Thanks to Edward Castillo for the tip, here is a little news regarding locations in California to discuss.
First let’s talk about the closure. About 4 years ago I had a post here on AH about a venue that opened up in LA which attempted to do the arcade concept but without the coin-op games, focusing more on home game consoles. I have been interested to see how it would pan out since on occasion I hear about venues giving such a thing a shot but I’ve never heard of anyone making a bunch of profit from it. It seems that might be the case with Powersurge although who knows exactly why they have decided to close. Although 9/10 times it happens to be a lack of cash flow. I can’t say I’m surprised – if your venue doesn’t have something truly unique to offer then its an uphill battle in the mud to get somewhere. Powersurge had a “fitness” angle to them, which I think means that they focused on motion/gesture gaming. But whether they had a good circuit of tournament players to feed the bills beyond that fitness angle, I do not know. I do not believe they had any arcade games or exergames with some hardware aspect to it. It was more just focus on game consoles.
As Powersurge closes, not far away a new venue has opened their doors which is similar, although their focus is not on “fitness” but upon fighting games. Called the Ultimate Gaming Center, they opened a little under six months ago in Panorama City, CA and have kept their focus on a variety of 1-on-1 fighting games and tournaments. They have a heavy selection of game consoles but they a small selection of arcade games on hand with plans to expand on it in the future. With only 4 games – a NeoGeo with a multicart, Capcom Vs. SNK 2, Marvel Vs. Capcom 2 and Street Fighter III: 3rd Strike they don’t have enough where it likely makes a huge dent in earnings but I think its good that the owner seems to be on-board with them to a degree.
This is an interesting contrast to mull over here. I think if I had tried to do something like Powersurge then I wouldn’t have been successful. I used to have a PC network at my arcade and it died once kids got tired of paying to play Call of Duty on an hourly basis. They had a good enough rendition at home (I got some mileage out of mods but after a while that loses its luster too) and most were unwilling to try out anything else if it didn’t have that illustrious CoD title slapped on the front. World of Warcraft went nowhere, any other MMOs even moreso. It is notable that my region has some of the highest numbers of computer-ownership in the US so owning a PC is not a challenge here either. But I did quiz some of the people who used to be regulars here and it usually came down to the fact that they had CoD at home and that’s all that they really wanted to play.
I also could compare these console-centric venue concepts to the most recent generation of game consoles themselves – I don’t see any exclusives on the Xbox One or Playstation 4 that make them worth the price tag right now so why should I go out and pay $400 for yet another Netflix box? People buy things like expensive new game consoles because they are going to have the games they can’t get anywhere else or do something that the others can’t do. When you run an entertainment venue there has to be various compelling reasons to get customers in the door and to stay there to pay for some games. I do remember hearing people claim when I started that a video arcade was a silly idea since they could just play what they wanted to in MAME but those detractors forgot or didn’t realize that arcades have new games which are often exclusive to the format and we also have various unique physical/mechanical games to boost our gaming profile, such as air hockey, pinball, skee ball, etc. Of course I have covered this at length in my book, which I suppose I do not promote enough at times 😉
Ultimate Gaming Center looks like they have enough to compel players to leave the couch as they are focused strongly on the niche of fighting fans but as we saw recently with the needed changes at Super Arcade, I think it is risky to rely on one segment of gamers to turn a profit. Granted it can work for a while – when I first opened, my PCs outearned the arcades but once I moved to a better location and added more games, that all changed. When I moved again and had even more space for arcade games, it wasn’t even a contest between the PCs and Arcades any longer. To UGCs benefit, using game consoles does get around the major issue with fighting games in the arcade industry these days, that of practically every single one getting a console release for cheap at some point. They also seem to have established themselves as a good place to compete which should give them some earnings momentum as well. Hopefully that momentum keeps up for them as they expand their arcade selection and they won’t suffer from Powersurge’s fate.