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Thread: demise of quiz machines factors and solutions (main body)

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    demise of quiz machines factors and solutions (main body)

    There has been a noticeable and accelerating removal of SWP's (Skill With Prizes) machines in British pubs and this report attempts to address the situation to slow or even reverse the situation , what can and cannot be done and how much is the decline attributable to the gaming industry itself. Fifteen years ago SWP's were an oddly British phenomena commonly seen and discussed by the general population and were even seen within soap opera sets showing their acceptance into our way of life. Soon we will past the tipping point and the end will come much sooner than we could conceive in the early 2000's when business was booming.
    I am not aligned to any gaming company or provider and I hope that my slant on the situation helps to change the gamings industry treatment of the SWP's sector. My knowledge an insight has been garnered from a thirty year playing experience.
    The reasons for the SWP demise is very complex and is similar to the denouement of the Murder On The Orient Express , all suspects are guilty but how can you determine who is most guilty?

    FALLING PUB NUMBERS
    The number of pubs in the United Kingdom fell from 58,200 in 2006 (Daily Telegraph Report 10 Dec 2014) to 52,750 by the end of 2015 (Guardian Report 4 Feb 2016)
    It goes without saying that less pubs means less opportunities to sight machines and the situation is made far worse when it is appreciated that many of the new pub openings are micro-pubs where there is no room to swing a cat let alone place a quiz machine.
    Solution : none

    CHANGE IN THE COMPLEXION OF THE PUB
    The loss of habitat for a quiz machine has been compounded by the proliferation of gastropubs a term that was first coined by David Eyre and Mike Belben who took over The Eagle in Clerkenwell in 1991 (Wikipedia)
    Most but not exclusively gastropubs are devoid of the traditional or should I say recent traditional trappings of a pub. Swept away are the pool tables , dartboard , fruit machines and quiz machines as they take up valuable dining space and are a reflection of the common working man not the refined diner they are trying to attract.
    Solution : none

    QUIZ MACHINES THE LOOK
    Most quiz machines are of a non descript nature probably designed to just blend in with their surroundings black and grey being the commonest colours. However the attractiveness of the units must have some importance . The Paragons and Gamesnets are the commonest machines get plus points for simplicity and durability.
    Solution : Gamestec many years ago annouced that they would produce units in a small range of colours. It never happened. Greater choice can only be a good thing , how about the odd pink machine in gay quarters remembering the power of the pink pound?

    QUIZ MACHINES ACCESSIBILITY
    Quiz machine playing involves a touch screen and yet how many times have I approached a machine with nowhere to put my drink!
    Solution : It should be standard that all gaming units either have a drink holder or ledge onto which a drink can be rested.

    QUIZ MACHINES THE SITING
    Quiz machines are often situated in ridiculously poor positions , hidden in dark corners of a pub away from other gaming , near hatches or near pinch points. Many years ago I played a machine in the toilet area of one location.
    Solution : Make gaming managers visit pubs and not just sit in offices to make the important decision of siting onsite.

    QUIZ MACHINES THE CARE
    Machines are often neglected , screens often filthy causing static build up and the malfunctioning of the machine and unfortunately it is fairly common for drinkers to tip the dregs of their drinks into the cashtrays converting into drip trays where possible. Due to heavy handedness primarily screens can become skewed so that games are difficult or impossible to play. The chutes (particularly associated with Gamesnets) can clog.
    Solution : Clean screens regularly and check trays. Coin collectors should have a cursory touch of the screen on each visit to make sure games are available , pub staff should be trained to look out for basic problems and chutes should be cleaned at regular intervals.

    QUIZ MACHINES THE INTERNAL COMPETITION
    Quiz machines are facing competition from the grabber machines , the stacker machines , digital fruit machines and even a resurgence of video games.
    Solution : There is a simple solution where space limits choice incorporate units into one for example I believe there should be no problem into combining their quiz machine , Gamestec's I-pub digital fruit machine and video games into one machine using different screens for each component part.

    QUIZ MACHINES THE EXTERNAL COMPETITION
    The number of people using tablets and laptops in pubs has exploded once surfing in pubs became free so often once a customer has bought a drink they remain rooted to their chair for the duration.
    Solution : none

    QUIZ MACHINES FAULTY PAYOUTS AND REFUNDS
    One of the most common annoyances is the refusal of a site to payout a trifling sum when a machine states it owes that sum of money. Suddenly the employee will explain that the machine is rented from a company , the pub itself does not own it and is not permitted to refund until the fault and amount has been verified by an engineer. The delay is increased as it is the collector who generally makes the refund to the pub and not the engineer. Pubs take your details and say they will be in contact when the refund is there to collect but rarely do.
    Solution : How fair is it to request that a customer has to make a 210 mile round trip to pick up a six pound refund? This once happened to me but I complained about it and Whitbread to be fair issued a company cheque (I should have framed it! )
    All pubs should keep an refund book and note down all details of a claim and give the customer a duplicate copy. Players should be kept in the loop during the refund process. Commonsense should prevail . If a unit owes a relatively small amount and displays that amount as an IOU on the screen the pub in question have a good enough working relationship with the machine supplier to be entrusted to issue the refund there and then prior to checking. This is good business practice and lead to better relations with gaming customers.

    QUIZ MACHINES FLOATS
    This goes hand in hand with refunds. If you asked anybody with an ounce of common sense what the hopper level of a machine should be set at bearing in mind there is at least one game with a potential jackpot of 50 (Foxy Ladies Bingo) I would suggest that most members of the public would surmise that at the very minimum the level would be 50. Sceptre Leisure did not agree with this and it was common knowledge within the machine sector that Sceptres collectors were instructed to keep hopper levels at a paltry twenty pounds. I in a long and animated telephone conversation with Ken Turner the one time CEO of Sceptre Leisure accused him of bad business practice and that his company must have had severe cashflow problems. This he denied. Oddly enough it was not long before the company went into administration and became Regal although in my personal experience with them old habits die hard amongst many of their collectors.
    Solution : Surely a minimum float level of 75.00 is not asking too much. Customers will not repeatedly play machines that do not pay out the whole of the wins.

    QUIZ MACHINES RUNNING
    Many quiz machines run using Microsoft 2000 or something nearly as antiquated and the wait for a game to load let alone play can be excruciating . Slow play destroys enjoyment and replay as well as slowing gamer losses and machine profit by extension.
    Solution : It is now 2016 , time to install current software.

    QUIZ MACHINES GAME CONTENT
    The early 2000's heralded the arrival of the multi-gamed terminals the trailblazers being the Gamesnet (Gamestec) and the Itbox (Leisure Link) . This should have been the dawn of a new era a new foundation on which to build though in retrospect I would argue that the machine companies had sown the seeds that would ultimately help to precipitate the decline as rival gaming companies began a games race to see who could place the greatest number of games on their units with little regard to quality. As game choice became so wide a jackpot on one game could make this game unplayable for months afterwards as the throughput of individual games became so diluted through choice.
    Solution : Look at the number of plays per game per unit and remove the least played games as there is no obligation in having all units promoting the same line up. Remove the dross as there is plenty of it to remove and even consider trialing one game machines again.

    QUIZ MACHINES COINAGE & NOTE ACCEPTINGQuiz machines should accept all 'silver' coinage from five pence to fifty pence as well as the one pound and two pound coin. The introduction of the nickel plated coins by the mint in 2012 ably demonstrates the laggard nature of the gaming industry in responding to change even with prior notice.The fact that there are many units in 2016 that do still not accept the 'new' coinage sadly speaks for itself.
    A proportion of the units accept bank notes although many of the mechanisms have been disabled. Notes in coinage out is not sensible with the industry tendency to maintain relatively low hopper levels.

    Solution :Prepare for the future immediately on notification of changes so that there can be a smooth transition. All units should be equipped with note acceptors and should be aligned with the AWP sector so that payouts can be facilitated by banknotes as well as coinage.

  2. #2
    Senior Member bubbles's Avatar
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    WIDNNIHETSIPNISG

    Rearrange the above letters to create a saying that relates to your hopeful post!

    If you tell them how to make it a worthwhile financial venture to implement all of the above then you should add it on to your post.

    Of course, you have knowledge, enthusiasm and a vested interest so why don't you look into doing something instead of constantly whining?!

    I'm sure the machines go pretty cheaply, based on supply and demand theory. Buy some, tinker with games, float them properly, site them and maintain them yourself. Even if not lucrative you should make something and if you don't you will have learned to look at things from more than perspective....
    Going skint....

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    Whining, I don't think so, you obviously either don't play swp's to any significant level or if you do you stand out from the crowd by going around with blinkers on.... I would be surprised if many co-contributors disagree with my points it's just how significant they are. indeed many of them have been brought up by others. Also I do appreciate that other interested bodies outside of this forum may have a differing opinion or a different angle but are unlikely to reply here or reveal who they are. It's almost as if you're batting for the other side! And if you are a fruit machine player perhaps you can stick to something you know a bit about, but as you are 'going skint' you probably don't know much about them either.
    Last edited by cool; 23-10-2016 at 07:30 AM. Reason: punctuation

  4. #4
    Quote Originally Posted by cool View Post
    Whining, I don't think so, you obviously either don't play swp's to any significant level or if you do you stand out from the crowd by going around with blinkers on.... I would be surprised if many co-contributors disagree with my points it's just how significant they are. indeed many of them have been brought up by others. Also I do appreciate that other interested bodies outside of this forum may have a differing opinion or a different angle but are unlikely to reply here or reveal who they are. It's almost as if you're batting for the other side! And if you are a fruit machine player perhaps you can stick to something you know a bit about, but as you are 'going skint' you probably don't know much about them either.
    For once he has a fair point cool.

    We all know why no one plays anymore and presumably it is more investment than it's worth to fix the problems. I'd guess the companies understand their business a bit better than a player would but, if you think you've spotted an opportunity, why not exploit it?

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    Senior Member Nil Satis's Avatar
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    That's my view. In simple terms, some of what has brought us to this point has been outside the industry's control, most notably:

    - the reduction in the number of pubs
    - the change in the nature of many of the pubs that have survived (towards food and away from any form of machine)
    - the availability of similar games on smartphones
    - the huge increase in the availability of other forms of gambling

    For the problems that have always been within their control:

    - far too many dull games
    - miserable prizes
    - worrying too much about a tiny number of pro players
    - shoddy reliability way below that of any comparable product
    - poor customer care linked to those reliability issues (repairs, maintenance, deliberately low floats, refunds, updating the machines to accept revised currency etc)

    then (unless a miracle happens) they have long gone past the point of no return. If they could have managed all of these issues better over the last 5-10 years then they might have at least reduced or delayed the effects of all the external factors but they simply haven't been willing or able to.

    There is still some life left - I managed to find TWO Paragons in a central London Wetherspoon's at the weekend, completely against my expectations, but that had come after fruitlessly checking eight pubs in a row that had had machines within the last few years. None of those ever seem likely to have a machine again and that in a snapshot is where we are.

    So in the end your list (eminently sensible as it is) is basically saying that the industry should do all the things that they haven't been doing, either at all or to a sufficient extent, and is asking them to do this when the decline in their business has (in my view) taken them past the point where they would be able to do so in a way that would generate the returns they need to justify the outlay. I would love them to try and for me to be proved wrong - to get a stock of well-maintained, reliable machines offering a much smaller selection of only worthwhile quiz and word games with no filler in all the suitable pubs that still remain, but I just can't see it happening now.

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    That was an excellent post cool and it would be good if it was read by industry people.I know some of them used to read (and occasionally contribute) to this forum but they mightn't bother nowadays so why don't you email it to games companies and suppliers? Now it may be as Sloach and Nil Satis suggest that the game's up and they've basically given up,but they are still designing the odd new game and occasionally tweaking the old one,so perhaps there's still a little hope.It may be pissing in the wind as Bubbles suggests (and as an aside,why isn't there an anagram game out at the moment) but I think there is still a possibility of there being a future for the quiz machine if they were prepared to follow your advice.

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    Ah,I read and posted on this thread without seeing your introduction.Well done in taking this initiative.Following on from what I was saying above,I do find the industry's position to be a little contrary.I could understand if the attitude was 'spend no more money on the quiz machines,just see what we can take until they basically never get played or the units have stopped working' although that would probably irritate punters and landlords,but they are still bringing out new games and updates (though perhaps not with the same frequency as times gone by).This must involve some financial outlay.I am reminded of the saying that 'if a job's worth doing,it's worth doing well'.

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    Senior Member bubbles's Avatar
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    the quiz player's superiority complex in relation to the fruit player comes through again eh cool?!

    my post was intended to help you and yet you appear to have dismissed it completely.

    did you copy your opening post and send it to father christmas?

    it is you that are blinkered, and you'll probably never realise it.
    Going skint....

  9. #9
    Quote Originally Posted by muddle View Post
    This must involve some financial outlay.I am reminded of the saying that 'if a job's worth doing,it's worth doing well'.
    That's the problem though; what cool has written is a wishlist not a business plan. Anyone can demand whatever they want for roads, schools or hospitals if they don't have to figure out how to pay for it. To update the coinslots, note converters, operating systems, skewed screens etc. and increase floats from 20 to 75 could cost 100s per machine in parts, licences, training, engineer wages and lost cashflow. If a company has hundreds of quiz machines that's tens or hundreds of thousands of pounds in costs plus the interest. Nothing cool has written explains how all this expense would increase play to the levels required for the struggling companies to be able to recoup all this expenditure.

    As bubbles rather rudely implied, if cool thinks there is a business opportunity why doesn't he buy a few machines and give it a go?
    Last edited by Sloach; 24-10-2016 at 07:01 AM.

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    To my mind, the one thing a quiz machine can offer, that is both suitable from its context and not usurped by better technology, is social play.

    By this I include 3-4 people drinking, and collectively having a go at the quiz. Maybe a different aspect of social play may be networked Jackpots, but I feel evem this is better served by online gaming on tablets and phones.

    I think Bubbles makes a decent point, the barriers to entry here are not high. The software will almost certainly run on hardware costing less than 50 (raspberry Pi), and it is the additional hardware to handle money controls that is more costly. This can be bought for 150-200. Altogether, I expect you could put together a workable prototype for under 800. Of course you'd then need to program some games, but these games are just cut and paste affairs and individual devlopment times are likely in the region of a couple of weeks. Maybe even less.

    Hmmm... database of questions!

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    Quote Originally Posted by Stubble View Post
    To my mind, the one thing a quiz machine can offer, that is both suitable from its context and not usurped by better technology, is social play.

    By this I include 3-4 people drinking, and collectively having a go at the quiz. Maybe a different aspect of social play may be networked Jackpots, but I feel evem this is better served by online gaming on tablets and phones.

    I think Bubbles makes a decent point, the barriers to entry here are not high. The software will almost certainly run on hardware costing less than 50 (raspberry Pi), and it is the additional hardware to handle money controls that is more costly. This can be bought for 150-200. Altogether, I expect you could put together a workable prototype for under 800. Of course you'd then need to program some games, but these games are just cut and paste affairs and individual devlopment times are likely in the region of a couple of weeks. Maybe even less.

    Hmmm... database of questions!
    You still see that.

    I've been in pubs...either waiting to play a machine or just having a social drink and on occasions you still a group of 2-3 people round a machine having a go rather than always just the lone wolf pro player.

    Machines are still in a lot of student area pubs so I'd say it's still reasonably popular with that age group.

    Ultimately though I think the first two points in your essay are the pertinent ones...most new pubs like the gastro ones aren't interested in having the machines so you're left with the old stalwarts and those are usually ancient and kept in poor condition and eventually replaced so vicious cycle.

  12. #12
    Moderator Matt Vinyl's Avatar
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    I was a question-writer for GW at one point and would happily take up that aspect again if you need a database of questions - although obviously there would need to be more than just me as a contributor? As a hobby I also code apps / small games. The bit that I have no idea about at all though, is how to interface my games with the compensator / payout mechanisms.

    I think there is still a chance for the Quiz Machine to thrive (even if it is not as we know it now). Tie-ins with popular culture would likely lure the more modern-day punter in (think early Friday evening Whetherspoon's crowds) but there's a not insignificant cost associated with getting the go-ahead for that sort of thing.
    "And do you ever contradict yourself, Minister?" "Well, yes and no..."

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    Moderator Matt Vinyl's Avatar
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    I was a question-writer for GW at one point and would happily take up that aspect again if you need a database of questions - although obviously there would need to be more than just me as a contributor? As a hobby I also code apps / small games. The bit that I have no idea about at all though, is how to interface my games with the compensator / payout mechanisms.

    I think there is still a chance for the Quiz Machine to thrive (even if it is not as we know it now). Tie-ins with popular culture would likely lure the more modern-day punter in (think early Friday evening Whetherspoon's crowds) but there's a not insignificant cost associated with getting the go-ahead for that sort of thing.
    "And do you ever contradict yourself, Minister?" "Well, yes and no..."

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    No, it's not a wishlist most of the suggestions would cost very little if anything. At least bubbles suggestion gave the opportunity to solve a 16 letter conundrum. I am glowing with pride. Be interested what Mr Vinyl thinks about the dire questions GW have churned out in recent times.

  15. #15
    How much would each suggestion cost and how much extra income would each generate?
    Last edited by Sloach; 25-10-2016 at 11:42 PM.

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