By Alison Levin
With technology advancing at lightning-fast speed, at-home gaming systems provide users the opportunity to get lost in a world of alternate reality. The ability to play these games from the comfort of one’s own sofa, forces amusement and vending machine operating companies to have to face a reality of their own: uncovering what entices people to get lost in a video game that they can play somewhere other than their living room. Not an easy feat in today’s technologically oriented world. The new challenge for these operators is offering their locations games that will attract customers and help turn a profit.
“The key is to offer games that are as different as can be from the home-gaming systems,” said Linda Gasaway, office manager for A & L Music Co., Inc., in Henderson, Texas. In this vein, games that are more interactive, such as The Boxer, are played more often than a joystick-type game. “Men like to show that they are macho, so a boxing game, where they can show their strength, is a great one,” Gasaway said.
Gasaway also finds that Ms. Pac-Man and Galaga are often requested as well, perhaps because they have simply been around forever and nostalgia can often be a draw. Otherwise, arcade-style games just do not hold up anymore, because people are not very interested in playing them, according to Gasaway, whose company services 20 counties in the Henderson area.
“Obsolete” and “out-of-style” is how Dick Driscoll, owner of AB Equipment Corporation in Avon, N.Y., refers to arcade games. “Kids have hand-held devices now, so there is no need for arcade games as a means of entertainment,” Driscoll said.
“Pinball does not even do that well anymore,” Driscoll said, “There really is no demand for anything new.” The mainstay of Driscoll’s business is dart boards and pool tables. The last arcade game purchased by the company was Buck Hunter, two years ago. AB Equipment Corp. services mainly restaurants and bars in small New York towns, south of Rochester.
Echoing the opinions of Driscoll and Gasaway, Michael Goss, service manager for Ace Amusement Service, Inc., in West Palm Beach, Fla., agreed that home-game systems are cutting into business. “With so many terrific at-home games, coin-operated video games just are not in demand. We have begun to focus more on redemption games that provide tickets for getting a prize,” Goss remarked.
When pressed, Goss does say that offering a variety of games to customers does help some. As far as those games go, the more interactive games, such as Golden Tee Golf and Silver Strike Bowling have the most potential for success for Goss’ locations, which are along the East coast of Florida, from Miami to Vero Beach.
Also going the route of redemption-style games is Dennis Callahan, owner of G&D Amusements in San Mateo, Calif. “We have a couple of pizza restaurants where the redemption games are the big thing right now,” said Callahan. “With at-home gaming systems replacing arcade fun, self-merchandisers and other games that can offer immediate reward are more of a draw.”
Instead of requests for arcade games, Callahan finds he is more likely to rotate these redemption games or trade one in for another. “We may switch out a Gravity Hill game for a crane, for example,” remarked Callahan, who services mainly bars along a 30-mile stretch of the East Bay, from San Francisco down to Belmont.
“Find a video game that kids can not play at home,” advised Tom McKay, owner of Bullseye Amusement in Spokane, Wash. “Kids have many games available to them at home, but if you offer them something more interactive, like Dance Dance Revolution, Buck Hunter and Golden Tee Golf, you will find more success,” McKay said.
McKay services several Sky High Trampoline centers, where these interactive games are doing nicely. However, at the bars along McKay’s route, the jukeboxes and pool tables bring in the most money, while video games are just on the fringe. McKay’s locations are all 60 miles from Spokane, in either direction.
Xbox and other home-gaming systems do not market to those interested in animated controls, such as steering wheels and fishing poles. Because these types of games are not able to be played at home, John Russo, owner of Game Room Superstore, in Oneco, Fla., has been successful by going this route with video games. “I try to stick with any game that does not have a joystick. If they can’t play it at home, they are more likely to enjoy playing these games when they are out,” Russo stated.
Russo identified a growing trend in games featuring an LCD screen. “I have noticed extensive use of the LCD screen in games over the past year or so. This is definitely the new big thing,” said Russo. Also popular are driving games, such as Fast and Furious, and Russo attributes the success of these games to the popularity of the movie series and the power of pop culture.
Servicing mainly bars and lounges along the Northwest Florida panhandle, Richard Grimsley, owner of Lectronics & Games, sees revenue from games by Incredible Technologies (IT), such as Golden Tee Golf and Silver Strike Bowling, as well as some counter-top games. “Jukeboxes and pool tables are more successful, but we do see that people enjoy these IT games, as well,” said Grimsley. “These types of games can be intense and do involve skill. Players can compete online and everyone likes the challenge that they present.”
These games have been around for a few years now and are holding their own, so Grimsley has not had a need for, nor noticed a trend, in new games. “The physical interest in these games holds their attention. There is more to do in these golfing and bowling games than games people can find on their phones, so I would say they are successful right now,” added Grimsley. Bar top games, such as those by JVL Labs, are also somewhat popular, as they are simply easy to play. “If someone is sitting at the bar, it is not only easy, but amusing for them, to play these counter-top games,” Grimsley noted. –