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Tim North of CG Midlands, formerly Chili Games, shares some of his wisdom from the sometimes overlooked – but potentially lucrative – part of a park’s mix: midway games.
A game should add to the guest's day out – even if they don't win. Do you agree?
For certain, it is important that the guest feels they have had good value out of any transaction along the course of their day out, whether it be the food they eat in the catering outlets, the amount of rides they get on for their entrance fee or, indeed, the experience they have while playing the games.
The fun element isn’t always easy to convey on some of the games though, so we tend to ensure the guests walk away from these type of games with a guaranteed prize. That way, the guests either get an entertaining activity (basketball, football, throwing etc), or they get a guaranteed win, or PET (prize every time) as we call them.
We find this mix of games helps the family unit all get something from their day out, as the smaller children who couldn’t necessarily throw a basketball can walk away from a game with a nice prize and a real sense of achievement. Smiles on faces is after all what keeps families coming back to parks and attractions, and if we can help with that in our partner parks, then we are all guaranteeing the well-being of the industry for generations to come.
What's more important – playability or prizes?
They can both make a huge difference. First and foremost, you will put people off if you are not advertising the right prizes; they will just walk past the game. However if you do attract them over with an eye-catching prize but the game seems too hard to win or is over in flash, then you can be sure they will not play it again. I would therefore say you need both, prizes to attract and playability to hold the player and get repeat custom.
What are your best performing games and why?
This depends largely on the visitor demographic of each particular attraction, as different age groups enjoy different games. We also find that different ages/genders are attracted to different sorts of prizes.
We are finding though, as economic times are getting tougher, that the trend seems to be steering slightly more to our prize every time games in most parks, ensuring value for money for the guest on each occasion. That said, the challenge games are still creating a real buzz with the right prizes and basketball is our largest grossing game this season on most sites.
Other than plush toys, what prizes have proved popular?
With home entertainment being so popular these days, anything to do with the XBox or Playstation seems to get the teenagers playing. The large lollipops are also another good line for 2011. We are still experimenting with non-plush prizes at each site on at least one of our games. Again, we try and suit the type of prize to the age of people visiting each particular park. This is a trial and error experiment for us, as games have traditionally always been plush, but we are in the 21st Century now!
What's the ideal prize to play ratio, and how do you control it?
You wont get our secrets that easily! Controlling the payout is a fine art. Before we opened a single game we spent two years behind the scenes writing our own software and data management systems, so we can monitor each game at each site.
This has been made much easier for us by the arrival of the iPhones. As our technology has always been Mac-based, we already had the script to write our own apps, so from head office our senior management team can see exactly what is going on at each site each hour. We know exactly what revenue has been generated on every single game, and exactly how many winners of each line of stock, making it easy to make adjustments to the games to ensure maximum playability and this maximum revenue for ourselves and our host parks.
Its actually nice on busier days to see the prize counters flowing. This means there’s lots of people with big smiles on their faces, and people who will have a lasting reminder of their day out.
CG Midlands designs, builds and operate midway games and amusement arcades in theme parks and holiday resorts across the UK including Butlins, Knowsley Safari Park, West Midland Safari Park, SeaQuarium Rhyl and SeaQuarium Weston-super-Mare. Reached them at +44 845 460 9999 or firstname.lastname@example.org