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TouchTunes Acquires White Rabbit Games; Readies PlayPorTT Portable Entertainment Tablet

Posted On: 10/4/2007

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NEW YORK CITY -- TouchTunes Music Corp. has acquired White Rabbit Games Studio LLC, a company that has developed a portable location-based entertainment device that offers games and jukebox music selections. TouchTunes, administrator of America's largest digital jukebox network, believes the acquisition will give it a platform to widen its footprint in the out-of-home entertainment space.

White Rabbit's intellectual property and games have been integrated into TouchTunes Game Studio, a new division that will oversee development of the product, which will be marketed under the PlayPorTT name. As part of the transaction, White Rabbit founders and employees have agreed to join the new division. The founders include Ken Fedesna, the former vice-president and general manager of Midway Games and Williams Electronics, and coin-op entrepreneurs Frank and Ed Pellegrini.

Equipped with a 17-in. widescreen touch-enabled flat monitor and weighing only 6 lbs., PlayPorTT is a slate-shaped mobile entertainment device that operates within a location's perimeter. Through a wireless connection, it interfaces with a TouchTunes jukebox running Gen 3 system software. Patrons can use it to play videogames and select music from the jukebox from wherever they're sitting or standing. But if they leave the location with the device, an alarm sounds.

On location, each wireless PlayPorTT locks into its own docking and recharging station. A patron uses his or her credit card to release the terminal, or a bartender or location manager could authorize access using a remote control; either way, a credit card is required for a security deposit. An installation also will be equipped with a central payment station, or control tower, where patrons can buy credits using cash, coins or credit cards. The tower, which synchronizes with a Gen 3 jukebox, administers the mobile terminals; one tower can serve up to eight PlayPorTTs.

"We think the concept will be highly successful in the games market," said TouchTunes chief executive Art Matin. "The portability and accessibility of PlayPorTT is a breakthrough for the coin-op industry."

As VT goes to press, TouchTunes is expected to unveil its new amusement device during the AMOA International Expo in Las Vegas. A beta test is planned to begin in the fourth quarter, and following the testing period PlayPorTT will officially roll out with 50 games available.

Matin said that TouchTunes Game Studio will be involved in developing new content and licensing games. Games will be loaded down to the terminal, through the control tower, and administered through the jukebox's Internet connection.

The PlayPorTT connects to a jukebox using Connect-TT, TouchTunes's latest local-area networking software developed to link countertop videogames to Gen 3 boxes.

Connect-TT allows patrons to use game terminals to select music on the jukebox and access their MyTouchTunes personal playlists, and PlayPorTT will support these features. Connect-TT also allows the operator to collect sales information, send and receive messages, manage content and distribute software over the jukebox network. The Internet connection that makes possible cashless payment on Gen 3 jukeboxes also extends this convenience to countertops.

Matin predicts that music revenue will increase in locations where PlayPorTT is deployed. He points out that jukebox collections increase at least 10% when countertops are linked to them.

"We can cross-promote between PlayPorTT and TouchTunes music," the chief executive told VT, "but the TouchTunes jukebox remains the entertainment hub. And we have the ability to track and manage games since TouchTunes already possesses the back-end administrative technology used for remote music management."

Fundamental to the PlayPorTT business model are the coin-op industry's distributors and operators. "The product will be offered just like a TouchTunes jukebox," Matin explained. "There will be an entry cost for the hardware and a revenue share for the service provider and manufacturer.

"We're committed to the operator channel," he emphasized. "Operators provide the installation and service expertise, and we're working closely with them to market this new entertainment device."

Initially, PlayPorTT installations are planned for TouchTunes locations equipped with broadband Gen 3 jukeboxes. In the long term, TouchTunes will make the system available in locations without jukeboxes and will consider developing an interface with locations' POS systems, which would allow drink and food menus to be displayed, among other content. TouchTunes has demonstrated the new system for several restaurant chains that expressed excitement about its possibilities, according to Matin.

The official rollout of TouchTunes's latest jukebox operating system began in April. To date, more than 4,000 jukeboxes are reportedly running Gen 3 software. While it's designed to run optimally using a high-speed Internet service, the new system can also run on boxes that connect to TouchTunes's servers over standard phone lines.

According to Matin, jukebox revenue and plays are up more than 25% on jukeboxes running the current version, Gen 3.2, powered by a broadband connection.

The new software greatly enhances music management, system stability and performance for customers at points of sale and operators remotely managing their routes. The music provider said it will introduce an update in the third quarter of this year. Gen 3.3-version software will offer some new features and further improve performance.

Matin said TouchTunes is approaching 30,000 jukebox connections that play over 1.4 million songs daily. With some 215 employees, the firm maintains facilities in Chicago for sales and service and in Montreal for music licensing, business administration and R&D. It recently opened a senior executive suite in Manhattan.