Editorial: Should Coin-Op Arcade Games be a part of E3?

arcadehero June 4, 2011 26

E3 (i.e. Electronic Entertainment Expo) is upon us once again this next week, where gamers, journalists, developers, publishers and their “booth babes” come together to show off the latest, greatest video games people will enjoy later in the year for home consoles and PC – all minus arcade games. The event is described by the show organizers as “the world’s premier trade show for computer and video games and related products” and arcades fit into that category, yet it is quite rare for a coin-op game to make an appearance at the show. Here I want to share my thoughts about E3 and share my opinion as to why I think the arcade industry should be featuring content at this event as opposed to ignoring it completely in favor of our own trade shows that receive a mere fraction of media attention that E3 does. Here’s why:

As far as I am aware, there has been very little arcade support for E3 since it began in the 90’s. There are no rules against arcades showing up at the event as far as I am aware – arcades are still video games, just in a different format if you will.  And on rare occasion the rule has been broken, such as last year when Namco America took their Pac-Man Battle Royale machine to an after-E3 party. For many of those who went to that event, PMBR quickly jumped to the top of their list for Game of the Show, even though it wasn’t on the show floor. That gave the game a big boost in attention in gaming circles that it otherwise would have not had.

E3 is a great opportunity to show new arcade products to our “base”.  In politics, the politician first has to get their base voters excited (people who usually pay attention to the political game and what is going on, they eat the stuff up in a manner of speaking) and then they go for everyone else who isn’t automatically on their side. If the base is fired up, that energy spills over to other people who might not otherwise care and it can get that politician elected. If the base isn’t enthusiastic about the candidate, they have a harder time pulling out a win and they either loose or cut it very close. Obviously there are more variables involved in elections than that but the basic idea is that you ignore your base at your own peril. E3 attracts the base of the video gaming industry and   It is true that the arcade industry typically attracts people who are labeled as “casual gamers”, people who play for fun now and then but it’s not imperative that they spend 8 hours a day playing a particular game. Casual gamers are not “the base” in video games but they do represent a large portion of consumers who spend some of their hard-earned cash on interactive entertainment. The base we are looking at happens to the hardcore gamer, someone who really pays attention to what is going on in the world of games, they spend a lot of money on purchasing games, consoles, accessories, etc. to build the perfect experience that suits their tastes. They accept hype very easily and don’t mind spreading that to others they know who happen to be casual gamers, who will then take that positive hype with them as they keep a look out for the game(s) they heard about. Excitement behind a video game product always begins with the hardcore base and spreads from there(likewise disappointment and criticism). This base does have subdivisions too, of dedicated fans of the products of a particular company. Not to mention that in 2010 45,600 people attended the event in 2010, which is nearly twice that attend IAAPA on average.

So back to E3. It’s an event that plays to the base, it tosses them bone after bone giving them what they want for the future of gaming. Numerous websites of varied kinds cover the event and for several days it’s the only thing reported on in gaming circles. Companies hold lavish press conferences which are often self-indulging and ridiculous but throngs of people hang on to every word a company executive says. The big announcements come out of these events and that quickly spreads out to everyone else who may not be paying particular attention to the event but when a hot new game console or AAA video game is shown off for the first time at these events, it’s not long before everyone with media access hears about it.  Perhaps its all a bit too hedonistic but one thing is undeniable – it’s a perfect marketing operation as the base will evangelize the products they are interested in. Word-of-mouth has always been effective in spreading arcade interest but it needs a spark to get started and a big media event E3 is an excellent environment for fostering that method of marketing.

If you don’t believe me that we’re missing an opportunity with this show, just take a look at the current E3 website. Each game is given some attention from trailers to press releases and journalist outlets ready to report the latest game announcement at the drop of a hat. All of this is tied into social media outlets such as Facebook and Twitter where thousands of gamers receive constant updates about what is taking place.

One argument against arcades appearing at E3 could be that they would get lost in the hype that the the studios expend on their console products. It also won’t be as effective if the company makes little effort to promote beyond bringing the game to the venue. Everyone is competing for attention and this presents a challenge. My take on the situation is that it’s not difficult for arcade games to stand out in an expo setting. The games have been designed from the ground up to grab a customer’s attention in the middle of a cacophony of sights and sound in an entertainment venue. At recent events like the Penny Arcade Expo, several console developers actually made their own arcade cabinets for showing off their products, the perfect kiosk. Show attendees flocked to see the games being presented in a unique way from the typical boring kiosks that have a TV and gamepad attached to pole. These arcade cabinets didn’t even have the same level of polish that a professional arcade company brings to their design and they still turned heads. One of the highlights for a big expo like Comic-Con was Disney’s recreation of Flynn’s Arcade or for PAX East the addition of a classic arcade to the event by the American Classic Arcade Museum. Many people we find in the gamer base still have fond memories of classic arcade machines but they may have an impression that the only coin-op entertainment found these days is redemption, not realizing that there are still many great coin-op video games to play that have been created in modern times. But on top of all that, some pre-show announcements of which games will be found at the event would be very helpful, so that show attendees will already know to be on the look for coin-op games.

Don’t get me wrong, I am NOT suggesting that we cancel Amusement Expo/IAAPA/EAG/AAMA Distributors Expo/etc. in favor of exclusively focusing on E3. The expos we hold annually are great and necessary for showing off products for operators and those operators are not very likely to show up at E3 and fight through the huge crowds of fanboys and journalists to see the products they are specifically interested in. I also completely understand that an expo of any kind is far from free – you have to pay for floor space, extra pay for employees who attend the show, shipping the products and setting them up, there are costs involved for printing materials, etc. One criticism of E3 in recent years is that it was becoming too big and expensive for each company to have to go through.

But in the case of several companies who already are at the show, why not take some of the company’s latest arcade titles to show off? Sega, Namco and Konami attend each E3 and have everything in place to make their booth work with those games. I understand that the difference between the home consumer and coin-op divisions within the same company are often stark, as they are almost completely different companies that share the same name. But it is still under the same parent wing and it should be fully possible to integrate arcade titles into the other content the company has to offer.

It can of course be more of a problem for companies who aren’t already set up for such an event, who don’t have a console arm of the enterprise working on swaying the masses towards their products. I would suggest to possibly have a combined booth put together by a representative organization that shows off the latest games from several coin-op companies (I would gladly put together an Arcade Heroes booth if I had the resources). I think this would be very effective in presenting our side of video game to people who don’t often hear or think about it and it’s a great opportunity to fire them up about it and spread that excitement to others who will then in turn seek out arcade entertainment near them (or perhaps be inspired to start up their own coin-op venue).



  1. Lirodon June 4, 2011 at 11:11 am - Reply

    I remember a few years ago, Konami actually did bring some arcade music games to E3 to try and counter the negative reception for Beatmania PS2 and competition with Guitar Hero (i.e. GF V2, IIDX 13), yet unfortunately it didn’t seem to work.

    And of course they brought DDR SuperNova AC too

  2. Arcades4ever June 5, 2011 at 2:39 am - Reply

    Didn’t sega first bring their arcade platform lingbergh showing off some of the games that were heading to the arcade using that platform including the house of the dead 4, virtua tennis 3, afterburner climax and the canceled psy phi

  3. editor June 5, 2011 at 6:31 am - Reply

    A great topic AH – we have run this issue in a number of Stinger Report features and seem to come to the opinion that the reason is three fold why there is this disconnect:

    – Amusement Trade
    As we have said numerous times the amusement executives currently leading the US scene are not the best people to run the promotional aspects of the amusement sector – they are a stayed and backwards looking group who have zone marketing skills. They also have vested interests looking at the revenue generated by AmuseExpo and previously AMOA-Expo rather than looking at promotion of the sector and products. It took years of hectoring to get them to drop AMOA as it was a detriment to the very people they claimed it served. They now hire a PR company to promote the industry at over $25k a pop that dose not have any ideas and has turned to the membership to supply their ideas?

    Supporting E3 would not be viable for these amusement executives, as they would not see how they personally could benefit supporting this promotion opportunity, and they would also fight with the E3 team over a slice of the profits and generated interest.

    – Consumer Trade
    You would expect PR for companies like SEGA and Bandai Namco to want to support their amusement brethren but it dose not work like that – the PR for consumer games in the same company despise their amusement counterparts – we saw a good example of that when Bandai Namco USA PR executives claimed that Tekken6 did not have any amusement presence and there was no arcade business anymore (also repeated by Capcom recently). The whole PMBR situation was forced on Bandai Namco PR at E3 linked to the anniversary – and pressure from Namco JP – and still the PR team only allowed the game off-booth.

    Now that the consumer game scene is in a defined slump they have far too much to worry about than encourage a possible competitive sector enter their show and dilute their audience focus. There is a concern that amusement ‘distracts’ the buying audience from 100% support – they would like to see amusement just die and for players to focus wholly on consumer gaming as the only interactive entertainment medium. Consumer PR only wants to ‘borrow’ from amusement – and even copies its styling in their promotion (see the latest Mortal Kombat PR pitch).

    – Exhibition
    These guys are very interested in expanding the event as the consumer game sector seems to suffer a slump and they need to keep momentum to survive hard times and dwindling exhibitor investment. They added a Retro-Arcade zone a few years back but this was badly perceived by exhibitors who felt it detracted from their business.

    It would be difficult to trying and sell the idea to a dwindling consumer sector that they will have to compete with the mixed message that would come from an appearance of machines from a industry that many had written off. Especially the issue that amusement executives “business skills!” would greatly clash with the professionalism and focus of the E3 organizers.

    Finally, there is a way that we could see amusement (or more rightly described Digital Out-of-Home interactive entertainment (DOE)) at E3 in the future as the trade separates itself from the tired and incompetent trade and looks to a new and fresh approach to publicize this sector to the people that pay our wages!

    • Steven Rodriguez June 5, 2011 at 7:55 pm - Reply

      One of the ideas I had to bring the arcade scene back into play in the US was to bring the arcade system into the year 2012 with a mix of some of the ideas beinf used in japan with some real advanced ideas.

      Listed in terms of priority:

      1: Simplicity – If you create a simplified system like japan where there a rows of machines which look the same but play different games, you will have parts that are more easily interchangeable which reduces costs instead of having specialty parts for each system. This leads into the next part……

      2. Modularity – Lets use the net city cabinets as the first example. You can switch out the panels to use for different games and different setups. Net city cabinets had single joystick panels, dual joystick panels, 2 player panels, steering wheel panels, button only panels, panels with card swipers, etc. Another example would be the Delta 32 cabinets. The new Deltas have rotatable monitors. You can change it for different games. Here is what I imagine: You can have a “base” that has a rotatable monitor on top of a cabinet. As a “base” it doesn’t include any controller attachments. (EX. Guitar controllers, Joysticks, dance pads, etc) They can have locking mechanisms for these “input devices” as upgrades in the future and can be configured per each game. This reduces costs for the arcade owner and makes everything easier to maintain since everything needs to be compatible with the same base.

      3. Use a Medium to high end arcade kit that can download and upgrade games over the internet – This idea is already starting to be used in japan. In theory it would be cheaper for the arcade owner to download new games and upgrades to a current system then buying new hardware. The arcade operator can just buy a new arcade hard drive and connect it to the system to install the new game.

      Here is an example how it can come together: If an arcade operator has a couple of these machines with different games on each one. Lets say one game starts to become unpopular (Ex. a driving game) and the fighting game (SSF4)is very popular and there is only one machine that has the game and its always crowded. In theory, he can be making more money if he had a second machine. He can buy a second downloaded copy for the driving machine and probably only have to buy a new 2 player joystick and buttons arcade panel to install on the machine. The arcade owner has probably saved a lot of money by not having to buy a new machine and CPU kit.

      That my idea. What do you guys think?


      • arcadehero June 6, 2011 at 7:47 am - Reply

        That is sort of like Taito’s new NESiCAxLIVE and Sega’s older Atomiswave platform. It is something exactly like that which we need. If operators could add more than one or two brand new games to their venue per year, that would make a huge difference. A platform like that is something I think we need but unfortunately no one with the resources seems interested in it at the moment. Partially because it’s a real pain to get operators to connect a machine to the internet.

        • editor June 6, 2011 at 2:37 pm -

          I think we can focus on this idea even more and just say it is the same principle as the ‘Universal’ cabinet concept ushered in by the JAMMA standard in 1984.

          There are two lines of thought fighting for dominance as I see it – the simple, configurable and easy to download too cabinet that acts as the replacement to the Candy cab, While the other thought is for Mid-Sized cabinet systems offering a mini-simulator / enclosure experience.

          Most Stinger readers know which side of the tracks I follow – though the Type-X2+ methodology still has a soft spot with me as I loved the Neo-Geo.

        • Steven Rodriguez June 6, 2011 at 6:20 pm -

          I didn’t want to explore the negative reasons of why it hasn’t happened in the US yet. (I guess I have hope for an arcade resurgence.)

          I think it would be an uphill battle at this point to bring back dedicated arcades back to the US. The hardcore group would love it. The problem is the casual group wouldn’t care. They would be fine playing games at home, over the internet, and on their mobile device. The casual group is bigger than the hardcore in general. They would have to be the group that would need convincing to come back to arcades.

          I understand its difficult for an arcade operator to have access to the internet. That is why they can get harddrive upgrades delivered to them through a distributor.

          I still believe we can have a “renaissance” of sorts and get arcades back to an extent. I believe it because many of the people who played in the arcades in the 80s and 90s are likely of an age now where they start looking back at those times and start saying “What is great about these times?”, “What was bad about these times?”, “What do I like about the current gaming culture that i can incorporate into an arcade atmosphere that will bring people in?”. I think the Vegas arcade that you referred to in a previous post can be considered an example of the start of a possible return of the arcades.

  4. Arcades4ever June 5, 2011 at 6:56 am - Reply

    BTW I believe arcade games should be present at E3 after all they are counted as video games and come under the interactive entertainment and electronics catagory. For gods sakes there are companies that still make game for the arcades and people still play on them even to this day. They need to stop it with this arcades are dead when they’re clearly not. So its not the 1980’s and maybe even the 90’s but arcades are still alive and well even if alot have shut down but thats normally due to other reasons eg, the location is not always good (obviouslythe arcade woukd shut if its not in a good area lol), and then theres thefact that some owners don’t really care about the machine and is badly run down like some of them I saw in tennerief earlier this year, then there’s bad management when people won’t refund you for a game thats not working properly or at all even (I know thats happened to me a few times and that can give the arcade altogether a bad name.
    Still arcades are still popular even without these things mentioned and the fact that some arcade games are expencive to buy

  5. Jeffrey June 5, 2011 at 11:46 am - Reply

    I think the problem there’s a overarching problem that needs to be solved in the Arcade/Coin-op industry. Once you identify that problem and solve it then Arcades will be popular again. Viral Marketing at big media events just seems like a band-aid to me.

  6. RJAY63 June 5, 2011 at 1:22 pm - Reply

    Perhaps if they came along with something big like an 8 player Daytona USA 3 cab set-up or House Of The Dead 5 with an 100″ 3D screen they may get noticed. Coin-op games lack that killer app able to make the right noise; I can’t see how the likes of Initial D 6, Operation Ghost or Max Technica 2 can match the might of COD, Need For Speed Shift or Rock Band.

  7. Steven Rodriguez June 5, 2011 at 1:47 pm - Reply

    Its so hard to find an arcade place that has recent games to play. You have Dave & busters here on the east coast but many of the cabinets have broken joystick and buttons for fighting games.

    Promoting arcade games in the US is now an uphill battle.

    I’m still trying to find a place that has the new 4 player pac-man game. I dont think I will find one.

    • arcadehero June 5, 2011 at 2:41 pm - Reply

      @Steven, There is a Pac-Man locator found here: https://www.facebook.com/PacManBattleRoyale

      I don’t know if they have every single location listed there that has one but they have many.

      • Steven Rodriguez June 5, 2011 at 8:03 pm - Reply

        I dont know if they have every location. I just want to know if there is one in the NJ/NY area that is decently within range of where i live. I would love to play this with some friends.

      • Steven Rodriguez June 5, 2011 at 8:10 pm - Reply

        I have a Facebook account but hardly use it. How do you become friends with pac-man to leave a comment? LOL!! I want to ask if they know of any places on the east coast.

        • arcadehero June 6, 2011 at 7:50 am -

          Just login to your FB account, goto that page I linked and click Like. They have a locations link the lower left hand side. I just checked though and they don’t have any places in your area. I bet someone out there has it, they just didn’t let Namco know about it. According to Namco’s map, it looks like you have to go to Columbus, OH to find one. I do know that there has been a backlog of PMBR’s going out the door though so perhaps a place near you has ordered one and is still waiting.

        • Steven Rodriguez June 6, 2011 at 6:00 pm -

          Ok. Thanks. I’m kinda Facebook illiterate. I’m getting better at it though. LOL!!

          Going back to what Sam said below…. I bet there is a place or 2 that may have them. Once I find a place that does I will try to find a way to make my way there as long as its in a place that has other things to do besides pac-man.(Even though pac-man by itself may be a good enough reason to go.) LOL!!

  8. editor June 5, 2011 at 6:00 pm - Reply

    @Jeffery, I agree with your observations – but it is still too vague towards what the “overarching problem” is?

    We know we have a problem – that the model has been broken – and that amusement (pay-to-play) needs a root and branch reform. The sad fact is that those that are involved in the amusement trade do not want to let go control or admit a problem – and so reveal their duplicity in the profits made from a under performing sector they are riding into the ground.

    I am now working on expanding the thinking behind non-coin public-space entertainment (free play promotion as well as micro–payment gaming). However working on this technology lays us open to attack regarding the danger this represents for executives who are dependent on skimming!

    I am also a big supporter of the Mid-sized attraction that offers a ‘Unachievable@Home’ promotional tool – sitting between cinema and deluxe amusement. This big wow factor could address the need for this sector to stand out – though there are some operators that do not want to buy new hardware happy to milk broken and outdated hardware – claiming there is nothing new!

    2011-12 marks the best opportunity towards pulling amusement / DOE into touch to regain its position – the slump in console and the delay for the next-next gen console could open up an opportunity… ala 1984 – fingers crossed.

  9. Sam June 6, 2011 at 8:53 am - Reply

    A Pac-Man Battle Royale cabinet was in NAMCO BANDAI Games America’s booth during last year’s E3.

    @Steven Rodriguez. We’ve sold out and shipped out our first production run but only a fraction of the units have been accounted for. I call our distributors regularly to get updates on new PMBR locations. The East Coast seems to be the black hole but we have sent many in that direction. I will continue to track them down.

    • Steven Rodriguez June 6, 2011 at 5:56 pm - Reply

      Thanks!! Hopefully, a Dave & Busters in my area has it. I would love to play some matches with my freinds while drinking some brewskis. I can imagine it being a good time eating pellets, eating each other, and of course, drinking beer. LOL!!

      I always feel like the east coast gets the short end of the stick in terms of arcades and gaming in general. Hopefully, something nearby pops up on the Pac-man list.

  10. 60Hz June 6, 2011 at 10:27 am - Reply

    E3 used to have Arcade Games, especially from Sega, Konami, Namco, Capcom and Midway/Atari (when they were the same)…

    I even remember one E3 where EA was showing the attract sequence of Sega’s Nascar game on their panoramic monitor arrays lol…

  11. editor June 6, 2011 at 2:50 pm - Reply

    E3 before the ‘wilderness years’ in Long Beach had some amusement – used as booth bulking – GameWorks when part of SEGA / Universal used E3, and the whole Midway / Nintendo relationship – with Cruz’in and Rare showing off Killer Instincts (how soon we forget)!

    I personally launched at least two arcade games at E3 (worked with Intel at Angle Studios on Savage Quest… oh happy days). And more recently some will remember that the first Street Fighter iV being shown in a private room on the Capcom USA booth.

    The reality is that E3 as a coin-op launch pad is not a new idea – its’ just getting the industry to create a cohesive plan together to promote more than just one game at a time – but a whole sector!

    • Nomax June 7, 2011 at 4:47 am - Reply

      “its’ just getting the industry to create a cohesive plan together to promote more than just one game at a time – but a whole sector!”

      I think that’s the main problem in the industry today. Everyone tries to undercut profit from the other guy where the right thing to do would be to collaborate to expand the market in the first place.

      As of E3, I would see a large distributor such as BMI Gaming or Betson having a stand there with manufacturers lending the machines and each paying a fraction of the booth cost. Then operators would receive invitations to the show. Of course, video games only would be on display (no redemption, cranes, …).

      • editor June 7, 2011 at 9:35 am - Reply

        @Nomax – agree the undercutting is a prominent factor in why we have such problems. The situation where those elected to govern are manipulated behind the scenes so certain companies receive favoritism of shape policy is an issue.

        I agree a BMI or Betson pavilion is a more workable factor than an association equivalent. Though I am not mad in thinking that the organizers of E3 would need something more than a standard AmuseExpo-style booth!

  12. Nomax June 7, 2011 at 3:59 pm - Reply

    By the way, look at this pic from Capcom booth: http://twitpic.com/58c629

    It looks a bit like custom arcade cabinets…

    Capcom USA doesn’t want their coin-op arcade games to come to the US then mimic arcades to try to sell games to people? Nonsense if you ask me… ;-/

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