Better Than A Hunch

Using your Sixth Sense for your arcade area.

By Dan McGrath

Mike Abecassis

Mike Abecassis knows arcade games. He doesn’t just know games as they’re played and scored. He knows arcade games in an anthropomorphic way. “Your games are like employees,” Abecassis says to a nearly full room of about 200 industry people at his 2016 IAAPA Attractions Expo learning session, ‘The Sixth Sense – Develop Your Game Room Antenna.’ The audience for his session comprises bowling center and FEC owners, operators and managers, mostly from the U.S. “Games are your cheapest employees, so give them the attention they deserve. Just like employees, your games have needs: fair and ongoing evaluations; pay in the forms of parts and labor; regular attention and care; and from time to time, they need to be replaced.” He adds, “Just because they show up for work doesn’t mean they belong there. You need to let them go when their performance no longer justifies their cost.”

Abecassis draws from 26 years of experience in the business when he shares his ideas and recommendations to industry audiences, such as the one gathered in Orlando. He is president and CEO of General Vending, a provider of amusement vending equipment, services and support in Florida. He’s also CEO of GameTime, a seven-venue chain of FECs located throughout South Florida. Prior to his current endeavors, he built and later sold several amusement and entertainment companies.

The traditional definition of the sixth sense is extrasensory perception, or ESP, which is the reception of information not gained through the recognized physical senses (touch, taste, etc.), but instead sensed with the mind. For his presentation and approach, Abecassis defines the sixth sense as “results derived by applying data from outside the normal fields of data.” He encourages arcade operators to dig deeper – beyond the standard revenue reports – to learn how they can maximize revenue from the resources applied to an arcade area.

Critical to implementing many of Abecassis’ practices is data collection, and there’s no better way to collect arcade data today than with a state-of-the-art payment system, such as a debit card system. Abecassis makes it clear in his presentation that he doesn’t endorse one system provider over another. “There are a number of good systems out there,” he told his audience.

Jason Mitchell, North American sales manager at Intercard Inc., a provider of debit payment systems, applauds the work that Abecassis is doing to help educate the industry. “It’s altruism. Mike earnestly wants the industry as a whole to improve. We at Intercard share that philosophy, and I can’t agree more with the specific lessons he’s teaching.” Mitchell has 31 years of direct, operational experience in the amusement industry with companies such as Putt-Putt Golf & Games, Fun Fest, and Main Event Entertainment. He’s been with Intercard since 2011.

“If you have a debit payment system and you’re not data mining, you’re throwing money away,” said Mitchell. “Sure, data mining your customer information – frequency of visits, favorite games, spending habits, reactions to LTOs – is part of it. But Mike is stressing the importance of data mining your arcade games, too. A good debit payment system provides all you need to manage your business and maximize your revenue potential.”

In recent years, bowling proprietors are realizing that, for example, having 40-plus lanes and 1,500 league bowlers is not enough. The industry is changing. Much higher revenues and ROI are being achieved when traditional bowling centers decide to be more competitive in the marketplace. Remodeling a traditional house and adding arcades, laser tag, new menus, and more attractions is a clear and proven method for staying relevant in today’s market. In many cases, lanes are being removed to accommodate these changes. Many centers have lost up to 80% of their league bowler base, yet still show significant revenue increases year after year because they’re making the necessary investments to change and diversify their business. As stated in a 2016 report by Sandy Hansell & Assoc., “Sixty percent of bowling centers recently surveyed by the Bowling Proprietors Association of America reported that they had completed major capital improvement projects within the last three years.”

Data mining alone is not a panacea. Operators must to do it correctly. The Sixth Sense teaches operators the necessity of data mining and provides a clear roadmap for increasing revenues and efficiencies in their arcade business. Depending on the size of an operation, it can be worth the cost of having a full-time employee dedicated only to data collection and analysis. Over time that person will pay for themselves from the increased revenue and efficiency opportunities they discover, as long as the operator implements and experiments with the findings.
Taking Abecassis’ anthropomorphic approach a step further, Mitchell says, “Your arcade games need a ‘physician’ – a repair and maintenance technician. Think of the data expert as the games’ ‘psychologist.’”

Another thing that Abecassis stresses is the importance of networking within the industry. At his IAAPA learning session, Abecassis was asked by an audience member how he learns if a new game introduced by a manufacturer will produce well. His answer: ask your industry contacts – distributors, debit system providers, third-party repair techs, etc.

Mitchell amplifies on that approach for collecting data. “A lot of operators are not comfortable working with all of the available data that a system like ours produces. My first reaction is to tell them to try to learn it.”
Beyond that, most good debit payment system providers offer resources for system education. Operators should talk to their contacts. Debit system providers, redemption companies and games distributors all have a stake in the industry’s success, and they understand the data of their respective fields.

To view Mike Abecassis’ slide presentation from his 2016 IAAPA learning session, “Arcade-201: The Sixth Sense”, click here.

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