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July 27, 2014

Gaming Thread: Interview Edition 7/27/2014

This week I have a special treat, an interview with fellow moron, Adam Pratt. He's the owner of The Game Grid, an arcade in the Valley Fair Mall in West Valley City Utah.

He also owns and writes for the awesome ArcadeHeroes website which is a great little site that keeps up with the arcade industry.

And he wrote a book

Just gotta throw the hands up in the air on why someone would okay an interview with me

The Dude: Okay then, I'll throw out the first question then. So tell me about yourself.

Adam Pratt: Always a fun one to answer :) I'm a kid of the 80s, grew up with Atari and Saturday Morning cartoons, all of those fun things. I'm a father of two, married for 10 years to a nice Brazilian girl. Professionally I am someone that has made my way into the video gaming industry via arcades. Currently I own and write all of the content for Arcadeheroes.com; I have operated my own arcade business in a mall for the past six years called The Game Grid Arcade; I have written articles for Replay Magazine which is an arcade trade magazine and I have worked for an arcade distributor known as BMI Gaming for the past three years.

Location of the arcade?

Adam Pratt: oh right, West Valley City, UT. Particularly in the Valley Fair Mall.

I'll edit that into the reply for you

Adam Pratt: haha, yeah I need to remember to include that in the description roll sometimes

if you're gonna do an interview, need to pimp your stuff
In this day and age, what made you think of "I think I'm gonna open an arcade"?

Adam Pratt: It was an idea that got into my head back in the 80s. Part of it was my first visit to an arcade back in '88. It was classic 80s - almost no overhead lighting so it was very dark but kids were all over the place. I discovered a game called Discs of TRON and was mesmerized. I looked into what TRON was and when I finally got to watch it, I was influenced by the Flynn character. I had previously thought of making video games and seeing a character who made his own games while living out of his own arcade seemed to be the most awesome idea ever. So I kind of thought I would do something like that and it stuck with me into modern times. The industry still exists, it is just generally terrible at marketing itself into the news. I also worked for an arcade/laser tag place when I was a teenager so I learned the ropes of how it all worked there. They did really well so I figured it was economically viable to still try it out as a pure video arcade, none of that ticket redemption stuff. Or rather, without relying on the ticket redemption stuff to make it work. I can also add that while working at that arcade I started collecting some games with the intention of putting them into my own arcade one day. My first purchase was a 1942 and a Zaxxon back in 2000

Don't want to think of how many tokens I've spent on 1942 over the years. One of those games that if I see it, I need to play it at least once

Adam Pratt: haha, right. It's a great game and it was in perfect condition when I got it. At the moment though it is busted and I can't figure out what the issue is :/

I know around here and on the West coast at least that they've had to go to leaning on fighting games with setting up tvs and consoles, have you had to go down that path?

Adam Pratt: I've considered it. The fighting genre has been in a chase-its-tail phase since the mid-90s. Pretty much every single fighter gets a home console release but that kills the plays at the arcade. I took a huge risk on getting the Super Street Fighter IV Arcade Edition board. It was localized in English, supported 2 players on one board (Japanese boards only did 1 player per board and you linked them together) and when I placed the order Capcom claimed it wasn't getting a home console release. It took four months to arrive and in that time Capcom had the typical change of heart. So I got a month and half out of it where it was incredible, 40-50 people would be here on a Wednesday morning to play but as soon as it was available at home, it started doing about twice as much play as the 15 year old Marvel Vs Capcom 2. It has been tempting to do the console in a cabinet setup but that is tough to do in a coin-per-play setting. I also have this weird thing of supporting the arcade boards themselves but perhaps I am wrong about that. Of course if the manus would support a true Arcade Edition with a few things the console doesn't have, that would solve a lot of the problem

Yeah, consoles kinda killed the whole put a coin on the cab to take on the winner. Especially with stuff like the Dreamcast & Neo Geo which were purely a arcade cab in a console shell

Adam Pratt: Right, Fighters *can* do well in arcades still. But not if players can do it at home. That is why the industry is currently obsessed with light-gun and driving games. That is harder to translate properly

Of course it did make the Dreamcast THE place for the genre

Adam Pratt: absolutely. SoulCalibur II really was the king at the time. Most arcade ops hated what Namco did with SoulCalibur 3 (releasing the console version a few weeks after the arcade) so they didn't support it anymore; Tekken has usually been the same thing

What is your take on the last 15 years or so where the majority of arcades turned back into more being bars than arcades? I know that is how it used to be but still interesting in how it's taken an "what's old is new" again.

Adam Pratt: It seems to have been the method of offering something to get people off the couch that wasn't prizes. Granted instant prize machines have done very well in this time but the bar/arcade concept was kind of offering that same style of reward for adults. Games like Golden Tee and Big Buck Hunter have done phenomenal business in the bar scene over the years and I think that helped translate into renewing interest into arcades overall and that experience of playing for fun or against the machine that redemption machines don't usually offer.

Though the interest has died down a little bit, you really couldn't touch the amount of people into Golden Tee in the late 90's early 2000's

Adam Pratt: yeah it was massive. Although I believe with the 2014 version Incredible Technologies had said it was setting some sales records. Golden Tee innovated in the online space for arcades - it was the first video game in general that I know of to offer Youtube and Facebook cross-connectivity, it has had the player tournaments where you can win cash or other prizes and so on. Interest has hurt on that in the bar in part because they have sold a lot of those games into homes (in fact I would say that it is equal to or slightly ahead of Pac-Man arcade games going into homes). It is also the only game that gets a consistent annual content update and seems to still hold steady without burning people out too much. I'm not sure of the hard numbers on it though, that would be an interesting stat to compare

I'm an 80's kid and I might be the only one but I really miss the giant space eating games like Skee Ball and the Bowling arcade machines. There is no chance of those having a resurgence, is there?

Adam Pratt: Skeeball has been on an upswing the past couple of years actually. The company that invented Skee Ball and uses that for their company name is still in business. Their fault is that they haven't been innovating - you can buy their "Classic Skee Ball" machines right now for around $4500 but they function pretty much the same way as they did in the 80s (same look too). So competitors have come in and made some improvements - there is Baytek's Beer Ball which was made just for bars and it has a receipt printer so patrons can get a free beer if they get the high score; those units also have LCD monitors and online connectivity. Then there is ICE Ball FX by ICE Games which is currently the top earning skeeball/alley game in the world from what I have seen - it's not a whole lot different as the scoring holes are all the same but they effectively use multi-color LED lighting to draw attention to it. People have been going crazy for that one. On those small bowling games however, I have not seen much interest in those - occasionally someone will contact me looking for one of those old ones but no one is actively tapping into that market. Speaking of bowling, surprising news today that Brunswick, which has been in the bowling business since 1890 is pulling out entirely. So if there was a chance of those mini-bowling games making a resurgence, that seems less likely now. There hasn't been a new video bowling arcade game released to the market since 2010 (Silver Strike Live, made by the same people who do Golden Tee) either.

And speaking of space eating machines, why can't we get the horse racing games from Japan here in the states? I've been dying to play/bet on one for God's knows how long

Adam Pratt: Good question. Sega did try that out in 2003/4 I think but they were very expensive (selling in the $100,000+ range) but they earned really well. Sega has been a sad case over the past few years. A few years back they were still trying out new ideas - there was the 2Spicy light-gun 1-on-1 combat game, Afterburner Climax and Primeval Hunt but except for Afterburner they didn't sell well; Sega did test out some unique concepts such as Sega Card Gen MLB, which had special baseball player cards with the stat data saved on the card. The machine would vend the packs and the player could insert the cards into the readers above the monitor, then they could play a game of baseball using their dream team combinations. It was tested here in the States first but fell below expectations so they took it over to Japan and they have released a couple of follow-up versions to it since. They also tested out one of those ancient battle card games (where you have units assigned to cards and you moved them around the game by moving the cards on a sensor playfield) in the US but likewise it fell below expectations. I think one of those games could be a hit here but it would take a marketing effort they haven't really done to make it work. At the moment Sega is focused on licensing stuff for their games; Transformers and Plants Vs. Zombies being the latest examples. That is the general idea in the arcade industry right now unfortunately - use a license to do the marketing for you. It has worked a while in pinball but I don't think it is going to last forever that way. Even in pinball we are starting to see more people begin to make original games not based on a movie/TV show/band

As someone who has owned many pachinko machines over the years, wish they would make another stab at those in the US marketplace. Bit of a money sink if it's not your own machine but a ton of fun

Adam Pratt: Yeah, that is something that also would probably need a solid marketing campaign behind it to get people into the idea. But much of the time the marketing efforts are: 1) Tell people about the game when or sometime after you released it 2) make a flyer for it 3) Maybe produce a short video about it 4) Hope/assume that Arcade Heroes picks up on that to tell other people. :P

Though for a US market, they would definitely have to do some of the sound dampening as a standard feature for the machines but just cut costs like they did in Japan with the module boards

Adam Pratt: right, that too. Usually there are some changes that need to be made to Japanese games to make them really work here - sometimes from what I have observed, minor changes are all that are needed but the guys in Japan may not realize that so a good idea ends up in the trash heap.

Getting back to your arcade, what have been your big token eaters of the last few years?

Adam Pratt: Terminator Salvation is one of the best purchases I made; it was released in 2010 and it still is a strong earning game for me today. Fast And Furious Super Cars likewise was a great investment - even though the game has zero appearances or voice overs from any actor involved in the film, people love the game. I chalk it up to being a modern Cruisn' kind of game as well. Big Buck HD has done well, especially for the price they sell those for; Pac-Man Battle Royale has been very solid and is a great game for groups of 4; the Star Trek Premium Pinball game I brought in a few months ago has been doing better than my Shrek or Indiana Jones pinball games ever did; the new Batman arcade game I got in December has been doing very well for a single unit, that is where the license thing helps and finally I would not be without my air hockey table. I replaced an old Dynamo Photon I had with a new Air Ride by Barron Games. It has the timer and scoring built into the playfield and people love it. I do have classics but they don't don't anywhere close to the new stuff. Only Ms-Pacman, Galaga, Donkey Kong and CarnEvil tend to do fine for their age

I really want to play that Trek table

Adam Pratt: It is a GREAT table. I have played every Stern game since 2006 and it is my favorite. It seems they let Steve Ritchie out of the cage and it shines

CarnEvil? Would not have expected that one

Adam Pratt: Surprisingly that is able to do better than some of my newer games on occasion. In terms of how many coins it brings in a week, it often is in the triple digit range. Not close to Terminator but still, for a 15 year old game, it does very well

Not bad for a game that IMO was one of the weaker Midway lightgun games

Adam Pratt: yeah, people cannot get enough of shooting clowns, mutant Christmas elves and zombies.

Clowns, it always has to be the frigging clowns. Mass trauma in people when it comes to clowns

Adam Pratt: It is kind of surprising that there aren't more games like that. I can only think of one released since CarnEvil that has done that (FrightFearLand which came along in 2011; it didn't have blood splatter though, it was more like the clowns were ceramic robots so I think people didn't get as excited about it).

Someone needs to bring back the weighted clown doll carnival game [editor's note: still have no clue what the actual name of that game is called]

Adam Pratt: haha, that would be great. The fortune teller machines like Zoltar are still around, although I think the manufacturer of those is still coasting on the marketing from Big so no one knows you can still get one in 2014

still scratch my head at the prices of those original fortune teller machines

Adam Pratt: yeah they are still pretty high

For pinball machines, what do you think of Midway's thoughts behind the more arcade cab sized machines? Do you think that was a well thought out idea that sadly never really got past the testing/prototyping stages or do you think they were missing the mark completely?

Adam Pratt: I assume you mean the Pinball 2000 series? Or do you mean that vertical pin, Pinball Circus I think it was.

the 2000 series

Adam Pratt: Right, ok. I think Pinball 2000 was a brilliant idea and it is a real shame that Bally just gave up shortly after that because the idea didn't pull in numbers like Addams Family. Had they pulled off everything they promised to do with the concept(internet leaderboards, content updated), it probably would have gained enough steam to become the blockbuster hit they wanted. It also probably didn't help that one of the games they made was based on what is now the most hated Star Wars movie ever. I think that the concept is still viable today, I would love to see someone try it again but pull through on the promises.

Okay, I've got three more questions before I let you eat your damn waffles

Adam Pratt: haha, mah waffles

What's the nastiest thing you've ever had a customer do in your arcade?

Adam Pratt: I've been pretty lucky - I once bought a cabinet that had puke inside of it but I have rarely had an issue like that. I generally find gum, sucker sticks on the floor but aside from occasional popcorn spills and kids dumping their Coke on the air hockey table, nothing really bad. Once at the first arcade I worked at though, someone took a dump inside of the Jurassic Park game. Actually, I guess finding a condom on one of the joysticks. I don't *think* it was used.

EWW! Even not used, just the thought of it might BE used would turn my stomach

Adam Pratt: other than that, occasionally there are sticky things you aren't sure what they are - we have it as policy to sanitize the games daily or whenever something is discovered

This is probably a hard question to answer but in your opinion, what is the most perfect arcade game? [editior note: I is no gud in speekin]

Adam Pratt: One game comes immediately to mind, Dariusburst Another Chronicle. For me as a gamer, it has everything I want in a game 1) unique hardware aspect (dual monitors made to look like one) 2) incredible soundtrack/sound 3) easy to learn, difficult to master (this applies partially to the controls, partially to the game itself) 4) lots of content depth that goes beyond what you first see (DBAC in particular has over 2000 levels with a sort of "achievements" idea behind unlocking them) 5) Is perfectly fun as a single player game but is more enjoyable when others join in.

No mention of the music, probably the best Dariusburst OST :hue:

Adam Pratt: Yeah I have the music on CD and I love it. My 8 year old son loves it too it is his favorite arcade game and music.

The last question is a question I always like asking people, no matter what it's about as we all have them. What are your "Holy Grail" games?

Adam Pratt: Dariusburst was one but for what I dont have, Atari's Major Havoc, I, Robot and T-Mek; and a Galaxian 3 theater. Since that last one is impossible, I'll take a Starblade :P

That and prototype games, I find those fascinating

Only a Starblade

Adam Pratt: I have a soft spot for space games, hehe. They are my golden tee.

Didn't mean for this to take up a few hours of your time but interesting interview even though I did completely fail at not mentioning ArcadeHeroes or your book :(

Adam Pratt: No worries I like talking arcades. I am trying to sort out another arcade book and a fictional sci-fi book but both are still early

So, give me a quick rundown on all your stuff to pimp

Adam Pratt: All righty sir. Arcadeheroes.com for the blog: The Game Grid Arcade for the biz; The Arcade Experience for the book (with an updated Kindle version out now); Replay Magazine for some occasional articles and BMI Gaming for some sales.

Oh and I am getting started with DNA Association for some other stuff which focuses in out of home entertainment. Dna-association.com



Been busy all week but the Rise of Vigil expansion pack to the digital version of Ascension finally came out for $3. I don't own the physical edition of this expansion (and haven't played it) but after playing 10 games so far on my iPad, I totally ordered it as quick as I could. The new monster and hero cards are nice but the expansion is all about treasure cards which act as a resource to power up said heroes/monsters. It's a really nice wrinkle that adds a new mechanic that freshens up the game. I'm quite digging it. This is still the game that I've probably put more time into any game before and with this expansion, my total time will be increasing. The base game is back down to being free on iOS and it's still the best bang for buck around, costing you about $10 for it and all the expansions (though you get them free in the bundle, don't try the promo cards as they break the game hence why no one plays with them).

Also played through the Destiny beta and ehhhh I guess? I know it's only the starting planet but it's so damn lifeless, I at least expected a lot more enemies on the field as I don't think I killed more than 10 things on my way to my instanced dungeon. And the dungeons weren't exactly exciting, outside of the first time coming across the Flood wannabes. I know it's right at the start of the game but it didn't exactly compel me to keep my pre-order. To keep me interested, I can overlook some of these problems if there was at least some lootwhoring but there is like 1 chest on every small map (ESO have bigger maps) and you get maybe 3 pieces of gear. That's not lootwhoring.

As for the multiplayer, it was okay though nothing new or interesting, felt like a stripped down Halo which was seriously hampered by it not being on dedicated servers but rather P2P. I mean I was playing it at 3AM and the lag made me just straight up quit after a few matches where I was greeted to a quitter warning. Oh and don't get me started on the idiotic voice chat. Only being able to talk to someone if you are in a party together for PVE is lame. No chat in multiplayer unless you're in a party is even lamer and hampers the idea of multiplayer gaming.

I might hold off on buying this at release until I hear about late/end game content but what they do let you play frankly is not fun.



Legend of Heroes: Trails in the Sky (PC, PSP, Vita) - BUY THIS!! The long delayed PC port of the PSP version of the game is finally here. This is the first game in the third trilogy of the Legend of Heroes game and it's really good. Like, if you dig JRPGs, you owe it to yourself to play this game and then be pissed at the end where it just out of the blue rolls the credits. You don't need to play the others before hand as each trilogy is self-contained in the world. And hey, since the didn't come out last year like it was supposed to, it's a quick wait till next year for the second game getting released (supposed to be out this fall but it's gonna be delayed)

Last of Us Remastered (PS4) - It's that game you played last year but newer and $50. Frankly I didn't like this game but at least the FPS shouldn't be shit compared to the PS3 release. No real media on this release and my ears perk up when a dev only says that the game feels like 60FPS and they can't notice any dips in the framerate. That being said, they do have a mode for Vsynch at 30 FPS with a few extra graphical bells and whistles. Not much else to say, you've played this game before, last year.

Pure Pool (PS4, PC, XBO) - The people behind the highly under-rated Hustle Kings is back with another pool game. I really loved Hustle Kings and though I've been digging on Pool Nation lately (which is a pretty solid pool game), I'm more than likely quickly picking this one up as the options are seemingly a lot more robust (if they just copy everything from Hustle Kings,, it would make it more feature rich than Pool Nation). Looking forward to this one. It's also coming to XBO but no one knows when it's being released (though it's was/is in cert).

My 140 characters of mind numbing boredom

digg this
posted by Gang of Gaming Morons! at 03:07 PM

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