It’s been a little bit since we had an update on the happenings within the industry since the pandemic made chaos a daily part of life, so let’s get you up to speed on what is going on.
Over In My Neck Of The Woods…
First off, thanks to those who reached out via email, messenger or phone to check on me and how things were going. I likewise really hope that you are all managing this as best you can, praying that you won’t have to face closure. Whatever happens, I hope that you and your families will come out of this ok.
It has been a tough call on re-opening. Every city and state is different as to their rules; Every place is different as to the impact of the virus. Some business operators have looked to open as soon as they are able to; Others want to stay closed until there’s a vaccine or until some other threshold for “feeling safe” is reached. Customer attitudes are also varied – On one hand, many say that they have no intention of visiting entertainment facilities for a while; On the other, myself and other ops have been receiving constant phone calls asking if we’re open or not (for myself, I get a lot more on Sundays than at any other time for the past few weeks). Some places that have opened end up closing again due to various reasons (too slow, not enough employees, loud complaints from upset customers about any “non-essential” place opening, etc.). Some land lords are great to work with and understand the need to work things out; Others are stubbornly sticking to “my way or the highway.” There’s more than that of course, but we can sum it up as: These are tumultuous waters that we’ve all had to navigate respective our situations.
Where I’m at, the state of Utah was not strongly impacted by the virus – it was impacted, yes, but not everywhere is Manhattan, or even close to Manhattan. Most of the counties in the state have experienced few to no cases, although outside of the Salt Lake region, it’s a pretty rural place. Either way, the progress has allowed the state to begin phased re-openings of businesses back on May 1st – my own arcade being one of those to open after being closed since March 18th. As I pointed out in this “re-launch” video, I’ve taken as many measures as I can think of to keep things constantly cleaned – frequent control sanitization, getting more bottles of hand sanitizer and placing them around the game floor, spacing machines out more, setting up a germicidal air filter, pushing the use of change machines, copper/zinc tokens (which are naturally anti-viral/microbial), and there have been mask guidelines from the mall. I have not had any big groups or crowds to deal with, and customer visits have been so infrequent that it’s made it easy to keep things clean. I feel that I’ve done everything within reason for those who choose to come in and play, although I have received a couple of complaints about opening at all(only online, nothing in person). I understand that side, but for my side, I haven’t paid myself since March, and I have four mouths to feed:
I knew that it would not be an easy ride, but it has been better than in April where we did $0. Overall, I’m doing about 20-25% of what we would do this year, with Mother’s Day weekend and last week being the toughest time (apart from being closed last month). That said, Utah further eased restrictions last Friday, which had a positive effect going into the weekend, and the past two weekdays have almost been on par with pre-pandemic levels. Of course, there is still a ways to go – apart from the fear out in much of the public, many tenants at the mall have been closed, including most corporate chain stores, the JCPenny that’s a few doors down from me (they haven’t announced if this store is closing or not) and the movie theater (the principle draw to foot traffic in the mall).
I applied and received a PPP loan, although it would only cover my employee, so it was a small amount to cover his wages. Still, I have been able to cover him so that he has kept his income. To be forgiven of that loan, most of it has to be used for payroll, some can be used for rent, although the amount I got can’t cover a full rent payment anyways. Apart from not paying myself, I’ve had to rely on savings, temporary payment deferrals and income from a second job to stay afloat and keep my family fed. The problem of course is that deferrals come to an end, especially where the shutdown was initially only going to be for a few weeks until being moved. I also applied for rent relief with the state of Utah and an Economic Disaster Recovery Loan from the SBA, but I’ve heard nothing on the former, still waiting for a follow-up on the latter. If the latter comes through, I will use that to pay off debts, essentially consolidating those loans into one (very long term) payment.
In game news, I got my hands on Big Buck Reloaded; Received a firmware update to my Exa-Arcadia board to add 4K support and major improvements to loading times; and the day before the earthquake, I received a Stranger Things Premium machine. The most surprising thing is that Stranger Things ended up as my #1 game the week prior to this; I’ve never had a pinball machine even get close to beating my top games, so that was awesome to see.
But enough about me, let’s find out from others what they are up to.
Gamesindustry.biz ran an article showing a few arcades from around the world as to what they are doing to cope with the shutdowns and their plans for surviving. I agree that regulars have been essential – they were a bulk of my earnings for the first two weeks.
For locations that have re-opened
Round1USA Re-Opens Utah Location – Oddly enough, this is the only location within the company that has re-opened so far, and it’s only about 10 minutes away from me. Page will be updated to show others when there are updates.
I’m pretty sure there are more, but those are the links that I’ve caught. I have not heard any announcements of any D&B re-opening as of this time; Chuck E. Cheeses is also opting to keep their locations closed, although they are competing in the touchless food delivery space.
Some arcades have been running crowdfunding/donation/T-Shirt campaigns. I’ve tried to curate every single one that is doing something out there, but I’m sure that I’ve missed many of them. If you have a place that has a solution, please put a link in the comments:
- Abari Game Bar (NC)
- Arcade Legacy (OH)
- Arcade of Thrones (NC)
- Arcade Lounge (MN)
- Brewcadia (donation link isn’t working though; OH)_
- Dave & Busters Heart Fund
- Double Dragon Arcade (IN)
- EightyThree (selling games from their stock; OK)
- Emporium Arcade Bar Employee Relief Fund (IL)
- Fireball Arcade (VA)
- Funspot/ACAM (NH)
- Game Center Mikado (Tokyo)
- Hideaway Arcade (AZ)
- High Scores Arcade (CA)
- Logan Arcade Staff Relief Fund (IL)
- Neon Retro Arcade (CA)
- Pinball PA (PA)
- Pixeled Arcade & Brewery (ND)
- Player One Arcade Bar (CA)
- Prince Arcades (IL)
- Rock Fantasy (music store with an arcade, NY)
- “Small town Arcade” in WA – Listing doesn’t mention the name
- The Detour (formerly Brewcade; CA)
- The Game Getaway (CA)
- Timeline Arcade (PA)
- Underground Retrocade (Home rentals / Online shop; IL)
- Wilcox Arcade (KY)
Re-Openings For Arcade Manufacturers
Raw Thrills sent out a newsletter on April 30th to say that they are functioning; the rest of the newsletter included photos of the RT staff working from home. Also my own hat tip to them for providing some info, like the Big Buck Reloaded pics:
Today, ICE sent out a press release stating that they are now re-open, and in addition to shipping games and parts again, they are also rolling out their Monopoly videmption game that was shown off at Amusement Expo 2020. That game will ship on June 1st.
LAI Games has been one of the most active in posting ideas and resources among game manufacturers, such as this article with top 10 suggestions on room layouts.
For trade organizations, here are links to resources that might help in restarting that engine:
Some of the companies in our business has converted their production capacity over to making PPE. Bob’s Space Racers has been in operation down in Florida, switched over their production line to create contactless hand sanitizer stations. Suzo Happ has a whole line of PPE solutions for locations, although by the pricing, these are more for theme parks than a street/mom&pop location out there. I’ve been told that Fun Company has some hand sanitizer/hand wipe stations that would fall in line with smaller locations, but they have not listed those on their website yet. Betson Parts also has a line of PPE items, including Safety Sticker packages. Partec Inc., who has produced cabinets for Raw Thrills, has converted their lines to making face shields and the like. A&A Global has been distributing cleaner.
So, that’s it for the moment. I’d be interested to hear what others have been doing out there, or if they have re-opened, what the situation has been like. Hopefully, the light at the end of the tunnel will be reached soon.