Treasures that Take the Prize
Trends in Arcade Redemption Prizes

Everybody loves to be a winner, and as trends in redemption prizes prove, both traditional and of-the-moment prize types are big hits with players at family fun centers and arcades.

At Boomers in Cathedral City, Calif., Operations Manager Gennesse Aguirre said her FFC’s most popular redemption prizes are disappearing ink and Whoopee cushions. “They’re both really fun prizes, and are always the first thing that goes. Kids just love throwing the ink at each other, and the Whoopee cushions are a good joke.”

She keeps things fresh to stimulate interest in the prizes. “We like switching it up so that prizes don’t get boring, and it’s not always the same thing that players have available to win.” Overall though, it’s both the displays of the prizes that she curates and customer interaction that drives interest. “When kids can’t decide what they want, we always show them our favorites, and tell them what is the most popular, and talking to them increases their interest and that gives them an idea of what they want to win. When the kids buy tokens, they always come and look at what we have, what the prizes are and how many tickets it takes to win them,” Aguirre noted.

As to the future of redemption prizes, Aguirre pictures much of the same mix of prize items. “The important thing will continue to be having a good mix of familiar products that people like, and keeping things fresh.”

The redemption counter at Park Lanes Family Fun Center in Hillsboro, Ore., with staff members Jim Dollina and Will Tefft, managers, Marcos Aguilar, Zach Osburn and Alex Henderson, customer service employees and Mercedes Armas and Becca Tracewell, waitresses. Plush emoji items and bags containing surprise prizes are the most popular redemption items for the center.

In Hillsboro, Ore., Kyle Johnson, general manager of Park Lanes Family Fun Center cited his most popular redemption prizes as plush emoji items and “blind bags.” He described the latter prize as a “sealed bag that could have any number of different things in there. People really enjoy the surprise element of not being sure exactly what they are getting. It’s just a lot of fun.” As to the emoji items, Johnson is not entirely sure why they are as popular as they have turned out to be. “We have some of everything emoji, including plush. The emoji movie didn’t do that well in the theater, but it may have caused recognition that draws attention to these items.” In order to generate more interest in redemption prizes, Johnson uses a variety of techniques. “We post on social media about our prizes, and we put up pictures of them, displaying the items that do particularly well. We also display our prizes in the center really well; we hang things from the ceiling, we basically utilize every corner of the redemption counter.”

As to the future, Johnson is sure of one thing. “I think prizes will always be there. People like to win something more than they like buying it in a store. One thing we’ve noticed is that we’ve gotten larger point-value items now than we had several years ago. More and more people are coming in to try to win a high-ticket item, such as an XBox. It’s just more fun than spending the money on buying it.”

At the Scandia Family Fun Center in Sacramento, Calif., Redemption and Shift Manager Sarah Cloud has a mix of popular redemption prize items. “Fidget spinners are trending right now,” she asserted. “We get 200 of them in a pack, and they’ll be gone in two or three days. Disappearing ink is also popular for us, it’s just a lot of fun for the kids. Another big one I would say are Poppers – they look like half of a bouncy ball, but they are hollow, and if you put them on a flat surface they pop up. Again, they are simply a lot of fun.” Also drawing player interest: light- up yo-yos. “Those have gone like crazy. People like them because they are so interactive.”

Heightening the interest level of players is a key component of Cloud’s position. “I am constantly changing the look of the redemption area. I have different colored fabrics that I put on the shelving, and I switch up the look of the space by putting toys in different order, hanging them on the wall, that type of thing. When it comes to bigger items, such as skate boards, I switch out the colors. The main thing is to just make sure it looks cool all the time, and keep the display fresh.” Cloud said that in the future, redemption prizes will continue to keep up with “trends that people enjoy, and on items that fit different seasonal interests. It will always be about keeping up with what pleases customers.”

Taylor Greis, manager of Golf n’ Stuff in Tucson, Ariz., said her most popular redemption prizes are candy and plush animals. “They both have universal appeal, with younger children going for the stuffed animals, and older kids choosing candy items.” She enhances player interest in redemption items by using a seasonal approach. “Right now, we have Halloween displays up; we had sea animals as a theme in the summer; we also do special displays for Valentine’s Day and the Christmas holidays. That keeps things fresh and adds excitement.” According to Greis, along with the displays, many of her prizes are also seasonal to increase player interest. “We have rubber rats and Halloween stamps in the fall and during the winter we move a lot of snowmen stamps.” And in the future? “I think that some redemption centers will go with whatever is the current pop cultural idea for redemption prizes. We do traditional prizes that change seasonally, and some small, standard prizes that people continue to enjoy such as sticky hands and bouncy balls. We’ll stick with that traditional approach.”

In Yakima, Wash. at the Meadowbrook Family Fun Center, General Manager Kris Brown said the most popular prizes depend on the price range and ticket amounts won, but overall her arcade’s favorites are “just traditional fun prizes that people have always enjoyed, such as whistles, any kind of ball, yo-yos, bounce balls, suckers, and masks.” She said displays are key for building interest in prizes. “We try to keep the display very nice, we change things around a lot, and we add different items every week.” As far as the future goes, she doesn’t predict much change when it comes to redemption prizes, predicting traditional prizes will stay popular. “People will always want to win something. That’s the fun part of the game, really, getting tickets for winning.”

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