Focus on Redemption: Games that Give A Little Earn a Lot

Yes, there is the economy and yes, there are home console games, but does mom and dad fork out a prize every time their child wins a game? And people of all ages need a break from the economic woes delivered on the nightly news.  A few coins in a redemption machine out on the town might seem just the ticket, and game operators know how to keep players coming back.
Encore Games in Richland Hills, Texas, sees repeat business and owner, Derek Baenisch, expects more of it at his establishment and elsewhere, for those locations that are sure the prizes they provide are the ones that people want. Also, he suggested, “Have good visible placement of the machines.”
The redemption games that lure most players are the standard Slam-A-Winner from Benchmark, the Skee-ball alley roller, ICE Ball, and Primetime Amusement’s Cyclone, because, he said, they provide the skill and bigger payoffs that customers are looking for. Baenisch expects interest in instant-winners, self-redemption games, stackers and cranes to continue and build.
The strong trend toward redemption games and away from video has been evident in the Elum Music Company market in Massillon, Ohio, for the last five years to co-owner, Phillip Elum, who recognizes winning with each game play is the reason for the redeeming success. “Increasing the price to play yet providing a ‘winner every time’ seems to be a very popular method of increasing revenue.”
Cranes have surfaced as the best-earning machines on the Elum routes because they allow a regular change in the merchandise mix.   
The forecast looks good in Gatlinburg, Tenn., for redemption games in the arcade room at Fannie Farkle’s, now in its 30th year. As the sluggish economy has slowed business, owner, Marion Paul, is a bit skeptical about her return on investment in several recently purchased games. Nonetheless, she attested, “The only way to play games is out on location. People continue to come to play and will indefinitely, provided we have good merchandise to entice them to play, as well as the thrill of the game to play, which they can’t do at home in an armchair.”
To be successful with redemption games, Paul recommended to make sure the payout percentage is high enough to satisfy the customer base. “If pay out is low, you will gross low and customers won’t have a good feeling about your location.”   
The other factor Paul mentioned to assure success is that merchandise is appealing and in quantity, to cover the gender and age spectrum, and fits the location.
The games that keep clientele coming back are Terminator Salvation by Betson Raw Thrills, also popular is Bay Tech Big Bass Wheel Pro that “gives out so many tickets customers are gleeful,” and  Andamiro Winners’ Cube, attracting players with a bobble head figurine that is solar-powered so that, said Paul, “It’s constantly moving and gets attention as they walk by, before they even play.”
As Fun Time Amusement Inc. owners Greg and Joyce Frieden notice, the home game systems are taking a toll on the amusement game business in their area, Kearney, Neb. “Some customers in bars on the route are playing games on their cell phone. Those are free, whereas, they have to shuck money out for our games,” Greg Frieden said.
The little kids on the other hand, run to the bulk vendors for a prize and pass up the video games. “The prize makes it work. It’s not enough to just play for fun.” The kids especially enjoy the Sports Arena games because they win instantly.
Parents, as the source of the coins, are part of the equation to please, said Mishawaka, Ind.-based Diltz & Sons owner, Doug Diltz. “The perceived valued of the center is important, from the parents standpoint, so they feel they’re getting value for what you are offering.” The Diltz way to their purses is to make sure prizes are lit up, displayed nicely, neat, and organized, machines are clean, lights working, and all are in good operating form.
Bay Tek’s Big Bass Wheel Pro is a top favorite game on Diltz routes. The pusher games that pass the test keep the excitement going, are familiar as either movie themes or are related to the most popular board games such as Monopoly and the Price is Right. The quick coin games that do best are Wheel of Fortune and Cyclone.
The type of location determines the style of crane machines Bruce Duncan installs and the merchandise he fills them with to entice players on his Duncan Amusement Co. Inc. routes in Valparaiso, Fla. The condo game room commands a different style from one in a restaurant/bar location, he said, and time of year affects the selection of merchandise inserted, whether child-oriented or adult, whether inland mainstream versus coastal vacation spots. “In our seasonal area, business fluctuates, as spring break and summer business picks up from winter, yet inland business is good year round.”
The change to a shortened school system summer break kills the tail end of the summer season business, noted Duncan. “Traditionally, summer season lasted from Memorial Day to Labor Day and the best part of the season was the last two weeks of July and first two of August.”
Though business is unpredictable, said Duncan, “The money in the cash box tells the story of whether or not you’re catering to the clientele.” Also, business is dictated by the economy as a whole. When people have money they want rest and relaxation and will spend. If not, they’re cautious in spending. If the economy comes back, operators will spend, too, on style and equipment to satisfy customer needs and desires. “Redemption is hard to second guess, and if expensive the operator has to justify what the payoff is, depending on territory and what’s going on in the country.”  
Game selection varies in Metairie, La., per location also, according to Eric Dusang, owner of Entertainment Group Inc. “Game needs vary, yet those that consistently draw attention are Slam-A-Winner and Cyclone and always a steady earner is Big Bass Wheel Pro because they are extremely attractive games to the eye, they draw onlookers into them, they have well thought out artistic design that’s visually appealing to many, are fun to play, and give out a lot of tickets. Pharaohs Treasure also has tremendous eye-appeal.”
Dusang mentioned too, “It’s important as well to have a really good looking, well-stocked and well thought out center. Not only games drive play, the merchandise drives play. So have the right games and right merchandise.”
As video games have fallen off quite a bit, Dusang considers self-merchandisers and redemption machines to be the winners in the future, which can’t be played at home as videos can. Games exhibited at shows demonstrate the research and design evident in self merchandisers and redemption games. “They’ve been tremendously creative in design and thought-out. You can see the attention to detail, how beautifully done and well-made the successful games are.” –

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