UPDATE: Video for Retro Raccoons has been re-added to the post below; it had been there, but a glitch had removed just that one.
The Spring event for the trade of arcade/amusement games has come and gone, better known as Amusement Expo 2019. Held in Las Vegas over the past three days, I took the quick flight down to check out what was there, play it and film it. This is organized by the AMOA and AAMA industry organizations.
It was great to meet many game developers, fellow operators and others who make our industry work. If I missed you, hopefully we’ll be able to get together next time; for those who I met for the first time, it was great to make your acquaintance. For those who I’ve met before, it was still a pleasure to chat and see how life has been going lately!
I had a very interesting conversation with industry guru Frank “The Crank” Seninsky. He asked me a question that I don’t think that I properly answered during those moments, but it gave me plenty to think about. Paraphrasing here, he asked how I see video being strong right now. He made an irrefutable point that for the numbers he sees, video hasn’t really changed over time – that if you’re looking at cashbox, it’s still redemption that is king, while video has stayed the same.
I can’t argue with that, but the essence of the question really gets at why I do this blog. Redemption doesn’t need any help. You can put it anywhere and people will throw money at it like it’s a prototype iPhone on a stripper pole. With video games, it takes a little more effort since they are more complex, which results in more memorable and satisfying entertainment.
Granted, I do this mainly because I find video games to be fun; I enjoy playing them, regardless the format. The general public does not hear about most of the games that we discuss, and while sometimes it seems like fighting a battle on a sheer cliff, someone’s gotta do it. 😉 It’s a fight that I’m happy to undertake.
I’ll get into more detail on that subject in my next Replay article; so for now, let’s get into Amusement Expo!
What Impressed Me The Most?
This is a question that comes up at every trade show event, and after some consideration, my answer would be: The indie game trend finally coming into fruition. We’ve discussed many independently made games over the years, and have followed the “bar/arcade” trend as it has unfolded. As those locations have grown in popularity, I’ve been a little perplexed by how manufacturers haven’t really jumped on the wagon. Sure, we’ve had a few games here and there that cater to bars, along with the “staples” such as Golden Tee and Big Buck. But the call of the FEC trend is more immediately lucrative, so that’s where development attention has been focused.
Except for the realm of indie developers.
At Amusement Expo 2019, independently made arcade games were there in force. Because of this, we’ll be focusing on them before we get into the major manufacturers, as I believe that this is significant for both gamers and street operators. This definitely is different than the normal pattern of covering the big guns first, but since they’ve got the resources and the licenses to draw attention their way, they can wait until the next post 🙂
BumbleBear Games (Killer Queen Arcade, Black Emperor)
First we had BumbleBear Games, the team that is behind the phenomenon known as Killer Queen Arcade. This was the first time that the company and this game had come to an industry trade show event. On top of that, they brought their second game, which recently enjoyed a launch event. Known as Black Emperor, this is a single player “endless runner” style game where you ride your motorcycle as far as possible over the procedurally generated track. I found this to be a lot of fun, and while it’s a single player game, locations could probably get traction by “banking” two units next to each other like a redemption game and people would automatically compete.
I noticed a few people disliking this video; I’m just curious if it’s because of what or how it was shot, or using text instead of a voice over (I really haven’t had time to do a voice over on these) or if it’s because they just aren’t fans of the game? I ask so I can improve; feel free to comment below or on the forums and I’ll work at making the next videos better!
Retro Raccoons (Glitchbit)
Also not to be missed was a game we have mentioned on the site several times before, but in a way that came as a big surprise. You may recall the “drinkcade” game known as Tipsy Raccoons being released last year on a limited basis. That is about to change as Glitchbit has partnered up with the kings of the bar gaming scene, Incredible Technologies (makers of Golden Tee, in case their company name is unfamiliar to you) to bring a modified version of the game, now christened as Retro Raccoons, to the wide market. Given that no one has done better in bars than IT, I think that this was a very smart move.
If you are unfamiliar with Tipsy/Retro Raccoons, the quickest way to sum it up is what I heard an operator say after she played a round: “It’s like a 2D Mario Party!” 2-4 players add a drink or cash/coin the game up, where they will play 4 different mini-games (from a total selection of 30 and growing; the game currently offers free monthly updates over the internet that adds a new mini-game to the mix). The game has a bar mode (where you “play” for your credit by putting a drink in the holder for your raccoon; losers have to take a sip) as well as a non-drinking mode where you put in your dollar per person or coins and do not have to drink.
Retro Raccoons was designed for the wider market, where arcades and other venues that don’t serve drinks can still make use of it. This was also done to better appeal to under-age players; the game doesn’t specifically mention alcohol, so in any case you can use whatever drink is in hand – water, soda, whatever that fits into the patented cup holder sensors. This one begins shipping at the end of April, and it was very popular the whole time I passed by the IT booth…enough that it made capturing footage of the game without someone in front of it very difficult (I wasn’t able to get a couple of shots I would have liked, but I didn’t want to impose on potential buyers).
Last in this category, but certainly not least is a new group that had another surprise of the show for us to enjoy, Galactic Battleground. Designed by Slackerz Inc., this was found at the Paradise Arcade booth in the back of the hall. Unfortunately the booth was a bit small and cramped for the six cabinets that were there (they had four small cabinets; one was a bar top running a multi-game board, then a cocktail running the same; then two other cocktails running a two player version of Galactic Battleground, then two upright cabs running the four player model).
As a retro-inspired game, this takes elements of Asteroids, Galaga, the Atari 2600 game Demons to Diamonds and blended together with Slackerz Inc.‘s own ideas to make for what you see below. Users pilot a spaceship at either the top or bottom of the screen, attempting to blast their opponent on the other side. Like Cosmotrons (an indie game we’ve covered frequently in the past that was not at this show), users can pick from different ships and select a unique special ability.
Completing the object of the game is easier said than done, as you have a number of objects floating in space between you – asteroids, planets, satellites, turrets (that can be shot to point them at your opponents side of the screen), etc. From the couple of matches I played, you wanted to use those objects to your advantage, the more you hit them, the more they moved towards your opponents side of the screen. Although it was generally a slow process, so you have to use a little strategy while keeping your wits about you.
The game can be played with 1-4 players, and it uses some great LED effects in the marquee, T-molding and even the buttons. They were all very eye catching, although seeing the chasing LED’s on the T-molding was a nice surprise, as I hadn’t seen anyone do that before. This is also available as a 1-2 player cocktail model, although I did forget to capture footage of that one, unfortunately. Also unfortunate was the booth being a bit cramped, so my camera didn’t capture the best footage of this one; I’ll have to rectify that the next time I come across this one!
I always seem to miss something at this shows, and AEI19 was no exception. I only heard about this one moments before I had to run and catch a ride to the airport, and that was the presence of Polycade. Founded by Nolan Bushnell’s son Tyler, this was mentioned on Arcade Heroes back in 2016, but I had assumed that they were only looking at the home market and not the commercial one. That has changed, as both their website and presence at AEI19 indicate. The PC-powered platform features a number of indie games from Steam, as well as some retro titles (the image of the commercial version on the website shows some Atari classics like Centipede, Gravitar and Lunar Lander). As you can see from the pictures below, they also have created a standalone floor model (previously, it was only available as a wall mount cabinet).
Apart from knowing exactly which games are included with the commercial model (it mentions 9 ship with it and there are online updates), I’m curious how the games are handled
(are they modified in some way for arcade play, or is it on a timer?) and how customers pay for it, as I do not see a coin slot or dollar bill acceptor (DBA). Perhaps if one of you astute readers got a chance to talk with them, you can fill us in. 🙂
UPDATE: Thanks to Adam Minter filling me in on this, it uses a card reader and a timer system. All of the controls from the steam games are custom mapped to the arcade buttons, you just have to get used to how it works.
Thanks to Walter Kern of PrimeTime Amusements for the pics; he was very jet lagged though, so I wasn’t able to get answers to those questions above from him yet.
UPDATE: Forgot to add this; while we’ve discussed The World’s Fastest Drummer by Unit-E Technologies before, a couple of units were on hand. I’d still consider this to be “indie.” 😉 They also had the latest iteration of their upcoming RFPay card system, working on an old Centipede cabinet.
— @WFDrummers (@WFDrummers) March 27, 2019
That’s all I have for now – the next post will get into major manufacturer games like Centipede Chaos, ATV Slam, Nerf Arcade, etc. That might be much later today, as I am getting Lasik done this morning, so I’ll not be able to use a computer until a bit later today.
Until then, sound off on what you think either in the comments below or on our forums!
What strikes me nicely about the Polycade is not really the hardware inside, but the outside with its colorful button layout and the highly generic yet appealing factor that is equivalent to cadny cabinets. Those can work nicely for hardware that is small enough to fit inside, especially the Exa Arcadia due to its versatility with all kinds of monitors and IO boards. I can only imagine a potential collaboration between the two parties and I already sent them an email to let them know about Exa Arcadia.