My very first experience with what we now call “prize redemption” happened at a boardwalk arcade at the famed Jersey Shore (on the border of Ocean Grove and Asbury Park, to be exact). It was a rotary machine with a Ronson cigarette lighter set in the center of the playfield that just about everybody assumed was permanently fixed to the table (but that never stopped anyone from trying to win it, anyway).
Rotaries, and the now more popular claw cranes, were legally questionable then, so when you found one, you really wanted to play (forbidden fruit). Today, of course, cranes are all over the place and the prizes inside far more winnable than that silver lighter. It’s that winnable word that I want to speak about…and each and every one of you who makes, sells or operates cranes and other auto-merchandising machines knows what I mean without going into specifics.
First of all, the market for prizes of all descriptions…from little candy bars on through the world of plush and up to more costly electronics, is huge in our industry today. This, among other reasons, shows that the playing public is indeed taking home the goodies, or more specifically, that the games are parting with their prizes in a decent fashion. Yes? Is that a yes I hear? Winners make players, right?
Pinnacle’s George McAuliffe has written us a particularly useful column this month, which I really hope all readers take a moment to check out. It’s his reminder of why people put money into games, why they might continue doing so, but also why some no longer do. His lessons are especially useful to operators in local communities rather than tourist places. Here’s an excerpt:
“It is the ‘value perception’ that determines if players are coming back and how often. If a given machine is priced too high or otherwise takes their money too fast, frustrates them or never lets them win, it hurts the value perception. It can also take the fun out of the visit and create a bad memory. Games that provide a reasonable payout, and are skill based so that players feel they control the outcome, promote repeat visits.”
Playing coin-op’s own “game” by the rules George once again spells out is the key to a good night’s sleep besides the key to keep the folks coming back. Just ask world-famous toy star Huggy Wuggy (shown above paying me a visit to see how our prize special issue is coming along).