a jukebox's playlist data and make a music purchase.
The jukebox, which is equipped with a touchscreen monitor, can promote "Megatouch" products in several ways. Randomly appearing screens in the attract mode and, perhaps, the activation of "sound bites" after a certain number of played songs to remind customers that there's a "Megatouch" countertop located on the bar. Video displays and audio announcements can inform customers about Merit's tournaments, prizes and Global Player Ranking System, as well as a new game an operator has just installed.
TouchTunes already offers 10-second mini games on its system; after a music patron pays for a selection, a game appears and offers a chance to win a free song. TES can possibly expand this feature by using some of Merit's game content as a TouchTunes "snippet game," and then reminding the patron that a complete version of the game is available on the counterop.
At one test site, the participating operator networked two "Megatouch" units and one "Genesis" system. He reported increased collections in all three units, with significant gains in the countertop units, which he attributed to impulse music selections.
Equipment is connected by using Ethernet data transfer architecture. As PC-based systems, both "Megatouch" and "Genesis" support Ethernet connections, which require inserting PCI cards into connectors on the motherboards, then connecting the devices with Category 5 cabling. The two companies are working out details on how to package the service, which is expected to be available before the second half of this year. A simple system software update for both devices will add communications capabilities.
TES is the same standard computer networking technology employed by many of today's businesses, which use Ethernet to connect computers in an office and share peripherals and high-speed Internet connections. Like the local-area networks in business settings, TES allows one computer to send and receive information from another. A jukebox's music library is an example.
"We're offering networking efficiencies to the average operator," said Merit's Dave Myers. "The alliance between TouchTunes and Merit to provide networking services was an obvious way to provide real entertainment and promotional options to our customers."
The convenient, simple features of TES, Myers added, tap into tavern partons' natural tendencies to make impulse purchases.
To date, TouchTunes has deployed through its operator partners 3,000 of its Bose-built downloading jukeboxes, which play over 1.4 million songs each week. The digital music provider's John Margold told V/T that initial results of the test are very positive. "We are in Alpha test to make sure the customers in the typical location where a jukebox and countertop coexist actually spend more money because the machines are connected," he said.