Howard McAuliffe’s Now Trending – November 2023


Tips for IAAPA and My Personal Game Plan


Howard McAuliffe

by Howard McAuliffe, Partner, Pinnacle Entertainment Group

IAAPA is like the Super Bowl for our industry. It’s the biggest gathering of people and equipment, with attendees and vendors from all over the world. I went to my first IAAPA in 1989 as a 10-year-old kid, and I’m just as excited, if not more than ever, this year.

Covid put a hole in the research and development pipelines of many manufacturers, but they are catching up! I expect to see more new products this year than the last few years. I won’t recommend buying any of it until we see how it performs in the field, but it’s always good to see what is hitting the market. Many attendees buy unproven equipment and then regret it when the game doesn’t earn as well as expected or becomes a service nightmare.

First, planning to walk the entire floor is always a good idea. New vendors are often assigned poor booth spaces and new and unique products can be found throughout the exhibit space. While seeing everything is a noble goal, sometimes it’s not possible so prioritization is key. Here is my plan for prioritizing the vendors I must see first.

The first stop will be Shaffer Distributing (booth 1029), where they will have their “IAAPA Cheat Sheets,” in which they lay out the new and hot games to see, complete with the booth number where you can find them. Shaffer will also have three of the new games I want to play in their booth – the VR Godzilla game from Raw Thrills, Toilet Bowl Toss from Bay Tek and Skill Fall, Sega’s low-cost merchandiser.

Rhode Island Novelty is always an important stop for me. They offer free freight on show orders so it’s a good time to get ready for the holiday season and save money at the same time. While I’ve found most vendors say freight is free, these costs are often built into their price. RINCO actually gives free freight at tradeshows. The other redemption vendor I’ll visit is Redemption Plus. Every year, they’ve had new products and services that are valuable to our clients. When there, definitely take a look at their Gel Blaster line. I think it’s the hottest new product in redemption.

Smart Industries (booth 1818) is a must-see this year. In a sneak peek on YouTube, “Arcade Matt” found a Smart crane on test at the Houston Dave & Buster’s that involves a robot picking up Ticket Rings. This innovative new product will be worth seeing in action.

Bay Tek (booth 1015) and ICE (booth 1606) are musts for me as they consistently make some of the best equipment in the industry. Creative Works (booth 3078) hasn’t announced anything new yet – they like to wait until right before the show – but is a sure stop for me. They will almost certainly have something new and exciting.

As readers of my column know, Intercard (booth 2206) is our go-to card system. They will have some very innovative products and specifically, I want an in-depth look at the new iTellerPlusXL, which can dispense wristbands as well as sell packages. The processing fees for the iReader Impulse readers, which can accept credits cards, have come down to what I feel is a reasonable price. We like these readers for small game rooms and for games like cranes and merchandisers in high-traffic areas. The new iReader Impulse Tap will take credit cards via tap or swipe which is an innovation that makes them even more user friendly.

Hopefully, I’ll get through all of the above and have time to sit down for a few minutes before heading out for the evening. In addition to having dinner with customers and friends, when in Orlando, I make a point of going to Andretti’s Indoor Karting and Games. (Tip: There are usually many vendor events hosted there, so try to get an invite and some free drinks.) Manufacturers often show new products on location at Andretti’s. For example, Brunswick Bowling will be showing their Duckpin Social concept with Spark, their immersive bowling experience that previously has only been available for regular bowling lanes. Now, with the smaller footprint of duckpin bowling, the Spark concept can be used in many more FECs. I expect to see a number of other new, innovative products at Andretti’s.

If all of the above is accomplished Day 1, I’ll be off to a good start. I’ll spend the rest of the show walking the floor with clients, meeting with vendors and going to at least one of the organized events at a theme park to have some fun. IAAPA is a very productive show for business, a ton of fun and has become like a family reunion where the industry gathers for a great week in Orlando.

Howard McAuliffe loves to imagine and implement new products, business models, and ideas, and is a partner in Pinnacle Entertainment Group Inc. He’s an industry veteran who got his start in the business when he was just 16 and has 20 years of expertise in product development, as well as FEC and route operations. Howard’s wife Reem and young son Sami are the center of life outside of work. When he’s not working, Howard can be found enjoying the outdoors, hiking, fishing and mountaineering. Traveling anywhere new or to old favorites like the American West is a passion. Readers can visit for more information or contact Howard at [email protected], he welcomes positive as well as constructive feedback and counterpoints.


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