Is Konami's New Gaming Push a Sign of Revived Arcades?

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Steve Anderson
The Video Store Guy
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Is Konami's New Gaming Push a Sign of Revived Arcades?

A strange set of events came together recently, and left me with one disquieting concept in mind. Is the arcade, long thought killed by the rise of online and home console gaming, making a return? Even two years ago it would have been unthinkable, but it may well be the case now.

The first point that prompted curiosity was that Konami had recently dropped its Silent Hills plans, and announced a new set of plans, the addition of skill-based gaming rounds to some of its slot machine lineup. A change in law in Nevada allowed for skill-based gambling to be brought into the state, where previously, only games of "pure chance" were allowed. With that, the path opened up for bonus rounds in things like driving segments, shoot-em-up-style segments, and a host of other possibilities. Throw in recent remarks from Konami's new CEO that said "mobile is where the future of gaming lies," and it seemed pretty clear that Konami was looking to slip out of the console and even PC gaming concept and make a move elsewhere.

That alone wouldn't mean so much, though admittedly, it would still be quite a move. But there was another report of an event later this month about a location in Schaumberg, Illinois. Known as "Level 257," it was a new addition to the Woodfield Mall Unit A, with a grand opening to be held later this month. It offered up bowling, video games, and a variety of top-end bar munchies ranging from dates wrapped in bacon for some reason to the produce of a wood-fired pizza oven. But here's the funny thing: there was no shortage of arcades in Schaumberg as it was. This might surprise you, but a search of "Schaumberg arcades" reveals not only a Gameworks, but also a Dave & Busters, a place called the "Underground Retrocade" and even the Stern Pinball factory. Perhaps it's the close proximity to Chicago, or maybe the link to the Williams era, but it's clear there's no shortage of arcades in and around Schaumberg. So why is an arcade facility--and a pretty impressive one at that--coming to a place that's already stuffed with them at the same time a major new move in casino gambling is taking shape?

Puzzling, sure. This could be a random confluence of events. Or this could be the start of a trend. A lot of retail outlets these days have suffered from the "I can just get it online" protocol that's running a lot of people's lives these days. Throw in 3D printing and it almost seems like retail's about to go the way of the dodo. But experiences are much harder to replicate online, requiring either prohibitively high amounts of bandwidth or specialized code, and even then it's not always a clean replication. So businesses that want to stay local might well turn to arcades, because there's usually a "geekish" sort of population just about anywhere that would welcome such a move.

Is this what's going on? It's impossible to tell, really. But it may well be that the backlash of online retailing is driving local businesses to provide experiences over merchandise. If that's the case, then we may be looking at a new arcade renaissance driven by the one thing that might well have killed it so long ago.

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