A new arcade game, based on the 1939 movie "The Wizard of Oz," has hit the New Jersey shore.
The machine is a spinoff of the "coin-pusher" arcade game that has been around for decades. But it has room for six players and incorporates artwork, music and trading cards of characters from the film. A good value for the entertainment dollar keeps players coming back for more.
"I have more fun playing here than I do in the casino," Linda Sedghi, of Columbia, Md., said Saturday afternoon at Playcade on the Boardwalk in Atlantic City.
Sedghi said the machine gives more prize points than other arcade games, and she visits Playcade almost every weekend during her visits to the gaming halls. She is saving up her points - 128,000 so far - for a laptop computer. The laptop is 280,000 points.
Playcade got its machine last month, said owner Stan Kiska, of Egg Harbor Township. The Gateway 26 arcade in North Wildwood and the arcade at Fantasy Island in Beach Haven also have the machine, manufactured by Elaut of Belgium.
"It's not like any game that's out there now," Kiska said. "It has features no other game has."
The machine is shaped like a hexagon, with room for six players. Each station has the traditional "coin-pusher," where an upper shelf moves in and out, and players try to drop coins on the upper shelf, to push them onto the lower shelf, and in turn push those into the hopper for prizes. Players use a joystick to move a chute to place the drop, and push a button to fire off the tokens. Players can fire one token at a time or rapid-fire for faster results.
The Wizard of Oz game uses silver tokens instead of coins, and most that fall into the hopper are recirculated in the game. At regular intervals, a dispenser in the center of the machine drops colored discs and trading cards of characters from the movie onto the trays. When these items are pushed into the hopper, the player gets to trade them in for points. At Playcade, green discs are worth 50 points, red discs 150 points and trading cards 400 points. Collect all seven character cards for a 25,000-point bonus.
The more money a player puts into the machine, the more credits the player gets at the outset. One dollar equals 12 credits, or a chance to drop 12 tokens. Five dollars gives 75 credits, and $10 gives 175.
Every 30 shots, a wheel spins while "Follow the Yellow Brick Road" plays on the speakers, and the player is awarded anywhere from five to 50 extra credits.
As an added twist, the trading card for the dog Toto is rarer than the others.
Julie Ramroup, of Brooklyn, N.Y., stopped into Playcade to try the game. She did not get any tokens for the 12 shots she got for a dollar, but said she'll definitely be back.
And come back they do.
Michael Carle, chief financial officer of Elaut USA in Lakewood, Ocean County, said he visited an arcade in Freehold, Monmouth County, that bought three of the machines. The owner said that on weekends, people have to wait for a chance to play.
Ryan Kiska, the Playcade owner's 19-year-old son, said he stumbled upon the game in another arcade.
"I didn't know what it was. I just said ‘Dad, you've got to get this machine. It's real cool,'" Ryan Kiska said.
Stan Kiska said a friend at Fantasy Island invited him to Beach Haven to see the game, and then helped him install it.
The game does not come cheap. Kiska said he paid $58,000 for his, and hasn't had a summer to see how well it will pay off.
Brian Sharpe, of Cape May Court House, owner of Gateway 26, said he saw the machine at the International Amusement Association convention in November 2010, and imediately plunked down the $50,000 initial price because he had never seen a game that was as much fun to play. He got the second machine in the United States, after Universal Studios in Florida, he said.
"It was absolutely sensational," Sharpe said, adding people often stop in several times a day to see if a card they need has dropped onto the game.
Sharpe said he decided to get the Wizard of Oz game because business had been slowing over the past few years and needed a boost.
"It became a social and interactive experience," Sharpe said.
Kiska said he noticed the same thing. When several people are at the game, they cheer for each other and often trade cards to complete a set.
Sharpe said the machine does not make as much money as he had hoped, but he does not regret the investment because customers love it.
"People saw it and said they'd play 10 bucks to see what it's like, and all of a sudden, they're running to the ATM," Sharpe said.
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