Features// Report: Amusement Trade Exhibition International Show

Posted 5 Feb 2008 18:24 by
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While the UK consumer games trade attempts to energize interest in a tradeshow of its own, another industry held its big bash in London during January 2008 - with some revelations for those beyond-home gamers.

Over 60-years young, the Amusement Trade Exhibition International (ATEI) is the buying extravaganza for all arcades (Amusement), cinemas, seaside venues and visitor attractions operators. Though a shadow of its former self when viewed through the lens of its late 80s heyday, video Amusement still proved to be a popular pastime, with a loyal if not fanatical player-base.

The ATEI show was split into three areas of business, held within the cavernous Earls Court arena: upstairs was the video Amusement and others; while downstairs gambling, fruit machines, and the casino industry dwelt.

All the big Amusement players made the trip to what is known as the 'London Show'. Biggest of the presences being SEGA Amusement - its video offerings were led by an innovative but unusual system.

UFO Stomper uses the latest interactive projection system; players literally stomping aliens in a foot powered Whack-a-Mole-style video game. A unique interactive floor system married to dual projection offers 10-mini games to battle. A compelling and fun experience for young and old casual players, it is seen as perfect for leisure facility installation.

Innovation in coin-op continued with the launch of the first steerable gun game using a touchscreen. The Primeval Hunt is a dinosaur blaster with a big-screen game hunting styling. The game diverts from the more common 'rail shooter' genre with a second touchscreen that players use to direct their path around the various levels. Wielding a big, pump-action gun, steering their way and avoiding rampaging dinos proves an intense arcade experience - the closest the arcade scene has come to an FPS-style concept.

The more conventional arcade genres were represented by a new driver called SEGA RaceTV, a free-styling, mad rush of a racer with bombastic American themed visuals and high-pitched announcers. Itís a game that felt like a driving version of F-Zero. Boost collection and car damage means for a fast-paced network racer. Though a bit thin on the single-player experience, itís a game that is slated only for arcade exposure.

The London Show is used as a proving ground for many styles of product. SEGA did have its latest brawler on show: Virtua Fighter 5 straight from Japan. This is the latest in the series and offers a high level 3D fighter for the purists. But, in travelling to the UK, the arcade cabinet has been scaled back; the integrated chip smartcard feature and online tournament support used in Japanese arcades has been removed to accommodate UK operatorsí expectations.

The players at ATEI, however, called the changes this year, and a market, derided as being dead by some media, showed strong signs of life that caused some manufacturers to rethink their market strategy.

One such operation was Namco Bandai, which took the bold step of showing a production prototype hot from Japan of Tekken 6. The machine, previously revealed as an arcade first release by a previous SPOnG feature was besieged by tens of avid Tekken-fans, the system literally swamped by hardcore players for the duration of the show. Namco, in frustration, attempted to limit play, turning off the normal exhibition free-play, but this did little to dampen interest. As with Virtua Fighter 5, the arcade version will appear before proposed Xbox 360 and PS3 releases (as will also be seen with Street Fighter IV).

Representing new thinking in Amusement, the Namco T6 system is the first-fielded, Hi-Def Amusement machine, with the latest screen technology and incorporating use of an Integrated Circuit (IC) card player characters system. How more conventional Amusement operators will swallow the expected high-price for this PS3-advance powered coin-op unit is to be seen.

The use of new flatscreen displays and sleek cabinet design was a big element of ATEI interest. Major American manufacturer Global VR had its own suite of licensed consumer content re-created for Amusement application.
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