The Chicago Tribune has posted an article on their site that takes a look at the ‘dying’ arcade industry, which in addition to the saddening story of an arcade operator in Wisconsin who sits alone listening to Space Invaders all day and in her dreams while no one comes to play also has some quotes from people in the industry about the industry. It’s hard to argue with people in the industry right? Well we seem to do it often here so what the heck.
Is the story inaccurate? Not entirely, the arcade scene is not what it used to be but what irritates me is the obsessive pessimism and the lack of investigation into all of the arcade companies. They mostly focus on the fact that arcades are found in theaters and FECs – which is accurate and that standalone arcades seem to have it the hardest but let’s be realistic here – some operators have it hard because they don’t do anything about it. Now granted, we need new, exciting games that don’t cost an entire years profit to purchase. They do quote one operator in the article who brings that up but they do ignore the fact that lately we have been seeing a trend towards cheaper games thanks to companies like GlobalVR, Raw Thrills’ and Incredible Technologies. These companies also have been on top of offering new kits lately which makes it very easy to upgrade an old game into something new. We need to continue this trend but once again I have to take on my fellow operators – I see so many of them doing absolutely nothing to change their situation, they just keep doing the same thing over and over and wonder why nobody comes in to play.
No advertising, no special events, no competitions, no effort to find new games or slightly used games at a killer price, and no innovation on their side of the isle. We act like the only ones that can do something about it are the game companies and then sit around with our hands tied but that is only partially true. Yes if all the new games suck or if the arcade companies do nothing to advertise their own games thinking that operators will do it for them then there is little to do as long as these attitudes continue. But they don’t have to! We can accept the premise that the arcade is a “cottage industry”, or where someone from Namco says “The arcade is done. Game Over.” which I have to enthusiastically disagree (someone should tell this guy at Namco that if it’s dead, it’s partially their fault as they are supposed to be the ones pumping out games to help attract people that don’t cost $20,000) with or we can work to make it into something different. This is a complicated issue as everyone – developers, distributors and operators – has to work together to attract the players instead of throwing it all on the back of one person/company. Seeing developers like Namco say it’s dead obviously shows that some companies aren’t willing to do anything about it as they sit in awe of the Wii and behave as though there is nothing that can be done about it (which is an attitude companies had around the time of the game crash in ’83. They said “oh, no one will play games anymore, that is a fad of the past” and then Nintendo came along with games that people wanted to play).
Why am I so optimistic? It’s easy really – I see the interest in the faces of people as I have talked to them about my own arcade lately and I also look at the attention we get here at Arcade Heroes – there are plenty of people that want to go out and play arcade games, even today with the Wii, 360 or PS3 sitting on their shelf because that is only one form of interactive entertainment. The solution is for developers to give us good and affordable games that are well-advertised and for operators to provide a venue that people feel comfortable to go into and where the games are properly maintained. It’s not that complicated but it seems that some people in a position to do something about it in the industry feel that it is too complicated and that there is no turning back so it’s better to give up until retirement comes around. Again, I respectfully disagree with those that feel this way, I understand where your coming from but it shouldn’t be about “delaying the inevitable” but it should be “what do we need to do to fix it?”. This is why I’m not just itching to get my own arcade started but my own arcade development company so I can lead by example. Just wait and see, arcades can be popular like they used to be.