#1192 – London Amusement Blow Out!

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Following on from the largest consumer electronics event which started the year and, a few weeks after, London would play host to the first of the major amusement entertainment trade events, charting the trends and expectations from the trade for 2024.

London’s Big Coin-Op Blowout

The European Amusement & Gaming Expo (EAG’24) has become a landmark gathering for the UK trade and a smattering of European attendees from the amusement and gaming scene. Organized by bacta, the UK trade association, the event has charted the changing conditions of the UK amusement scene from its ATEI predecessor to the current show format. These year’s show, however, offered a positive snapshot of the state of the industry, and the opportunities that lie ahead for the sector.

London’s premier amusement trade gathering acted as the starting pistol to the amusement year for UK and European attendees and exhibitors. Of the names on the show floor, SEGA Amusement International (SAI) featured a crowded booth. Leading the video amusement push was ‘Apex Rebels’ – the latest entrant into the DX racing scene, and a crowded scene at that). The fast-paced racer comes from Chinese developer 3MindWave, working closely with SAI, and the large DX motion cabinet also includes unique racing controls.

Another racing title on display at SAI was from LAI Games, now represented by SAI, following their move from their previous partner in the territory. The new ‘Asphalt Legends 9 VR’ offered a VR take on the popular street racer, now including a HP headset and motion cabinet in a DX presentation of its own. The game is likewise updated, with a new “Hunter Mode” feature. LAI originated the “Unattended VR” amusement with their ‘Virtual Rabbids’, and this game marked a trend seen across the EAG’24 floor for unattended VR gaming.

The fast-paced snowmobile racer ‘Hyper Cross’, hot from its appearance at IAAPA’23, was another addition to the video on the SAI booth. While supporting the Videmption scene, the company presented ‘Zombies: Ready, Deady, Go!’ – a derby ball roller with fun video antics in support of the frantic ball action. All these titles were emblazoned with the “Distributed by SEGA Amusement International” label. All supported by a strong showing of other redemption and prize wares.

The EAG’23 booth was branded SEGA Amusement International Kaizen Entertainment company, reflecting the changed conditions. And speaking of SEGA Corporation in Japan, who the brand is licensed from, news was revealed around the time of the show regarding changes in their operation. The remaining Japanese amusement machine factory announced the division would be restructured, being absorbed into SEGA Toy. This move was seen as a strategy to strengthen the corporation’s transmedia plans and promote their core IP. The amusement division has been more prevalent in its prize machine business, and supporting the toy division will offer a means for maximized penetration. SEGA Japan’s amusement facility is passed on to CA Animation and GENDA respectively. Meanwhile, the AM development has been noticeably curtailed under current market conditions.

At the same time, GENDA, the acquirer of the SEGA Japanese amusement facility business and a corporation seeming to be a firebrand regarding reshaping the Japanese amusement landscape, was in the news again with the announcement of yet another partnership to strengthen their operation and machine operation. News broken by Arcade Heroes revealed the company had developed a new amusement machine of their own – which was also observed to bare a spurring similarity to the TAITO (1994’s ‘Real Puncher’ and the later ‘Sonic Blast Heroes’).

Returning to the London EAG’24 lineup and BANDAI NAMCO Amusement Europe (BNAE), also offering a wide selection for every operator. Representing Raw Thrills, the company had on show their selection of “Unattended VR” amusement with the new release ‘Godzilla Kaiju Wars VR’ – the two-player mounted shooter, using DPVR headsets and an enhanced version of their motion platform. The IP-based blaster offers a familiar amusement styling in play with the immersive technology. Sitting next to this was ‘King Kong II VR’ – the latest instalment of the original VR ride sim platform. The other Raw Thrills VR platform was the previously seen ‘MotoGP VR’.

More conventional, but still impressive, the amusement racer ‘Fast & Furious: Arcade’, based on the Universal Pictures license, was presented in both the DX and Standard configuration. Meanwhile, the previously released ‘Halo: Fireteam Raven’ shooter was also presented from Play Mechanix, with the shooting action from ‘Big Buck: Reloaded’. A surprise appearance of the unique pinball release from the operation, ‘Pulp Fiction’, was also demonstrated. Pinball was a big theme at the show this year. BNAE also represented Adrenaline Amusement with their racer ‘NFS: Takedown’, again seen in the DX and standard configuration. While the other new release from the company, ‘Drakons: Realm Keepers’, offered the LCD screen version of the two-player motion ride blaster.

A surprise reveal from BNAE came with the announcement of their plans to launch a new ‘Animal Kaiser’ title in March. The trading card-based combat game had previously been a popular alternative to the spate of releases from 2007. The original is aimed at a younger trading card collector and battler audience. Signage proclaimed the planned release of this new version of the game, a rare new video release from the corporation – the previous new video saw BNAE having on booth their racer ‘Dead Heat: Unleashed’. Other third-party offerings included the latest “Metal Gun Games” trend from JET with their ‘Mega Shot’ and ‘Big Shot’ we reported on in our IAAPA Europe coverage. TRIOTECH also had the new ‘Super Blaster’ on show.

Moving across the aisles at EAG’24 and Harry Levy – representing the Crown Direct and Deith Leisure arms – had a slew of titles including some surprise representations. These included ‘Super Speed’, a three-screen motion sim rig offering a selection of licensed race games, in a centrepiece attraction with its advance 6DoF motion base. Also represented was ‘Shark VR’ – the VR 2.0. version of the 9D pods, now with a wide selection of content from Movie Power. The booth also had a smattering of previously seen titles, such as ‘AR Sniper’. All this and third-party representation of leading titles from other manufacturers in the video, redemption, and gaming lines.

A leading UK powerhouse, United Distributing Company (UDC), continued their strong association with Ace Amusement, offering valuable direction in the crafting of unique video and Videmption titles from this popular development resource. On display, noteworthy of mention was ‘Wave Riders: X-Treme’ – the jet ski amusement simulator offering fun action, which was reminiscent of the SEGA ‘Jet Wave’. The motorbike race for younger audience was seen with ‘Parkour Motor 2’, and a three-player Videmption title using giant joysticks with ‘Super Drill’ – in just some of the Ace Amusement representation.

Also seen on the UDC booth was their “Not” Metal Gun Game – ‘Bullseye: Crack Shot’, along with a surprise MR-based game from IGS called ‘Go!: Hero of Robots’ – this motion tracked (computer vision) game is aimed at younger audiences. Videmption was also represented from Touch Magix with their latest popular lineup. Meanwhile, the dancing stage scene proved a battle ground for the London show, with ‘StepManiaX DX’ from Step Revolution.

Another popular exhibitor was UNIS Technology, represented on the Instance Automatic booth, taking its unusual place along the wall of the show hall. Along with prize and redemption, the company brought their new DX racer, ‘Bigfoot Mayhem’, offering an energetic motion game experience to battle in the crowded scene. Another IP presented from UNIS was ‘Godzilla Vs. Kong’, in an IP whac-a-mole game. The importance of branded content has seemed prevalent in the amusement scene recently, and this game proved a strong game – seen in a production prototype, the platform has already generated some interest.

Another well-known UK distributor at EAG’24 was the venerable Electrocoin. The company had a booth packed with crane, prize and redemption pieces, and also offered special place for their partnership with STERN Pinball, with a lineup of their latest tables including the first UK appearance for the ‘JAWS’ movie licence table, fresh from CES. Another partnership was with KONAMI, and the corporation was represented with ‘Dance Dance Revolution A 20 Plus’ (DDRA20Plus) – the dancing stage release comprises some 600 songs and is packaged in a 42’’ display cabinet. The sudden push for BEMANI (music game) content reflects the changing player tastes and the need to offer a wide selection of entertainment to the new audience.

Of the other distributors represented at the show, JNC Sales continued the strong Chinese amusement presence with an assortment of video releases. This included shooters such as ‘Weapon’, developed by Nitton Games, and ‘Zombie Crisis’. As stated previously, there was a selection of other exhibitors offering pinball tables, ranging from Retro Arcade Specialists UK and Pinball Heaven. Pinball is finding a home in traditional amusement, and also in the growth in social entertainment.

All this and “competitive socializing” were reflected across the EAG’24 floor. Exhibitor Conductr and their new division Game Volt presented their shuffleboard table (‘Supercharge Shuffle’), built for competitive socializing, and with the system recently deployed by Dave & Buster’s for the new “Social Bay” initiative. The company is also working on a new immersive enclosure system and has plans for a wider social entertainment offering, which we will report on in greater detail soon. Along with gamified shuffleboard, there was Team Games SLU, and the company showed their automated tournament darts platform. All in all, creating a team game platform with eSports support.

Regarding the wider leisure aspects of the market, VR eSports and the VR Arena business, these were represented at EAG’24 by Immersive Arena – the company is levelling up facilities to apply VR arena business correctly, also representing VR Esports from Phenomena. Meanwhile, the laser tag scene was represented by LaserForce International, representing their game-changing laser tag innovation.

In Conclusion

EAG’24 reflected an extremely positive atmosphere, heartening for an industry that has been in the doldrums regarding support from government agencies of new legislation, and a need to find its way. Attendance to the show was up, with sources suggesting some 6,000 attendees, and a very high registration to come and see over 60 exhibitors. The show floor was obviously popular on the expected days, but it was the happy sales teams with strong orderbooks that was the best barometer of business being done.

Chinese video amusement was more prevalent than seen with previous shows. The dependence of UDC and SAI to field videos created from their Chinese affiliations sparked memories of other Asian investment into the UK scene. Reminiscent of how the Japanese video amusement took hold in the Western market – seeing similar traits as the dependency in direction from their distributor representation, and the hilarious translational naming errors that, back in the days of the Japanese emergence, gave us titles such as “Donkey Kong” and “Continental Circus”.

The EAG’24 event included celebrations of the 50th anniversary for the trade operation, marked with a series of awards handed out to achievements within the industry for well-deserving representatives of this scene. At the same time, the exhibition organizers turned their gaze to growing their event. Plans are in development for a wider scope to the gathering, with additional independent events catering for wider aspects of the social entertainment scene. More information on these developments will be revealed in coming coverage.

One of the discussion points concerning the amusement and gaming trade, was the situation regarding the next major UK trade event the following month. The International Casino Exhibition (ICE’24) has become a landmark trade event for casino and gaming industry since it was birthed and eventually split from EAG’s predecessor event (ATEI). As reported by The Stinger, it was revealed that 2024 would be the last year that London would play host to ICE and in 2025 it would relocate for a three-year contract to Barcellona in Spain.

This controversial move is based on a mixture of pressure from key exhibitors, for the European element of the show to be reflected in a European setting following the UK’s Brexit. Along with moves by the show organizers to bow to exhibitor pressure for a greater reach to the show than their current position. Also, in part in competition to the Chinese and US casino gaming conventions. We will supply a full report on the last day of the London casino show in the coming weeks.

About the author

Kevin Williams

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The brainchild of two location-based experience enthusiasts, Christine Buhr and Brandon Willey, the LBX Collective aims to inform and educate, create opportunities to connect with industry peers, and to spur collaboration, discourse, and cross-pollination of ideas.

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