Back in my early days covering this business, I read a story in some magazine or newspaper in which cigarette vending machines were referred to as “ubiquitous.” I had to look the word up to learn that it meant “all over the place.” Well, cigarette machines aren’t ubiquitous any longer, but it’s starting to look like cranes are. This resurgence of a class of game that was once popular way, way back…but then sort of disappeared for a while…has been slow but steady, unlike a tsunami but more like the moon tide that creeps up the beach and keeps going right up to the sea wall.
Today, you’ll find cranes in far more types of places than virtually any other kind of amusement device. They’re in supermarkets. They’re in all sorts of restaurants, from fast food joints to sit down establishments. Operators run them in single sites all the way up to chain contracts. They’re fixtures at arcades and FECs. There are machines on dollar play, on seven-plays for $5, on unlimited play (until you win something) for $20. Some cranes are even on straight retail where a dad can buy the prize his kid wants right at the cash register counter if he wants to.
The crane is the game behind the AAMA association’s Fair Play Pledge, which promises that its membership’s machines will be designed, built and marketed as prize or ticket venders where skill, rather than chance, is the key to the win. The catalyst in the creation of this pledge was a one-sided mini-documentary a civilian made to show that the percentage of prizes to money paid by players can be adjusted to insure an adequate “slice” of the action for both operator and end user (usually a kid). We say “adjusted”…the guy who made the news byte said “rigged.”
This is kind of old news in the trade magazines now, but hardly out there in the field where the bulk of the cranes and other kinds of auto-prize games were placed well before the Pledge was completed. And as we all know, that spirit behind that Pledge not only needs to infiltrate the head of every operator to work, but his heart as well, because this is a moral issue as much as anything could be.
I once read that there’s an ethnic group which believes that it’s perfectly okay to lie and to steal, that the “evil” only sets in when you’re caught doing it. I thought how strange it must be to live that way until I realized that a lot of “normal” people probably approach their income taxes the same way. I also remember when a lot of operators bought counterfeit video game boards and put them out in the street, and then “looked through the rear view mirror” hoping nobody’d catch them. Remember? Please also remember that winners make players and that playing fair with the equipment should result in more than a fair amount of paper sliding into your cash catcher.