Endgame – August 2023


The Storms of Summer

Adam Pratt

by Adam Pratt, Arcade Galactic & ArcadeHeroes.com

Utah is not generally known for being a stormy place, but this year the weather has been rather blustery and wet. It’s been surprising as we’ve rolled into summer, as the storms hit the Salt Lake valley on an almost daily basis instead of it just being sunny and hot all the time, making for an odd dynamic when people seem to go out for fun.

Perhaps the axiom “when it rains, it pours” applies to the economy just as much to the actual weather outside. I previously wrote that 2023 looked like it would be rough one and while I hope that wasn’t a self-fulfilling prophecy, it has been in line with my expectations. Outside of 2020, this is the slowest start to a summer that I can recall.

The economic storms of inflation – gas above $4/gallon (readers in California are probably laughing saying, “That’s it?”), a consistently mixed job market, and one Hollywood dud after another has produced earnings results that have me a little bit nervous. I’m still hanging on but when it’s slow, I can’t pay down existing debt faster than those minimum payments.

The infusion of games from my now-closed Ogden location did help things out through April, but then the effect seemed to wear off. After selling off some older pieces like a DDR, I put that money towards ordering Donut Dodo Do! for exA-Arcadia and Enter The Gungeon: House of the Gundead by Griffin Aerotech. At this writing, I’m still waiting for them to arrive. The sooner they get here to help me promote, the better.

Virtual Reality

I missed getting to throw my two cents’ worth on VR in the last issue. If you’re wondering if I’d consider a VR setup to draw in customers, I have, but ultimately the pricing is still too far outside of my comfort zone. I won’t consider anything that requires an attendant, but even for those billed as attendant-free, the initial price tag has me thinking it would be far wiser to pay something off and see what’s on the market at that time.

For me, I’ll look at non-VR first. It’s a safer bet to go with a light-gun game or a racer. Granted, there are more VR arcade pieces that are implementing this type of play, like Asphalt 9 Legends Arcade VR, VR Agent, MotoGP VR and Zombieland: Headshot Fever. But if I was in an investing mood, I’d be leaning towards any non-headset option first, unless the earnings data from multiple sources made an inexcusable case for the VDX model.

Also, when I was researching earnings data for something else, I noticed that not all hyped-up VR systems are earning like their marketing claims. Of course, we’ve all seen cherry-picked earnings before. But it doesn’t turn me into a believer when a game is already pushing above $20K – or double that – per unit and it’s not doing gangbusters at several FECs that generate a lot of revenue. If I want a game that has a five- to 10-year ROI, I’ll buy a pinball machine. At least those have strong resale value. That doesn’t seem to be the case with any VR system I’ve come across.

So, with apologies to my colleagues who are all-in on the tech, it just doesn’t make sense for my venue. That said, I am glad to hear that some systems are performing well in other venues.

While I’m not on the wearables train, I’m still on board with keeping a keen eye on how certain augmented or mixed reality systems like Inowise’s QBIX or TouchMagix’s MagixPool might. With my debt picture, I’m in no rush to invest in those either, but I think there’s a lot of untapped potential for projection mapping and uniquely presented displays.

Another interesting shift is happening with displays thanks to LED panels, particularly micro LEDs. Titles like World’s Largest Pac-Man and Space Invaders Frenzy have been stand-out games for many venues but as the LEDs get smaller, it allows arcades to do something different than just putting a TV on a stand behind a control panel.

Endgame 0823 - Adrenaline's Drakons

Adrenaline Amusement’s Drakons: Realm Keepers as spotted on test by YouTuber and game blogger JDevy who shared it with Adam Pratt for his Arcade Heroes blog site.

One upcoming example of this is Drakons: Realm Keepers by Adrenaline Amusements. The game was not at the recent Bowl Expo but has been on test out in the wild. (See the picture from YouTuber JDevy on the first page that I posted to my Arcade Heroes blog.) The game uses a square-shaped screen made of the latest micro LED panels and offers a unique presentation that isn’t necessarily more immersive, but it is offering a setup that isn’t going to be replicated in home gamerooms any time soon.

Perhaps we’ll see other shapes come along or another crack at large curved screens, the kind of tech that is turning heads in Las Vegas with the opening of the MSG Sphere.

I do need to remember to not always geek out on tech. The tech may draw a player in for that first card swipe, but it’s the game that determines whether they’ll swipe again and again.

Old games like Jurassic Park Arcade have aptly demonstrated that principle but we need something new in its place that can earn strong and consistently for years. Great games like that really help when the business storms whip up and make life difficult.

I’m not sure what that Next Big Thing will be. Jurassic Park is still my #1 game most weeks, even out-earning the merchandisers we have on location. Perhaps Drakons can do it since that’s a light-gun game starring dragons and has motion. Or maybe it will be Bandai Namco’s GoldStorm Pirates, a sequel to DeadStorm Pirates that recently began testing in both Japan and the U.S. (It also comes with a motion base.) I also have to concede that it might just be a VR game like the T-Rex Adventure VR Raw Thrills has been testing.

Whatever it might be, I look forward to seeing what arcade game designers will cook up next.


Adam Pratt is the owner and operator of Arcade Galactic near Salt Lake City, Utah, and also publishes the Arcade Heroes blog site. He can be reached at [email protected].





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