Updated: 5/11/2006 12:40:49 PM
Puffy pink and blue stuffed animals sit towered in a corner of the "Family Fun World" arcade in Lake George -- a sure sign the busy summer season is about to start.
Those giant plush toys, redeemable with 2,200 bright pink tickets (now that's a lot of Skee Ball), are also big reasons why arcades like Fun World stay busy.According to Fun World owner and Lake George village Mayor Robert Blais, competition from home video gaming systems would have dimmed his pinball machines for good by now, if not for those toys."When someone comes into a family entertainment center today, they're looking to leave with something for their money," said Blais, who's been in the arcade business for the past 35 years. Redeemable prizes are the main edge arcades have over home systems like Sony Playstation and X-Box 360, Blais said.But keeping that edge comes with a price.Around 25 years ago, if Fun World took in $100,000, Blais would use about $10,000 of that for prizes and giveaways.
These days, he'd spend more like $35,000 for the prizes.That's also because prizes are becoming more and more sophisticated. Sure, one ticket will get you a pixie stick full of colored sugar, but if you put in your time and accumulate 10,000 -- that could score you an iPod.Besides, Blais has found the games that offer instant rewards -- either point tickets or actual prizes -- are the most popular."In our arcade, you'll find that 66 percent of the income will be from games that give out a prize," Blais said. More than half of the games in the arcade give out prizes or tickets.Blais shies away from calling Fun World an "arcade." He opts for "family entertainment center," because unlike mall arcades where lots of teenagers congregate, his establishment stays away from violent shoot-'em-up games and opts for a wider range of games that appeal to young and old.But Anthony Cuthrell, manager of the video arcade "Tilt" in Queensbury's Aviation Mall, said his customers also run the gamut, fr