Family Entertainment Center (FEC)'s bowling alleys and skating rinks are ordering Smart Industries Manufacturing Corp.'s Ticket Time skill crane game with a new radio frequency identification feature. The RFID-enabled version of the game, known as Ticket Smarts, was released in November 2016 and aims to improve players' experience in redeeming their winnings, and thereby boost revenue related to game usage. The skill crane, which allows users to attempt to pick up rolls of tickets via a suspended claw, includes an RFID reader beneath the "playfield" that contains RFID tags on ticket rolls, so that a player is automatically linked to his or her wins, and can then redeem those tickets at the location's redemption counter.
Smart Industries makes games for FEC's amusement parks and other facilities that offer video and arcade game play. It was launched in 1963 as a traveling amusement operating company, then expanded into permanent arcades at amusement parks throughout the Midwestern United States. The firm began developing and creating coin-operated amusement games in 1985. Its latest offering, Ticket Time, features rolls of tickets, which players pick up using a joystick-operated claw, that can be redeemed or accumulated to win prizes of varying value. Instead of picking up a toy or stuffed animal with the claw, players aim to retrieve as many ticket rolls as they can.
The Ticket Time game is a response to the evolving interests of game players, says Jim Dupree, Smart Industries' VP. Instead of simply playing once to earn a toy, players can build up points to win a higher-value prize. The games are typically installed in FEC's bowling alleys and skating rinks, as well as areas in which players may only be present for a few days, such as resorts where families are vacationing. As such, players can build up their tickets during the course of an afternoon, weekend or week, and then redeem those tickets for something of relatively high value, such as headphones, skateboards or jerseys.
Throughout the past few years, FEC's games have been transitioning toward card-based systems rather than coin-operated versions, and that includes Ticket Time, which can be activated via a prepaid card. With RFID added to the game, each win can be allocated to a particular player's card, thereby eliminating the need for a ticket dispenser to present the player with the physical tickets he or she retrieved with the claw.
Upon arriving at FEC, a player proceeds to a counter, where he or she can purchase a playing card, similar to a credit card, which is loaded with credit to enable the number of games for which that person has prepaid. At the Ticket Smarts game, the player swipes the card at the terminal, thereby deducting the value of that game, while the machine also stores the card's unique ID number. The player can then operate the claw, pick up ticket rolls and drop them into a hopper.
Each roll has an adhesive ultrahigh-frequency (UHF) RFID tag attached to it. The company uses a variety of UHF RFID tags from multiple vendors, Dupree says, though he declines to name the specific tag or reader providers. The reader built into the game (also from an unnamed provider) interrogates each tag as it comes within range at the playfield's opening. The reader captures and stores the ID, which is linked to the ticket roll's value in the machine. That ticket value is then allocated to the player's card and is also stored in Smart Industries location-based management software.
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