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The Next Chapter: Shaping the Future of Arcade Gaming with LAI Games

Since its commercial birth in the late 1940s, arcade gaming has blossomed into one of the most profitable entertainment industries in the world. Coupled with the advanced technology in recent years, the development of the gaming community has revolutionised and opened the doors to a new generation of arcade games.

On 25th April, LAI Games hosted an exclusive event at their office, Shaping the Future of Arcade Gaming, where over 25 game developers and game software engineers dropped by to partake in an evening of exploration and excitement as LAI Games deep-dived into the evolution of arcade games, and what it takes to be successful in the arcade game development industry.

Not to mention, we got to meet various thought leaders from Timezone Group and LAI Games — like Jason Bogie, General Manager for Real Estate at TEEG, Shannon Perell, Vice President of Research and Development at LAI Games, and Liam Cary, Senior Game Developer at LAI Games, exclusively at this event.

From their favourite arcade games, exciting trends in 2019, the most significant challenges faced to staying ahead of the game, it was an excellent opportunity to gain insights from their experiences and learn from them.

An Evolving Community

LAI Games is a leading developer and manufacturer of arcade games with over 50 years of experience in the amusement industry.

Shannon Perell, VP of Research and Development of LAI Games, kicked off the evening with an engaging introduction to the Arcade Gaming Industry.

“When someone mentions arcade, you’d automatically be reminded of dark rooms, crammed full of games and filled with kids hanging out. From the late 70s to early 80s, this was the golden age of arcades.”

Shannon went on to explain that this was a period of unprecedented growth in the gaming industry. In North America, there were over 30,000 arcades. Despite the numerous iconic games produced during the “golden age”, this period did not last very long.

“What’s our market then? What’s the market we address today? Arcades didn’t die; they just evolved and operated as a new business model. And, a good example of that is Dave and Busters,” shared Shannon.

Dave and Busters’ famous tagline is “Eat, Drink, Play”. And, this is a formula lots of other operators have adopted. Your typical equation would include food, alcohol, arcade games and an anchor attraction.

Some of us might wonder, “Why do these locations have arcade games?”

Shannon went on to describe such arcade games represent a high-value proposition to the end users: They are fun, great icebreakers and they yield people who are looking for rich social experiences.

As for the operators, they earn lots of money. According to Dave and Buster’s annual report, almost 60% of their profit is generated by arcade games and attractions. So, that’s the landscape today: What’s the future of arcade games?

Shannon admitted that even though there are many excellent game producers in the industry, there is an opportunity to create fun and innovative games and experiences, unique to the industry.

“We see so much opportunity in our market and our focus is on creating original and rewarding social games and experiences that you can’t play anywhere else.”

The Next Big Market Opportunity

A lot has changed in the last year in technology. Knowing that such a transformation is not only a technological shift but an organisational change at the intersection of business and end-users, we ought to take into account countless possibilities.

“We’re in what’s now known as the Experience Economy,” clarified Jason Bogie, General Manager for Real Estate at TEEG.

“We’re spending more of our money on experience and not stuff: We’re travelling more, spending more on health and beauty. We want to share these experiences with our friends and family, and it's a trend that’s happening all around the world.”

Jason explained what is evident from this trend is that shopping mall developers aren’t leasing shops to fashion but are building entertainment precinct within the malls. From K Bowling Club at 313 Somerset, Holey Moley at Clarke Quay and SuperPark at Suntec City, the list goes on!

On a side note, Shannon pointed out that the market is booming because fantastic content is being created.

“The trend comes with more and more investment, trust and freedom in taking exciting technology and utilising them for unique experiences. It’s about those wow moments that you talk about after the game has ended — that experience is so much more valuable.”

Wisdom in Challenges

With the increasing competition in the gaming industry, there is no doubt it is crucial to mitigate risks and continuously invest in new technology.

“On a programmer’s level, we have a couple of unique challenges that most other platforms wouldn’t face,” answered Liam Cary, Senior Game Developer of LAI Games.

“For example, we need to factor in that the arcade games we built will be operating independently and all the game operator has to do is turn the power on to boot it up. Ticket redemption games are another example — if it crashes, we need to ensure that it shuts down safely.”

Liam further dove deeper into dozens upon dozens of services and extra tools that go into the background of such arcade games that an average developer would not need to consider.

“It’s about economics as well,” further added Jason.

“From a buyer’s perspective, the arcade game has got to be interesting, and you’d have to want to play it over and over again. When so much time, effort and money is invested in developing and building an arcade game, we need to deliver products that will be a success to everyone.”

Looking Ahead of The Curve

“It’s been an interesting journey for me, and I’ve been with LAI for the past nine years,” reminisced Shannon.

“I started as a designer working at a shop front in Brisbane, next to a pet shop with dogs barking all day. Matter of fact, I consider my career progression much like Guitar Hero — from starting in your garage, moving to a bar and strumming your guitar in an auditorium.”

His sentiments were echoed by Liam and Jason when it came to engaging the right people and improving one’s skills.

If you’re continually improving yourself or enhancing a process, these efforts can seek incremental improvement over time or maybe a “breakthrough” improvement all at once.

“We value hiring the right people because the whole industry is driven by content and content is driven by people. Here at LAI Games, you’re not just a designer, not just a programmer, not just an artist — everyone contributes a high level across everything we do so it takes the right team to make it successful. We stay ahead of the curve by building and creating the most conducive environment and getting the right people.”

Curious about the development process behind some of the world’s most innovative arcade games? Head over heels about arcades? Guess what, LAI Games is on a lookout for the best talents. Here’s a chance you won’t want to miss!

It’s not about winning or losing; it’s how you play the game.

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