Industry professionals in all sectors - including trade journalists , often say coin-op amusements are in desperate need of more marketing. And that's true. But the industry's marketing glass is gloriously half-full, thanks to the stellar success of state, regional and national tournament programs , including, in recent years, online tournaments.
Some of the numbers are nothing short of astonishing. For example, it took 10 years for the number of online jukeboxes and video games from all manufacturers to break the 40,000 mark. Meanwhile a single company , Arachnid , has sailed into the stratosphere with 34,000 online electronic dart games.
Players' statistics and prize purses are also staggering. When the Valley National Eight-Ball League convenes its 25th anniversary extravaganza at the end of this month, it will host more than "10,000 screaming fans" at the Riviera Hotel & Casino in Las Vegas, all happily anteing up $1 per play for a game of pool and a shot at a slice of more than $600,000 in cash and prizes.
That venue just saw the AMOA-National Dart Association attract a record-breaking 16,600 sanctioned entrants to its 20th annual Team Dart national championships. The 291 NDA operator members set another NDA record by putting up an unprecedented $450,000 purse for the eight-day event.
Arachnid will celebrate two decades of successful national championships for electronic, soft-tip darts when the BullShooter XX competition takes place over Memorial Day weekend at the Hyatt Regency O'Hare. The company expects nearly 2,000 players from 12 countries to compete for shares of the $120,000 cash awards.
The American Darters Association offers a $125,000 purse for its 14th annual tournament series of eight regional events and the $75,000 National Championship, also coming to the Riviera this August. Even more impressive, ADA dart competitions have been broadcast on the Fox Sports Network several times during the past year, and more is expected.
Incredible Technologies has awarded more than $1 million to winners of its online "Golden Tee Golf" tournaments. The company now reports having well north of 25,000 networked games (including thousands of hunting- and bowling-themed units).
Here is another astonishing number: Merit reports 100,000 registered "TournaMAXX" players. Between them, Merit, Global VR and JVL Corp. account for more than 8,000 additional networked video games. State operator associations also rack up impressive statistics with their annual pool, dart and (growing) video tournaments.
In the eyes of many operators, the favorite tournament statistic is found even closer to home. Hooking a video game into a solid national tournament often increases the cashbox earnings by 35%.
Is all of this good news? Yes, in fact it's great news. This industry should have a brass band, a 21-gun salute and fireworks for the hardworking operators, distributors, and manufacturers who have made all this happen.
Meanwhile, the home video game industry has built an online player base of millions and is on its way to $1 billion in annual revenues from advertisers. The amusements industry will never have the deep pockets of the consumer video game business, but wiser minds in trade have increasingly begun figuring out ways to forge alliances with the home game industry and other larger, national and global entertainment entities to help bring a brighter spotlight , and considerable sponsorship dollars , to the world of coin-op amusements.
But that's an agenda for industry leaders in national forums. What can a rank-and-file operator or a local association do to increase its marketing muscle? Plenty. If you don't have a state tournament, start one. NDA executive director Leslie Murphy reports: "We consistently see that places where there are state tournaments have six times more sanctioned players, and their leagues are usually twice the size of those in states without a state tournament."
Think about regional events. You don't have to have a state operator association to create a smash-hit regional tournament program in cooperation with other operators. Just ask the operators in Northern Virginia, Washington, DC, and Maryland who have attracted 20,000 tavern patrons to compete in their ongoing "Golden Tee" contests by awarding prizes like Harley Davidson motorcycles and 42-in. plasma TVs. Jason Rubin of A.J. Video Amusements (Baltimore, MD), launched the program which is publicized to players at goldenteecontest.com.