Citing the pandemic-caused economic slowdown, GameWorks has officially closed all of its locations. The company operated since July of 1996 and shuttered its six mega-arcades in Chicago, Cincinnati, Denver, Las Vegas, Minneapolis and Seattle in December, as well as its Table Top House in San Francisco.
A statement on its website declared: “Thanks for the many years of memories. The past 20 months and counting we have seen our business turn upside down and the continued slow economy has left us no choice but to close.”
Let me remind you that the guiding lights in the original formation were none less than Disney vet Jeffrey Katzenberg, the record industry maven David Geffen and filmmaker David Spielberg. Sega supplied equipment at their direction.
A detailed history by noted trade analyst Kevin Williams entitled GameWorks – the Slow Collapse of the Dream was recently carried on Adam Pratt’s Arcade Heroes blog and, among many other things, stated (and I paraphrase): “While skilled in movies and theme parks, the majority (of top employees) had zero experience with arcade-type operations, bringing along…misconceptions of what amusement(s) could offer. It soon became evident that they had very little knowledge of the core fundamentals of the entertainment center business.”
Veteran industry game center operator and consultant George McAuliffe sent out a very telling email on the above, which speaks for itself: “I was starting up Pinnacle in 1996 and thought we could help. I called Al Stone who headed up Sega USA then. Al recommended that the GameWorks team have a conversation with us. The word came back that they didn’t want any industry operators on the team, they wanted to break new ground. Interesting case study.”
Okay, the pandemic had to have dealt a serious blow to GameWorks’ ability to survive and it would be unfair to cite their reported arrogance as the principal killer of what was once held up as one of the most glamourous examples of the amusement game’s ability to entertain the public.
But it might be equally accurate to say by ignoring the precious knowledge that veterans could have offered didn’t help much. Sad to see them go. But in contrast, it does send kudos along to the many FECs that survived (thus far), doesn’t it?