The Thrill Is Strong
Raw Thrills remains in top form this fall as the Chicago-based game factory rolls out four licensed titles, all home grown exclusively for the arcade game business.
Founder Eugene Jarvis has once again planted a flag on familiar turf, proclaiming the continued relevance of games for both street and arcade/FEC locations. “Every company has to decide who they are,” Jarvis told RePlay. “Licenses are important, but we aren’t interested in just making a quick buck by slapping a license on a cabinet. We see our mission in developing full-blown experiences for people who play our games.
“You are going to continue to see games that feature intense physical interfaces, unique peripherals and immersion by video and sound,” Jarvis continued. “We’re also pushing bigger and bigger monitors. All of these aspects of our games are incorporated so that the player can relate in exciting and novel ways to our games. We can’t compete on a three-inch screen but we can put the player on a motorcycle or a hang-glider and display that experience on a 70-inch screen.”
As proof of this vision, Raw Thrills has rolled out a Duck Dynasty update for its Big Buck HD game platform, two new deluxe videos –– Batman and Aliens Armageddon –– and a video redemption game based on the popular kids toy Barrel of Monkeys.
The Duck Dynasty upgrade for Big Buck was delivered to nearly 1,400 online cabinets last month via download. Raw Thrills says the new upgrade is the first in what they are dubbing premium downloadable content. Operators receive the game free of charge. The players will cover the cost of licensing and developing the new game through increased price per play.
Players opting for the Duck Dynasty game will pay $2, and a portion of that extra dollar will go back to the factory and ultimately to the Duck Dynasty licensor, A&E. The operator will retain a portion of that extra dollar.
“We already have a relationship with every operator who has a Big Buck HD for funding the prizes in our national contests. We have mechanisms in place to deal with this kind of billing,” explained George Petro, who heads up the Play Mechanix development studio at Raw Thrills. “We wanted to ensure that we weren’t taking from the normal cashbox of the operator. They are going to make at least the same amount per play regardless of which game the player chooses.
“This model actually keeps the pressure on us,” Petro continued. “We know we have to make compelling content for the operator to buy our games. This keeps that intact, and we are now directly responsible to the player as well because we are participating in the revenue stream. Raw Thrills is genuinely interested in the operator. We know our industry is an eco-system in which we all have to survive.”
Petro, who headed up the process of securing the Duck Dynasty license from A&E, said the revenue share agreement was crucial in securing this and future licenses.
“We were able to have an interesting conversation with A&E because of our ability to offer them part of the revenue stream,” he explained. “This provides them with ongoing revenue, great exposure for their brand and they can help drive more revenue by promoting Big Buck Duck Dynasty across their various platforms and marketing channels. Their reach is immense.”
If Duck Dynasty does well, Jarvis and Petro see many more opportunities to bring premium licensed content to arcade games via this method.
As for the game content, the new Duck Dynasty version of Big Buck offers a completely new game experience for players including 16 rounds of duck hunting and four unique bonus games. “Duck Dynasty is a perfect fit for Big Buck HD,” said Petro. “They are into shooting things and blowing things up and we are into that too.”
“It’s got good shooting action but it also embodies a lot of the humor of the show,” added Jarvis.
In addition to Duck Dynasty, Raw Thrills has also included a new casual version of its signature hunting game called Big Buck Arcade. “There is definitely a market for this kind of casual play,” said Jarvis. “When you start the game, you will see three large buttons: Duck Dynasty, BB Arcade and BB HD. Once you shoot one of the buttons, the game transforms to that game.”
At last month’s IAAPA show in Orlando, Raw Thrills released two new deluxe video games, Batman and Aliens Armageddon.
“There’s nobody bigger than Batman,” declared Jarvis of the new themed driver/shooter. “Who hasn't wanted to drive the Batmobile? Nobody has ever done it before in a video game, until now.”
Batman features various iterations of the superhero’s iconic wheels, from the classic ’60s TV show to the more recent spate of Hollywood movie versions. Jarvis described the game as a mission-based drive. Players leave the Batcave and head into Gotham City to take down Joker, Penguin, Catwoman, Mr. Freeze and other well-known villains. Each of the 30 adventures culminates in a dramatic showdown, and the game offers an impressive arsenal of weapons as well as the various cars.
Batman was created in conjunction with Specular Interactive, the Raw Thrills affiliated development studio responsible for H2Overdrive and Dirty Drivin’. The game cabinet created by Raw Thrills gets the players attention with an eye-catching Bat Signal that is easy to see across a game room.
“We are constantly raising the bar on attractions, and so we want our cabinet to be screaming at the players,” explained sales topper Mark Struhs.
Aliens Armageddon delivers an apocalyptic shooting experience with modern cities and buildings providing a setting for the player to battle all new alien types. Petro said that while the game was licensed from Fox, both the play action and characters were all developed in house at Play Mechanix.
According to Petro, the game graphics and hardware performance take what the factory created in Terminator and significantly increased it. “The Play Mechanix team lead by Will Carlin really knocked itself out,” he said. “They have brought arcade game play to a new level.”
“The intensity of the game play is psycho,” enthused Jarvis. “And we have a new subwoofer that really delivers. The cool thing about both of these games, Batman and Aliens, is that they are 100% original for the arcade. They are in no way repurposed home games. The only way you can play these games is to go to the arcade.”
Aliens features credit card acceptance, a 55” LED cabinet, enhanced gun system, eye-catching Aliens topper and four unique scenarios in which the players attempt to rescue the human race from the alien invasion by getting them onto an Ark spaceship and off the planet.
Barrel of Monkeys, the iconic children’s toy from Hasbro, provides the theme for Raw Thrills’ newest video redemption game, which the factory will sell under its own brand. Many know the iconic monkeys that kids string together by connecting their elongated curling tails.
The video game version provides a simple task: use a skill button to connect a monkey onto a swinging chain of fellow primates. If you are successful, the monkeys cheer and the game rewards tickets or points. Otherwise, the whole chain falls apart and you start anew.
Like Raw Thrills’ game Tippin’ Blocks (released by ICE), Barrel of Monkeys utilizes a real physics game engine to approximate the movement of the swinging chain of monkeys. As the chain grows, it creates a whiplash effect.
“This is a super addicting game,” said Petro. “You feel like if you could just play one more time you are going to master that swinging chain of monkeys.”
Raw Thrills will market Barrel of Monkeys along with its other new games through its existing distribution partners around the U.S. and internationally.
Raw Thrills successfully serves the two main and in some ways diverging game markets: street locations and family entertainment centers.
Sales exec Struhs, a longtime trade veteran, believes street operators are looking for the kind of new revenue that Big Buck Duck Dynasty can provide. Likewise, game room operators remain open to good video in order to provide a broad mix of attractions.
“We believe Duck Dynasty will energize the street,” said Struhs. “The social interaction you get from the game is much more profound than the solitary game play experience of the past. And promotion works really well with our games.”
Struhs noted the recent Big Buck World Championship held last month in Chicago (see related story) as evidence of the excitement that video games can create in traditional street locations. Players had to spend more than $200 playing Big Buck HD just to potentially qualify for the national event. Old Milwaukee also sponsored prizes for select qualifiers even before the live tournament got underway.
“Duck Dynasty is not a one shot deal,” added Jarvis. “As we see it, this is the first of many new games coming for street operators.”
Looking to the global market, Raw Thrills has also been able to grow its footprint in many international markets, including China, Russia, the Middle East, Europe, Australia and South America.
“Raw Thrills games are intuitively fun and do well all over the world; there’s no culture gap in their appeal,” said Struhs. “For the aggressive operator who thinks about how to attract new business and get people into their locations, they are going to find success through promotions and attractions that you can’t find on a smart phone.”
To learn more about Raw Thrills, visit www.rawthrills.com.
The sixth annual Big Buck World Championship closed with a bang on Nov. 10, with a Wisconsinite and Texan going head-to-head. In the end, it was Trevor Gartner from New Richmond, Wis., who took home the title. Earlier, Melinda Van Hoomissen of Vancouver, Wash., came from behind to narrowly defeat two-time Ladies tournament Champion, Sara Erlandson.
Gartner, who placed 17th in the 2012 World Championship beat rookie Matthew Garver from Houston, Texas, in the final round this year. With the win, Gartner’s name will be added to the Pappy’s Jug trophy and he will be awarded a $15,000 top prize.
Losing early to 2012 World Champion Chris Fream, Gartner entered the reload bracket in the double-elimination tournament. Going on to defeat six more opponents, including two past World Champions, Gartner claimed the 2013 World Champion title. Nearly 100 of the best Big Buck players from around the country and Australia gathered at the Chop Shop in Chicago, Ill., to compete for $63,000 in prize money.
Gartner, 27, spent the past year training for the World Championship with his wife Mandy and their Big Buck team the Sconnie Snipers. A registered nurse for Westfields Hospital in New Richmond, Gartner came to his third World Championship as a three-seed.
“I just won $15,000. You can bet I’m taking my gorgeous wife on a vacation,” Gartner said following his final match. “She could not be more supportive of me playing Big Buck Hunter.”
Van Hoomissen, 39, took home the $5,000 top prize and the Jugs of Destiny trophy in the third annual Ladies Tournament. Melinda was the highest ranked player coming into Friday’s Ladies Tournament. She proved her skill by beating the two-time Ladies Tournament Champion, Sara Erlandson, in the last match to secure her place as the 2013 Ladies Tournament Champion.
The World Championship returned to Chicago for the fifth time after taking the tournament to New York last year. The two-day event attracted hundreds of people and included a crowd decked out in a sea of camouflage, free play on arcade games, appearances by the Big Buck Girls and more.
To earn one of 64 spots in the World Championship, players competed on Big Buck HDs around the country during a five-week qualifying period.
For additional information, visit www.bigbuckhd.com, check out the official Facebook page at www.facebook.com/BigBuckHunter or follow Pappy's Tweets at www.Twitter.com/bigbuckhunter.
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