An IAAPA Product Preview
by Adam Pratt, Arcade Galactic & ArcadeHeroes.com
Summer is well in our rear-view mirrors, and for many of us, we’ll soon get our last taste of warmth once we descend on Orlando for IAAPA in November. The show always offers a great opportunity to connect and see what everyone has been cooking up that might go into our own venues next year.
With a fairly slow summer, my focus is on paying down debts accumulated from buying some new equipment to help keep customers coming back and from that now-shuttered second location I closed last December.
Still, I’ll be attending IAAPA with my usual curiosity about what our game factories are bringing to market so I can share that information on my Arcade Heroes blog, but I won’t be going to add another lease-to-own equipment deal to the pile. (Still, you never know if something blows me away to the degree that it makes sense for me to sell something and put that cash towards a new buy.)
With over a month to go before the big fall expo, what follows is what I know so far about games we’ll see in Orlando. As I’m writing this, many companies haven’t even hinted at what might be in the wings so expect some surprises. (Also, RePlay’s planning a “what to see at IAAPA” product preview in the November issue and I’ll keep reporting what I learn on my Arcade Heroes blog.)
Prize games are always the star of the show (regardless of what I have to say about it!). Bay Tek recently unveiled LED updates to their classics, Big Bass Wheel and Ticket Monster. If you have the old models, I’d be shocked if you haven’t already upgraded (or are planning to soon). I’d expect they’ll have those at the booth as well as their new Hot Shot Free Throw Fury basketball game. I don’t know what to expect about two Bay Tek pieces spotted out on test: Toilet Bowl Toss and QB Throwdown.
Toilet Bowl Toss is self-explanatory…just add the beer pong game element. QB Throwdown is a giant game that brings football back to arcades, but will it do for FECs what Connect 4 Hoops did in terms of basketball? I imagine that’s the hope, but I don’t know how testing has gone.
Over at Sega Amusements, I’d expect them to show a few more pieces beyond what they unveiled last year with the likes of Bop It!. They just rolled out the new Skill Fall Revolution merchandiser (pictured) and Capto Crane Mini. A ticket piece bearing the Sega name called Dragon Hunter was spotted on test in the U.K. Aside from blurry photos worthy of a Bigfoot exposé, I haven’t seen anything else on that what looks like a ball toss game.
Andamiro USA has been busy this summer, just launching their new Spider-Man Coin Pusher (see the story in this issue) alongside a return to the dance floor with Pump It Up 2023 Phoenix. I know…the latter is decidedly not a redemption game but both titles seem to have been doing great on the market so far. The Spider-Man game’s hook is that you get to “web-sling” coins onto the playfield, which is a nice deviation from the norm. Aside from other newish games like SpongeBob SquarePants VR Bubble Coaster and Tic Shaq Toe, anything else Andamiro’s planning for Orlando will be a surprise.
What’s up with the other redemption-focused manufacturers? I’m not aware of any other new titles that weren’t already seen at Bowl Expo a few months ago. In that camp, TouchMagix debuted their Pop It! game along with a mixed reality system for pool tables called Magix Pool. JET Games showed off Quick Shot and Big Shot, the former being a ball toss game, the latter being a larger version of their Quick Shot video redemption light-gun game.
Coastal had a similar light-gun title called Bullseye Crack Shot. UNIS rolled out its third emoji-themed game – Emoji Frenzy (although I’ve been hearing a lot of operators talking about their Over The Edge game this summer, which debuted at the last IAAPA). Coast to Coast Entertainment showed a king-sized version of their Duck Catcher crane. And, LAI Games demonstrated the latest versions of their FGTeeV and Rick & Morty titles that also came out last year.
I rarely cover cranes but Smart Industries has a unique unit popping up on test called JJ Bot: The Avatar. There are several videos on YouTube showing how it works and it stands out by using a robot arm with an animated face on a screen. That seems to give it personality you normally don’t get from a crane with LED lights and a themed name, and supposedly this one has been a big hit. (That’s just anecdotal though, as usual, getting real numbers on these wunderkind games is like finding the snipe in the snipe hunt.)
It’s safe to say we’ll see something fresh from the likes of ICE, UNIS, Benchmark and others, but the warranty on my crystal ball seems to have expired (hmm, 90 days, just like most games). We’ll also get to see some newcomers in the redemption space like Zooom Studios (the curtain hasn’t been pulled back from what it is they are doing yet).
Now that we’ve gotten prize games out of the way (LOL), I can return to my comfort zone: video games. I have a slightly better idea of what we’ll see in Orlando thanks to what’s been out on test this summer.
Raw Thrills holds their cards close to their chest but going by history, I expect to see at least a couple of new pieces from them (and I don’t just mean new series cards for the likes of Minecraft Dungeons and Injustice). In May, a reader sent me photos of two new VR pieces the “House of Jarvis” is working on: King Kong of Skull Island II and T-Rex Adventure VR. Perhaps the latter will become Jurassic Park VR with a King Kong VR setup? That would be a nice Orlando surprise. I’m sure Eugene has some other games in the wings, but so far, they’ve eluded my sneaky spies.
The same can’t be totally said for what’s new from Bandai Namco. I’d be mildly shocked (and disappointed) if I didn’t see at least one of three games they’ve had out on test: Taiko No Tatsujin, a popular drumming rhythm game in Japan that has a cult following here; Bike Dash Delivery, a new concept that blends the old Prop Cycle or Downhill Bikers with Crazy Taxi (you have to pedal real bike pedals to move in the game); and GoldStorm Pirates, a sequel to DeadStorm Pirates with a real lust for gold doubloons. I’ve heard other rumors about Namco but nothing concrete at this point. Regardless, it’s nice to see new games from them.
I already mentioned Sega’s redemption games but what about video? They’ve been testing a new snowmobile title over in the U.K. called Hyper Cross, which was developed by IGS. Otherwise, it’s been quiet. It’s common for Sega to reveal their next video games some weeks before IAAPA (mid-October, usually) so follow me on social media where I’ll share whatever pops up.
Adrenaline Amusements has a keen focus on redemption but also on video. Expect to see NFS Heat: Takedown that they’ve been selling since IAAPA ’22 and a new video piece in the works called Drakons: Realm Keepers. In an early concept of this game, the player rides around a virtual arena on a dragon and from what little I’ve seen of play, it was akin to GlobalVR’s Blazing Angels. The concept has re-appeared as an on-rails, light-gun game. Interestingly, it uses micro LEDs for the display instead of a “TV”, allowing them to shape the screen as a square instead of a rectangle. I’ve been hearing some good things about this one but probably won’t stumble across it until the show.
Representing our beloved, classic game, three major players are taking booth space this year: Stern Pinball, Chicago Gaming Company and Jersey Jack Pinball. As of this writing, American Pinball was not on the exhibitor list and I’ve never seen “boutique pinball” companies like Spooky Pinball go to expos like IAAPA, preferring instead to exhibit at October’s Pinball Expo. It’s unusual for IAAPA to be the launch pad for a new pin but expect to find these on the floor: Venom from Stern, The Godfather from Jersey Jack and Pulp Fiction from Chicago Gaming. There have been rumors that Harry Potter is coming from Jersey Jack but as with all rumors, you should take them with a single grain of salt.
And Still More…
In case you are wondering about exA-Arcadia, a company I write about often, they won’t exhibit this year. That’s a real shame given the presence they had at the 2022 IAAPA and because they’d talked about unveiling quite a few new games, including some heavy-hitter names. It seems there was a booth-booking conflict that didn’t originate with their side. Granted, there’s still time before the show for things to change but as it stands now, if there is an exA machine at the show, it will likely be at one of their authorized distributors’ exhibits rather than their own booth with a bunch of cabinets. Thankfully, they’re still in business and if what they do interests you, I’ll keep you up to date. This summer, they’ve released some new 1v1 fighting games and a classic game that feels like Donkey Kong & Mario Bros called Donut Dodo Do!.
Last but not least, is a newcomer to the business that I’ll be covering more in the future: Gesture Art & Design. You can find their booth in the “First Time Exhibitor” area but as of this moment, I can’t spill the beans on what they’ll have at the show. Just stay tuned as it will be of interest to anyone looking for fresh ideas in the amusement space.
What about VR? I don’t have any special insights there as my criticisms haven’t made me any friends. I did notice fewer exhibitors seem to be working with the technology. At previous IAAPAs, I had counted somewhere around 80 companies demonstrating a VR piece at the show and this year as of this writing, I count 40 (as in other areas, there is still time for the exhibitor list to change). Pandemic or not, I didn’t expect the number of VR producers to continue at such a smoking-hot level … things always tend to cool off.
I avoided playing anything with wearable tech last year – so no VR for me – because I was concerned I had an illness of some sort. It turned out just to be a sinus infection, thankfully. I hope I don’t suffer the same fate this year and can properly review that type of attraction this time around. I also hope to see many of you in Orlando again. Here’s wishing us all a successful show!
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].