By Kathryn Van Druff
Arcade games and vending machines have come a long way since their humble beginnings. Retro arcades continue to delight customers while contemporary counterparts also drive a smart argument for facility owners. Some businesses continue to adhere to the traditional style of games and vending with cash and tickets while others now embrace the swipe card technology. Here are some trends in ticketing and swipe cards with arcades and vending services.
In addition to his business, Birmingham Vending, Steven Toranto operates an arcade using tokens and tickets in Panama City, Fla. He strongly believes that the old-school feel delights guests and gives the arcade an edge. Toranto said some businesses do better with the swipe cards, but not all reap the benefits right away.
“All the big companies have already done the swipe cards,” said Steven Toranto, president of Birmingham Vending in Birmingham, Ala. “And now I think the second wave is here and a lot of smaller size venues and customers are going toward swipe cards—not everybody, but we’re getting towards 50 percent, particularly towards new arcades; a majority of new ones. I think there’s a conversion going for some of the older ones too.”
Toranto explained that the SEMNOX system provided his company with a lot of success. The Parafait solution suite offers a full-circle, automated system to keep costs low and customers happy.
“It’s a good value proposition and then they do a nice [job] of following up,” he said. “They are aggressive about taking care of any follow-up issues and we are very happy working with them.”
Toranto added that he does see a strong market for coins and cash in the business.
“A lot of the games that you play with the coins are still really good games and because so many bigger companies have gone to card systems, a lot of younger kids haven’t actually had experience of playing token games that were so popular before card systems. I think the paper tickets are a much better guest experience. The kids just love to earn the tickets. For example, my own child is 12; they’re playing for free, they can get prizes for free, but she just loves to get the tickets. That is the end game for her, winning the tickets. Getting rid of the tickets is a significant cost savings and significant maintenance savings, so it’s a big trade off, but for the guest experience, paper tickets are a much better situation.”
In Cinnaminson, N.J., Bill Graham runs VendMedic Repair and Machine Sales and its sister company, A&M Refreshments. Graham said vending machines offering both cash payment as well as credit card have become fairly mainstream. He noted that a few customers have asked for a no-cash option, but most continue to offer both.
“It seems like the last year or year and a half, the credit card option has given a good lift for sales,” Graham said. “It can be anywhere from a 20 percent to 60-65 percent increase in sales from just having cash option because so many people are just not carrying cash anymore.”
His machines offer vending for more than just drinks and snacks. One customer’s company sells Etsy-type items from a vending machine. Some industries also distribute employee gear like work gloves from vending machines to ensure workers access only the items that are due to them on a regular basis.
“There’s a lot of new technology coming out,” said Graham. “Most of the readers now will do the tap and you can do it off of your phone on some of your machines. A couple of manufacturers for readers have started an option where you can slide it or have a chip card instead of just swiping. The new enhancement on the readers is able to display the items that are in the machine with the calories and nutritional values displayed on the reader. A couple of manufacturers are working on making the whole glass in front of the machine like a touchscreen and you can select items off of that.”
Lansdale Amusement Company in Trumbauersville, Pa. operates under a revenue share philosophy with primarily coin-operated amusement machines and jukeboxes. The company partners with the Quakertown Farmer’s Market’s arcade, which is the only retro arcade in the area. The upscale arcades in the area seem to rely on swipe cards and electronic tickets where you feed the paper tickets into the machine and get back a printed slip with your ticket count and a QR code or similar.
Lansdale Amusement Company Manager Amy Lausterer said, “In our rural area, it’s still a reward to go to the arcade at the Quakertown Farmer’s Market in our town. We put all the new pinballs in there, nice new games. It still does very well and there’s still something about saving up your quarters for the week.”
The Funplex Amusement Centers in East Hanover, N.J. offers guests hours of fun inside and out, with an arcade, laser tag, bowling, and an outdoor waterpark. The company recently upgraded its Embed card system to now use RFID capability, which is a fairly major upgrade to 340 readers that now boast the ability for programming.
“The tap readers now work with either a card or a wristband—whatever media you want to use—and you can just tap a reader instead of having to swipe,” said Brian Williams, CEO of The Funplex. “It’s convenient, easier, and quicker. Also, the readers have some functionality that I think will be great for us. We do not only use these on arcade games, but we also use them on all our rides and attractions. For us, to be able to know what our traffic is, the guest count for each attraction, to see what’s popular, is important. With the software, we can see how many times a guest rode the bumper cars or played a particular game.”
Williams noted that the upgrade to use RFID was pretty expensive to change all of the readers at both facilities—one at Mount Laurel and one at East Hanover. Now he said guests can come and purchase an attraction wristband and he is able to load a deal directly onto the band. This functionality works especially well for birthday packages. Moreover, his company can use this bonus programming to offer special deals on off-peak days during the week, free video games, double ticketing, and more.
“I can load that particular deal onto that wristband, and they can go to every attraction that is eligible,” he said. “They tap a reader and my attendant will know if they purchased that package and can go.”
In the game for more than three decades, Williams remembers the thrills kids had winning piles and piles of tickets at the arcade. The new cards alleviate the burden of transporting the tickets, counting them or weighing them and allowing for redemption. Parents and kids can now see how many tickets are on their accounts by viewing their profile on the card. Tapping the reader will also show how many credits remain.
“Every new FEC [family entertainment center] or those converting are going to cards,” Williams shared. “It’s a big, big change in our business and it’s cool. It’s really neat and kids are used to the technology. I think the parents having a harder time with it. We have a few games with tickets.”
Despite still having a few games spilling out tickets, the idea behind it is mainly for aesthetics. Williams indicates that coin-operated games have largely jumped the shark as the company fully converted from tokens a number of years ago. During a lengthy conversion, they still honored tokens and converted the tender to the new system for customers who brought coins into the center. The cashless and ticketless system The Funplex uses now allows for better and easier reporting with greater control over many aspects of business operations.
Williams said that The Funplex has major plans to enhance the park with a $4 million renovation plan. The new improvements will include 20 bowling lanes, an improved go-kart track, rides, a lightshow, and new food and beverage options, to name a few. The theme will pay tribute to the New Jersey boardwalk scene.
“Cashless readers are a big factor in our expansion plans,” Williams said.