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TouchTunes Reports Progress Modifying Gen 3 Jukebox Platform To Interoperate With Existing Technology Supporting Merit Links

Posted On: 8/16/2007

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CHICAGO (August 2007) -- A brief controversy in July between TouchTunes Music Corp. and Merit Entertainment has reportedly been resolved. TouchTunes said it will make its new Generation 3 platform backward compatible with Gamelink technology to connect TouchTunes jukeboxes to Merit countertop games.

TouchTunes president Art Matin made the announcement on July 5, saying Gen 3/Gamelink compatibility will be available to operators by September in a beta version, with the production version expected no later than January 2008.

Merit chief executive Mike Maas a few days earlier had protested that TouchTunes seemed to be abandoning Gamelink and, by extension, operators of Merit games.

Following TouchTunes' statement of plans for Gen 3/Gamelink compatibility, Maas told VENDING TIMES that he strongly welcomes the move, and said it will protect the investment of Merit game operators. "It's fantastic news," said Maas. "That's the right thing for the industry. I think our customers will appreciate it."

A month before the controversy erupted, TouchTunes had quietly advised third-party software vendors (game manufacturers) that its Gen 3 platform, now rolling out to operators nationwide, would employ a new universal protocol, Connec-TT, enabling all manufacturers to make their games linkable to TouchTunes jukeboxes. Unlike Gamelink, Connec-TT also enables credit card transactions, among other advantages. However, TouchTunes said Gen 3 jukeboxes that use Gamelink would not be able to accept credit cards.

On July 5, Matin said the decision to make Gen 3 backward compatible with Gamelink was driven by "prior operator feedback" and had been in the works already.

Gamelink technology was developed by TouchTunes in 2000, and was originally called the Tavern Entertainment System. As is standard for the overall computer industry, Gamelink employs an Ethernet protocol to connect TouchTunes jukeboxes (platforms Gen 1 and Gen 2) to Merit touchscreen games in a local area network (LAN).

Maas said Merit was a co-developer of Gamelink and has made considerable investments to upgrade the technology each year, ensuring greater profitability for operators of TouchTunes-linked Merit games. He stressed that no Gamelink-driven revenues go to Merit.

TouchTunes's plan to create Gen 3/Gamelink compatibility means that operators of some 1,500 TouchTunes jukebox who currently use Gamelink will not be forced to choose between either upgrading to Gen 3 or keeping Gen 2 with Gamelink.

TouchTunes also said it will continue to support Gen 2 platforms with new features, and will continue to support Gamelink itself.

Merit and TouchTunes agreed that countertop games linked to jukeboxes earn 15% more money, on average, than games that are not linked. Maas said a protocol very similar to Gamelink is used to link nearly 1,000 Merit machines to Rowe's AMI Entertainment Network. Merit, Rowe and AMI are owned by St. Louis-based Harbour Group.

TouchTunes said it would make Connec-TT program code, technical specifications, tools and assistance available in August to all third-party software vendors. This type of rollout is standard procedure for any manufacturer of a new computer operating system that wishes its latest architecture to be compatible with specific applications or programs created by third parties.

Merit said it would evaluate Connec-TT as soon as it's available, consult with operators and announce a plan of action thereafter. JVL Corp. said it plans to use Connec-TT to enable operators of its touchscreen products to link to TouchTunes jukeboxes for the first time.

TouchTunes describes Connec-TT as an innovative game interface that will provide greater capabilities and more stable support for all participating game and device suppliers. The jukebox company said it has assembled a Device Partner Support Team to assist third-party manufacturers.

Currently, more than 1,000 TouchTunes jukeboxes in the field utilize the new Gen 3 platform, the company said.