Welcoming the New Year
Reflections on a Solid 2017 and a Optimistic Eye on 2018
by Adam Pratt, Game Grid Arcade & ArcadeHeroes.com
A s we approach a new year, thoughts naturally turn to how this year went while propping up hopes for the one to come. Here are my annual reflections on the last 12 months, with some thoughts towards the future.
2017 has been quite a ride for my business. I started the year receiving the keys to a new location within the mall where my arcade has been established since 2008. It wasn’t the first time I have gone through such change. I first moved within the mall back in 2010 then again in 2012. Both situations were due to major remodeling efforts taking place at the time and, while it entailed a bit of cost and work, the moves were beneficial.
This time, however, the move was predicated on my need to grow. Our old location was jam-packed with games, making it a little uncomfortable to enjoy. And the accumulated smell from the heavy foot traffic getting into the carpet wasn’t too pleasant either.
The new space was a bit larger, but it also gave me the opportunity to theme everything to my liking. I covered those efforts in RePlay earlier this year and after several months of operation, it looks like it was a good risk to take. I still receive compliments about the new look from the customers who infrequently visit the mall and see the new location for the first time. The extra space has made it easier for people to play since the games are not crammed so close together and also has given me the ability to expand.
Among the new games I’ve added are: The Walking Dead (Raw Thrills), Tekken 5 Dark Resurrection (Bandai Namco), Super Shot Basketball (Skee-Ball), PrimeTime Air Hockey (Wik), i-Hockey (Imply), The Simpsons (Konami) and a Space Riders pinball machine (Atari).
An operator I work with on our merchandisers decided to expand his scope and brought in two pinball machines: Star Wars Premium and Ghostbusters Pro, both by Stern. By expanding our line-up of pins, we’ve attracted more local enthusiasts although it is still a challenge for pinball to earn like my video games do – all five pins combined make just half of what a single deluxe video game does over the course of a week. We’ll see how it fares over the long haul, particularly if we can get the local player group to participate in a tournament combined with my pinball “merit badge” idea that was discussed in last month’s RePlay column.
For the future, IAAPA was quite a blast and others I spoke with sound very enthusiastic about what 2018 has in store. This show can influence the actions many of us in 2018. The gamer in me was particularly excited about the return of Teenage Mutant Ninja Turtles (Raw Thrills) and its true form as an arcade-beat-’em-up as opposed to a shallow, 10-second redemption game or themed merchandiser.
I was also heartened to see other variations for pure video that go beyond the “safe” light-gun/racer genres, but I’m waiting to hear more about location performance before making a purchase. For any manufacturers reading this, it would be nice to get real numbers as opposed to just “it’s earning great at locations I can’t tell you about” or having to talk to a big operator in the hopes that they’ll candidly share what a game is doing.
I was a little surprised by how much VR was at the show, but I still haven’t found a setup that makes economical sense for a location like mine. There are some cool ideas starting to spring up in the genre like LAI’s Virtual Rabbids: The Big Ride, which doesn’t require an attendant. Most of what’s out there just can’t compete on a price/space/earnings ground compared to the ol’ reliable flat-display/simulator setup. (On top of that, I have a “VR arcade” almost next door to me in the mall and they’ve been struggling to capture an audience since they opened in 2016.)
I’m still looking to add a party room to my space, but after receiving quotes from some contractors, doing a fully enclosed room is going to be too expensive (especially since I’m technically not a permanent tenant of the mall). I am considering some alternatives and plan on moving forward at the beginning of next year.
Hopefully, 2018 is great for all of you and that the new product will help boost earnings in your locations. Have a Merry Christmas and a Happy New Year!
Adam Pratt is the owner and operator of the Game Grid arcade near Salt Lake City, Utah. He also publishes the Arcade Heroes blog site and serves as an advisor for the web-based game supplier BMI Worldwide. He can be reached at firstname.lastname@example.org.