Batten Down the Hatches
Pratt Outlines Making Changes & Putting the Lid on Expenses
by Adam Pratt, Arcade Galactic & ArcadeHeroes.com
I’ve been busy lately not only operating the arcades but also creating and editing videos. My usual video material is focused on showing new games at trade shows or filming the unboxing and installation process of new pieces I bring into one of my locations.
These new videos I’ve produced have diverged from the norm and are focused on the business side of things: how I decide which games to pick, why retro games don’t do as well as cultural hype says they do, CRTs vs. LCDs, and so on.
There aren’t enough subjects for me to feature a new video every day (or even every week) but, for me, what’s been most interesting are the reactions. It seems that many current and would-be operators are very interested in what we do.
Of course, my videos can only cover what I do in my two mall arcades. I know it’s not exactly comparative if you’re operating a large FEC or an arcade bar, but some information is better than none at all. I remember back when I was getting into the business, information like this was very difficult to come by. You were pretty much limited to whatever knowledge you gained through experience or reading magazines like RePlay. Thankfully, I got a good enough idea of what to do that I was able to get started 14 years ago (although I couldn’t have been prepared for the economic crash that happened about a month after I opened my doors).
With everything going on of late, my thoughts are drawn to the economy once again. I wasn’t alive the last time inflation was this bad so it’s hard to say those challenges are comparable to today. On one hand, the “Golden Age of Video Games” saw arcades thrive as the stagflation and crises of the late ’70s were in full bloom. But then, when the corrections came around a few years later, the arcade industry crashed.
It was a very different time, of course, with competing entertainment options nowhere near as pervasive as they are now. The video side of the business was also still quite young and ended up making some boneheaded mistakes as can happen when an industry sector is in its infancy.
As I write this, news is dominated with dire economic reporting that reflects those of the late ’70s in some ways, but not in others. The stock market has “crashed” before and we’ve also seen major corrections in the housing market. But, we’ve never seen that combined with food and fuel prices like we’re seeing.
Also, there was no such thing as an online market way back then while today such a thing is integrated with our daily lives. Who knows if the crash of the crypto markets means anything in the overall scheme of things either. There are many important indicators glaring red at the moment. In looking at my numbers since last winter, I can’t shake the feeling that we’re in for a very, very rough ride.
It’s easy to spend time lamenting things I can’t control. But, what about what I can control? First, with spending, I’ve taken a hard look at any superfluous expenditures I have and cut them (mainly in marketing). We’ve also been cutting back on electricity use by turning off certain games during dead hours and using the A/C only when needed. I’m not looking at adding any new debt, which unfortunately means no “new-new” games for now (especially since prices on the latest new games have shot up thanks to inflation and supply chain/production issues). The only way to add new games at this time is if I sell something and put that money towards something else. When I can, I’m making extra payments on existing debt in hopes of paying that down sooner. I’m also trying to be proactive about maintenance where possible, although the past couple of weeks have seen several major –– and expensive –– game breakdowns at both locations.
Regarding marketing, I’m focusing on free social media avenues. I know “boosting” a post can be effective to some degree but I prefer to make that work as naturally as possible by taking good photos and/or video and finding a clever way to present something. In my posts, I will also be touting that we are an affordable option for fun. Perhaps I’m crazy for still doing this, but all of the games from the ’80s and most from the ’90s at both locations are still only 25¢ to play.
If there are some tricks or tips you might have for getting through the tough times, reach out to me online and share. And if you’re up for it, it would be worth doing a video about. Be sure to let me know if you do. My email address is [email protected].
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].