It’s All About Fun
Coin Crew Keenly Focused on Delivering a Fun, Social Experience with Battle Bowling
by Key Snodgress
If you’re born into the house of Bushnell (Nolan, that is), chances are you’re going to tilt towards the amusement business with a heavy emphasis on creating fun. Such is the case with Wyatt Bushnell, son of the Atari founder, who partnered with Mike Salyh and Louis Kaufman to start up Coin Crew Games.
It’s currently a five-man, bootstrap endeavor based in Los Angeles where terms like “labor of love” and “passion” flow as freely as the laughs. After all, if you can’t have fun while you’re making games, something’s definitely wrong.
Wyatt has been building immersive games and arcade attractions for the likes of Sky Zone, Great Wolf Lodge and Two Bit Circus for over eight years. Partner Mike Salyh has been working in game design for almost as long for companies such as Disney, Zynga and Two Bit Circus. (It was at this last company, the micro amusement park started by Wyatt’s brother Brent and Eric Gradman, that the two met as they combined talents on the “Space Squad in Space” interactive story room.) Louis Kaufman serves as creative director.
While readers might not have instant name recognition with “Coin Crew Games” (yet), they likely are familiar with the company’s King of the Road video driver.
Coin Crew designed this multiplayer video game and took it to last year’s Amusement Expo where they say they were “bombarded with interest” from the manufacturers, ultimately choosing to work with Adrenaline Amusements. The factory took it a step further and went on to secure the Hot Wheels license from Mattel, increasing the game’s appeal not only with kids, but also their parents.
Now fully branded and shipping to the trade as Hot Wheels: King of the Road, the 6-player video driver lets players choose from six iconic Hot Wheels cars. They race around on the oh-so-familiar orange track, going through loops, off jumps and performing stunts; the more players there are, the greater the number of tickets dispensed.
Here Comes Battle Bowling
Coin Crew Games is hoping for repeat success with its newest video game creation, Battle Bowling. It’s a fun, two-player video that definitely has curb appeal. They’ve supersized the track ball and made them glittery, glowing and color changing. Basically, you can’t resist going up to give them a spin. In the game, players roll their balls using a mix of speed and control down an on-screen course of twists, turns and obstacles. The goal is to best the opponent in the race to the pins, hopefully knocking them all down for a strike.
The play has been designed to be fun, social and compelling no matter the age or gender of the player, said Wyatt. In short, it satisfies Coin Crew Games’ #1 design philosophy that the game be “Pixar-like” in appeal.
“My favorite films are created by Pixar,” Wyatt explained. “Mom and Dad enjoy the movie, and the kids do too. And for the 20- to 25-year-old group, it’s something they can take a date to.” As for what else drives their game design, he explained that “it’s ensuring that when people are playing a game, they are playing together, not just next to each other. That’s our big thing. We’re focused on social group games.”
Replayability is also huge for Coin Crew Games. “That’s the measure that really tells if you’re connecting with your customers, much more than revenue,” he said. “It’s not so much about redemption games spitting out gobs of tickets, it’s about the experience. It’s what out-of-home entertainment can –– and should –– do better than anything else: Provide fun you can get nowhere else in a social, frictionless, and sharable environment.”
And this type of fun isn’t just for the FEC, Coin Crew Games is equally focused on building games that support the route and arcade bar.
“Every route operator will tell you is that what killed the route was the smartphone. For us, it’s determining what can we do better than a smartphone and we think that’s social, competitive fun. With Battle Bowling, we also wanted to make a tighter game that can fit through a single door so operators can put it in any bar.
“Especially with the rise of the bar arcade and venues like Two Bit Circus, there’s just so much more hunger for play value entertainment,” he said. “We still want to make the FEC work and we also want to make the bar arcade work with updated equipment. Both of those places need fun.”
A Deeper Dive
“The big thing is understanding our place in the industry. Where we’ve landed is trying to build games for the FEC of tomorrow. I see a different kind of redemption sticking around where the tickets are secondary to the fun,” he said, pointing to the rise of the arcade bar over a short period of time as a key indicator. “It’s just about giving players a really good experience. I think that’s going to become more of the mainstay across the industry.
“By creating new, social entertainment, our goal is to pave the way a little bit for a new type of operator,” he said.
“Rather than looking at individual game earnings –– the measure the industry has used for the last 40 years to indicate performance –– what I think makes an FEC more money is repeat visits, and we’re going to keep banging that drum,” Wyatt continued. “What we should care about is showing that a game delivers a stellar user experience. A lot of games have really good pull, but not a lot of stay. And if I’m an operator, what I would care about is ensuring the player has enough fun that they want to come back.”
The good news for Battle Bowling? Wyatt reports that it has both pull and stay with an average replay rate of 35-40 percent on test.
“Hot Wheels: King of the Road is a game kids want to play because it’s Hot Wheels,” he said. “Ensuring that the parents coined up with the kids allowed for the piece to be the success it is today. Battle Bowling has that as well. One of my favorite things is to watch how families walk up to it. The kids want to play because of the big, glowing ball. The parents see the kids playing and they think, ‘Oh, that looks like fun,’ and jump in. That’s the specific demographic we want to hit: It’s fun for the whole family and also for date night, just like a Pixar movie.
“Bridging the gap between the FEC games of today and the route –– or what we think the route needs to evolve into –– is kind of our modus operandi,” Wyatt said. “At the end of the day, we’re in the business of fun.”
Want to try out Coin Crew’s brand of coin-op fun and give those eye-popping, glittery, glowing bowling balls a spin? Reach out to Wyatt Bushnell directly to learn more: [email protected] or 310-948-6464.
The Road to Hot Wheels: KOTR
The idea for the King of the Road came about six years ago when Nolan Bushnell wanted Wyatt to rebuild the 1970s Indy 800 Atari video game. After six months of development, Wyatt said it became clear that an 8-player, top-down racing game “just doesn’t work today,” resulting in players losing track of where they are on the course and so on.
While that project was scrapped, Wyatt hung on to the hardware from the prototype – the control consoles, steering wheels, foot pedals, lugging the heavy gear from apartment to apartment (four different ones in fact). Eventually, he got the idea for King of the Road and began working on it at night. Midway into development, Mike and Wyatt partnered, and brought the piece out at Two Bit Circus where it was the #1 arcade game at the park (though Wyatt is quick to also note it was the only driving game).
Fast forward to last year’s Amusement Expo where they showed the game. While a number of companies were interested, it was Adrenaline Amusements that really got behind the piece, licensing it from Coin Crew, making it a 6-player and going further to get the iconic Hot Wheels license for the game. Adrenaline’s Hot Wheels: King of the Road has been shipping since early this year. A 4-player version was shown at London’s EAG show and is also making its way into the marketplace. For more info, visit www.aagames.com.