What do plush cranes, ball claws, Magic Coin and Monster Drop have in common?
They’re all popular coin-op games. And they’re all beloved by patrons for that thrill of getting a prize.
“Nowadays, everybody wants to win something every time,” observed Jay Coubal, who owns Northwest Coin Machine Company in Bloomer, Wis. His top coin-op game is Magic Coin from Smart Industries, which dispenses little eggs that may have trinkets inside – or they may have “magic coins,” which are redeemable for valuable prizes like YETI brand cups. The thrill of getting something every time, but not knowing what kind of prize awaits, has made Magic Coin a hit along Coubal’s Wisconsin street route.
Coubal said his other top revenue generators include Internet jukeboxes, dart and pool for the local leagues, little shooter boards, and cranes with either plush or vinyl inflatable balls. “It’s a dollar per try on the ball game, and it costs me 20 to 30 cents, depending on style,” Coubal said.
In Fort Wayne, Ind., Play Fair does well with any kind of crane or claw machine and with redemption prizes, said second-generation Owner Brian Crowl. “It’s about the value perceived, or the timeless entertainment value,” he explained. As an alternative to phone- and tablet-based amusements, Crowl said patrons are looking for an interactive experience. “My games are mall-based, so I’m not getting just teenaged boys as my client base,” he added.
Play Fair operates 1,500 pieces of equipment on a route across five Midwestern states, including 28 game rooms and malls. Crowl said business has been strong lately, after a decline in previous years. “We’re quite happy; I would say things have held rather steady,” he noted.
In Bloomer, Wis., Coubal also sees a trend toward more technology — not just for connecting patrons’ apps to the jukebox, but also for vendors to monitor revenue remotely and even service their equipment online.
Mike Cichy, who owns SWA Amusement in Bremerton, Wash., thinks the business is tilting away from chance-based games to ones incorporating skill. “I see the customers are tired of losing as a percentage basis,” said Cichy, a fourth-generation vendor. “With skill involved, you always have a chance to win.”
Cichy operates an arcade as well as a small local route, with 50 pieces of equipment distributed throughout hobby shops and pizza parlors. Birthday parties are a huge part of his growing business; he did more than 350 last year. Cichy has observed an increasing desire on the part of patrons to win every time, which explains why redemption games are favorites.
Monster Drop “is still at the top of the charts for us,” Cichy added. “It’s inexpensive to play, only a quarter. It’s an easy game for people to understand. And it feels good to win lots of tickets.” Since his old-school coin pusher does well, he ordered a Pineapple Express version due this spring, which he thinks will succeed for the same reason as Pac-Man Swirl and others that dole out prize slips. Cichy has also bought a Ticket Time machine and a second crane with tickets inside, to go with an existing high-revenue crane.
“Instead of just playing games, people like to win something,” affirmed Michael Maisler, who owns Masters Music and Vending in Chico, Calif. Redemption games are tops at his 35 locations around Northern California; tech-savvy patrons are also enthusiastic for Masters’ Internet-enabled and downloading jukeboxes.
But more than music, people are excited by the opportunity to score the gift cards, wireless headphones, and other high-end electronics that Maisler wisely stocks. “I make sure the redemption center has some good stuff,” he said. “The driving force is the prizes. Everybody wants to win.”
Is Pool Still a Profit Center, Why or Why Not?
Pool remains profitable for many coin-op vendors, and leagues are a big reason why. “People all want to play in the tournaments,” explained Jay Coubal, who has a network of profitable pool tables with Northwest Coin Machine Company in Bloomer, Wis., and also serves on a committee for the state’s pool association. “Local leagues are the way to be eligible for those state and national tournaments.”
Beyond that, Coubal said, pool remains popular as a low-stress, low-cost social event. “It gets people out of the house one night a week, shooting darts and playing with friends,” he noted.
Being part of a Valley league has ensured profitability for the pool table operations at Play Fair, a Fort Wayne, Ind.-based coin-op vending outfit. “The management of the league has been very helpful in bringing new people into the game,” said Brian Crowl, Play Fair’s owner. He added that the potential players are virtually endless, but potential venues are not, given the space needs of pool tables. “A lot of places just don’t have enough room,” Crowl noted.
Pool activity and revenue have declined lately around Chico, Calif., though Michael Maisler, who owns Masters Music and Vending in that city, isn’t sure why. In places where pool still does well, however, Maisler says it’s because of the leagues. “Here in Chico, we’ve got fairly strong traveling leagues, both men and women’s, based in the local bars,” he said.