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Proof that arcade games were evil!

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By the time an investment becomes public knowledge, it's already at its peak. And video games on top of it?!? Ha!

 

But it sounds like they just wanted to sell games to any old flunky. No consideration of maintenance or player fatigue.

Edited by Keatah

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With arcade machines there are winners and losers.  Lots of machines lost money, never paying for themselves.  Atari would field test their machines in an actual arcade.  If the machine didn't rank number one after a week, it wouldn't go to production.  The machines in this story are Moon Lander (Taito), Astro Laser, Space Ranger.  These machines might have been known losers by the time these poor people bought them.

Edited by mr_me

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Seems like the game purchasers didn't give a shit what games were what. Just that they were games and supposed to be instant moneymakers.

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Two of these machines are B&W fixed shooters; these poor people were clueless about video games.   Further, Mame says these games are all Taito bootlegs: Lunar Rescue, Space Laser, and Space Invaders.  Either way at $3500 they were ripped off.

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The only “evil” I saw in that video would be the mustaches and hairstyles. Don’t like capitalism? Go back to Russia! 🥺🥺🥺🥺🤪

There’s a bit of a happy ending when the young whiner gets made whole again. I like the little homily at the end. “A sales pitch is not a guarantee, buyer beware.”

 

Seems like nobody play tested the game in question, which looks pretty poor. There aren’t even images of it at KLOV. https://www.arcade-museum.com/game_detail.php?game_id=20273

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Which is OBVIOUSLY going to earn hundreds of dollars a week, anything less and it’s CLEARLY the operator’s fault for not choosing a suitable location full of well heeled dumdums who wouldn’t know a good game even if it induced seizures. 

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$21,000!? In early 80's dollars!?

 

That's nearly $70,000 today...

 

I feel sorry for these people; it's obvious Leisure Vision wasn't on the up & up. Don't let people pressure you into buying anything. Opportunity costs are just opportunity costs; you don't really loose anything, since you didn't have anything in the first place.

Edited by pacman000

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This is a great find. Running both a fixed location and route myself (and having sold arcade machines in the past), I can fully understand both sides of the story. (Industry lingo time - the people that were sold the machines weren't distributors, but route/street operators. R/S still makes up a huge bulk of the business, although most new video games on the market right now are focused on mega-locations like Dave & Busters)

 

Where Leisure Time was in the wrong was by promoting their duds by using numbers based on other, better-known games (and from estimates used magazines, lol). They were playing on the "if it has a coin slot, it's a guaranteed success!" kind of thinking. They should have put games out into a variety of locations themselves, see how they did, then shared that average. Of course, I'm sure they knew those weren't good games; although it's likely they didn't have much of a choice - I have a hunch that they were not authorized to be selling the likes of Atari or Midway titles due to existing exclusivity agreements. They were able to get exclusive rights to crap titles, so they promoted them as awesome.  Had those games been Centipede or Ms. Pac-man cocktails, then I imagine that those ops wouldn't have had enough reason to complain to a reporter. Leisure Time was correct that location is important, but the product is too.

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1 hour ago, Shaggy the Atarian said:

(Industry lingo time - the people that were sold the machines weren't distributors, but route/street operators. R/S still makes up a huge bulk of the business, although most new video games on the market right now are focused on mega-locations like Dave & Busters)

Can you explain this a bit more for us outsiders? Is it like an old-fashioned paper route, where you buy the thing to be sold from the producer (publisher) but have to collect the money yourself?

 

I'm finally reaching the level of maturity where I'm starting to appreciate the business side of this stuff, not just the art/entertainment aspect. It's still amazing to me that anyone made enough money from this to make it worthwhile. 

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I wish there was a copyright date at the end of this video.  I remember those crap knock-off games coming out right after the arcade scene peaked.  Those were "any port in a storm" games.  You'd be some place with your parents that you really didn't want to be, get excited to see a few arcade games only to be disappointed when you walked up to them...but played them anyway because they were better than nothing.  Even more disappointing is when you'd hear one from a distance and expect to play one of your old favorites, only to find out it's using recycled sound effects from good games. 

 

This was also a time when the next generation of games were coming out such as Moon Patrol, Pole Position, Crystal Castles, Congo Bongo, Paperboy, etc.  Those knock-offs had graphics and sound from the late 70s.  I bet this video was late '82 into '83 and the people buying those turds were completely clueless.  The Marcy D'Arcy doppelganger cracks me up. ;-)

  

I think it was the summer of '83 when our Church decided to have a giant arcade tent at the annual carnival.  This was a big event that took over our downtown.  As kids, we were all stoked over this new addition.  When we walked in, it had to be 50 of those knock-off games.  All cabinets were either black or covered in vinyl wood grain.  The only one semi recognizable was a Ms. Pac hack in a bastardized cabinet.  Being in Indiana, I wouldn't doubt if they came from the company in this video.  Needless to say, it was a huge flop and didn't return next year.

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I guess I was lucky back then. Every gas station, corner store, pizza place, grocery store and so on that I visited had popular, real arcade games. I don't remember seeing any knock-off games.

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@Turbo-Torchthe YouTube poster said 1981 or 1982, which seems about right given the hits they were showing. I think cultural stuff took a bit longer to go viral back then. 

I’m not sure what bootlegs you’re talking about that you saw. I remember Crazy Kong which had different levels and sounds but was clearly a hack of Donkey Kong. Do you remember any specific titles or genres that were particularly disappointing?

 

Like @Random Terrain, I was mostly thrilled with everything at this time, and I think it was all legit and in good shape. 

It wasn’t until a few years later when everything took on the “run to the right and kill all the guys” format, which was discouraging to me. 

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1 hour ago, Flojomojo said:

the YouTube poster said 1981 or 1982, which seems about right given the hits they were showing. I think cultural stuff took a bit longer to go viral back then. 

I’m not sure what bootlegs you’re talking about that you saw. I remember Crazy Kong which had different levels and sounds but was clearly a hack of Donkey Kong. Do you remember any specific titles or genres that were particularly disappointing?

 

The carnival I mentioned was the most obvious, I don't think one game in there was legitimate.  Major arcades and stores usually had real arcade games, I'm sure for legal reasons.  Mid to late 80s they were really showing up in places like flea markets and dumpy Kwik-E-Marts.

 

There were endless Pac bootlegs back in the day, and they all sucked imo.  I remember a crappy version of Frogger.  Many Space Invaders bootlegs, the one in the video features fish and plays upside-down...only $3500 for what's sure to be a quarter vacuum in 1982! 👍  A few very sad versions of Galaxian.  Gallag was a bootleg of Galaga and played the same but there were others that were total garbage.  Moon Cresta was a favorite of mine but the hacks looked and sounded horrible.

Vector games were about the only ones safe from being bootlegged.

 

The people in the video had little business sense.  With a little research they would have noticed all the popular titles had major names attached to them.  Instead they chose an unheard of company with unheard of games and paid a premium.  If they really paid $3500 each, they could have bought a Ms. Pac-Man for less! 

 

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I think I've only ever seen 2 or 3 knock-offs of arcade games in my life.

 

Lakeside Amusement park in Denver had one that was called ASP and it was a knock off of SLITHER.  I revel in this fact, because  I've never even seen A real Slither machine, ever.  Yet I bought the ColecoVision Roller Controller (Track Ball) and it came with Slither, but I've never heard of anyone who ever saw that actual game in an arcade...

 

Also I saw a game labeled JEUTEL in France in 1984 that was a Berzerk knock off IIRC...I don't know what Jeutel means (or if it is a company name), but I see a lot of internet images of (what look like) Multicade (MAME probably) cabinets from overseas labeled that way...

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6 hours ago, Flojomojo said:

Jeutel looks to be an early manufacturer of video and pinball games. 

https://www.arcade-museum.com/manuf_detail.php?manuf_id=591

 

I assume the name is equivalent to our “TeleGames”

 

jeux (game) + tel (as in television)

Now that makes perfect sense!   I believe you've hit the nail on the head!  🔨

 

Plus when else am I gonna get a chance to use the hammer emoji?             🇫🇷

 

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On 6/22/2019 at 10:00 AM, Flojomojo said:

Can you explain this a bit more for us outsiders? Is it like an old-fashioned paper route, where you buy the thing to be sold from the producer (publisher) but have to collect the money yourself?

 

I'm finally reaching the level of maturity where I'm starting to appreciate the business side of this stuff, not just the art/entertainment aspect. It's still amazing to me that anyone made enough money from this to make it worthwhile. 

Oops, sorry about the delay. Been in Vegas for part of the week and busy with work stuff. :P

 

A paper route would be a good analogy, in this case the "papers" are the arcade machines that just sit in one spot and keep being rebought.

 

If you wanted to do a route right now, it hasn't really changed since the 80's. Generally, the smart thing to do is find the location first, then see what it is that they are interested in doing with you. You should work out a contract (although many just do verbal with a handshake), then you buy the requested games, or buy what you think will do best in the space. The game(s) arrive, you set them up, then it's your responsibility to maintain them and collect the cash out of each machine. In a busy location, you'd do it weekly, not-so-busy location anywhere from bi-weekly to monthly. They did show that in the video - part of the contract phase is you determine with the site owner what split is being done. 50/50 is common, although operators really prefer a higher cut, especially if you're the one spending a few to several thousand dollars on each machine. 

 

This is why arcade buyers/operators are always so focused on how a game earns, and why it's important to get as many numbers as you can before a purchase. It's one thing if you are making 100% of what a machine takes, very much another if you're only keeping 50% of it. A solid piece will have itself paid off within 12 months; awesome pieces are paid off in half that time. The best performer for me in recent times was Cruis'n Blast by Raw Thrills. While it lacks much of the charm of the original Cruis'ns, it did so well in my location that it was technically paid off in 5 1/2 months (I say 'technically' as I financed it for a few years, and everything it brought in I haven't focused on as paying off the game now). Sometimes I've bought games that are duds, but I'm fortunate to have games like Cruis'n pick up the slack where they failed.

 

I know that what a game makes at a Dave & Busters will not translate to what it will make at my place. But if I see a game that's always in the top 10 in a variety of places, then I know it will do well for what I need it to do. Also if I get some hard numbers, I tend to figure that the game will make half or 40% a week of what I'm seeing on a report. Sometimes there are obfuscations - once there was a manufacturer who placed their merchandisers onto cruise ships and reported some outrageously high numbers like $2400 a week - but they didn't tell anyone that they were on cruise ships until really pressed about it. If any number is too high, I tend to take it with a grain of salt until I can verify what kind of location it was in. But, that is tough. So many ops protect their numbers like they were the launch codes to the nuclear arsenal. But, it is becoming a little easier in operator circles to get good data. 

 

At my fixed location, I work with a few operators who bring in games that I'm just not interested in buying, such as the merchandisers (Key Master, I-Cube). They do a split of 65/35, them taking more, which I'm fine with as I understand that the machines have to pay themselves off, then they restock the prizes. I also have a few pinball machines that are 50/50 - that is more just to help boost my pinball selection than anything. It lets me as a location operator see what might be worth buying or passing on. A few times I've ended up buying a machine off of the person, since it did so well that it made no sense for me to keep on renting it.

 

But in the case of gas stations, theaters, dental offices, some bars and so on, the owner of the business is more focused on the core of their operations than arcade games, so having a route op and do that for them makes sense to add a little more cash to the overall revenue. 

 

It is possible that the people in that video could have done just fine with those particular games by putting them into better locations though, which is something the sales guy tells the one irate newlywed buyer straight up. The distributor should have done some training to help buyers find better placement - the more foot traffic a place has, the better a game will do (generally speaking).

 

Sorry for the long winded answer :P

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I appreciate the detailed answer. I guess if you had a captive audience like a cruise ship, even those duds of machines could have paid off. But only after lots of money up front and a significant amount of risk to the machine owner. 

 

It almost makes manufacturing and distributing home game cartridges look safe and sane in comparison. 

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Once I discovered all the financial aspects to arcade games and got to see the tech shops in back of the arcade -- that's when I realized they were evil money suckers. Little more than vehicles to transfer money from "me" to "them". My whole "Buck Rogers" and "Star Wars" fantasy futurism attitudes were erased as the real world reared its ugly head.

 

Well.. At least the newsblurb opened up with clips of all the popular games that were proven moneymakers.

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At least in the early days, they genuinely seemed to be about amusement and competition -- you could play for a long time on a single quarter if you were good. The "quarter suckers" that demanded payment for playtime didn't come along til later. I feel like Atari's Gauntlet was one of the first, if not the original. 

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I also noticed that in 'early' arcade games (until mid-80s I would say), it wasn't always possible to resume a game where the player died, especially in Konami games; adding credits would only allow you to restart from the beginning. 😫 Ten years later, it was possible to get a better car using two credits in (the excellent) GTI Club... 😅

Edited by roots.genoa
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Kids today won't ever know the thrill of getting to play their favorite arcade game AT HOME ... with UNLIMITED FREEPLAY

 

i didn't outgrow my "will I play this enough to offset $30 in arcade quarters" buying formula until the PS2 era. 

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