What are the top trends and new games at arcades, bars, restaurants, and street locations? While replies are varied, certain trends do emerge, including a definite quest by players to enjoy tactile, hands-on experiences they can’t find with individual or home gaming options. For this article, operators offered their observations and tips for success.
At Bonham Amusement in Terre Haute, Ind., Co-owner Steve Bonham primarily offers gaming at bars, American Legion Halls, VFWs and other venues of this type. “We’re not geared toward kids,” he said. “Music systems such as video juke boxes and pool do the best for us these days.”
One reason pool does well for Bonham is because of the personal interaction between players. Bonham and other game operators promote league play as an experience customers can’t get at home. “That’s the main thing,” he explained, “you have to promote leagues to have any steady income from it.” Valley Pool Tables, which makes coin operated pool tables, air hockey, and Foosball, started an international league which operators work to support. “The league helps promote the business. Operators go to our customers and get them to promote it, and we put a league together for 20 weeks a couple of times a year. Both the state and the national organization put on tournaments, and players can even go to Las Vegas once a year if they want. Players really enjoy participating.”
Also in Indiana, Scott Winzinger, owner of Americoin Amusement in Evansville carries video games, crane games, photo booths and internet juke boxes among his many varied arcade options. “Currently I do well with a lot of my crane games, as well as with racer and super bike games. Driving games are very popular because players just like the thrill of them. As far as a video game goes, Jurassic Park continues to do very well for us. My internet juke boxes also do well.” Winzinger added that what makes arcade games earn for him is the ability for the customer to do something they can’t when playing at home. “Basically it has to be something they can steer, feel their hands on the steering wheel, or their foot on the gas pedal. And shooting games also do well, because again they can have something in their hands. The bottom line is that a game has to be different than what is available in their own house, it’s that hands-on thing that makes a game popular.” As far as trends in games and devices go, Winzinger sees people continuing to be drawn more and more toward tactile games and also toward prizes. “I see a lot of redemption games doing well, and I certainly find myself buying more games that allow kids the ability to win something. I’ve steered away from buying more games that are not redemption oriented.” Other games doing well for Winzinger are touch-screen games such as Fruit Ninja, a fruit slicing game. “It’s kind of like a big iPad, so people like that. Air hockey and basketball games, which are kind of mainstays, they continue to do well, too.” The overall trend appears to be that if players can touch it, they will play it.
At Amusement Games Inc., in Santa Claus, Ind., Owner Greg Deller finds redemption games do best. “The classics really, the ones that stay forever continue to perform well for us. Those would include Big Bass Wheel, Monster Drop, Bay Tek games’ Dizzy Chicken. Those are all doing very well. Merchandisers such as Key Master also seem to be among our best.” While Deller is not seeing any specific new trends in terms of game concepts, what he does see echoes what Winzinger and Bonham note. “A game needs to be something that players can’t play at home or on their smart phone to be successful,” he explained. “It’s just more fun to come to the arcade, play a redemption game, get tickets and go win a prize. The things that do well always give players a prize – and that they can’t get at home.” Deller’s crane games are another strong area for him. “It’s really all about that instant gratification. It’s a lot of fun and easy to win.”
Located since 1968 in Las Vegas, Nev., Greg Zischke, owner of ABC Amusement Games, agreed with other operators. “The trend is that to be popular, a game has to be different than what people can play at home. That’s long been the case, ever since home games essentially infiltrated the market, in some cases with better video than what we are given. Hands-on devices like driving and shooting games are popular for that reason, and so are classic games. Classics really draw many people in although they’re not high money makers.” Calling pinball machines and old school video games “attention grabbers,” Zischke added that “PAC-MAN, Frogger, games of that nature, nostalgia games, those are very popular and honestly tend to do better than the new games. Nostalgia is in now. We do special event rentals with classic packages that do extremely well.” For Zischke, current-era games that do well fall into a pattern of popularity with shooting and driving games and merchandisers at the top of his list. “Jurassic Park, Terminator 2 Salvation, those are still holding strong in the top five of the games that we operate. Alien Extermination is also doing well.” Zischke has wound down many of his arcade locations, offering most games at street locations versus larger rooms. “It’s too expensive to operate and get a return investment on larger rooms,” he related.
And, at Midwest Coin Concepts in St. Cloud, Minn., Co-owner Chip O’Hara cited “large footprint redemption games by multiple manufacturers” as his most popular games. “On the street, its winner-every-time cranes with a little higher price per play, in the $3 to $5 range, that work well for us. We have been testing that for some time, and of course cash-less technology – we continue to roll that out. We feel that will be a big opportunity for the street operator.”
In Rapid City, S.D., Manager Mike Fenske at Rushmore Amusement Inc. and D & S Vending calls Golden Tee golf his top video game, and pool tables and darts his bread and butter. “We have transitioned to really hanging our hat on pool and darts,” he said. “They work well for us because we work hard to promote league play. When it comes to video games, unfortunately cell phone games and home play have kind of taken us out of the loop, so I’ve put my efforts into the league play games instead. They do very well for us.”
In short, to get players playing, today’s games do best for operators when they offer the ability for hands-on play, the gratification of redemption prizes, or the companionship and fun of league-play activities.