Posted tagged ‘editorial’

Co-op gaming in arcades, past and present

January 7, 2010

Our friend Kevin Williams of The Stinger Report has penned an interesting article discussing as aspect of coin-op gaming that has had a strong history and is starting to resurge once again – co-op gaming. Kevin looks over notable co-op games that have come along since Pong Doubles (no mention of some of my favorites like Rip Off , Elevator Action Returns and Xybots but that’s OK, you can’t get them all in there), discussing how Atari carried the water for a long time in this arena but eventually they were surpassed by Japanese developers who gave us multiplayer co-op games like The Simpsons, Teenage Mutant Ninja Turtles and many, many others. Click here to read the article!

Kevin does mention how we are seeing trends taking us back to co-op gaming and I think that it’s a great thing. There is nothing wrong with competitive gaming but there is a thirst out there for co-op games as well. I’ve mentioned this before when discussing the success of games like Left 4 Dead, New Super Mario Bros. Wii, Call of Duty: Nazi Zombies, etc. I found it interesting that one arcade developer said that they were paying close attention to the New Super Mario Bros. Wii with it’s co-op aspects and while I can’t tell if that means we’ll see a new co-op sidescroller anytime soon, I do look forward to seeing more co-op games in arcades this year. Namco is certainly on that path with Tank! Tank! Tank! and Dead Storm Pirates; I think that Justice League missed a great opportunity last year to provide a four-player-on-one-cabinet design but the game still offered 2p co-op. 2p co-op is nice and all but after recently playing Arabian Magic and Dungeon Magic I have to say that I long to see more four player games on the market that don’t require operators to have to buy several expensive cabinets to achieve that.

[Discuss on the forums]

AMOA denounces direct sales

July 12, 2008

From: http://www.replaymag.com/instant.htm

(COMMENT FROM WEB PAGE)

AMOA DENOUNCES DIRECT SALES – (posted Friday, July 11, 20088:30PM)

In a stinging editorial published in the AMOA’s weekly email newsletter Off-The-Top, the association decried reports of “direct sales solicitations to location customers” by manufacturers. “Since the beginning of time, factories have been compelled to sell product to keep their doors open. If distributors and operators are not buying enough, or not buying enough fast enough, then manufacturers feel forced to look at their options,” the editorial said. “But, really, have distributors and operators EVER bought enough, fast enough for factories?”
The opinion piece went on to recognize that the economy is hurting all tiers of the trade, but said that selling direct is a case of reaching the “‘cut-your-nose-to-spite-your-face’ juncture a bit prematurely.
“Making direct sales solicitation to locations violates one of the most basic rules of engagement,” the editorial concluded. “It would be a futile search to find ops who understand or respect this practice. Tough times always test relationships. Operators will remember those trading partners who supp
ort them when business is a challenge for a long time. Operators will remember those trading partners who don’t support them when business is a challenge.”

The Stinger’s response

(STINGER REPORT STATEMENT)

This reads like a veiled threat to stop operators going direct – The worry is that with Tekken6, Street Fighter IV, and a number of other games not being shipped into America by entrenchment and slow manufacturers they are worried that operators will go direct to get their hands on these games and totally ignore the AMOA doctrine, and the needs of distributors and local offices of the manufacturers. This statement could be the writing on the wall for the old style approach to getting arcade hardware, and could mark the collase of the association structure. Boy are they worried! – and its nice that they are a full year late on recognizing the situation – we ran the story in the Stinger in… 2006!

My thoughts

I can appreciate what the AMOA is trying to do – I know that buying direct as opposed to going through a distributor has been a hot topic of debate in the industry for a while now and that distributors are still an integral part of the industry although as TSR points out, things do change. Personally I have had an excellent experience with my distributor, Mountain Coin Op as they have assisted me in every way I could imagine, beyond just getting products but there are times when getting hardware from a distributor may not be possible for certain reasons. I do wonder who the AMOA is targetting directly here but it is unclear.

If a company cannot or refuses to carry a product in their line and an operator wants it, there is nothing wrong with them getting that product elsewhere. It will not ruin a relationship with the distributor – I have several games I bought from other sources than just my distributor and they are OK with me. I can only speak for my distributor though as every company is different and while they aren’t all perfect some are better than others – it was an outrage what one distributor did to The Act, which killed off the most original arcade game seen in years and in that case I would have preferred to see direct sales. It is behavior like that that can discourage manufacturers from wanting to to provide their product through distribution if they realize that it may take a back seat to more well-known products. It’s a delicate balance and I don’t claim to have a solution to the problem but I think that each side – operators, distributors and manufacturers have their own valid points to be considered.

[Discuss on the Forum]

Open Letter to the Amusement Trade by The Stinger Report

May 19, 2008

By Kevin Williams

Open Letter To Amusement Trade (19/05/08)

Reaction to Recent Media Coverage

The Situation

This open letter is being sent out to the trade regarding a disturbing situation which seems to be being ignored!

We have seen over the last 48-hours a slew of online features that have attempted to bury the Asian and North American amusement scene – literally dismissing the market and manipulating the facts of our market.

This all culminated from a Reuters news feature that seemed to announce the closure of the Japanese amusement sector: http://www.reuters.com/article/technologyNews/idUST33521320080518?feedType=RSS&feedName=technologyNews&pageNumber=2&virtualBrandChannel=0

Having waited for a reply from our trade in defense there seems to have been none and so below is the reply that we sent to Reuters (and CrunchGear who repeated the commentary and added a few new inaccuracies).

Reply to Feature

Dear CrunchGear,

There seems to be a hunger from some news services to attempt once and for all to bury amusement – if not physically, at least in the consumers eye. Having read the Reuters report on the Japanese arcade scene and its errors – I am now greeted with your feature – I think you will now see that copying the Reuter feature may have been a mistake!

I have tried to address the key errors in your report:
- The claim is that certain factories had closed “20%” of their amusement venue business – the truth is that Namco closed 41, while Sega closed 110 – and as both operations run over 500 sites in the main islands this is not 20% – or close?
– The out of date statement about the venues seemed a little confused. If we are talking about
Japan they are smoke free in the majority, and have been underling a major update of facilities – the Reuter piece though inaccurate had to mention the redevelopment of the Taito/Square arcade operation.
– A comment about the close of Japanese amusement copied from the Reuter piece missed out the reality of the profitability of arcade for many publishers, Taito/Square, Konami and even Sega saw increase in revenue from amusement – yes Sammy Sega saw a down turn on their Pachinko side – but Pachinko is a different division to their amusement.

Finally, I would recommend that there are a number of excellent sources for factual information on the amusement scene. I understand that a number of vested interest in the consumer game sector want to claim expertise in covering arcade gaming, but as you can see there is a lot more too the market than just jumping up and claiming it is dead!

The Reuter piece was written badly and was not the best source (foundation) to base opinion on. The news that Street Fighter IV is breaking arcade records in revenue – those records created only a matter of weeks earlier by Tekken 6 – speaks volumes of a strong upswing in amusement. However certain consumer parties are less than happy with the coverage arcade is getting on the web and seemed to attempt to discard arcade interest – I would recommend that you avoid these vested interest.

If you want the facts on the international amusement scene just drop us a mail!

Open Question

It is a shame that KWP has had to undertake this defense of our industry and supply the facts on our own – we personally have to wonder what the trades plan is to try and defend ourselves from the vested interests of the consumer media wanting to dismiss our industry (this will snow ball if no one else dose anything) – Can someone tell me what our industries media defense plan is, and will it be started quickly?

Thanks to Kevin for passing this along and doing his part to defend the industry. We’re here to do the same and my thoughts are after the post break.

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Missing In Action: Tanks, Planes, Mechs and more

March 24, 2008

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Missing in Action is an editorial series that discusses the kinds of games that at one time were prevalent in arcades or the types of games that would make great arcade games but aren’t being made as the industry prefers light-gun, racing, standard fighting titles, etc. Previous articles have taken a look at Space Combat, Puzzle and Scrolling Fighter games. This time we’re taking a look at games that feature huge destructive machines such as tanks, mechs, and planes(the sort of thing that appeals to guys). Why is the arcade a prime place for such things? I think it is simple – these games are best with unique controls that make you feel like you are sitting inside one of these machines and when you sit down in a cockpit along with that, it’s something that a home experience can’t touch. Read on.

A little history…

Games with tanks and planes have been around since the mid 70’s. The Atari-owned company Kee Games created the very popular Tank, which would later inspire the pack-in game for the Atari 2600, Combat. Tank had several sequels through the years and featured a dual joystick control that would become a standard of sorts for such games and it also was the first game to feature solid, contiguous characters. Atari also released one of the first games to feature aerial combat, called Pursuit (1974) and later Jet Fighter (1975). 1976 and 77 saw several games that featured war machines, including the popular Sea Wolf , Destroyer, Subs and M-4 among a few others. After Space Invaders came along, most games that involved shooting something with a vehicle became space based but that didn’t stop developers from creating non-space based machine games. 1980 would be the year where such games really broke out with a number of great games(most of them vector games) that included Armor Attack, Balloon Bomber, N-Sub, Rip Off, Red Baron and of course Atari’s mega-hit BattleZone. In addition to using a dual-joystick setup for tank-like controls, the game featured a first person perspective on the battlefield and proved so good that even the US military commissioned a special edition of the game to train people on using a tank (it was called the Bradley Trainer). The concepts that BattleZone brought to the table would certainly influence other tank games down the road and to an extent, even mech games.

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Closure of Japanese Arcades does not signal that the end is near

February 8, 2008

I can’t help but feel somewhat amused at all the attention online news sources are givingwhatthe.png to the news that Namco Bandai will be closing 50-60 of their arcades in Japan due to “high oil prices and the holiday success of the Nintendo Wii”. In fact on my Google News page the group of articles Google finds that the number of articles about the subject number at 300 – while right beneath it sits the Guardian article I posted the other day stating how good the arcade scene is doing, but there are only 4 articles about that subject. It just further proves that people enjoy negative news far more than positive news, especially where the arcade is concerned. So let’s rant about it for a minute!

I should point out that this is in Japan only. Namco still owns arcades in the States and I presume Europe but they did not say that they’d close any of those. And to be honest it’s not like Namco is the only chain of arcades in the world. Japan is a separate market for one and you haven’t heard news of chains like Tilt or Dave and Busters closing down due to the same reasons. Of course Namco is not the only one closing arcades in Japan – Sega and Square Enix are as well so the economic factors in Japan are obviously playing a role here but if you have to close 50-60 of your arcades (a fairly staggering number) you can point all the fingers you want but let’s be honest here – they obviously aren’t running their own business right if that’s the case. It’s funny that businesses are always quick to blame something out of their control but never themselves for poor performance. There’s no way that other factors could include lousy management of their own arcades or lousy marketing or maybe even the developer themselves not putting out compelling enough games to get people out of their homes and into the arcade. In the case of Namco people will be quick to say “Well what about Tekken 6?” and I’d respond “What about it? It’s the 6th installment of a series and it costs $15,000 per cabinet so who do you think has to foot that bill? There’s a reason you’re charged $2-$3 on a game like that.” I sure as heck have a hard time caring for a Namco title at the moment for my own arcade because A) They are all way overpriced which means I’d have to charge more just to make up for it and higher prices drive customers away B) Chances are Namco will release a console version shortly after the arcade release and it doesn’t matter if the arcade is better or not, sales drop. C) Sequels get a little tiring after a while – give us something new like you used to Namco. This is why I advocate developers looking to something new instead of the racer/fighter/light-gun combo cycle that never seems to end. When arcades were at the top of their game, they offered a variety of titles, not just a few types and called it good. At least it seems that a few developers are starting to understand that now and I’ve praised companies like Sega, Konami and GlobalVR for the strides they’ve been taking in changing things but I believe that every one of them can take it further. Hopefully Raw Thrills’ will join that soon with their new unannounced game that promises to be different and Incredible Technologies puts out some great sports titles at a low price that I can get behind. If I had the money, I’d make my own arcade game development company to join the chorus and lead the fight like I want to. But we have to take things one step at a time. I have more to rant about but I’ll cut it off here, hit the post break if you care to read more.

[Discuss on the Forum]

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Missing in Action: Space Games

February 6, 2008

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Over the next little while I am going to run a feature every now and then where I discuss genres which have been “lost” to arcades. Where these genres were once a proud part of an arcade line-up, they have all taken a back seat to the current primary genres of the arcade industry (and in some cases they’ve been all but forgotten in the console world) which include: 1-on-1 fighters, light gun games, racers and dancing titles. Sure those are all great genres that work great in arcades but to think that they are the only ones that can do well on the arcade scene is ridiculous.

A little history first

So let’s start with a type of game that has suffered not only in the arcades but in the rest of the gaming world to an extent : the space shooter or space combat title. Why even bring up space games? I suppose they hold a special place for me as I grew up playing so many of them; on top of that I enjoy shows like Star Trek so personally my interest in such things hasn’t waned although it has in public. Perhaps the decline of interest in space games can coincide with a general decline of interest in space overall but it’s really hard to nail that down. The very first coin-operated arcade game carried the theme in both it’scompspace.jpg name and the game itself: Computer Space)pictured right, KLOV image). Computer Space was essentially Space War, which would later become the first vector arcade game in 1976 (which also was one of the best selling arcade titles that year). The space craze continued with games such as Space Invaders (1978) which is one of the most popular classic games of all time and spawned other space-related classics such as Galaxian, Galaga and Gorf; Asteroids (1980) broke earnings records and brought a new concept to the genre that would create a timeless classic; Star Wars(1980) and Star Trek(1982) brought popular sci-fi series to the arcades; it seems that most Cinematronics games featured a space theme with titles like Star Castle and Cosmic Chasm;  overall the 80’s saw many space-based games but as the 90’s came along those began to disappear slowly despite some huge hits such as Starblade, Star Wars Trilogy Arcade, Space Lords(pictured, KLOV image), spacelords.jpgthe Rayforce series (and to an extent space shmups like Raiden, Darius and Gradius) and with this decade space combat games of any type have practically disappeared as there has only been one real space combat title, Star Wars Starfighter. (I guess if you had to stretch things you could count Star Trek Voyager Arcade, which was a light-gun game; maybe throw in any Cave shmup that takes place in space). Namco was going to release a couple of space combat games a few years ago: StarBlade and Star Fox (which definently would have done well) but for unknown reasons those games were canceled. So does that mean that space games are done for? I don’t think so and let me tell you why. Hit the post break to continue reading.

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Editorial: 1 step to improve your arcade – Fix the games!

December 5, 2007

Have you ever walked into an arcade, looking for your favorite game that you always playbrokemspacman.jpg and once you find it plop in some quarters/tokens to find that one of the buttons don’t work? Or The joystick doesn’t work when pushed in a certain direction? Or maybe the sound doesn’t work? Sometimes you can tell that a game is broken by simply looking at it when the monitor is out of sync or discolored. Either way it doesn’t matter which one of these situations you encounter, it creates a bad experience, especially if you play a 2 player game and it’s only your side that happens to malfunction. Now sometimes players might forgive it if it happens with only one game but what if several games are out of order in some fashion to the point that it feels that half of the arcade is down? Have any of you had this experience? I have and it is quite irritating. In fact I haven’t visited one local arcade in months because my last visit there felt like a total waste of money and since it wasn’t the first time I had such an experience at that particular place, I was fed up with it. I checked out another arcade and it was nearly the same story.

Now am I the only person that experience’s something this annoying at their local arcade? Sadly no. If you look around the internet you’ll find others that have had similar experiences. In fact if you have, feel free to comment to this post.

Now understand that I am not trying to be anti-operator here. As an operator I understand that it can be a challenge to do such work – techs capable of repairing machines are hard to find and generally are expensive to pay. Most of the employees hired to arcades are unskilled with electronics and as an operator yourself you may not have the time nor expertise to fix the games. But consider this : what impression are your customers leaving with if most of your arcade is not functioning? Do you even know if your games are broken? People don’t not enjoy being ripped off and that is exactly what happens when a broken game is left on the floor unlabeled. And they will not come back. No customers = no sales = closed arcade. It seems that some operators simply don’t care about the upkeep of the machines as unsuspecting suckers will put money in regardless of the condition of the game. One thing is guaranteed however –  you will loose customers over broken games. The games are part of an arcade’s life blood. It may not be the primary attraction depending on the type of arcade you run but if they are part of your business at all and you are going to bother to have them, they should be well maintained. Otherwise broken games will cost you more than it would to not fix them in lost sales. If you are already on top of this issue and you do everything you can to keep your games fixed then congratulations.

Continue reading by hitting the post break where you can also feel free to share ideas if you own an arcade and have had success in maintaining a good arcade.

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