By George McAuliffe
Baytek and their manufacturing colleagues have blessed us with a steady stream of good games that customers will pay for. So how to choose which to buy? We’ve developed a system over the years which focuses first on the customer base, the players, and asks the question: “how will this new game support the overall game mix and player experience?” Whether a new facility or a replacement purchase, we try to first:
·       understand the client’s vision for the facility
·       study market demographics and competition
·       establish the FEC’s reason for being; the planned guest experience
Our guiding principle is having the right games for the audience under one of three categories: redemption, non-redemption (video, air hockey, boxers, etc) and cranes & merchandisers.
It’s not as simple as picking the highest earning games on the market. For example, a traditional sales/investment ROI calculation will find linked driving games ranked as average sales performers. However, if they weren’t in the mix, their sales would not always migrate over to redemption. Children’s redemption fits a similar profile. SkeeBall’s value lies in the high play time it provides to the game mix (and the sales, although average, are so steady that the long-term ROI is as good as most Top Ten games).
Narrowing the Field…
Once we have the categories and subcategories matched to the audience we enter the next stage as we start to narrow the mix:
·       play value
·       expected sales
·       payout profile
·       game cost
·       price per play
·       physical size
·       ceiling heights
Our guiding principle here is to treat our client’s investment dollars as if they were our own, so we are very aware of cost as we move from nominees to finalists. For new locations, since we are predicting the future we like to be conservative. If we have space for 50 games, we’ll open with 45. We then set a target sales per game figure which, when exceeded, indicates that we should add more player capacity.
Ongoing purchasing decisions
Once a facility has been open for a while it’s often time for additional games or an update. Most operators start with the highest earning games on the market first and look to trade in their lowest earning games. We often start there ourselves. As above, however, remember there will always be a “bottom five” and ensure that the room can entertain all it serves.
Beware the term “payback.” If a game costs $10,000 and earns $1,000 per week, “payback” is ten weeks, right? Wrong- not in the financial sense. The $1,000 in weekly sales includes some sales that would have been collected by the games already in the room. The true payback is the amount of incremental-new-sales the game generates for the room.
Effective layout of a redemption game room is often more art than science. We produce dozens of layouts every year yet we often tweak the layout once the games are on site. Here are a few tips and principles to assist with game layout:
·       casinos are great laboratories for studying the dynamics of machine placement and the traffic flow through the space.
·       drawing people into and flowing them through the space is the top goal.
·       sight lines are key; try to maximize from throughout the greater facility.
·       allow visibility deep into the space, and to the maximum number of games.
It pays to understand what customer subset’s like to play and grouping those games together. An example is Baytek’s Big Bass Wheel when placed next to Ticket Monster. Players who love one will certainly play the other, stimulating incremental play.
Redemption center or room placement is also a matter of sight lines. We want visibility to the redemption room from as many passersby as possible to draw them into the game room. We also want maximum sight lines to the merchandise from the games. A visual connection between player and the merchandise drives sales.
George McAuliffe has helped hundreds of business large and small develop and execute arcades and FEC’s. He has personally operated family entertainment centers from 2,000 to 150,000 square feet as a corporate executive, entrepreneur, and consultant. With his partner, Howard McAuliffe, he recently launched The Pinnacle Insider in order to help a wider audience execute FEC operations at a higher level. Readers can become an Insider at