Arcade Galactic: The Sequel – An Update
Pratt Asks “What Was I Thinking?” While Reviewing Earnings So Far
by Adam Pratt, Arcade Galactic & ArcadeHeroes.com
Welcome back to Endgame! I hope and trust that you all had a great holiday season –– at least as much as could be allowed.
I had the unfortunate experience of getting acute appendicitis on the Sunday before Christmas, but fortunately I had it removed the same day and was home in time for lunch the next. That said, having a surgery like that did put me out of commission for the week, but I’m thankful to say that my recovery has gone well and any remaining pains are minimal at this point.
For the business, the 2020 holidays were some of the slowest we’ve encountered in many years, which is not a surprise. They weren’t the slowest because when I first started my arcade, my location was in a terrible spot. I was an unknown, the economy was still struggling, and I didn’t have as many games to appeal to people with.
This past year, I’ve had to operate without the draw of movies to increase foot traffic in both malls, so I have continued to market via my various social media channels. However, I continue to question how truly effective that is at bringing people in since most followers seem to be situated in other parts of the world. My website seems to be the best tool. I’ve had people look up what games we have there, as well as find our phone number so they can call us easily.
I also question what I was thinking in opening up a second location right before the pandemic began to really explode. It really seemed like a good idea at the time –– things were on the decline in that regard. The arcade has struggled and falls well behind my original location. Reasons include having just a third of available games compared to the other arcade, being new and unknown in the area, and the increased case numbers in Utah. So far we’ve been making ends meet, but barely. I continue to do the same or more work, but with less compensation than pre-pandemic. Unfortunately, part of that has included racking up more debt to cover what little I was able to get from the PPP. That at least helped with some things though, and we’ll see how the “PPP second draw” goes.
Granted, it takes time for a new business to really become known, but it’s still a little frustrating to have put so much time and effort into it –– in a mall that has more foot traffic and higher profile chain stores than our original location –– and still come out a bit behind.
We’ve had many more “lurkers” come through, just giving it a quick walk around to look, which tells me that they’re looking for something specific that we don’t have. We did take a number of games from the first location to help out, but it is about balancing. I don’t want to hurt the first location by removing too many titles, but I also don’t want the new location’s game mix to be mostly filler. Of course, everyone is different as to what they want, and figuring that out isn’t always an easy task. But, we’re slowly getting there.
The games they aren’t looking for in my type of location (which is a traditional arcade in a mall with no food or drink served) –– and I really hate to say this since I’ve been a big supporter of them over the years –– are indie games. I’m sure all of you seasoned operators are probably chuckling at me and saying “well, I coulda told ya that” or “I did tell you that.” Still, I hoped that bringing in a mix of oddball games would create a kind of destination for players to go to. But, if those kinds of games don’t catch on after a couple of years, they never will. I do imagine that if I were a arcade bar, the numbers on games like Cosmotrons and Deathstalker would be far better. I could get into more detail as to why I think they don’t do well in normal arcade locations, but that could be a column all its own.
That said, one indie-sort-of platform I have that has performed solidly in its first year is exA-Arcadia. It still has some kinks to work out, but it has performed very well for a system that offers “joystick games.” It has also allowed me to bring in several brand-new titles without breaking the bank. They do need more high-profile names for the system, particularly among fighting games. So far, The Kung Fu Vs. Karate Champ has been the #1 game on the platform, enhanced by a software update that also brought in difficulty options.
Granted, while having four different games on the platform with no light-gun or driving games so far, it has helped bring people in and I finally have a fighting game to offer that isn’t 20-25 years old.
What should be interesting to see is how our party room does. We’ve never had the ability to do that at the original location, but due to the pandemic, haven’t been in a rush to complete it for the new space. I anticipate being able to do it this year and that should give us a nice boost.
One thing I can say though is that despite the effects of the pandemic, there still are people who are craving entertainment they can’t get at home. Arcades and amusement are down, but they aren’t out.
While I was writing this article, I’ve been working at my original location and it’s been steadily busy over the weekend. People need an escape more than ever and arcades are an incredible place to offer that.
We haven’t set earnings records, but it’s almost back to what would be “normal.” It will also be interesting to see what kind of positive effect that Bandai Namco’s Maximum Tune 5 online tournament will have. As long as that holds, I think we’ll be okay.
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].