A Return to Expo
Walk Around Upbeat Show Leads to Discovery of Cool Card System
by Jack Guarnieri, Jersey Jack Pinball & PinballSales.com
This is the first time in a few years that I’ve exhibited at the Amusement Expo International show. I was prodded a bit by organizer Brian Glasgow and distributor Rich Babich (Game Exchange of Colorado) and while I like Las Vegas, we had to fit it into our otherwise busy show schedule.
I remember going to the 2001 show in Vegas just after 9-11 and the mood was somber and measured. In contrast, this show was happy and upbeat. Even the people that don’t like me smiled at me so they must have been selling something! For the most part, I heard good things and while the weather was a bit cold, we still managed to walk the mall and get my In-N-Out Burger fix.
I’m happy that we were there. Many operators from the West Coast and Midwest who don’t go to IAAPA actually played our games for the first time. One West Coast operator was telling me how pinball has made a big comeback, and how he is considering putting pinball back on location. For a few mintues, he continued to tell me why young people are discovering pinball and summed it up by asking me: “Who would have ever thought that pinball would make a comeback like this?”
I replied with: “Uh…ME! I started a pinball company in 2011, fully intending to help bring pinball back and introduce it to the 21st Century.”
The funniest thing is that while he knew of me, he didn’t know who he was talking to until he looked down at my badge. He and the people he was with had a good laugh.
The show was certainly worth exhibiting in as Butch Peel and I were very busy in the Jersey Jack Pinball booth both days. Usually, a four-day show boils down to two busy days so I figured a two-day show would be busy day for just one. Happily, it wasn’t until about 4 p.m. on Thursday (the second day of exhibits) that I got a bit of a lull and was finally able to walk the show for myself.
Aside from equipment offerings, I usually look for something new and innovative that solves a problem. I found that by accident in the Amusement Connect booth. As I was walking by, they wrangled me into their exhibit as they both are big pinball fans. I kind of wondered what the heck these guys were up to, but intended to continue my walk. I made the “mistake” of asking them what they do and what followed was really great!
The guys were Frank Licausi and John Tarpley and they were demonstrating a “card system.” Maybe right now, you’re thinking of turning the page, thinking you already know all about card systems, but theirs is so much more than that. They have created an elegant solution for bringing redemption games to street locations. By the way, Frank is a 35-year industry veteran with experience as a technician, street operator and large FEC owner. He knows location challenges and needs.
While playing darts with his longtime friend and engineer-next-door-neighbor John Tarpley, they came up with an idea that I see as the most innovative, creative, informational, economical and practical way to operate games on location. (Can you tell I was impressed?)
The concept was simple: improve the player experience in arcades and street locations. They have created a “labor-less redemption arcade” through the use of player cards and PrizeZilla, a large, touchscreen, redemption prize-vending machine that holds one to two weeks worth of prizes.
With Amusement Connect’s system, thousands of dollars worth of prizes are kept in a controlled setting inside PrizeZilla, which also dispenses big prizes. Winning players can select big-ticket items like high-dollar electronic prizes and more… virtually anything. They enter their email address and an Amazon gift card is emailed to them or in the case of an Xbox, for example, it’s sent to their home address in a day or so.
The financial and statistical reporting of this system is amazing with all the tracking data an operator needs right at your fingertips. You know how much you earned, what you paid, and the inventory level of PrizeZilla for reordering purposes. There are no tickets, ticket-counting machines, waste, ticket jams (or refilling) or printed receipts showing tickets won. This is as ideal for street locations as it is for bowling centers or even an FEC with 100, 200 or more games.
Right now, there are more than 20 operators using the system and Frank and John have sold (or are in the process of selling) another 17 systems as a result of the Amusement Expo. When I spent some time in their booth, I felt like I just discovered popcorn! These guys are very easy to talk to and they know the industry, their product and what benefit it can bring to their customers and their players.
By the way, the system even works with locations that have a physical redemption counter using their “Prize King” options. Also, Frank and John can customize certain features to the specific needs of the location. They noted that the early-adopting operators have helped to improve the system and they have become the best spokespeople for Amusement Connect.
Honestly, I think operators should check the system out. Here are some links to help you learn more: www.amusementconnect.com; blog.amusementconnect.com/roi-calculator; blog.amusementconnect.com; and the page the guys say really helps operators understand what they do www.amusementconnect.com/arcade.html.
Jack Guarnieri started servicing electro-mechanical pinball machines in 1975 and has been involved in every phase of the amusement game business since then. He was an operator in NYC, then began a distributorship in 1999, PinballSales.com, selling coin-op to the consumer market. In January of 2011 he founded Jersey Jack Pinball (named after his RePlay Magazine pen name), which builds award-winning, full-featured, coin-op pinball machines. Email Jack at jack@ jerseyjackpinball.com.