Well, unless you’ve been taking a dirt nap, you’re aware of an amusement trend sweeping the planet called Pokemon Go! At the time I write this, it hasn’t any monetary bearing on coin-op other than pulling young people away from the game centers so they can roam the streets looking at their smart phones for what they call “hotspots.” And, as most folks (including this game’s players) would agree, this is probably just one more fad (albeit one that took off like a dry brush fire). Everyone can, however, agree that this is a super-clever use of an existing technology. . .a now-popular thing called “altered reality”. . .which may or may not have application to our industry downstream.
What does have application is how Pokemon Go! proves that innovation rather than “same-old, same-old” is where the creative “entertainer’s brain” should go. No, it’s not as easy to come up with an idea as inventive as this as it is to put a new spin on existing ways to spend leisure time. But it is a wakeup call to both the game and the game center designers that true success means a lot more than adding another ball to a rolldown game or painting an arcade’s white wall red.
There are only so many Mozarts and DaVincis born in any given century. The amusement game business saw something close back in the early ’70s when a guy named Nolan Bushnell put a coin mech on a game he called Pong and within a few years, this industry turned upside down. Operators who budgeted money for new jukeboxes, tables and other machines redirected their investment dollars into this new thing called the “video game.” Unbelievable collections fed the street and the arcade’s hunger for more of these things, swelled the ranks with newcomers looking to exploit this gold rush, and hurt both movie and record producers as player pocket money was dropped into video uprights rather and at their doors.
That boom didn’t last. Though video shooters and drivers continue to be produced and make money (sometimes excellent money), the days when just about anything with a monitor on it could amortize itself within months was over by the mid-’80s. Today, of course, this is a business dominated by redemption games and doing just fine. Then again, a lot of FEC owners and managers are looking at the possibilities virtual reality might offer while the route operators are asking “what about us?” Stay tuned as the creative wheel turns, hopefully in our direction!