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Playing the Game

Jason Hicks |

CHICAGO — When it comes to today’s extra-profit centers, video games are often overlooked in coin laundries. It may have been common in the 1980s to have an Asteroids or Space Invaders machine to let kids pass the time, but do the electronic diversions still have a place in today’s coin laundry?In many cases the answer is yes, according to Ronnie Cazel Sr. of Billiards and Games in Wichita, Kan., and Pat Fasolino of SW Amusements, Pleasant Valley, N.Y., who also owns Super Suds, a coin laundry.BIG MONEYThe best reason to have a video game in your store is the profit potential, Cazel says. “Video games and/or pinball or things of that nature make more money per square foot than anything else in the laundry.”A big part of that profitability is the minimal investment required. In many cases, it costs nothing to get a machine set up, and profits are split 50/50.“I bring it in and set it up, you would provide the electricity, we fix it if it breaks and give you half the money,” Cazel says.This method is actually more efficient than buying in the long run, in most cases. “An average game is going to be close to $4,000, and not many laundry people are willing to put out that kind of money for an investment,” Fasolino explains. “It might take them a year to make back their money, and then after that the game’s worth probably a third of that price.”It’s also easier to let the game distributor handle the maintenance as well.“Say that the picture tube goes out,” Cazel says. “We can switch it and put a different game in while we repair it. Then we bring it back or take it somewhere else.”“I usually have [parts] within the next day,” Fasolino adds. “I can either call upstate New York or down to New Jersey and get parts right away the next day, so it’s usually not that big of a deal. I [also] have a large surplus of parts — switches, stuff like that — that normally go on a game. I have those already in stock.”This doesn’t necessarily mean that the games are tough to keep up though.“It depends on the type of machine,” Fasolino says. “If it’s a pinball machine, you have a steel ball that’s flying around with plastic parts. It’s going to break down a lot more often than a video game that just has joysticks and buttons. So, you can have a game sitting in a spot for a year, and not have to do anything to it.”Now you may be wondering if this is something that meshes well with customers. Is it something that customers want or that owners want to provide? A common myth is that video games will draw in the wrong kinds of people, i.e. those who are there only to play games, and not do laundry. Fasolino sets the record straight.“You do get the occasional kid that might come in if there’s a hot game out and you’ve got it in the Laundromat, but they’re not hanging out. They’re spending money there. You’re making money off of them.”“When they’re waiting for their clothes, they like to have something to do,” Cazel agrees. He also says that games make a good distraction for kids waiting for their parents to finish up the wash.A BLAST FROM THE PASTSo what kinds of games go over best at a coin laundry? The word of the day is “nostalgia,” with the classics of yesteryear being one of the biggest hits today.“You can buy a new, mint Pac-Man and Galaga game together,” Fasolino says. “So instead of trying to revitalize a game [where] the cabinet’s beat up and things like that, you’re better off buying something new.”“Sometimes with newer games you don’t know if they’re any good,” Cazel adds. “This is a new machine, it just has old technology. You know that [the games] are proven, and they’ll play them. An adult coming in there is more apt to play one of these games.”“They like nostalgia,” Fasolino says. “They like to come in and see that Ms. Pac-Man and say, ‘Hey, I used to hang out in the arcade and play that all the time!’”Retro games aren’t the only ones that work in a coin laundry.“It depends on the market,” Fasolino says. “They make games for small kids, they make games for teenagers and they make games for adults. So you try and diversify a little bit in a Laundromat because you have a mixture of all three. The touch-screen games are more for the adults. The video games and gun games are more for the teenagers or college kids. And the simple games — a driving game even — a small kid will like those.”Rotation is often the key to maintaining a profit from video games though, as customers like to see something fresh regularly.“We try to rotate the games in and out every three months. That seems to be the best for both ends,” says Fasolino. “When we do rotate, I would say the collection is probably up about 30 percent, just by rotating the machines around.”“We have a 9-in-1 video game,” Cazel says. “That means there are nine games in one cabinet. With this 9-in-1, you don’t have to rotate them as much.”So how many games should you have?“It depends on the square feet, but I would say no more than four,” Fasolino says. “You don’t want to go with too much, because then people start thinking it’s a hangout or an arcade or something.”Even with home systems like Sony’s Playstation 2 making the newest and best games available at home, there is still a place for a video game in a coin laundry.“Sometimes a game makes the time go by quicker,” Fasolino says. “If you’ve got 40 minutes until your clothes are dry, instead of just sitting there twiddling your thumbs, you can play a game. It helps.” 

About the author

Jason Hicks

American Drycleaner

Jason Hicks was assistant editor for American Trade Magazines, which publishes American Coin-Op, American Drycleaner and American Laundry News, for more than nine years, and web editor for three years.

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