It’s the start of a new year, which means that it’s time to recap the arcade & pinball news from 2020. It goes without saying that last year was an anomaly in the 14 years that this site has been in operation, but it will take time to see if 2021 is just more of the same or what the “new normal” will be like. I did mean to post this yesterday on the 31st but got sidetracked with other things.
The biggest piece of news from 2020 has been “un-said” since March, and that’s the number of locations that have permanently closed their doors. While I’ve been able to mention a few here and there, it’s just as difficult to track as new locations opening, as you can have locations that have been temporarily closed for months then turn into a permanent closure and there’s no news or fanfare about it, so I don’t hear about it. Chuck E. Cheeses filing for bankruptcy is the highest-profile company out of these, with many (but not all) of their locations closing for good. Other companies have found ways to stay afloat, with home rentals & private parties becoming a big thing out there.
Of course, it’s impossible to know exactly how good or bad it all is without any hard data to refer to – The industry as a whole was riding high in 2019, to the point that I think we were on par with the mid-90s in terms of how well business was going. Location openings – be it bar/arcades, retrocades, street locations, and FECs – were a common news item for us to cover and trade shows like IAAPA were seeing record attendance. In fact, story #7 below was a huge new location opening post from February. Things really were hopping in the arcade world up until March this year, but out-of-home fun is hardly alone in terms of negative impact.
At my arcades, business overall started to drop in Nov. 2019 when a giant FEC opened in the same mall as where I’ve been since 2008; earnings were negatively impacted by 20-23%. When the pandemic hit, I was closed for a month and half, then upon re-opening it started about 70% down, then eventually evened out to about 40-60%. Still, I had the crazy idea of opening a second location, which I started on back in September, but didn’t open until the end of October. I did that mostly as a “back up” policy in the event that I would be pushed out of the first mall, and there was a good opportunity that opened. Looking at token pulls from both locations, my top 3 games from my original location were: Cruis’n Blast (#1), Jurassic Park (#2), then Maximum Tune 5. While the new location only has two months of data to look over, the top 3 there so far are: House of the Dead Scarlet Dawn (#1), Luigi’s Mansion Arcade (#2) and Nirin. Unfortunately at both locations, pinball still struggles to “earn it’s keep” and retro games don’t make much unless they are Ms. Pac-Man/Galaga/Street Fighter.
We’ll have to continue to wait and see how it all shakes out, but while the sector has been badly damaged, I do think we’re in a better position to recover than movie theaters. While game consoles have always been a thing that provides some level of competition to out-of-home gaming, streaming services are relatively new, and Hollywood is slowly strangling the “Golden Goose” with these Day 1 streaming/theater releases (hmmm…doesn’t that sound familiar *cough*console ports*cough*). That said, theaters and arcades often go hand-in-hand; My own arcade business has long benefitted from big film launches and I’ve learned that without those, our weekends are just not as strong as they used to be. I’m still holding on, but it’s obvious that I can’t just rely on movies to bring people back.
We still have companies creating new content, although who will be left standing by the time Amusement Expo rolls around in June, I don’t know. There are several companies that I’ve heard little to nothing from over the past 9 months – will they survive? I wish I knew.
Anyways, that’s a quick “State of the Industry” report – let’s see what you were all interested in throughout the year; Surprisingly, a Newsbytes post made #10:
Oddly enough, the oldest post that is still getting a bunch of views every year for some reason that escapes me is my first post on the site, Gone Fishing from Tsunami. It garnered more views this year than post #10 did!
Spot #3 was taken by fake news, although fun fake news, as this was our April Fools joke for the year.
Normally Stern’s oddball releases don’t draw a lot of attention, but I guess there are a lot of Heavy Metal fans out there…
I guess it comes as no surprise that the #1 story this year was about arcade gaming at home, with home becoming the focus for most of the planet for the year.
Normally I would put a “Games of 2020” video right here, but I’m still cutting that together – things were delayed on that due to my appendix removal. That’s also been part of the reason for the delay on this post as I’ve tried to get it done in time, but if I take too much longer, this post will be weird to publish after the weekend. In its place, there’s the 2020 Releases page, which was the #1 most visited page on the site (I don’t count pages in the list above since those are continually updated throughout the year), followed by the Unreleased games page. The 2021 Releases page is live now; For the moment, here’s the 2019 compilation:
As for the most popular video on YouTube that I posted in 2020, that would definitely be the Hot Wheels pinball video that I shot at Amusement Expo 2020. I’d post more videos to the AH BitChute channel, but that site really needs to fix their processing issues, as I’ve had enough videos get stuck in processing hell, so I prefer to wait until/if they sort it out. I also started some live streaming on YouTube, which many of you saw…I hope to do more of that this year!
Growth on social media has been pretty tepid over the year, excepting Parler where it exploded for a bit, then calmed down. The Arcade Heroes FB group has also been steadily growing, although we’ll often get more unrelated spam in that group than elsewhere.
Let me finish this with a heartfelt thanks to you, the reader, for supporting the site; Thanks to the advertisers who have also stuck with us through this brutal time. Happy 2021!