Welcome to 2020, and to our new Directory. We’ve been producing these coin-op industry reference annuals since 1976, which is a long time in anybody’s book. Proving that this is a dynamic industry (i.e. doesn’t stand still), there were 71 machine manufacturers listed in our first directory but only three of them are still serving the business today (Rowe, now called AMI; Rock-Ola, which actually does the bulk of its sales to consumers rather than operators; and Valley Dynamo, which was actually two companies back then).
There are well over 200 makers listed in this new edition, partially due to the inclusion of FEC-oriented manufacturers like those producing VR goods. Just under 200 distributors and their branch offices appeared in the first RePlay annual with barely over a third that number in this new issue. Back then, the giant in distribution was the Rowe International network which ran an incredible 23 company-owned offices. Today, this field is led by Betson while the Rowe network has completely disappeared. Like I said, this is a dynamic industry.
It goes without saying that there are far fewer operating companies serving locations on the nation’s streets and rural highways than in our early days. That’s due to that fancy word “consolidation” which translates into the absorption of numerous routes by the healthier ones, as well as the total disappearance of hundreds of other, mostly smaller, vendors. In earlier days, the bulk of the games were purchased by route owners, with arcade people taking a much smaller portion of the stock. Today, that’s flipped completely over, with game centers –– independent or within an FEC –– far outdistancing route operators as the big customers.
Arcades have been with us for at least 100 years in one form or another. The word “penny” in penny arcade wasn’t there for no reason. Today, dollar bills and player cards make that word penny more amusing than the game it turned on. Also back in those pre-video days, the more popular game themes were pure-amusement target rifles, drivers on tumbling drums, pins and big ball bowlers like Skee-Ball. Today, redemption is the ticket while the more deluxe games cost more than a new Chevy did back then. I remember when a Brooklyn operator named Gil Sonin actually said: “I refuse to buy any game that cost more than my first car.” How about his first house?
So, here’s the new annual for today’s amusement machine business. As always, Ingrid, Key, Barry, Matt and the rest of the staff put in lots of hours getting all the pieces together. Use it with confidence. We’re all a little anal about accuracy around here. And, I hope you have a prosperous new year in whatever form your business takes in this evolving industry of ours.
– Eddie Adlum