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TSR Newsletter  |  March 6, 2013

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UK's Amusement 'Reality' Shows
1  |  # 874


Report Skinny

01/02/13 - The Stinger Report charts the main out-of-home entertainment trade events that launched 2013! In this first of our extensive three part report with focus on the main Euro Amusement & Gaming (EAG) Expo exhibitors - looking at the state of the main players on the show floor and the products they brought to the Capital; with coverage of the other events and trends to follow.

Main Report

Winter chill greeted the UK amusement trade to the 4th Euro Amusement & Gaming (EAG) International Expo 2013, at London Docklands ExCel exhibition venue - the show organizers (Swan Events) working hard in restrained market conditions to create a show that the industry deserved.


In what was hailed a technical success in show organizing, the fourth visit to the ExCel venue saw EAG move to the north hall and a packed exhibition space. Leading from the front was exhibitor NAMCO Europe,with a big booth under the banner of 'BANDAI NAMCO Games' the company brought their full contingent of titles to the UK. Given a prominent placement was 'Dark Escape 4D', featuring two cabinets with the addition of an audience screen showing the reactions of the players inside the theater enclosure. The game having been on test, this was the first time the UK trade got to get their hands on a title that won the 'Brass Ring Award' for Best New Product in the Arcade Video Game category at IAAPA'12, offering the effects of 3D, vibration, air blasts, surround sound and panic sensors within the theater enclosure cabinet; revealed this will be available from March for purchase.


The big surprise of the show - and the only new video amusement title that was not already released at IAAPA'12 from the factories - was a line-up of four connected 'Dead Heat: Riders'. This motorbike racing game is a re-working of the original city car racer launched in 2010, but in this version the cars are replaced by motorbikes. Banking the players' seat position to steer, the game is developed without the keypad save option, but still retaining the updated NamCam signature
image capture element. Having been on test in secret in the States, the new driving game was seen in public for the first time at the premier UK event. Some of the games feature on 'Dead Heat: Riders' were only gleaned after the show. The system can accommodate up to four networked systems in game and the final release for the machine is for the third quarter 2013. Also shown at EAG'12 were two 'Dead Heat' 42'' screen cabinets, on display round the corner of the NAMCO booth.  

Editor's Note - The 'Dead Heat: Riders' cabinet traced the lineage of NAMCO and bike games, with a very similar presentation to the 2008 title 'Nirin'. Some observers that saw the bike game from NAMCO speculated that the all-bike version offered a cheaper licensing option for the amusement developer (without the need for the licensed car brands). Another observation was speculation on how the NAMCO astride bike racer would compete with similar Raw Thrills'titles also on-booth ('Super Bikes 2' and 'SnoCross'). The NAMCO UK division Brent Sales is representing these games. How could one try and sell these game against another made by your owners, will have to been seen.


There was a little confusion about the new 'Dead Heat: Riders' features fostered by unsubstantiated sources from the internet. One source claimed that the racer could be connected directly to the original Dead Heat system so that in theory cars and bikes could have been represented in the same game for network racing. This was not the case however, with a well-placed source at NAMCO American confirming that there was no reality to this claim and the machine could not accommodate this feature - a nice idea let down by facts!


With the appearance of NAMCO's latest motorbike ride-on game a number of Chinese projects that hoped to make Western landfall are placed in doubt. After the failure of 'Nirin' in the Western market, it did find favor with the Chinese scene, and a number of Chinese factories had released their interpretation of the bike game - 'Speed Rider 2' (Saint-Fun), 'Pop Moto' (MecPower), 'Turbo Dash' (GHE), and a hoard of 'Manx TT' copies. All now destined never to leave China!

Continuing with the push of the NAMCO mascot, the booth included a showing of the deluxe 'Pac-Man Battle Royale' and the classic arcade cab 'Pac-Man's Arcade Party'. Other titles that had been previously seen included 'Deadstorm Pirates' deluxe theater enclosure cabinet, and a smaller upright version. NAMCO had a second booth away from their main presence - this accommodated the company's 'Deadstorm Pirates 4D+',the shooting adventure attraction offering four players a chance to compete in the large screen 3D motion base shooting game; the EAG team running the game with a competition to win Pac-Man plush toys.


Back on the main booth and the last of the NAMCO placement, along with their prize and merchandising was the latest in the Kid-Tainment new amusement genre for children. Making a second appearance in the UK, 'Animal Kaiser' was on display hoping to evangelize the trade to the opportunity of targeting the younger playing audience. While the remainder of the booth was given over to supporting their third party representatives through Brent Sales.


Taking a prominent place alongside the new NAMCO bike racer, Raw Thrills had their new 'Winter X Games SnoCross', four networked racers with their 42'' LCD display wowing the crowds. While further inside the booth the new 'Big Buck HD' was seen for the first time in the UK with its 1080p graphics powered by cutting edge PCs, with one-year warranty and including online support. It was revealed that the connectivity to support the tournament element was being tested to create a special machine to be deployed in the UK. 

This new version of the game was developed wholly for the unique UK sector, on evaluation towards being deployed in new locations not commonly familiar for amusement products, (more information on this development to follow). Other Raw Thrills / Play Mechanix titles at EAG'13 included 'Dirty Drivin' and 'Terminator Salvation' mounted gun version, along with 'Super Bikes 2'. Another third party represented on the show floor by Brent was Apple Industries, showing their popular photobooth technology now embracing a strong social networking capability offering a strong driver to new sales.


The largest booth at EAG'13 was provided by SEGA Amusement - seen by many as the most adventurous exhibition booth in SEGA's UK amusement history. A unique open-plan design greeted visitors and offered a wide mix of exclusive and third party titles. The leading light of the SEGA videos was 'Dream Raiders', the 55'' LCD display riding shooting game described by SEGA executives as "our latest Action Adventure Game". It was also revealed that this game was immediately available to buy since its testing last year.


The other SEGA videos on the booth included previously seen 'Virtua Tennis 4' in its deluxe 55'' display version, 'Operation G.H.O.S.T' (launched previously) and 'GRID' - with a twin, 42'' display version of this racer. On the show floor this year there was only a handful of new driving games seeming to point to a plethora of second hand content to choose from.

Editor's Note - No-shows on the SEGA booth included the racer 'K.O. Drive'. Promises at IAAPA'12 of an updated software appearance at the UK show seemed not to materialize in time. One other surprise absence was the 'Let's Go Island - 3D' Theater Enclosure shooter. But from the third party camp one major no-show was Triotech's 'XD Theater' - the popular theater system not given space at this show - though a 'Typhoon' simulator was placed on the booth.


Though Triotech were low key on the EAG show floor, they did make a big splash presenting at the DNA Association London Seminar held the day before the show. (See following coverage.) In other news, Lotte World, South Korea announced that they were working with The Goddard Group on a new attraction for their major indoor theme park. Called 'Underland', inspired by popular Korean fairy tales. The first phase of development will see an Interactive XD Theater developed by Triotech installed specially for the facility. The new attraction will increase Lotte World by over 2,000sq.,m.

The remainder of the SEGA booth was given over to a mix of genres. The Kid-Tainment aspects of the market were represented by 'Hero of Robots', building on the success in creating the genre with 'Mushiking' back in 2003. SEGA worked to define the market with the competitive card collecting and vending experience for the younger player. In the Video Redemption (Videmption) genre, SEGA also showed the production version of 'Pirates Monster Island', the 42'' display pirate cannon-blasting game developed by Gamewax and offering compelling pay-for-shot entertainment. Other Videmption on the booth included the game 'Monsterous' - from a third party with a pusher mechanical game incorporating a video element - and the famous mobile game app 'Bejeweled' in its four-screen Videmption variant.


One third party given pride of place on the EAG'13 booth was Innovative Concepts in Entertainment (ICE), bringing their highly colourful and impressive 'Doodle Jump' Videmption game to the UK show floor in an impressive kiosk with a big vertical 42'' display, offering the popular game app in arcade form. The company revealed exclusively to the Stinger that for the UK market ICE has been experimenting with using the game as a gift card merchandiser - dispensing prizes of retail discount store card offering a strong V-Voucher element to a redemption product and bringing it to the interest of the retail trade as a secondary spend tool, (more information expected on this development in our AmuseExpo'13 coverage).


Continuing with the ICE games on display, the production version of 'Harpoon Lagoon' was shown, the four-player, 47'' table display Videmption title allowing the players to catch as many exotic fish that swim by. Another table mounted display approach from ICE was the two-player 'Ice Age' seen last year. Other third party representation was given to 'Superbooth', the interactive photo booth with a big 42'' internal screen offering a vender-tainment element with five photographer characters to choose from - with nine images deposited offering a photo-sticker style big kiosk element to the photo booth scene.
Breaking Stinger News - Though the SEGA booth was incredibly upbeat on the ExCel show floor a few days later and it was revealed that the closure of the SEGA Park amusement site in Southampton, located in Bargate Shopping Center, was a victim not of any unpopularity of venue. The owners of the center had fallen into liquidation in 2011, with the tenants of the center having been subsequently ordered out. The SEGA Park amusement franchise brand is now operated by SEGA in the UK, the brand of amusement venues sold off in 2000. 

Of the other major exhibitors on the London show floor,

United Distributing Company (UDC) had placement of a main booth and a supporting booth. On the main space the company showed a plethora of prize and redemption titles - leading Benchmark creations into wowing the audience walking the floor. In the video redemption scene UDC had some new titles including 'Cyber Transformer' by Chinese-based ZS Zenhui, offering a coin-pusher cartoon skill game, using a joystick to place where the coins dropped on to the conveyor. This vertically mounted screen offers an animated playing field and is an impressive release in this genre. The machine was reconfigured to vend tickets rather than the original medals.


A big surprise, and a source of some confusion, was the appearance of the Videmption title 'Juicy Frutti', a similar representation of the coin-pusher cartoon skill game 'Fruit Mania' from UNIS. Sources close to the development revealed that Golden Dragon in China had worked on both games. 'Juicy Frutti' is not exclusive to UDC.However, they are distributing it in the territory, working with the developers on unique tweaks needed for the market. Another interesting game of note was 'Target Tango', an AirSoft pellet AR-15 weapon-shooting game married targets with displays - a new prototype.


The Canadian developers and manufacturers Adrenaline Amusement were showing their latest titles on their own booth, supported by their agent UDC. Pride of place was given to their new and innovative 'Black Out' SWP (Skill With Prizes) system using the latest touchscreen transparent LCD display technology. (Sources revealed that on the UDC and Adrenaline booths this game was very popular with UK buyers). This game sat next to the ever popular 'Fruit Ninja FX' social game app mega-touchscreen title in Videmption colors. Also on booth was 'Lane Splitter', based on the fractiv developed iOS game app that has seen over 10 million downloads.

The importance of app games as a rich source of new Videmption titles was not lost on the EAG exhibitor Magic Play (a company that has attended previous UK trade events). One of the Polish contingents that came to the London show, they presented their new release 'Can Knockdown 2'. This "arcade edition" of the mobile game app launched in 2010 and seeing millions of downloads, developed by Polish based iDreams - now presented in a Vertical 42'' LDC multi-tuchscreen as a Videmption title, with the player launching balls at cans on screen (with three game modes to select from). Along with this the company also had prize and skill games from their European catalogue on display.


The power of the distributors and agents to present affordable content for the evolving UK and European amusement scene was illustrated by a strong placement by Crown Direct. The distributor and operator of amusement pieces through their operation the company also represent a number of machines as agents for their manufacturers. SEGA was one such represented, with their 'Dream Raiders' on display. Though missed by some of the trade Crown also presented the Creative Works attraction 'Lazer Frenzy', the laser maze experience and a strong contender for the family orientated amusement scene in their territory.


Another third party representation was the Italian MemoPark with their 'Urban Skater', though this was not seen played once during the show - possibly seeming uncomfortable to mount without the side rail. While the other product from the company 'Rockin Helmet Ride' was seen in its current configuration with a new parental viewing screen. Crown was also announcing their first foray into the manufacturing their own products - an example of the need by the trade to have dependable sources of hardware as other sources slow.


Another prominent name in a prominent location at the UK show was Harry Levy, representing a number of third party releases from the Videmption scene, the company had on display titles from Costal Amusement,including their popular amusement version of the game app 'Temple Run' and the deluxe version of 'Sea Wolf'. Adjacent to this booth and a big placement for UK distributor and sales agent AMG, under a giant tagline "exceeding expectations". The company had LAI Games represented on their booth, with the appealing 'Speed of Light' being put through its paces, alongside the new 'Little Speedy'. Plans are afoot to see the unique placement of the systems again outside of the traditional amusement venue and directly into new markets. Another innovative title from LAI was 'Wall Street Stacker', offering a compact wall mounted prize redemption game dispenser.

Editor's Note - The chairman of LAI Group (consisting along with LAI Games, Timezone FEC 230+ chain and Embed card and management system), went on the record a few days after the show to state how coin-op game revenue needs to be improved. He started by referring to the Vending Times magazine 2012 census that stated the US industry has been in constant decline from its peak of $6.2 billion in 2005 to $4.7 billion in 2011(-24.2 per cent). Every category within games including redemption and prize-vending has been declining during this period.


He went on to state that the traditional street operations have declined massively and the iconic Mall Arcade is almost a dinosaur. The only area of the business that is showing some resilience are the large format FEC locations like Dave and Busters, Main Event, Incredible Pizza, Brunswick Xtreme, Itz and other similar locations. The games business as a whole including consumer games, online MMOG and downloadable, is a $150 billion business. Coin-Op is less than 5% of this so if we are going to claw-back a reasonable market share, strategies will have to change.


In concluding he stated "our industry also has the challenge to reach players on-line, particularly through hand held devices. This market segment is currently 95% of the interactive games industry whereas Coin-Op is only 5%. 30 years ago, Coin-Op was 95% and home games 5% so there has been a total reversal of market share. I strongly believe that the future of the Coin-Op business lies in its ability to complete and gain market share in what is the world's largest entertainment industry. The size of industry can double, simply by increasing its Market share from 5% to 10%." This call to arms a testament towards a new drive needed to extract the complacency of the traditional trade and a move towards a future of success.

The appearance of the Asian contingent to EAG seemed muted compared to the flood seen at IAAPA - partly due to distances and clashing events, partly due to support of the following gaming show. Leading the charge of new Asian blood was Universal Space (UNIS), represented on their sales agent's booth. Instance Automatics showed the range of new titles. Taking pride of place was 'After Dark', the deluxe theater enclosure cabinet (DLX) with its motion bench-seat and 3D graphics sat alongside the upright version (SD). The horror shooting title is now available for purchase, with promotion stating a major price reduction compared to the other similar quality deluxe machines.


Expectations were big for UNIS' prize video title, 'Fruit Mania', where players shoot coins on screen at characters in a video-pusher style experience. This was seen as a major opportunity for operators in the UK to upgrade to a platform that removed many of the inconveniences of the mechanical equivalent. And in a major development it was revealed that the game will be represented by immedia in Japan. Continuing the popular videos on display and in the Videmption genre, UNIS showed 'Pirate Hook' and the cartoon blaster 'Veggie Blast'.

Editor's Notes - UNIS is working hard to showcase the latest products for the international scene with prominent appearances at the leading trade events. The company will be attending the Amusement Expo, and will reveal the earning reports received from around the US. It is very pleased with how well 'Pirate Hook' is performing in venues, and this will be mirrored by representation of the UNIS range at the RAAPA amusement event taking place at the same time in Moscow - represented by the company's distributor ODA.

The following coverage of this important UK event will be with you shortly


Next Stinger Report Issue Arrives :

18th of March 2013