(Topic ID: 201685)

Operator machines


By Bud

1 year ago



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    #1 1 year ago

    This is by no means a complaint of the current pinball prices, but more of a suggestion for manufacturers.

    As an operator I find it becoming harder and harder to make a profit when buying new machines. Prices keep rising while coin drop maintains an average. It takes longer and longer to get a machine paid for or at least get the depreciation paid for. Then we can talk about breaking even when that machine is sold as the deprecated vs market value reach equilibrium.

    I would be ecstatic if these manufacturers really made a pin that was exclusive to operators who have been properly vetted. The idea is a pin that is sold cheaper than what machines are currently sold for. This would also encourage growth for public pinball and more operators. There could be legal requirements that restrict price discussion, sales of these machines to non operators until a specific time period has lapsed, or a factory credit buy back towards another machine later.

    I would sacrifice a lot of cosmetics for a more cost effective pin that will stand up to commercial use yet have full features. These manufacturers could even make an "operator edition" or "OE" and sell it to general public at a higher rate for all I care. I think it would be neat to have an "OE" pinball that was very generic in appearance and could save money. Things like black and white cab art or two color art. That way you could easily differentiate between different titles, one might be blue and white and the next title to come out might be green and white. I'd go for non powder coated trim, non painted toys, non painted inner cabs and things of that nature. I would also be willing to pay more for features like backbox latch locks instead of bolts, playfield slides instead of stubs, lockbar receivers instead of manual latches etc. I'd also pay a premium for a playfield that had a nice thick coat of durable clear on it.

    I have a long list of ideas for this, not that it matters. I just get tired of all the price bashing/complaining and no real suggestions or ideas that could benefit both customer/manufacturer.

    What do you think? What do you suggest?

    I know it wouldn't save a lot of money, but the main idea is to encourage more operators, more locations, tournaments, realibility and everything associated with pinball marketing and growth and business . A manufacture could benefit from a loyalty program and solid machines would strengthen or rebuild reputation and faith.

    #2 1 year ago

    I know an operator who has a couple of popular WPC games and has operated them since they were new.

    They don't earn a whole lot, but since he has owned them for about 25 years, they have probably paid for themselves several times over.

    He would like to get one or two new ones. $3500-$4000 and he'd be all in (a pipe dream, I know). $5k+ and he can't justify the cost considering how pins do at his seasonal location. They would probably take several years to pay off. He would be happy with 2-3 years, but when it takes 5+ years to pay off a game considering what they are earning and what he would have to sink into them for repairs during that time period, it just isn't worthwhile for him.

    Since the games are packed in together at the location, the cabinet art is barely visible. So, for an "operator edition", I'd say simplified cabinet artwork would work fine, especially if there is some cost savings in doing that.

    #3 1 year ago

    Bring back "back to basics" that was the moto back in the 1980's after the market collapsed.

    #4 1 year ago

    Raise your prices. Everything else is rising. The economy is booming. Now is the time. $1 a play on new games. .75 on older games. No less. It's the way its gotta be.

    #5 1 year ago

    I've played around with a lot of different things in the 12 years that I have been operating pins. Basically my best locations have the possibility of paying off a new Stern in the 7 to 9 year range but that doesn't include maintenance, labor or repairs. I tend to do just as well with an early Bally solid state game at 25 cents per play. So you have a new Stern at a dollar a play and a $1,000 Bally Supersonic at a quarter a play at the same location and they earn the same. For me it's the redemption games and cranes that keep me afloat.

    #6 1 year ago

    I think it would be good for them to give them to operators at a reduced price. Or a lease type of thing even. After all it is kind of like advertising for the newer machines, for the company too.

    Maybe a sponsor type program for the bigger operators that are left out there.

    I've looked at new redemption machines and the prices of newer pinballs. I have no clue how anyone can make any money as an operator. Local permits or license, damage, upkeep,etc...I know I'm not in the right area for it. I would imagine some areas are really good. I have no clue how you guys make any money right now.

    #7 1 year ago
    Quoted from Joker2415:

    I think it would be good for them to give them to operators at a reduced price. Or a lease type of thing even. After all it is kind of like advertising for the newer machines, for the company too.
    Maybe a sponsor type program for the bigger operators that are left out there.
    I've looked at new redemption machines and the prices of newer pinballs. I have no clue how anyone can make any money as an operator. Local permits or license, damage, upkeep,etc...I know I'm not in the right area for it. I would imagine some areas are really good. I have no clue how you guys make any money right now.

    Some redemption games can be in the $10k-$20k range--sometimes more. However, the thing about redemption games is that if you have a good location, people will keep feeding money into them. So after 1-3 good summers, the game can be fully paid off. Not all redemption games are automatically like this, though--some do flop. But more often than not, they seem to pay for themselves rather quickly.

    Pins are in a different class. They get played, yes, but they aren't very profitable on their own. A skee ball machine can sometimes be more profitable than a pin. From what I've seen, pins generally have to be supported by other games, other features of the location, or some other activity or gimmick.

    #8 1 year ago

    i agree. price break for operators or year same as cash, etc.
    i was getting new sterns shipped brand new for 3750 with bill acceptor up to family guy. then pricing and things changed.
    they don't earn extremely well unless you are in a heavy niche market with lots of hipsters and pinballs require the most hands on preventative maintenance and upkeep and most frequent parts and fixes.
    i can get a prize redemption game used for under 1k that earns more than a 5k new pin next to it. its getting rediculous price wise and most of us who operate nice pins that at are kept shopped, fully working and set up correct on location, whether newer or classic, are in it with our heart rather than looking at only the profit side of things.

    #9 1 year ago

    Here's my justification for being close to done buying new games as an operator:
    https://pinside.com/pinball/forum/topic/lets-talk-about-pricing/page/2#post-4005267

    It pretty much boils down to your points. At $5k+ it isn't worth it. I have 25 cent games that will hold their own with 50 cent games and the 75 cent new Sterns. Why spend $5k when I can put out a Firepower priced at 25 cents/play that I bought for $400 and earn close to what a new game earns at 10x its price? The Firepower is paid off in a few months, the new Stern...years. What it comes down to is the reason I occasionally spend the $5k is because I love pinball. If it was only about the coin drop I'd not be doing this at all, or I'd be running only cranes and jukeboxes.

    Of course it is location dependent. At one of my locations the new Sterns earn good. At the other, nothing special and in particular Star Wars Pro has been a big bust.

    I'm not saying I'll never buy a new game. But at the current state of prices and titles I'm certainly not shelling out $8k+. And games at $5k+ give me pause where in the past I was much more likely to open the wallet when new games were in the $4700 range. I don't know if your ideas would ever take hold, but I'm probably a person that would benefit and take advantage of them if they ever did.

    #10 1 year ago
    Quoted from spazzman90:

    Raise your prices. Everything else is rising. The economy is booming. Now is the time. $1 a play on new games. .75 on older games. No less. It's the way its gotta be.

    I have done this, the only .50 pin I have out now is a beat up but good playing Williams IJ. JJP pins I have out are $1.00/play, no break for more plays. Most of my sterns are $1.00x1 play $2.00x3 play. Restored Bally/Williams pins are .75 per play.

    Quick math on purchase vs pay off. I'll go hopeful and say the house only gets 30% of coin drop:
    JJP standard is $8500 plus shipping plus bill acceptor, let's call it $9k. This pin needs to have 11,700 paid plays at $1 for the pin to have paid for itself. This will take two years at 16 plays per day every single day.

    Stern Premium $7300, plus bill acceptor, let's call it $7700. 10,010 paid $1 plays to cover this one. If we do the 3 plays for $2, then we are looking at 15,015 paid plays. This will take two years at 20 plays per day every single day.

    Stern Pro $5400, bill acceptor, call it $5800. 7,540 paid plays to cover this one. If we do the 3 plays for $2, then we are looking at 11,310 paid plays. This will take two years at 15 plays per day every single day.

    None of the above figures account for time, maintenance, parts, taxes each year and anything else involved in operating a business that operates pinball. These figures for a two year pay off is very aggressive, the reality is a realistic average of paid play per day is 7-10. In other words, actual time for machine pay off is 4-5 years.

    I know people are going to say "yeah, but you have a machine that is worth something when you go to sell it." This statement is true, but the reality is a machine cannot possibly stay at the same location for 4-5 years, it has to move around to other locations or be sold to either pay for a new machine, make room or go into a collection. Either way, the machine will not be generating income for that operator. If the operator continues to operate it, it will have very little play compared to other machines because people are tired of it.

    The best that an operator can hope for in today's market is that the machine will pay for its depreciation in a quick manner. At that point, an operator can start making money.

    #11 1 year ago
    Quoted from spazzman90:

    Raise your prices. Everything else is rising. The economy is booming. Now is the time. $1 a play on new games. .75 on older games. No less. It's the way its gotta be.

    That's the only answer. None of the manufacturers are going to make cheaper machines for ops. Nobody is going to release stripped down "street level" games as that experiment already happened in 1990 and was a dismal failure.

    Any newish pinball machine should be a dollar a play, simple as that. I'd probably turn off match and replay as well. No other arcade machines just give out free games.

    #12 1 year ago

    The cost is killer, but the bugs really hurt too. We've been talking to Stern for weeks about our Star Wars losing monitor image after being on for 24 hours or so. They keep giving us code updates that don't work. It's a good location, for a pin, but we're losing money when a brand new machine is broken. Plus, it looks bad for the company when games are down.

    That being said, I think two color games would be a terrible idea. Like it or not, I think the casual customer is attracted to the IP as much as anything. I'm sure the Star Wars license was expensive as heck, but people love hearing Yoda's voice. There just isn't a magic solution to make pinballs really profitable. People will go either for what the recognize, what's big and flashy, or what they can win a prize with. Pins don't really fit any of those descriptors without a big name IP.

    #13 1 year ago

    really not a great option, if I were going to a site to try out some games, I would go with a set amount, which would mean I'd still spend the same amount, just play less.

    #14 1 year ago

    I sympathize with ANY operator attempting to make a living routing pinball machines these days. With a few exceptions I don't think it's really feasible. The guys I know locally who do it have other sources of income and this is more of a hobby/side business deal. Unless you own your bar/location, I don't think anybody can really pull it off as a primary source of income.

    #15 1 year ago

    Wdennie, that's only true if you're going to a set arcade. Most operators have pins in bars, bowling alleys, and eateries. The idea is to grab someone's spare dollar on impulse, at least most of the time.

    #16 1 year ago

    Yea, I gave up the bar seen years ago.

    Quoted from CadillacMusic:Wdennie, that's only true if you're going to a set arcade. Most operators have pins in bars, bowling alleys, and eateries. The idea is to grab someone's spare dollar on impulse, at least most of the time.

    #17 1 year ago

    In my case, I think what makes it even tougher for a operator, is when I do see a game, most are beat to Shit, who wants to play that?

    #18 1 year ago

    I think the best option would be for Manufacturers to provide an exclusive contract for a reduced price of the game to operators on the base models. Reality is that distributors are making between 300-800 on each sale. That is an adiditonal 700-1500 plays needed on the game to work towards payoff which is ALOT.

    I see no reason they dont set up exclusive contracts that provide games at a reduced price, have "no-talk" clauses, clauses that require Operators to provide monthly data dumps, run monthly or every other month events, and must keep the game on location for 12-24 months before sale.

    Stern could sell directly to a subset of vetted operators which are committed to buy every single PRO game that comes out, keep that game out for at least 12 months, and get data and promotion for a reduced price of the game. Reality is many operators are doing all this already, so I suppose that there is little incentive for any company to provide a price break. They could also require that vetted OPs need to have at least X games of that manufacturer on route at all times.

    I can say it sure would help on our end to get the reduced price up front.

    Reality is that we do it all as a hobby, but there is a tone of benefit for manufacturers to make sure games continue to make it out on route.

    #19 1 year ago

    I run all mine at a $1 for 1 game or 3 for $2 and hope they make enough to support themselves for parts,labor,etc.Its almost impossible with todays pricing to ever make money on pinball alone,More of a financial treading water situation.Pinball is just another facet of a route that is nice to add to a full location setup though.If you have say a bar location with jukebox,pool tables,pinball,etc. the overall package can be a great earner even if the pin alone really doesn't pencil by itself.

    #20 1 year ago
    Quoted from Bud:

    This statement is true, but the reality is a machine cannot possibly stay at the same location for 4-5 years, it has to move around to other locations or be sold to either pay for a new machine, make room or go into a collection. Either way, the machine will not be generating income for that operator. If the operator continues to operate it, it will have very little play compared to other machines because people are tired of it.

    This is something I think people overlook. If a game isn't out earning, you have to store it and it makes nothing. And the space to store it costs something. You can't leave a new game in the same spot for 4 years and expect it to earn. You have to move things around and keep it fresh.

    People also overlook sales tax. I do things right, I collect sales tax on my coin drop and I pay sales tax when I buy new games. Some ops don't, that's their business. I also collect sales tax when I sell a game to someone in state. So I take almost a 10% hit on the coin drop right away. Then I have to give a portion to the location. Then I have taxes on the income. Insurance, my license, etc. Fortunately my locations are generous and their take is small because they realize that the pins bring them business.

    Another thing people overlook is even at the best location, the employees are oblivious. If they are busy and a game is reported by a kid to be taking their money, they turn it off. Even if the kid is lying and just trying to get free quarters. I've come in several times to a game turned off and out of order with nothing wrong. The only reason it is off is because someone said it took their money so it was shut down. The location doesn't have time to mess with it when they are swamped so off it goes.

    13
    #21 1 year ago

    As someone who will never operate a game route but spends money on pinball at arcades- bars- and for home use- I dont understand why operators dont get preferred pricing. Hell- why dont they get exclusive purchase for a 30-60 day window before the public even gets to buy the game. The simple reality is an operator is advertising a game for free- yeah sure, 20 years ago it was different but its stupid to keep the same business model when it failed 20 years ago- who does that!?

    I love operators- I appreciate every game I get to play that I dont own because thats 99.9% of the games. Stern, JJ, etc should view operators as a partner, as a test client, as a means of enabling people that have a few bucks in their pocket to try their 6-12 K product out and maybr start a dream of ownership.

    Thanks to all who put pinball on location- you deserve recognition and some help.

    #22 1 year ago
    Quoted from stangbat:

    This is something I think people overlook. If a game isn't out earning, you have to store it and it makes nothing. And the space to store it costs something. You can't leave a new game in the same spot for 4 years and expect it to earn. You have to move things around and keep it fresh.
    People also overlook sales tax. I do things right, I collect sales tax on my coin drop and I pay sales tax when I buy new games. Some ops don't, that's their business. I also collect sales tax when I sell a game to someone in state. So I take almost a 10% hit on the coin drop right away. Then I have to give a portion to the location. Then I have taxes on the income. Insurance, my license, etc. Fortunately my locations are generous and their take is small because they realize that the pins bring them business.
    Another thing people overlook is even at the best location, the employees are oblivious. If they are busy and a game is reported by a kid to be taking their money, they turn it off. Even if the kid is lying and just trying to get free quarters. I've come in several times to a game turned off and out of order with nothing wrong. The only reason it is off is because someone said it took their money so it was shut down. The location doesn't have time to mess with it when they are swamped so off it goes.

    So true and I agree. I will offer this to you though. I build relationships with people that are based on trust and loyalty. With that said, my locations won't shut a machine off if it's accused of taking money. I will reimburse the location up to a certain amount, anything above that is on them and just part of the deal. It really is rare that a machine is eating money.

    #23 1 year ago

    On the flip side, I recently had an AC DC Premium that had made $25,000. It made me want to go into operating.

    It was still in very nice shape and I wouldn't call what I bought it for as cheap.

    I'm very sure that's not the norm though

    #24 1 year ago

    I'd like to see an updated tournament system for Spike 2 games. I always found the TOPS system confusing on DMDs and I think a clearer system on the big screen (a la Golden Tee) could really help coin drop.

    #25 1 year ago
    Quoted from Butch2099:

    On the flip side, I recently had an AC DC Premium that had made $25,000. It made me want to go into operating.
    It was still in very nice shape and I wouldn't call what I bought it for as cheap.
    I'm very sure that's not the norm though

    Not normal, besides, AC/DC came out in 2012, almost 6 years ago and is a good design/coded/themed machine. The average for 6 years is $347 a month, I'd say that's on point. Now start subtracting house take, maintenance, parts etc. Seems like good numbers is you had 15-20 pins that were purchased when pins were around $5k for a premium. Unfortunately most machine coming out today aren't as good as AC/DC and they cost more.

    #27 1 year ago

    I think i read somewhere that Jersey Jack is reaching out to operators because he wants these games out on the street.

    #28 1 year ago
    Quoted from rufessor:

    Hell- why dont they get exclusive purchase for a 30-60 day window before the public even gets to buy the game.

    this would also be a nice thing for manufacturers to offer.

    There is no doubt about it that we enjoy a nice bump from exclusivity. Having the only Alien on route in a couple hundred miles for sure brought in some extra money. If it was common practice for Stern to partner with an Operator and provide and exclusive 60 day test game then that would be a solid perk.

    More recently Stern has gone to shooting out a ton of games in the first week. For example on SW we were nto event he first in our town to get the game even though we have supported by buying each game for the past few years. That exclusive time woudl be a great opporunity to also get some test data for the manufacturer

    #29 1 year ago

    I operate a fair amount of pins. The only reason I do is because I like them.

    The reality is, out if 50+ Pins, I have about 5 that make more then $100 a month gross. Less then $50 a month in my pocket doesn’t pay for a pin very fast. Add in maintenance etc and it’s even slower.

    When resale prices drop, I will be done operating pins. I simply won’t be able to afford it.

    I actually don’t mind spending the $ if the game produces. This means you JJP! Cause 3 out of the 5 highest earning games I run are JJP. And yes I have new stern stuff on route also, and a remake too.

    I really don’t have the issue of games sitting in the shop long. I could see that being an issue with a small number of locations, but I just bump em down the road to the next stop.

    Don’t know how selling to ops cheaper would work. Every collector would just find an operator hookup to get them a cheap game.

    #30 1 year ago
    Quoted from Bud:

    Not normal, besides, AC/DC came out in 2012, almost 8 years ago and is a good design/coded/themed machine. The average for 8 years is $260 a month, 7 years is $297 a month. I'd say that's on point. Now start subtracting house take, maintenance, parts etc. Seems like good numbers is you had 15-20 pins that were purchased when pins were around $5k for a premium. Unfortunately most machine coming out today aren't as good as AC/DC and they cost more.

    But that's actually, like, five years ago. $416.67 / month on average.

    If you split that 60/40 with the house (which, by the way, is a relatively poor split nowadays if the locations want newer equipment, 70/30 or even 75/25 have become common among locations I know that want newer stuff), you're making $250 / month. Even if you were guessing at $75 / month on maintenance which would be high, you have made in coin drop:

    $175 * 12 months * 5 years = $10,500.

    The game probably cost $6,000, so you profit about $4500, and that profit is achieved after year 3.

    Which, if you look at just that part, I would argue it backs up your argument pretty solidly. It's not terribly efficient for the spent.

    But, if you operate pins, you need to actively think about the sale price of those games. No game that is even 10 years old has depreciated to a wild extent, even routed. Let's pretend you only got half of your purchase price for the sale, which would be a worst worse case scenario that hasn't really happened since the early 2000s. You now have $4500 + $3000 = $7500, or $1500 / year of average profits on a machine.

    If you factor in that part of it, routing isn't nearly as bad. Having said that, some machines work better and some work worse in certain locations. If you're not earning enough for the new games to make them useful, get some older ones if they work better! You need to know your location and do what works the best for that particular location. Certain locations don't work with the older games at all. Others flourish.

    Good luck, I don't think it's easy, but I do think it can be done.

    #31 1 year ago
    Quoted from spazzman90:

    Raise your prices. Everything else is rising. The economy is booming. Now is the time. $1 a play on new games. .75 on older games. No less. It's the way its gotta be.

    Economy is B00MING? What part of the country do you live in?

    The Federal Government is cooking the books so to speak when it comes to inflation. They say inflation is under control...below 2%. Well what they don't include in that statistic is that Food, Energy, Housing & Medical costs which have been on a steady climb for the past 10 years.....have increased over 3% annually. And that is true inflation and it's squeezing the average American family into poverty.

    Sorry but with wages stagnant for the past 15+ years and rising inflation consumers are spending the same money, possibly slightly more due to cost increases for Food, Energy, Housing & Medical the true inflation rate is being disguised. It's really beginning to squeeze consumers now and you will see this in the next couple of years.

    #32 1 year ago
    Quoted from Bud:

    I have done this, the only .50 pin I have out now is a beat up but good playing Williams IJ. JJP pins I have out are $1.00/play, no break for more plays. Most of my sterns are $1.00x1 play $2.00x3 play. Restored Bally/Williams pins are .75 per play.
    Quick math on purchase vs pay off. I'll go hopeful and say the house only gets 30% of coin drop:
    JJP standard is $8500 plus shipping plus bill acceptor, let's call it $9k. This pin needs to have 11,700 paid plays at $1 for the pin to have paid for itself. This will take two years at 16 plays per day every single day.
    Stern Premium $7300, plus bill acceptor, let's call it $7700. 10,010 paid $1 plays to cover this one. If we do the 3 plays for $2, then we are looking at 15,015 paid plays. This will take two years at 20 plays per day every single day.
    Stern Pro $5400, bill acceptor, call it $5800. 7,540 paid plays to cover this one. If we do the 3 plays for $2, then we are looking at 11,310 paid plays. This will take two years at 15 plays per day every single day.
    None of the above figures account for time, maintenance, parts, taxes each year and anything else involved in operating a business that operates pinball. These figures for a two year pay off is very aggressive, the reality is a realistic average of paid play per day is 7-10. In other words, actual time for machine pay off is 4-5 years.
    I know people are going to say "yeah, but you have a machine that is worth something when you go to sell it." This statement is true, but the reality is a machine cannot possibly stay at the same location for 4-5 years, it has to move around to other locations or be sold to either pay for a new machine, make room or go into a collection. Either way, the machine will not be generating income for that operator. If the operator continues to operate it, it will have very little play compared to other machines because people are tired of it.
    The best that an operator can hope for in today's market is that the machine will pay for its depreciation in a quick manner. At that point, an operator can start making money.

    All that does not include the value of the pin. You can route a pin for a year, sell the pin, and come out ahead. A $9500 pin will have more value than a $5000 pin at that point.

    #33 1 year ago
    Quoted from Chicoman:

    Economy is B00MING? What part of the country do you live in?
    The Federal Government is cooking the books so to speak when it comes to inflation. They say inflation is under control...below 2%. Well what they don't include in that statistic is that Food, Energy, Housing & Medical costs which have been on a steady climb for the past 10 years.....have increased over 3% annually. And that is true inflation and it's squeezing the average American family into poverty.
    Sorry but with wages stagnant for the past 15+ years and rising inflation consumers are spending the same money, possibly slightly more due to cost increases for Food, Energy, Housing & Medical the true inflation rate is being disguised. It's really beginning to squeeze consumers now and you will see this in the next couple of years.

    Ya...I thought basically the same thing when I read that. I guess that depends on area. "Booming" isn't the word, maybe starting to move a little. I was from the era of Booming and ...no...money is not flowing anywhere near what it was I don't care what news or paper says. We are no where near the flow at the bottom end that it was. I use to trip and fall into money and deals in any subject. It's not there now.

    A dollar a game? I wouldn't/couldn't do! You might get one or two bucks out of me as I walk past, but at 50 and 75 cents? It's different on the mind for us broke guys. Instead of reaching in the wallet and stuffing a buck in and feeling the pain, a hand full of quarters or emptying the car ash tray just doesn't feel the same and will in the end get more in the game.

    The bar scene in many areas is struggling for a few reasons. That is where when I was growing up the pinballs and pool tables were! Start drinking and play till you pass out. orrr got kicked out, drug out, etc... Those places are gone.

    #34 1 year ago

    Yeah, count the years. 2012, 2013, 2014, 2015, 2016, 2017. 2018 is two months away. I did say almost 8, and I gave average data on 7 and 8 years. I don't know exactly when in 2012 it came out, I'm just working with averages. Even on six years you are looking at $50 a month more.

    #35 1 year ago
    Quoted from jawjaw:

    All that does not include the value of the pin. You can route a pin for a year, sell the pin, and come out ahead. A $9500 pin will have more value than a $5000 pin at that point.

    Look at the current price of a JJP Hobbit, I know the listed average for it on Pinside is way higher than what they actually are moving for. Most seem to sell around the $6500 mark. That's about a 25% loss and a lot involved with trying to sell. Everybody is terrified with a "routed" machine and everybody want to pick them to death.

    #36 1 year ago

    We have a diverse number of different types of machines (pins, kiddie, drivers, redemption, etc) at our location and without a doubt the pins are there because of the owner's passion, not the numbers involved in the business end. They do not make sense economically on location. They all require a significant amount of upkeep/cleaning. That said, I've had better success with buying a new machine with less breakdowns, than going with older machines that will be much more prone to bad boards, lights, and mechanical issues. If I wasn't into pinball, I would have gotten rid of all of them long ago and replaced with kiddie rides. Redemption are definitely the thing with teens today but they take time to restock and glass has to be clean.

    We do $1 for new pins but everything else is .50. Not sure I could raise the price to .75. I bet a 50% increase in the price would lead to a 50% decline in the plays. Might try it on one machine though as a test. Would never have a JJP or STERN LE on location - crazy $ involved in that move imo.

    In terms of suggestions, look as long as the suburban, middle-aged professional dad with 2 car-garage and basement is doing well (ie, unemployment under 5%) nothing is going to change because they will keep buying NIB pins at $6K plus. That's just the way it is. If things start to head south and manufactures see the dip, I think an 'on location' program is definitely feasible for them to develop and roll-out. If a machine is going to be on location and purchased by an operator, they get to use an ON LOCATION certificate to buy it at cost. Every auto manufacturer has similar programs most of which are expanded during recession cycles.

    #37 1 year ago

    It is funny, prior to reading this post I have always thought there should be a break for home owners. Always found it silly that people by new pinball machines with change holes and all to put in their basement. I thought it would be neat if they would drop the price by $100 if you don't need the coin door

    But I get the ops point. I love the idea of growing pinball by public awareness. Simply put, how else could it be done? Without these Ops, the next generation has almost zero chance getting exposed to pinball. Without the ops in business, pinball dies as the boomers die.

    #38 1 year ago
    Quoted from Bud:

    Yeah, count the years. 2012, 2013, 2014, 2015, 2016, 2017. 2018 is two months away. I did say almost 8, and I gave average data on 7 and 8 years. I don't know exactly when in 2012 it came out, I'm just working with averages. Even on six years you are looking at $50 a month more.

    If AC/DC game out on 1/1/2012, that's 5 years and 10 months ago. Your math, and the way you attempt to solve this very basic question, is really weird.

    And instead of figuring out the actual answer, you're doubling down and showing your work. Bananas.

    #39 1 year ago
    Quoted from goatdan:

    But that's actually, like, five years ago. $416.67 / month on average.
    If you split that 60/40 with the house (which, by the way, is a relatively poor split nowadays if the locations want newer equipment, 70/30 or even 75/25 have become common among locations I know that want newer stuff), you're making $250 / month. Even if you were guessing at $75 / month on maintenance which would be high, you have made in coin drop:
    $175 * 12 months * 5 years = $10,500.
    The game probably cost $6,000, so you profit about $4500, and that profit is achieved after year 3.
    Which, if you look at just that part, I would argue it backs up your argument pretty solidly. It's not terribly efficient for the spent.
    But, if you operate pins, you need to actively think about the sale price of those games. No game that is even 10 years old has depreciated to a wild extent, even routed. Let's pretend you only got half of your purchase price for the sale, which would be a worst worse case scenario that hasn't really happened since the early 2000s. You now have $4500 + $3000 = $7500, or $1500 / year of average profits on a machine.
    If you factor in that part of it, routing isn't nearly as bad. Having said that, some machines work better and some work worse in certain locations. If you're not earning enough for the new games to make them useful, get some older ones if they work better! You need to know your location and do what works the best for that particular location. Certain locations don't work with the older games at all. Others flourish.
    Good luck, I don't think it's easy, but I do think it can be done.

    That's all good and well if you started out with a large capital or could continue to purchase machines or you had exceptional coin drop. I'm not a business degree holder, but I don't think any business can expect to purchase items and sell at 50% to turn around and buy new machines at higher prices and repeat the discounted sale. At some point you'd run out of money or your profit would be severely decreased if not wiped out.

    The only way I can see this current situation working out as a sole income business venture is a good location that doesn't involve any sort of split. In other words, the operator also needs to be the location owner or have a location that is satisfied with the increased traffic of patrons due to the machines and is ok with not taking any money from the pins.

    #40 1 year ago

    Most operators don't turn around and resell their games to make their profit--the concept of reselling a pin in order to make a profit has always sounded odd to me. Operators either keep operating the game until it no longer earns, or run it into the ground until they can't fix it or it's not cost effective to fix.

    If you have to figure in the resale value of a game in order to make a profit, why bother operating at all and just go into the retail business instead? You don't see Dave & Buster's reselling their redemption games in order to make a profit.

    The general idea is that you usually buy a game as an investment, let it earn to pay for itself, then earnings after that are profit.

    Instead, with pins, you have to buy the pin, let it earn for a few years to make up the loss of value from the sticker price, then resell it in order to break even or get a small profit out of that multi-year investment. In the meantime, you're operating in the red the whole time hoping you can sell the game for enough money at the end. It doesn't make financial sense to me to buy a game that does so poorly that it can't pay for itself and make a profit in a reasonable amount of time, and instead, you have to resort to reselling it in order to get anything out of it.

    #41 1 year ago
    Quoted from stevevt:

    If AC/DC game out on 1/1/2012, that's 5 years and 10 months ago. Your math, and the way you attempt to solve this very basic question, is really weird.
    And instead of figuring out the actual answer, you're doubling down and showing your work. Bananas.

    Again, averages. I already responded to your question earlier and gave the $50 correction based on 6 years. Are you fussing over two months? I dont know how I'm "doubling down" or what you mean by showing my work. You seemed to not understand so I elaborated.

    I'm not here for a battle of wits, argument or exact numbers. You should be able to get the point with what I've provided, if you see the logic then apply your own math or numbers and come to your own conclusion. I'm sure you will find I'm not that far off.

    The whole point is simple. Pinball is almost getting impossible to make money with unless you are a manufacturer. Pinball is almost non existent compared to what it was in the 90s location wise. In order to preserve the hobby, produce new machines and new ideas, the business model has to change. Pinball should not only be for people with enough disposable income to own their own machines. Pinball should be available for everyone. It's generally good for society as it acts as a venue for people to meet, converse, socialize, stimulate local business and get their heads off their portable device.

    #42 1 year ago
    Quoted from Bud:

    I build relationships with people that are based on trust and loyalty. With that said, my locations won't shut a machine off if it's accused of taking money.

    All the below isn't specifically directed at your comment, I'm just going to share some stories.

    I have a fantastic relationship with my locations and I trust the owners with the keys. But that doesn't stop the 18 year old employee that is working behind the counter or a server from shutting down a game that is "taking money" when the restaurant is full. The last thing the employee wants to do is deal with kids whining about the pin taking their money. So they turn it off, even if the owner told them not to do that. Their main interest is to sell food while not getting yelled at, not babysit the pins.

    Here's an actual conversation with a group of moms and a server:
    Mom: "Which pinball machines work?"
    Server: "They all work"
    Mom: "We put money in three of them and none of them worked."
    Server: "Did you press the start button?"
    Mom: "Start button?"

    So imagine the same situation when the party room is full of 30 screaming kids. That conversation often doesn't happen, instead the game gets turned off. Problem solved.

    Then you have the kid that figures out how to shut off the games and does so. And the mom thinks it is funny and doesn't tell him to turn them back on. If it wasn't for a local patron seeing this happen, the games probably would have stayed off for quite a while on a Friday night, if not the rest of the night. Luckily the patron scolded the kid and turned the games back on. But the 18 year old employees probably wouldn't have noticed the games were off. And if they did, they probably would have left them off because they figured they were off for a reason.

    People set things on games. The things don't get moved. Nobody notices, or nobody bothers to move it because they think it is there for a reason. So the game earns nothing.

    Or how about the vent holes on a pizza box? When they are punched out, how big are they? About the size of a quarter. So if an employee is setting up boxes and doesn't clean up every hole that falls out of a box when folding them a kid finds the little round piece of cardboard. Where does that piece of cardboard go? In a coin slot. Game out of commission if they find two pieces or if the other slot gets jammed.

    People don't think about the things above happening, but they do. And when a game is only making a few bucks a night, having it turned off kills a night's earnings.

    Yes, every situation I mentioned can be addressed by the location owners during employee training. But turnover in the restaurant business is very high. People often don't get the message. And if they do, they don't remember or they weren't paying attention. The #1 thing the restaurant is trying to do is sell food. The pins are important, but they are less important than the people stacked up wanting to eat or carry out their food.

    #43 1 year ago

    If you ask me, the collectors are the pinball market for manufacturers in the US. Even though Stern says that Barcades are the future, Gary says that this exposes new people to Pinball to do what? Buy a machine for themselves becoming an enthusiast or collector. Seems like the majority of Pinball operators are now collector/operators vs people doing it for their main source of income. I am sure there are exceptions to this in larger cities.

    #44 1 year ago

    Very well put. I understand that and have similar stories, some funny and some bad.

    #45 1 year ago
    Quoted from Bud:

    Very well put. I understand that and have similar stories, some funny and some bad.

    Sorry that ended up being a threadjack. We should have another thread for operator stories.

    Anyway, I agree with your original point and I'm someone the operator program would interest.

    #46 1 year ago
    Quoted from stangbat:

    Sorry that ended up being a threadjack. We should have another thread for operator stories.
    Anyway, I agree with your original point and I'm someone the operator program would interest.

    That's not a thread jack, in fact I welcome those stories. So many people think an operator makes so much money and things like you talked about aren't even on their radar.

    #47 1 year ago
    Quoted from CrazyLevi:

    That's the only answer. None of the manufacturers are going to make cheaper machines for ops. Nobody is going to release stripped down "street level" games as that experiment already happened in 1990 and was a dismal failure.

    Just curious - which titles would those have been (genuinely curious!)

    #48 1 year ago
    Quoted from Clnilsen:

    Just curious - which titles would those have been (genuinely curious!)

    Gottlieb's "street series" games were all single level (no ramps)...Hoops, Deadly Weapon, Silver Slugger, a few others.

    #49 1 year ago
    Quoted from ForceFlow:

    Most operators don't turn around and resell their games to make their profit--the concept of reselling a pin in order to make a profit has always sounded odd to me. Operators either keep operating the game until it no longer earns, or run it into the ground until they can't fix it or it's not cost effective to fix.
    If you have to figure in the resale value of a game in order to make a profit, why bother operating at all and just go into the retail business instead? You don't see Dave & Buster's reselling their redemption games in order to make a profit.
    The general idea is that you usually buy a game as an investment, let it earn to pay for itself, then earnings after that are profit.

    You're not looking at the operating income side of it. The point of the machines is to generate monthly operating income. They are mules... whose job it is to pull in the quarters. The operating income is the blood of the business. The mules are the pumps for that blood, not the portion you look to make profit on. The mules (games) are simply working assets. You are not in the pinball flipping business... you are in the OPERATING business. Everything is about the coin drop.

    The issue is, the operating income these things make is based on their desirability, not just their ability to work. An operator is expected to keep getting the 'latest mule' - that means the operator is forced to keep laying out up-front capital to buy the latest mule... mules get more expensive to maintain as they age... it costs more to keep more in overhead as your mule herd increases in size. Thus there is incentive and need to refresh and cycle the mules out.

    To be competitive you gotta keep putting out that up-front capital. Selling your poor performing mules is a way to raise that capital... instead of relying solely on the profit margin from your monthly operating income. You sell your mules (assets) (games) to help generate free capital to invest in the new asset.. not to take as profit.

    The economies of the business are around COIN DROP - the capital needed for assets is not what sustains or sinks the business because the assets have residual values that you can roll forward into the next asset. The business is all about your monthly income (coin drop) covering your depreciation, expenses, and desired profit.

    Without coin drop... things break down and people start getting into creative ways to diffuse the costs.. and the residual value of the assets starts getting looked at much more creatively.

    But its all about the Coin Drop - if not, you are not operating.. you're into some creative flipping business.

    #50 1 year ago
    Quoted from flynnibus:

    You're not looking at the operating income side of it. The point of the machines is to generate monthly operating income. They are mules... whose job it is to pull in the quarters. The operating income is the blood of the business. The mules are the pumps for that blood, not the portion you look to make profit on. The mules (games) are simply working assets. You are not in the pinball flipping business... you are in the OPERATING business. Everything is about the coin drop.
    The issue is, the operating income these things make is based on their desirability, not just their ability to work. An operator is expected to keep getting the 'latest mule' - that means the operator is forced to keep laying out up-front capital to buy the latest mule... mules get more expensive to maintain as they age... it costs more to keep more in overhead as your mule herd increases in size. Thus there is incentive and need to refresh and cycle the mules out.
    To be competitive you gotta keep putting out that up-front capital. Selling your poor performing mules is a way to raise that capital... instead of relying solely on the profit margin from your monthly operating income. You sell your mules (assets) (games) to help generate free capital to invest in the new asset.. not to take as profit.
    The economies of the business are around COIN DROP - the capital needed for assets is not what sustains or sinks the business because the assets have residual values that you can roll forward into the next asset. The business is all about your monthly income (coin drop) covering your depreciation, expenses, and desired profit.
    Without coin drop... things break down and people start getting into creative ways to diffuse the costs.. and the residual value of the assets starts getting looked at much more creatively.
    But its all about the Coin Drop - if not, you are not operating.. you're into some creative flipping business.

    Couldn't have said it better!

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