Archive for April 21, 2007

The Evolving Amusement Dimension

April 21, 2007

Here is a very good article about the current state of the amusement industry by Kevin Williams of The Stinger Report. Some interesting news you will find is that GlobalVR is working on a Blazing Angels arcade as well as further developments with many other 3rd party developers starting to bring their IPs to the amusement industry.

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The Evolving Amusement Dimension

For some time the link between the consumer game industry and that of the amusement or Out-of-Home interactive entertainment sector have been strained. Though the incubator of consumer gaming, video amusement has been perceived as a barren, if not dormant market, unobtainable and aloof to the needs of consumer gaming developers – a place once popular but now only worth taking players from.

However recently the opportunities for diverse market presentation into this sector has been embraced by a number of consumer game publishers and the profitability of amusement applications has gained momentum as an uncharted audience is discovered.

One of the prominent inroads towards creating an amusement presence for consumer brands was made by UK house Empire Interactive Europe. In agreements with the R&D group at Sega Amusement Europe the title Ford Racing Full Blownwas engineered seeing significant sales in Europe, but also with a special update for America – Sega reporting over 1,000 cabinets sold.

This relationship has inspired a second driving title in development with the brand Flat Out scheduled for a 2007 appearance. Empire started their coin-op activities with Spanish company Recreativos Presas to produce the ‘Pro Pinball’ arcade cabinet based on their PC title. But it is with the Sega relationship that a new opportunity has been opened for this consumer publisher.
US publishing giant Electronic Arts have also proven a prolific brand promoter in the amusement sector. With the then Sega Enterprises USA in 2000 the company developed EA Sport NASCAR Arcade that offered means for wider recognition. EA has continued this foray signing with prominent US amusement developer Global VR. The company took the EA Sports Tiger Woods PGA Tour title and developed a amusement variant called EA Sports PGA Tour Golf’.
The amusement version took the core of the home game, creating a competitive package and offering a special tournament package for connected player gaming, high-scores retained for prize points, players using special ViP Cards to activate their scores and position.

This same technology was used in the other Global VR adaptation of EA ‘Madden’ American football property and with the arcade release of Need for Speed: Underground’. The driving title finding a whole new audience in the arcade scene, EA’s involvement in arcades has turned full circle with news of an immanent release for coin-op of ‘NASCAR 2006’, the publisher able to see advances of $200,000 and a royalty of $200 per software / cabinet, with another $100 on signage royalties.
Following EA’s lead European giant UbiSoft Entertainment has agreed to licensing their core brands for amusement. The FarCry: Lost Paradise property has been turned by Global VR into Paradise Lost a machine gun blasting adaptation of the fps. This will be jointed by an arcade version of the flyer ‘Blazing Angels’, both receiving big deluxe cabinet presentation – both generating a licensing revenue and acting as a marketing vehicle.

Not all the licensors of consumer titles for amusement are the Mega publishers. Highly successful developer Valve has placed their brand in amusement. Most recently in a joint project with veteran arcade factory Taito, released in Japan ‘Half Life 2: Survivor‘ a deluxe cabinet presentation of the fps incorporating stylish interface controls and the use of advance cabinet smart card tournament features.

Taito having been recently acquired by consumer games powerhouse Square-ENIX who were keen to get a slice of the lucrative Asian Out-of-Home leisure dollar, and who have already created a kid arcade property – ‘DragonQuest Monster: Battle Road’ – based on their DragonQuest brand.
For Valve, the company has continued to build on amusement interest in their brands – previously illegally ported for homebrew coin-operated cabinets. In a agreement with Namco Bandia Games, Valve worked with the Asian arcade giant on the release ‘Counter Strike NEO‘ that bridged the gap between LAN terminal and multi-player arcade cabinet.
Namco Bandai Games has invested heavily in consumer cross-over properties having recently launched Mario Kart: Arcade GP 2 their second title that derided for a tripartite between Nintendo, Sega and Namco to develop a hardware platform based on the Game Cube console system – named TriForce. The Namco development sees a game that brings arcade capability, with use of a memory card and driving cabinet capturing players’ images, mixed with a popular and fun kart racing game, for the first time pitting Namco’s mascot Pac-Man with Nintendo’s Mario.
The continuation of amusement’s embrace of consumer brands in their market has been seen by Konami Digital Entertainment, who most recently released Pro Evolution Soccer Arcade Championship 2007, the arcade version includes not only a memory card feature, but the ability for players to use more familiar joy-pad controllers to direct the action. The memory card feature is linked to a connected online tournament element that the company will exploit for maximum publicity of top players.
The use of popular brands in amusement will continue with KDE by a arcade version of the popular horror brand with Silent Hill The Arcade. All the elements of a atmospheric cabinet and fast pace two player shooting action building the property to a wider audience.
The whole aspect of amusement popularizing consumer brands, reached a hiatus in the Nineties when the Sony PlayStation console was deployed before launch into an arcade variant (System 11) for ‘Tekken’ – offering a cost-effective brawling title to the then expensive Model 1 ‘Virtua Fighter’ property. The sector has now turned full circle with the Thirteenth anniversary of Tekken, and the announcement of the launch of ‘Tekken 6 AC’ that will be released first in the arcade on an arcade version of the Playstation 3 CELL architecture, amusement offering brand credibility in the players mind.

Japanese investment in amusement has seen arcade factories such as Namco, Sega and Taito being acquired by Bandai, Sammy and Square-Enix. With this revenue from arcade sales and venue operation has shown profit against consumer sale slumps in the 2006 financial figures. More and more consumer publishers outside of Japan are also turning to amusement as a new revenue stream and marketing opportunity for their brands, JoWood and Activision just some of those involved in new arcade licensing.

So attitudes will have to change regarding the perception of the international amusement sector – once written off as dead by certain consumer game media, those magazines now look towards adding arcade coverage, and the consumer games publishers look towards lucrative licensing deals!

ABOUT THE AUTHOR – Commentator Kevin Williams is founder and director of the out-of-home interactive entertainment consultancy KWP Limited (www.thestingerreport.com/kwp.html). His extensive years in the global video amusement and hi-tech attractions industry includes top management and design posts, with special focus on new technology development and applications. A well-known speaker, and specialist on the amusement industry and its technology, he pens an extensive number of international trade articles. He is also the publisher of The Stinger Report, a leading free industry e-Newsletter and web-based information service covering the sector (www.thestingerreport.com).

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