The Challenges of a New Decade
New FEC’s Stiff Competition & Trademark Dispute Over Game Grid Arcade Name Tests Pratt’s Mettle
by Adam Pratt, Arcade Galactic & ArcadeHeroes.com
It has been a hectic few months, which is why my column was lacking in recent issues of RePlay. I’m still around, just having to focus on the challenges that have popped up with my business.
The first major challenge was something that I have mentioned previously: a big FEC opened its doors within the mall where I’m located the first week of November. Ever since I heard of the possibility of such a thing taking place, I was preparing myself mentally for it, but at the end of the day, I could only wait and see how things would shake out. Many provided optimistic words of encouragement, which were appreciated, but how has it shaken out so far?
If they hadn’t opened, 2019 would have been my top year in the 11+ years that I’ve been going. So far, I’ve seen a drop in overall earnings by about a quarter and experienced the worst Black Friday I’ve seen since I was in the “dead zone” of the mall. The FEC offers a larger arcade along with several of the same games that I have, plus food/alcohol, laser tag, VR, bowling, party rooms and axe throwing.
Where I’m “just” an arcade, I’ve had the challenge of competing for those same entertainment dollars with fewer options. That has meant trying to find ways to stand out within the realm and budget that I’ve got. The options are limited since what works in arcades is the new stuff, and the FEC has the top earners among the latest games, as well as the ability to get whatever else fits their fancy. For my arcade, purchase decisions have had to be carefully weighed against a variety of factors to begin with, and now I have these additional angles to worry about.
That all said, I haven’t given up. Some games have been sold and I’ve used those funds to replace them with something else. The first addition was something I had planned a while back, that came in two parts: a cabinet and then the kit itself. That would be the newest kit multi-system on the market, the Exa-Arcadia.
I contracted Fun Company out of Wisconsin to create an Exa-themed Fun-Glo cabinet, which I ended up receiving some weeks before the kit itself. While there are a few game options on the system, I opted for the title that I think will do the best with my audience: Kung Fu Vs. Karate Champ. It’s the first 1v1 fighting game to be released directly to the U.S. market (as opposed to offered only as an import from Japan), I have been very curious to see how such a game might perform, given that Super Street Fighter IV Arcade Edition performed extremely well for me (when it was exclusive to arcades). For Kung Fu, it’s a highly modified version of a PC game called Shaolin Vs. Wutang, where this enhanced version with extra content will remain only in arcades.
In addition to Kung Fu, I also received feedback from some regular customers who had been reading up on the Exa platform, and after several of them requested it, I added Aka & Blue Type-R to the games we’ll be featuring. This is a “bullet hell” shooter, making it a bit riskier to try than a fighting game, due to it’s high difficulty. Crossing my fingers that these customers will be more than just talk about what they want and make it worthwhile.
The game additions won’t be ending there however, as I’ve stumbled across some great deals out there and am putting the capital of some sold games to good use. First, we’re anticipating the arrival of the Premium version of Stern Pinball’s Stranger Things; Then, we also will be receiving a refurbished Luigi’s Mansion Arcade and Baby Swat interactive kids game (which eventually became Hot Racers). Hopefully by refreshing our game stock like this, it’ll bring old customers back while finding some new ones.
Another challenge popped up on December 30. I received a call from the CEO of a local card shop and board game seller stating that they own the trademark for the term “Game Grid” (my arcade is called Game Grid Arcade) and since one of their franchise stores had received a number of confused phone calls from customers thinking it was us, they were looking to enforce said trademark.
To make a long story short, they are bigger than I am by quite a bit (they have eight stores and claim they made $3 million last year) and they do have a trademark for a logo. It’s disputable that it covers the term Game Grid, but after checking with an attorney, it will take a bit of money to do some investigating to see whether or not I would have ground to stand on.
When I had created my company, there was no claim on the term Game Grid in the state of Utah, nor any trademark nationally. But after looking into the potential costs of fighting this, plus taking into consideration their size and claims, I’ve decided that it will be more cost effective for me to change the name of my company.
It’s not an easy decision to make, because I’ve built my reputation on the current name for almost 12 years. Changing the name feels like starting over, which in this case doesn’t feel great, but necessary. Perhaps I’m giving up on this too easily, but with the FEC dragging earnings down, I’m not in the financial position to become involved in a potentially lengthy and very costly court fight that there is a good chance that I could lose.
As such, the Game Grid Arcade will become Arcade Galactic – a tribute to my love of astronomy, but also suggesting how I have a micro-universe of games across ages and genres. I decided not to use “Arcade Heroes,” so as to not create confusion about the site and what I do there. (I can’t imagine that followers of Arcade Heroes on my social media would appreciate frequent location-specific updates.) The new name might bring with it some theme changes at the arcade, but I’ll continue to do what I do – bring interactive entertainment to the locals with a touch of the unique and interesting.
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 [email protected].