BRISTOL, PA -- Merit Entertainment says its new videogame design is the cure for the common countertop. More precisely, Merit chief executive Mike Maas says it's the solution for three complementary coin-op markets. Low in profile, weather-resistant and subtle in overall appearance, the Megatouch Rx is the latest innovation to address the operator's need for greater equipment placement options.
First shown in late November in Orlando, FL, during the IAAPA Attractions Expo, the Megatouch Rx amazed showgoers with a profile no taller than the average 12-fl.oz. beer bottle. Even more, Merit demonstrated the device's rugged versatility by running one of the new game terminals in a small environmental simulation chamber that replicated a rainy, outdoor placement scenario.
PHOTO: Megatouch Rx measures 10" H. (12" where the payment entries reside on the right) x 20" W. x 17" D. and weighs about 35 lbs. It houses a 19" widescreen flat-panel monitor that accommodates a promotional sidebar. The interior is easily accessed through an auto-locking front lid that is held open by a position-controlled hinge. Merit's games employ SATA drives that run fast and swap with no difficulty. The Rx ships this month with Merit's latest software, featuring more than 150 games.
The three main markets for the new Megatouch are chain accounts, outdoor smoking areas and traditional bar spots -- where the company expects to cut a wide swath for coin-op. It joins Merit's 19" Aurora line, available in standard and widescreen formats, which sports a conventional design using a screen angle of almost 90°.
The Rx, on the other hand, has a screen angle of 42°, which allowed Merit to sheath its game system in cabinetry standing only 10" high. Surprisingly, it boasts a clean internal layout that lends itself to easy serviceability, and it accommodates both coin ($300) and banknote ($500 stacked) acceptance. A credit-card reader is positioned on the right side.
The Rx was first created with corporate chain accounts in mind, Maas explained. Providing maximum comfort for players and undemanding placement for operators, the new design can appeal to the particular decorative codes imposed by chains. The cabinet design, which offers variable colored lighting on the top and sides, is subtle enough to blend in with or improve a room's ambience. Most importantly, the Rx is not nearly as obstructive as countertops with standard vertical profiles, which are often moved to corners of bars, if not off them altogether.
Because drinks and food can be served over it effortlessly, the Rx is ideal for middle-of-the-bar placements in traditional tavern spots. Maas points out that many locations can often support more than one device, but they are unwilling to place two or more obstructive pieces on the bar. The chief executive describes this opportunity as a "secondary" market.
Where there's smoke, there're coin-op patrons. To please their smoking patrons, many bar, restaurant and tavern owners have created or expanded patio areas where smoking is permitted. Some of these remain open in cold climates year-round, thanks to highly efficient patio heaters.
Seeing an opportunity here, Merit made the new Rx weather-resistant. While not fully waterproof, it's engineered to work in typical outdoor environments where water leaks might occur. Internally, the terminal is outfitted with channels that funnel water seepage away from vital components. A special cover that protects interior components is available as an option and the unit can be secured to bar or table surfaces with a heavy-gauge U-bolt.
During the development process, the chief executive said, Merit's operator advisory council provided some input that was included in the final design. The wedge-like form, in fact, was inspired by an operator who used to install legacy CRT Megatouches into cutouts on bartops. The late Bob Anderson of Aztec Vending (San Diego) placed them in openings on an angle to lower a game's height so that bartenders were able to serve drinks over them. The Rx replicates this ergonomic effect without having to cut into the bar.
Designing an advanced cooling system -- one quiet enough for chain accounts yet able to function in the reduced-air environment of a weather-resistant cabinet -- was one of the biggest engineering challenges for the Rx team. According to Maas, the new game runs cooler than any system built by Merit so far.
"What makes the Rx a great piece are the many little things designed with the operator in mind," Maas said. The new Megatouch model ships this month and it is Merit's first videogame product developed under the watch of Maas, who joined the company in January 2007.