Welcome to Newsbytes, a weekend curation of news from around the arcade & pinball world. Most of it is positive/good, but sometimes we do come across bad news that just can’t be avoided. Overall, there is a lot of quick news that popped up this week, so let’s jump into it:
Arcade Dreams Trailer
Let’s start off on a good beat with this trailer for Arcade Dreams: Welcome To Arcadia. This documentary dives into 100 years of arcade/amusement history, not just covering arcade & pinball gaming, but pre-video stuff too. Check it out below and support them here.
Grid Snaps Podcast
Yesterday I sat down with my friend Rob Howard to join the latest Grid Snaps podcast. He is a professional game designer who currently teaches game design at Purdue University in Indiana. The podcast generally covers game design topics, but he often gives a place for arcades to receive a highlight, since they have a place in the game design world. We discuss that a little bit along with the state of the industry from last year to now, my experience in re-opening last month, what is going on for game development into the future and so on. This is also the first time that he has recorded and posted this to YouTube; if you just want the audio version, check it out on Podbean.
Along those lines, if you’re interested in hearing consultant Kevin Williams’ thoughts on re-opening, check out this chat at Attraction Pros.
Chuck E. Cheeses Facing Bankruptcy & Closures
I placed the podcast right above this since we discuss this subject near the end, but I’ll use this space to elaborate. Media sources have been reporting that Chuck E. Cheeses is under an enormous debt burden – $1 billion. They are hoping to get a $200m line of credit to stay afloat, but it is looking like their 600+ stores may close.
Now one thing that the People story doesn’t get into (I don’t have a subscription to WSJ.com, so don’t know if this is mentioned), is that CEC also owns Peter Piper Pizza locations. I’m not sure if they are including any of those into the 600, but a while back I recall hearing that the two combined made for 1000~ locations. Either way, CEC is without a doubt the biggest arcade entertainment chain in the world.
On different social media channels I’m seeing some people celebrate this since they don’t consider the chain to be a “real” arcade by their arbitrary definition. Anyone who knows me is familiar with my stance on redemption – I just don’t care for it as a gamer, but I also cannot deny how essential it has been to keeping the industry afloat. Just because a location has a bunch of redemption games doesn’t disqualify them from being an arcade, it’s just not the type that floats your particular boat.
I loathe hearing about any business having to close as that means that people’s livelihoods – their source of income, their daily work – are gone. The story above mentions that 17,000 CEC employees have been let go, but the cuts go beyond that into areas that the public doesn’t realize – you have the restaurant equipment service providers (Ecolab services their equipment), equipment distributors (both restaurant & arcade), food distributors, manufacturers, etc.
Whether this could trigger an arcade manufacturer collapse is hard to say, but it will certainly put strain on their primary suppliers. Other major chains like D&B have also ceased investments into new equipment in a bid to keep their heads above water. So while I always like to keep an optimistic view of the arcade world, admittedly these factors have me worried.
On the “silver lining” side, CEC is a name too big to disappear completely. When I worked in arcade sales, I received frequent calls from people opening up a location; When I asked them what type of location it was, so oftent he answer was: “Something like a Chuck E. Cheeses.” If they go bankrupt and close their stores, I have to imagine that the name will be purchased by someone else and will live on in a different form. Better performing stores may have to re-brand, but as long as kids still exist, they need a place to play. That said, even if CEC survives bankruptcy, some stores will be gone and that equipment will be available for cheap somewhere.
House of the Dead Scarlet Dawn The Attraction Now Open In Tokyo
On the other side of that, many of Japan’s arcades are re-opening this week, which also means that the Tokyo Joypolis is back in operation. For a big new attraction, they are opening the highly anticipated HOTD: Scarlet Dawn attraction. I wonder how busy they will be…
Arcade Boot-up & Loading Times
How long do arcade games take to boot-up? It’s not a subject that many think or know about, so I made this video to showcase a few. One thing I should have noted is that games like Maximum Tune and Big Buck have to connect online, so this also lengthens the process that they go through. I may do a follow-up video on this that focuses more on level/stage loading times instead of boot-up times, if anyone is interested:
IAAPA 2020 Still A-Go & Filling Up Floor Space
November still seems far away from this point, but it’ll be upon us before we know it. That is the time where IAAPA takes place in Orlando, always the week before Thanksgiving. While most trade shows have been canceled due to the pandemic(including IAAPA Expo Europe, which was slated for September), IAAPA seems confident that things will calm down by November to move ahead with their event. As such, they have been organizing the trade show floor, getting many companies to commit to setting up a booth. While there are a lot of empty booths across the hall (and I doubt there will be a need for an outside tent again), the Games & Arcade Pavilion is almost full. Still, we don’t know what the health situation will be like five months from now; I’ve talked with a few industry people who are overseas who aren’t even considering going to the event.
CAX goes Digital; GAMOA Preps For August Expo
Since we’re talking trade shows, let’s get you up to speed on some others. While California Extreme had held out for a while to see how things might shake out for their July show, they determined that the best course of action would be to cancel the physical show and go digital. To quote one of the show organizers, Mark Birsching:
We are saddened to announce that due to guidance by the State of California and County of Santa Clara health officials, California Extreme 2020 will not be able to be held in its usual form this year at the Hyatt Regency.We will instead put on a virtual show on July 25th including speakers, demonstrations, streaming, remote play, vendor specials, and whatever we (including you) can come up with. This is new territory for us, so if you have something you’d like to contribute, please let us know at email@example.com. We plan to offer t-shirts and badges to commemorate our 24th annual event, and we can still have a great weekend while practicing distant socializing.
Those who made hotel reservations in our block of rooms will have those automatically cancelled by the hotel in a few weeks (or feel free to cancel on your own).
Arcade 1up Announces New Line Of Games For Home
If you are a fan of the Arcade 1up releases, then you have more gaming goodness to look forward to as they’ve announced Ms. Pac-Man/Galaxian/Pacmania/Pac-Man Plus, X-Men Vs. Street Fighter, Marvel Pinball and Big Buck Hunter. Big Buck Hunter is a surprise, but so is Ms. Pac-Man, as last we heard of that it was in the middle of a court battle between Namco and AtGames. The latter company had their own Arcade 1up style machine in the works, and Ms. Pac-Man would have made for quite a headliner, but I haven’t read an update on how that lawsuit has been shaking out lately.
Sega Releases JAEPO 2020 game Promo Trailer
Since Japan was already experiencing the effects of the pandemic back in February, that dampened the effects of the JAEPO trade show event. Since they are emerging from that now, they’ve launched this trailer to promote the many games that were unveiled. Many of these (such as all of the fighting games) are coming to their All.net P-ras Multi 3 (APM3) digital distribution service, although I have heard through the grapevine that many Japanese ops have soured on such services, since they all come with sharing fees attached (i.e., they pay for the hardware, then they pay a cut of every play to the developer). While one shouldn’t expect to see many of these games overseas, some of them already are available in the West, such as Scarlet Dawn & Transformers SR.
UNIS Holds A Digital Event, Unveils New Products
Universal Space, better known as UNIS, has also been busy as of late, working on new products and holding a live broadcast in China to promote their brands & products. New products as shown are: Elite Park Active Play (kind of like batting cages, but with basketball and soccer); an interactive tennis room; Elite Trampoline (although this was labeled as “consumer,” which means non-coin/residential); Cruis’n Blast Motion Twin seater (UNIS has officially carried CB Motion in China/SE Asia, but no word on that coming stateside; this is the same concept, but now with two seats/steering wheels like OutRun 2 SDX) and finally some kind of ball game that you control with a wheel. We’ll see if any of these products are destined for an international release.
Hot Wheels Pinball Stream Tonight
Join Jack Danger this evening as he streams gameplay of Hot Wheels gameplay. This should be far more in-depth than the video I shot at Amusement Expo, and will include additional updates that have been made to the game since March.
Two industry legends celebrated birthdays this week – Yu Suzuki formerly of Sega and Gary Stern, CEO of Stern Pinball. Happy birthday to both of you!
— Sega-16.com (@Sega16) June 10, 2020
William S. Sessions Passes Away
If you visited an arcade in the 1990’s, then chances are pretty good that you saw this image (or a variation of it) popping up on many attract mode screens:
Now, the name that graced arcade screens all across America has passed away at the age of 90. While he seems to have been embroiled in plenty of controversy, these screens certainly put forth something positive to attach to his legacy. RIP Mr. Sessions.
The Cultural Game Shift
Let’s end with a sad laugh as this doge meme shows how far gaming tastes have…changed since the 90s:
1990-2009 2010- pic.twitter.com/cZqiGaqxI9
— Time Extend | Racing Game Podcast (@time_extend) June 10, 2020