Monday, January 8, 2007

Arcade's Next Generation?

As most video game enthusiasts know, the Arcade is all but dead in the U.S. - has been for some time. Yes, that magical place which drained my weekly allowance one quarter at a time throughout my childhood in the 80's, may just have a chance at revitalization for a new generation of gamers.

The GameDaily BIZ website (a great website by the way, which I read - well...daily) is featuring an interesting article today about a movie theater in Madrid, Spain, converting one of its screens into an arcade of sorts.

From an old-school gamer perspective, I think this is a great idea; one which could bring a whole new generation of gamers the old Arcade-esque experience from days gone by. Not so much the feeling of wandering around and picking out a game to sink a quarter into, but rather that real social experience of playing (and watching others play) a particular game as opposed to the virtual social experience provided by today's online gaming.

From a business standpoint, while the initial cost of converting a movie auditorium and its screen into a "gaming auditorium" (as I'll call it) may make a few mega-plex execs waffle on the idea, I think it would be well worth the try. Failure from action is a hell of a lot nobler than failure from inaction.

Think about the number of times you've gone into one of the countless movie mega-plexes with its 15 - 30 auditoriums, sat down to watch a movie that wasn't one of the big releases or one that had been out awhile, and noticed there were maybe five other people in the place? Why not utilize one of these auditoriums for a unique gaming experience rather than showing some movie that nobody will pay to see anymore because it will be out on DVD within the next month? In fancy, elitist business speak this is called utilizing your assets to increase your ROA (Return on Assets).

I have no idea how they are pricing this new "gaming experience" in Madrid, but I was thinking, for here in the U.S., why not use the same ticket pricing structure already in place? I'll explain: assuming most people spend about 2 1/2 hours at a particular movie's showing (2 hour movie + 1/2 hour of ads and trailers), why not charge an admission price for a 2 1/2 hour gaming block? Also, you could charge less during the afternoon and more during the evening peak hours (just as they do with movies).

Additionally, the theater could carry the same titles for purchase that it's showcasing for play in the "gaming auditorium". It's another avenue for the game companies to sell a copy of their game, and it's a way for the theater to get a cut of the retail price that would normally go to other more traditional retail outlets.

Now, I know a lot of people out there would think, why pay the price of a movie ticket to play a game for 2 1/2 hours when it could either be rented for a longer period of time or just bought outright? Well, to this point, I would compare it to watching a movie in a theater as opposed to waiting for the DVD. You're paying not so much to see the movie (or play the game), but rather for a "unique experience" in which to watch that movie or play that game. Just as you could experience a movie such as Star Wars at home on DVD, how much better is it when experienced on a huge screen with a lot of other people? Just as you could experience a game such as Gears of War at home, playing over XBox Live, how much better would it be to experience that game with a unique audio/visual setup and other person?

Heck, who knows if it would actually work or not, but I truly believe it has great potential as a substantial new revenue source for both game companies and movie mega-plex chains. In any case, I applaud that mega-plex in Madrid for having the cajones to try something new.

Could this be the beginning of Arcade 2.0?

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