(Post cover photo via Atlas Obscura; also thanks to everyone who send the news about Anata No Warehouse in)
It has been a little while since our last Location Watch post, either due to a slowdown in said news, or it’s me missing out on such headlines. Today’s is going to be slightly different than the norm, as I will address a closure first, then get into an unexpected trend of openings, all located in Japan.
For the bad news first, we have the impending closure of one of the most iconic arcade locations on the planet – the Anata no Warehouse – Kawasaki Warehouse in Kawasaki, Japan. While I had thought that we had covered it on the site before, apparently not. It is something I’ve long been aware of though, with the facility designed to look just like it came straight out of the infamous Kowloon Walled City that used to be in Hong Kong. Kotaku has a collection of Japanese tweets where it is reported that the Kawasaki Warehouse will be closing on Nov. 17th, bringing an end to an era of a venue that is an attraction in and of itself. Hopefully that won’t be the end of the story, but it’s impossible to say without talking to the owner of the place and finding out what their plans are for the future.
UPDATE 10/18: Thanks to ShouTime in Tokyo for filling me in on this, I know have a better understanding of what happened here. On October 1st, the Japanese government increased the sales (consumption) tax across the country from 8% to 10%. This affects all businesses, even arcades, which do not get an exemption. Due to this, the landlord of the Kawasaki Warehouse facility was also facing an increase in costs, and thus wanted to charge higher rent. On top of that, arcades have additional factors that have to be considered: 1) Many games still operate at 100 yen 2) There is a 30-50% forced revenue share on modern games (on top of the operator having to buy the hardware). These plus the higher sales tax led the owner of Kawasaki Warehouse to say no thanks, so they are closing. While I mention below that many places are opening in Japan, this sales tax could spell doom for locations that are already squeaking by. Hopefully the tax can be adjusted or reduced, although that seems less likely than another solution coming along. This is a place where something like the Exa board could make an impact, given that it has 0% forced revenue share and is a fraction of the cost of something brand new from Taito/Sega/Namco/Konami. But, boards are not shipping until mid-November (turns out that the board delivery mentioned in a previous post was from manufacturer-to-distributor, but distributors are still taking pre-orders, which close mid-November, then they begin shipping).
Where one door closes…
All hope isn’t lost however, particularly in Japan, as a lot of locations are opening their doors in the country.
It isn’t clear why ANW is closing, but otherwise the economy there has given space to strong growth of new entertainment locations. I hope that the new sales tax doesn’t put the brakes on a lot of this growth, although many of the locations have already opened their doors.
To be fair, none of the locations below have the same curb appeal that ANW featured, by what I can tell. Most of these new sites appear to taking a page from trends in the USA and giving it a Japanese cultural twist. They are particularly embracing the idea of the “Family Entertainment Facility” that you get here in the USA, but instead of dark game rooms, they are making them bright and inviting for families. Several appear to have soft playgrounds for kids to enjoy, while mentioning arcade games being a part of the options.
Regardless what you think about the model being used, there is growth there, which is important. We’ll start with those that are scheduled to open in the near future and go backwards to when I published the last locations post (August), giving us twenty in total to look at. I am surprised by so many locations opening up this quarter, and to be honest, I don’t follow up on Japanese economic news very often. But if the amount of entertainment opening there is a barometer of anything, I’d say that it’s a great trend. It is also very possible that news about a location was missed, and some may open after this post is published. So don’t take this for “only” 20 new facilities being opened there!
Soyu Game Field Furukawa at the Aeon Town Furukawa in Osaki (Dec.) <- 180 game machines coming to this one.
Capcom Store Tokyo top open at the Shibuya PARCO on Nov. 22nd – Not sure if this will have arcade machines, but this was promoted under the Capcom Amusement facility division
Taito to open Exbar Tokyo in mid-November for a “fine dining” and gaming experience – It doesn’t sound like traditional arcade games will be used here, but it is an out-of-home gaming experience regardless.
NICOPA & Nico Ground Tokorozawa opening at the “Life Hack Mall” Homes Tokorozawa, Saitama (Oct. 31st). This might be the “children’s amusement” store mentioned in the article.
Gachagacha No Mori store to open at the Terrace Mall Matsudo in Chiba (Oct 25th) – Ok, this one is cheating 😛 It’s not an arcade, but is a bulk vending paradise. I just find it interesting how places like this exist.
Amusement PLABI “Morage Sakai” opens in Sakai, Chiba (Oct. 1st) – 24/7 amusement facility
Taito Station Akihabara Tozai Free Passage Store opens in Akihabara (Oct. 1st) – Looks like a nice “hole in the wall” stuffed with cranes, no video games
Apina opens big FEC in Inzai, Chiba (Aug 10th) – 350 games, although sounds like a lot of them are prize titles.
So there you have it…yes, it does suck that such a cool and well thought out arcade like ANW is shuttering, but the Japanese market is rebounding by the looks of it as they embrace their version of the FEC model in the country. I do hope that more “mom & pop” locations will be able to open their doors, a concern I hold here in the US as I have an FEC opening their doors just down the hall from me (they received their games this week and are showing a big entrance into the arcade area from the food court, so they are certainly gunning for my own business with a blitzkreg of titles and flash). I’ve also been watching the FEC trend in the US and wondering if it’s a bubble or not. To that notion, there is one multi-million dollar FEC that suddenly closed their doors at the Mall of America a few weeks ago, but as always I have to reiterate that such a thing doesn’t indicate that the industry has lost viability. There is always more to the story of why places shut down than the “closed for business” sign.