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Carnival & Fair News
Carnival & Fair News
Overview of the games seminars from 2013 IAAPA Attractions Expo
Industry trends & ideas to keep your games fresh & increase revenue
Wednesday, July 23, 2014
  • Rides 4U - New & Used Rides
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Each year, millions of guests play the midway games at parks and attractions worldwide.  Whether it is at an amusement or theme park, on a boardwalk, at a family entertainment center, at a fair or carnival, or at an amusement park or midway area in a casino or hotel, games are an integral part of the total entertainment experience at these facilities and venues.

From "Winner Every Time" games to games where players have the opportunity to trade up for larger prizes, to redemption and arcade games, attractions offer games of all skill levels for all ages to enjoy.

Games are part entertainment and part merchandising. Players play for the fun of trying to win a prize- but they also like to win. A testament to this is the countless tons of plush and other merchandise utilized in games operations each year.


Games are big business. However, there is more to the game business than the fun and games. Like any large scale merchandise operation, behind the scenes, the directors and managers who oversee games have a multitude of responsibilities and challenges to deal with within the scope of their day-to-day operations.

Hiring and staffing,  plush and merchandise selection and purchasing, inventory management and cash controls, to name just a few.

Another important factor that must be taken into consideration in any successful games operation is Cost of Goods (aka Cost of Sales) or "stock averages".  Also, games managers must keep up with the latest merchandise trends and the latest game concepts to ensure games are kept fresh, inviting and stocked with the latest plush and merchandise to attract players.

Within the International Association of Amusement Parks and Attractions (IAAPA) - the trade association for the global attractions industry, are sub-committees that help guide the association and assist its members in specific areas of operation.  For example, there is a  committee for Food and Beverage, a committee for Entertainment,  among others   - and games are no exception.

Formerly known as the IAAPA Games Committee, this year the committee has been re-formalized as the IAAPA Games and Merchandising Committee.  The committee is made up of a group of passionate industry professionals with years of experience in games and merchandising management, who volunteer their time to serve on the committee.

Greg Morrow has been committee chairman since 2012. This year, the IAAPA Games and Merchandising Committee is co-chaired by Greg Morrow and Andrea Gibbs. Greg Morrow has many years of experience in amusement park operations and management, having formerly been Games Manager at Canobie Lake Park, Salem, NH and currently Games and Merchandise Manager at Lake Winnepesaukah Amusement Park, Chattanooga, TN.  Andrea Gibbs has years of experience in merchandising and management in the attractions industry, formerly General Manager of Dolphin Quest, Hawaii and currently General Manager of Madame Tussaud's and San Francisco Dungeons, San Francisco , CA.

Greg Morrow explained, "The Games and Merchandising Committee operates as a sub-set of IAAPA's Education Committee and is responsible for educational content with regards to retail merchandising and games". He further elaborated that this includes organizing "six to eight educational sessions and facility tours during the annual IAAPA Attractions Expo, two to three webinars throughout the year and the annual "Tools of the Trade" tour for games".

Stating, "We're all in it together", Morrow views his industry colleagues as a community of like-minded professionals working toward common goals. Greg is a firm believer that members can benefit from networking and from the sharing of information and ideas.

At its core, the Games and Merchandising committee's objective is the betterment of the industry, with the ultimate goal being that of providing a better and more enjoyable experience for guests.

During the annual IAAPA Attractions Expo in Orlando, Florida this past November, the IAAPA Games Committee presented four educational sessions and a round table discussion on games operations and management.

Even before the trade show officially opened on Tuesday, many game professionals arrived at the North/South Building of the Orange County Convention Center a day early, on Monday, to participate in a day of scheduled seminars.

The following is a synopsis of the highlights of the educational sessions.

The first session of the morning was entitled, Midway Games Merchandising: Drive More Players to your Games.

The presenter of this information-packed session was Greg Morrow, Games and Merchandise Manager, Lake Winnepesaukah Amusement Park, Chattanooga, TN and IAAPA Games Committee Chairman.

Morrow stressed the importance of using strong visual appeal in creating prize displays to attract players to games. "Humans are predominately visual creatures". "People window shop. They're going to notice the flash before the game", said Morrow. He urged game professionals to THINK BIG AND BOLD when designing games displays. He presented a Power Point presentation with photos of effective game displays and shared the following tips and ideas for attracting more players to games.

Keep Colors Together (lightest to darkest) Make large blocks of color (or lines of color) with larger prizes on top Keep all like sizes together Keep items tight together as much as possible- No negative space Use patterns and formations Use your best wall to display your best prizes ("Money Wall". This would be the wall that has the highest visibility from a guest's point of view) Keep games stocked and flashed Keep your displays full Keep games stocked so that employees do not remove prizes from completed displays


As cell phone use continues to rise and people are seemingly constantly preoccupied with checking their cell phones or texting- combined with the other distractions in an amusement park or midway setting- game operators need to fight for attention. Morrow suggested that since people are using their cell phones so frequently and since they are accustomed to scanning "QR Codes" with their phones, to give them an interactive way to use their cell phone to draw attention to your games by using QR Codes (Quick Response Codes).


As an example, a QR Code on a sign can be scanned with a cell phone to display information such as the rules of the game and/or the cost to play. Another possibility is that the code could be scanned to reveal a special offer or perhaps a message such as, "Congratulations. You just won one free play", to attract players to a game.


A way to give a game a new or updated look is by upgrading game signage to digital signage. This is something that Greg Morrow is implementing at his games operation at Lake Winnepesaukah Amusement Park this season.

With the price of high definition flat-screen TVs dropping, digital signage has become less expensive than it has been in the past. Morrow cited that at the time he was shopping, a 32" screen TV could be purchased for $251.96 at Tiger Direct. Also, there are relatively inexpensive digital video players available to play the digital messages. Morrow located one at a supplier called Fright Props for $139.99. Some digital players have the ability to plug three or four TV's into the same message.


Use specialty lights such as LED light tubes and Christmas lights Use any props that relate to the theme of the game

Morrow said your employees can be an untapped source of talent when it comes to creating attractive game and merchandise displays and keeping games flashed. Some employees actually enjoy being involved in the process, while at the same time giving them another reason to take pride in the game they're working. To that end, he advised, "Teach your staff why you display the way you do. and give them some ownership".

Following the presentation, the audience was encouraged to participate in a hands-on segment where they were able to put to practice what they had learned in the seminar by creating displays of actual game prizes. Provided with grid wall sections, drapery hooks, LED light tubes and cases of plush (provided by industry vendors), participants worked in two teams to complete the task.

Ask the Experts: Midway Games Operations

For this session, IAAPA's Games Committee assembled a panel of games professionals with many years of combined experience in the games business.

The panel consisted of: Janice Kingsley, Director of Games Operations, Hershey Entertainment Leanna Muscato, Games Manager, Knoebels' Amusement Resort Simon Benichou, Director of Food Beverage and Games, Morey's Piers Larry Steele, Director of Operations, Bob's Space Racers, Inc. The session was moderated by Greg Morrow, Games and Merchandise Manager, Lake Winnpesaukah Amusement Park, Chattanooga, TN and IAAPA Games Committee Chairman.

During this interactive session, the audience was able to submit questions to the panel using their smart phones, laptops and tablets, by following a link or scanning a QR Code.

In what was a provocative and informative session, the panel shared their vast knowledge and insight on various aspects of the games business.

It was mentioned that for safety reasons, some parks have converted their balloon dart games to balloon bust, winner every time games, which use bean bags instead of darts.
Leanna Muscato commented that the balloon inflating system of such games eliminates "sore fingers" from tying balloons and using bean bags instead of darts eliminates the occasional "gouges" to legs from wayward darts. Greg Morrow added that he has been using suction cup darts instead of bean bags. It was noted that some parks utilize both dart and bean bag balloon games.

During a discussion on stock and cost of goods, Simon Benichou revealed that his operation at Morey's Piers did "phenomenal numbers" with Minions.

The consensus of the panel was that Despicable Me Minions were the hot licensed game prize this past season.

Simon Benichou said that when it comes to ordering stock, some manufacturers and suppliers of plush are requiring their customers to commit earlier than in the past, as they are now basing their production and inventory on commitment rather than projection. Benichou said in the case of a popular item such as the Minions, it pays to plan ahead, because "The item is what's driving the game".

A question submitted from the audience. "If you were opening a midway operation, what are the top midway games you would place on your MUST list?"

Larry Steele of Bob's Space Racers answered, saying, "Water Race Game, Ring Toss, you can never go wrong with a basketball game".

Another question from the audience. "On a 3 prize level game, is it best to have several things at each prize level for the guest to choose from or a set item for each level?"

"Small- one or two, Medium- one or two. Don't give too many choices. It will slow you down". Simon Benichou said, in a race game, for example, "If you're offering a hot item such as a Minion, Don't offer a smaller Minion". Many times if the player wins the smaller prize it will be, "Win one and done" and they are not likely to continue playing to trade up to the larger item. He advised, "Make your lower end prize nice, but not the same quality as your choice item".

Someone in the audience asked, "What do you guys like for next year?"

Janice Kingsley believes, "Minions will again do phenomenal".

At the time, it was predicted that Duck Dynasty merchandise from the A&E television series could end up being a hot licensed prize item in 2014, as it fits all demographics , from kids to adults. However, early reports indicate that possibly due to heavy retail saturation , Duck Dynasty items weren't doing as strong as anticipated, leaving  some game managers watching and waiting to see how well the items do as the season progresses.

When it comes to game prize merchandise, "Don't always be stuck on plush - diversify" said Simon Benichou.   For hard goods, electronics are good items. However, he has noticed in the area of electronics, "a little drop off "with Iphones and Ipads. "The market is so saturated, everybody has an Ipad and Iphone", he said.

Listen to your suppliers. A merchandise supplier that Simon Benichou uses had asked him if Morey's Piers was using Minecraft merchandise in any games (they weren't), so they ordered some Minecraft merchandise and it turned out to be a fairly good item.

Benichou said you may not think that an item is necessarily a high-end item, but sometimes, it's the perceived value of the item that makes it desirable. If it's a popular item and it's in demand, it could be a good game prize.

Loom Bands were such an item that were successful on some games last season.

"Keep your pulse on what kids like, what's hot out there", Benichou recommended. However he cautioned, "Shut off your own interpretation. It's not what you like, It's what the people like". Otherwise, you may not only end up being stuck with the item(s), but also end up with an under-performing game.

A discussion was started regarding whether anyone was still operating quarter pitch games.

Benichou stated "In this age, with the economy, quarter stands are very popular", adding that families especially appreciate the quarter games, because on a budget, the whole family can play and have fun. He told the audience that at his operation, at Morey's Piers, they have a quarter plate pitch that is popular with guests that at peak periods does a large volume of business. At this game, $5.00 rolls of quarters are kept on hand to sell to players. "Don't be deceived by the quarter. The quarter means nothing", he said, adding that at a four-sided game, during busy periods, "there could be eighteen dollars (in quarters) being thrown at a time".  And while there will be a higher percentage of stock given out during busy periods, with the salesmanship of a good operator holding up the prize each time someone wins and calling out, "There goes another one", this creates excitement and encourages more play. Greg Morrow agreed, saying, "Cost of the game is irrelevant. At the end of the day, it's cost of sales".

A question from the audience: "What is the best way to train a midway operator? Do you give them incentive if they make X amount of money they get a reward of a sort?"

Simon Benichou answered, "Strongest way is by literally, engage and involve the employee. If you treat them like just bodies they feel like they're just bodies. Get them involved". He continued, "If an employee is taking initiative they usually appreciate advice such as, "You're doing good. Wouldn't it be better if you did this, or."

Midway Games Showcase: The Best of 2013

Presenters and speakers were: Janice Kingsley, Director of Games Operations, Hershey Entertainment and Jim Johnson, Games Manager, Hershey Entertainment.

At this session, participants were shown a Power Point presentation which included photos of examples of game prize displays and game developments from 2013.

A highlight of the Midway Games Showcase was the revealing of the results of the 2013 IAAPA Midway Games Operations Survey. The annual survey is an invaluable resource for game managers, giving them an opportunity to compare notes and get a glimpse of what other facilities are doing and what works and what doesn't . The survey also includes the listing of the top licensed and non licensed games plush items from 2013 (according to the respondents of the survey).

A slide titled "Minion Mania!!!" showed several game stands flashed with last season's hottest licensed plush item. Despicable Me Minions. Other slides showed examples of effectively flashed games featuring other merchandise including last season's top non-licensed plush item. Donuts from Peek-a Boo-Toys.

While viewing the displays of prize merchandise, it was pointed out that "NEON" plush is making a comeback, and it makes for very colorful, effective displays, especially when displayed against a black background.

A trend with Ring toss games is for the player to pay a certain price for a certain number of rings or a bucket of rings and get a free small prize such as a hat or a small piece of plush.
A photo was shown of a Ring Toss game that utilized a plush flower with a long stem which rings were stacked on. The player is allowed to keep the flower.

An interesting Ring Toss at Pacific Park was shown which uses clear bottles with colored LED lights underneath the bottles, with the bottles reflecting the colored lights.

While on the subject of Ring Toss games, it was mentioned to be sure to check rings often for cracks.

Several parks have added giant "Plinko" games, similar to the game on the television game show Price is Right. Some are elaborate permanent set-ups while some parks have portable versions that can be moved around the park to different locations, such as at the entrance to popular rides.  As a possible prize, some parks offer players a chance to win front of the line passes for rides.

At one park, the way the game is played is it costs $3.00 to play. The player gets 2 Plinko discs. The score of both discs is added to determine the prize level. winner every time.

At Hershey Park, the player pays $5.00 for up to 3 discs. If the player likes the first two, they can stop at that, or drop a third and final disc, with no options.

A "Pong" game was shown at King's Island Amusement Park which featured locally popular sports team and college team plush and merchandise such as Cincinnati Reds, Cincinnati Bengals, Pittsburgh Steelers and Ohio State. The game was 3 balls for $1.00, with 2 out of 3 balls in winning a small prize and 3 out of 3 balls in winning choice.

Several uniquely themed games were shown from the games area at Universal Orlando Jurassic Park at Island Of Adventure.

The final photo slide of the presentation was titled, "The Joys of Our Efforts!"  It showed several photographs of smiling winners proudly posing with their prizes . a little girl hugging a Minion, a little boy hugging a Smurf, a girl hugging a big round pig from Peek-a-Boo Toys, two girls sitting on a bench proudly showing off a group of plush they had won, and finally a child and mother with a huge spaghetti-like pile of redemption ticket strips as they are feeding them into a "Ticket Eater" machine. What a more fitting and touching way to close out the presentation than with a reminder of what the games business is all about- happy, satisfied customers- The pay-off of all the hard work put forth by games managers and employees.

The session included a vendor showcase in which several plush suppliers provided samples of their popular plush items for attendees to look over. Attendees were welcome to take the samples with them at end of the session. Classic, Fiesta, Goffa, Kelly Toy, Peek-a-Boo, Rhode Island Novelty and Toy Factory were thanked for their participation.

Monday's games educational sessions concluded with an evening roundtable discussion on games and merchandising.

On Tuesday afternoon another games educational session was held entitled, Advanced Midway Games Employee Training.

This session was held on the trade show floor at the booths of Redbone Products and Bob's Space Racers.

Participants gathered in a meeting room and were escorted by members of the IAAPA Games committee to the trade show floor. Speakers were Simon Benichou, Director of Food, beverage and Games, Morey's piers; Mike Weimar, Games Operations Manager, Morey's Piers and Dave Sandstrom, Vice President, International sales, Bob's Space Racers, Inc.

Speakers Benichou and Weimar demonstrated techniques for training employees how to attract players to games and how to interact with players in skill and group games during both slow and busy periods, as well as how to encourage re-play.

The first stop on the trade show floor was at the booth of Redbone Products, where attendees were shown techniques on how to work with individual players at skill games.

The group then proceeded to the booth of Bob's Space Racers, Inc., where a "Whopper Water" water race trailer game that was on display was used to demonstrate how to work with players of group games. Actual races were conducted, with seminar attendees and trade show attendees sitting in as players.

Tools of the Trade Tour for Midway Games

The IAAPA Games and Merchandising Committee is hosting a two-day "Tools of The Trade" study tour, which will be visiting piers and parks along the New Jersey Shore.

This year's event is the third of what has become an annual event. Previously, in 2012, a tour was conducted of parks in Pennsylvania which included stops at Knoebels' Amusement Resort, Hershey Park, Dorney Park and Skee Ball, Inc. In 2013, the tour visited parks in Southern California, with stops at Knott's Berry Farm, Six Flags Magic Mountain, Universal Studio, Hollywood and Disney's California Adventure.

The tour is an educational and networking event that allows game directors, managers and supervisors to get a close-up look at other game operations under actual operating conditions. Participants learn from experienced games managers and get ideas in game layout, merchandise displays, pricing, and get and learn techniques and tips on employee training and learn about emerging trends for the season.

The dates of this year's "Tools of the Trade" for Midway games Tour are, Tuesday, June 24 and Wednesday, June 25. The tour will include stops at Casino Pier and the Seaside Heights Boardwalk, Jenkinson's Point Pleasant Beach Boardwalk, Keansburg Amusement Park, Morey's Piers and the Wildwood Boardwalk and Steel Pier and the World Famous Atlantic City Boardwalk.


Highlights of the 2013 IAAPA Midway Games Operations Survey.

(There were 45 respondents to the survey)

Please check the category that best describes your facility:

Theme Park/ Amusement Park - 86.7 % (39)
Family Entertainment Center Indoor - 4.4 % (2)
Family entertainment Center, Indoor and outdoor operations  -  2.2 % (1)
Other -  6.7 % (3)

Please check the attendance category that best describes your park:

500,000 and under - 26.7 % (12)
500,001 to 1,000,000 - 22.2 % (10)
1,000,001 to 2,000,000 - 26.7 % (12)
2,000,001 to 3,000,000 - 8.9 % (4)
3,000,001 and up - 15.6 % (7)

Please check the games and arcade per capita range that best describes your facility:

We do not use per caps - 27.3 % (12)
$2.00 and under - 34.1 % (15)
$2.01 to $3.00 - 22.7 % (10)
$3.01 to $4.00 - 11.4 % (5)
$4.01 and up - 4.5 % (2)

What was the change in your per capita spending in 2013?

We do not use per caps- 31.1 % (14)
Decreased by more than- 10 % 2.2 % (1)
Decreased by less than 10 %- 13.3 % (6)

To what do you attribute to your per capita spending change in 2013?

Increase:                                               Decrease:
- Strong Plush (License and non)                        - Rainy Weather                 
- New Games                                             - Higher Season Pass attendance
- Perfect weather (cooler)                                               
- Increase focus on salesmanship                        - Economy
- Changed games (lower per cap games removed)           - New Waterpark
- New ride near games area                              - Gate Price and Food Price Increases
- Lower price points ($1 games or Winner every time)    - Change in hiring process (reduced staffing levels)
- Trade Up availability                                 - Lower Park Attendance
- Increase in sales of Game Cash/Value Books
- Good Marketing
- Cashless Midway

What range of Cost of Sales percentage do you run?

25 % and under -  28.6 % (12)
26 % to 29 % - 59.5 % (25)
30 % and up - 11.9 % (5)

What best describes your 2013 Cost of Sales Plan?

Lowered Cost of sales % - 19.0 % (8)
Maintained Cost of sales % - 73.8 % (31)
Increased Cost of Sales % - 7.1 % (3)

For this season, did you:

Reduce the number of games from last season - 32.5 % (13)
Kept the number of games the same - 50.0 % (20)
Increased the number of games from last season - 17.5 % (7)

How many skill games do you operate?

Center Joints - 24 %
Line Ups - 57 %
Race Games - 19 %
Crane/ Instant Win - 19 %
Arcade Games - 37 %
Redemption - 44 %

What were your top five grossing skill games in 2013?

2013                                                                   2012

- Water Race Game - 60 %                                               - Basketball (Long/Short Range & 3 Point Challenge) - 56 %
- Basketball (Long/Short Range) - 47 %                                  
- Basketball (3 Point Challenge) - 42 %                                - Water Race Games - 50 %
- Ring Toss - 36 %                                                     - Balloon Dart - 44 %
- Balloon Bust - 22 %                                                  - Goblet Toss - 39 %
- Goblet Toss - 18 %                                                   - Ring Toss - 39 %
- Fried Frogs - 13 %                                                   - Derby - 28 %
- Wac A mole - 11                                                      - Wac A Mole - 17 %
- Basketball (Free throw Challenge) - 11 %                             - Blockbuster - 11 %
- Bank A Ball - 8 %                                                    - Frog Launcher - 11 %
- Milk Can - 8 %

What new game(s) did you add for the 2013 operating season?

- Plinko - 10
- Prize Wheel - 4
- Basketball (short or long range) - 4
- 3 Point Challenge - 3
- Football Toss - 3
- Balloon Bust - 3
- Break a Plate - 2
- Fishing Hole - 2

What game(s) did you remove for the 2013 operating season and why was game(s) removed?

- Block Buster (4) - "Already had several others" & "lazer maze in 2013"
- Scatterball (3) - "lack of interest" & "corporate directive to cut down on games"
- Quarter Toss (2) - "low grossing due to location"
- Short Range basketball (2) - "Under performing" & "duplication"
- Gunball (2) - duplication in park
- Mini Striker (2) - "low sales" & "not popular - replaced with prize wheel & plinko"
- Skeeball (2) - "under performing" & "location trending downward for years"
- Darts - "removed darts out of balloon games (added bean bags)"
- Soccer - "food location in 2013"
- Killer Beez race Game - "Maintenance issues"
- Wacky Wire - "food location in 2013"
- Plinko - "low revenue - converted space to retail location"
- Ring Toss - "low per cap and corporate directive to cut down on games"
- Duck Pond - "Food location in 2013"
- Hi Striker - "Low sales, Maintenance issues"
- Rail Runner - "lowest per cap game"

What change(s) did you make to your operation for 2013 that you would suggest to others?

- Change game locations to keep a fresh look
- Hourly rotation of staff
- Added more electronics as merchandise
- Paid close attention to merchandising
- Major review of vendor prices and search for new pr

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