The Word from the Street:
Trends in Redemption Games

Andrew Antilado knows firsthand why the “stacker” machine is his company’s most popular redemption game.

“It really gives you a rush,” said Antilado, himself a fan of the game. “It seems simple, all you have to do is stack these little squares. But it gets faster and faster as you get to the top. You really have to time it correctly. It’s pretty exciting, and pretty fun.”

The high quality of the top prizes doesn’t hurt either – Antilado, who is assistant manager of Amusement Coin in Long Beach, Calif., said big winners can take home Xbox home game systems, gift cards to Best Buy and Target, or home projectors.

“If you do fairly well but don’t make it to the top, there are minor prizes,” he said.

Operating on a similar principle is the Pile-up game, which challenges players to pile up horizontally moving blocks to win prizes. This game is one of the best earners for Rick Williamson, owner of 8 Ball Amusement in Mountain Home, Ark.

“If you don’t do so well, you can still get a little something, a cheap prize,” he said, “but if you do really well, you can get a nice prize, equal to a $25-$30 payout.”

In terms of redemption, Williamson said his company’s true bread and butter is the poker redemption game, which has great appeal among the adult crowd.

“But for kids, I’d say the Skeeball games are very popular, and so is a game called Cyclone,” he said. “The basketball games always tend to do well, too.”

Currently, a game called Barber Cut, which involves trying to cut a fish from a line, is a fairly hot commodity for Williamson.

“That one is very popular right now,” he said.

Jim Siskin, who is one of the owners of Amusement Service in Billings, Mont., said although his company generally specializes in jukeboxes and bar games, he does have redemption games placed in skating rinks and similar locations. Siskin said he has had good earnings from the Big Bass Wheel game.

“Every game has its own interesting character,” he said. “For whatever reason, that one does really well, and so do the roll-down games.”

Sometimes, the allure of a game is all about its immediate visual impact. That has been the case for George Loucks, owner of J&G Amusement in Johnstown, N.Y.

“I’d have to say my most popular game is the Monster Drop Extreme – it’s a 14-footer,” he said. “There’s just the fascination of how big it is. Plus, the jackpot is around $8,000 to $15,000 for a single drop of the ball.”

While there will always be classic games that are reliable earners, such as basketball and SkeeBall, there are also the trendy new games of the moment. According to Rick Preli, owner of Amusements Unlimited in Stamford, Conn., the game Harpoon Lagoon is currently his company’s redemption game craze.

“Right now, it’s a new game, and it’s something different from all the others,” he said. “People like new and different.”

Justin Strader’s most popular game probably falls more into the “timeless classic” category.

“I’d have to say the plush cranes are our most popular,” he said. “I think they appeal to a wider age range – young and old. Everyone likes a stuffed animal.”

These games do well in locations where people might gather and wait, such as family restaurants or movie theaters.

“It’s something fun to do while they’re passing through,” Strader said.

Siskin said the early months of fall, September and October, tend to be slow times for redemption games, and he currently isn’t considering adding new games to his lineup.

“Toward the holidays, people will be more in the mood to spend money,” he said. “But right now is a slow time.”

Williamson said he is looking into some new possibilities in terms of redemption games, but he hasn’t yet made any commitments.

“I’m in a smaller community here; we don’t have any family entertainment centers,” he said. “We have games in a bowling alley, a pizza place, that type of thing. I’m looking at some new stuff, but haven’t gone ahead with anything yet.”

“We’re always buying new equipment,” he said. “We’re always on the lookout. So if we see something that looks good, we’re going to buy it.” –

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