The 2012 Outlook for Games Popularity and Profitability Predictions for the New Year

A projection of the gaming industry for 2012 would be incomplete without a look at the competing home video game market. Citing a report published by the Entertainment Software Association and the Pew internet and American Life Project, posted that 190 million households will have next generation video game consoles and 80 percent of them will connect to the internet, which 75 percent of them will use at least a couple times a week. On the bright side, that leaves five days free to venture out for some play time on the street.
Further statistics and observations from within the industry suggest that leisure-time game seekers will continue in their firmly rooted preference for interactivity with other people. For many, that optimism is measured in leagues.
The vantage point of the industry from BMW Billiards, Loveland, Colo., is a positive one for owner Judy Mehle, whose collection of electronic darts and billiards games attract consistent players. “All are doing well and the league locations are doing best,” Mehle said.
Games that are interactive and that offer a redemption prize will continue to do well into 2012, predicted Joe Cannizzo, owner of C Music Corp., East Syracuse, N.Y. For Cannizzo, the most noteworthy games predicted to earn particularly well in bars and restaurants are darts and pool, large pieces such as basketball and Skee Ball, Beer Ball and jukeboxes.
Cannizzo would like to see a smaller game similar to Merit’s Mega Touch games hit the market. “They try to improve upon it and bring out a new model,” he said.
In the coming year, Cannizzo expects others to diversify as he has, adding an ATM business to music and games. “We’re trying to do different things in the rooms of various locations. We’ve tried interactive games and instant redemption games where we hadn’t put them before, like Stacker or Lighthouse, and have instant redemption for a prize on the spot.”
Music promises to continue its satisfaction of the masses, for now, said Joe Hello, owner of Capitol Amusement Co., Inc., Austin, Texas.  “We’re seeing the newest in internet download jukeboxes and the most appealing that we operate now is TouchTunes, which will be offering more than music. It’s coming out with a camera to take pictures, the ability to email, text, status update on Facebook, and they’ll offer new video game apps such as for iPhone. Anything in that direction, that plays and looks like the iPhone will do best for operators.”
In Hello’s estimation, what is keeping the jukebox alive is browsing and surfing, as on the iPhone. “The interface is the same, people are familiar with it, with the touch screen, it has the same look and they’re able to play them from the iPhone. That’s the only thing out there. The others are behind.”
Hello’s jukeboxes and pool games fare best in taverns and the bar area of restaurants, which is also a noticeable trend Hello recognizes. “The industry is getting away from the beer joint style of bar and is moving more to the bar and restaurant all in one so that rather than customers just coming in for a drink they can keep them there with a meal, they appeal to everyone.”
Except for the new iPhone strain of technology, Hello isn’t aware of anything new that’s spellbinding. “It’s the same guns and golf. They update the same software and the game continues to operate the same.”
The industry is slow for operators because of how the current generation of players entertain themselves, Hello said. “We needed something to do. The way the new generation is growing up and coming through their 20s and 30s, they have new devices, cell phone, and internet keeping them busy rather than pool tables.”
The jukebox reigns supreme in bar locations for California Coin Inc., Paso Robles, Calif., and in the eyes of Manager Sandy Gilbert. “I get more exited about the newer jukeboxes coming out. They’re more high-tech than arcade games. The jukebox is more like an iPod and the bar can put advertisements on them.”
Gilbert acknowledged that kids have so much to choose from, and what they have gets outdated quickly, whereas adults are content to play games such as pool.
California Coin’s Central Coast location is not the right area for traffic, said Gilbert, who was forced to downsize in the last few years after having locations across the state. “It’s a hard business because with cash, you have to trust employees and have to work on so many different kinds of machines. There are cool games out there I’d invest in if in a larger city, but they’re too expensive to make money back here.”
Overall, Gilbert said that because games get outdated, the arcade business is slow. “Arcade countertops, jukeboxes and pool are what make money right now.”
For the last two years, Ron Renville, owner of Board Machine Inc., Kandakee, Ill., has been waiting with 94 other applicants for the inevitable. A new Illinois law states that licensed operators can supplant regular amusement games with five casino-type game machines in liquor pouring establishments or truck stops. He expects the latest start date to be August 1, 2012, and that locations will replace game machines with casino games for their bigger earning potential. “Things are probably not too good for the amusement side. I can see locations getting space for the new ones and taking the other video games out, and jukeboxes and ATMs increasing in revenue with more traffic to the location. There’s a legal payout, the same as riverboat slot machines.”
Renville doesn’t expect any affect of the casino games on redemption machines, especially those in his bowling alleys where they’re popular, as well as on jukeboxes, bars and golf, his most successful game of all, at this time.
Larry Elbert, owner of Camden Amusement & Vending, Cedar Rapids, Iowa, doesn’t forecast any industry benders for the coming year. “The industry will stay about the same, the basics such as jukeboxes, pool, darts, games we can promote are doing well.” Otherwise, he said about the industry, “We have another rough year ahead of us.”
Elbert, a full-line street operator with games in bars and taverns, said jukeboxes and music overall are strong and the pool and dart leagues are a help to his collections.
More self-redemption machines than video games line the routes of Cain Amusements, Ltd. in Hillsboro, Texas. The current mix, said partner, Julie Schulz, is a 70 percent self redemption, 30 percent videos ratio. “Those placed in pizza and Mexican restaurants that cater to families with younger children draw the most excitement.”
Schultz sees some promise in the Key Master from Sega for 2012. And as for the industry she said, “As the economy improves, we will see more foot traffic in our locations and hopefully our industry will grow accordingly. We are getting calls from locations where their current operator did not survive the recent economic downturn. Hopefully this is the start of some type of recovery where all current operators can prosper.” –

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