one thinks of the traditional video game arcade, they may think of a
narrow dimly lit neon room, crowded with an array of playable stand-up
units, Skee-Ball, dollar-to-quarter changers, and an overall interior
atmosphere that tries to look appealing so that younger audiences will
be lured in. You'll occasionally see a crowd gather around a Dance Dance Revolution
machine where experienced players will get a few minutes of fame in the
shopping mall spotlight. A generic mix of aromas from the adjacent food
court and sounds of pumped-in Kenny G mall muzak make their way into
the arcade. A look at the arcade game selection makes a visitor ask,
"Why aren't there any new games?" or "Can't I play this on my home
the revamped GameWorks, a chain of indoor amusement facilities that was
originally founded by Sega, Dreamworks SKG and Universal Studios in
1996. However, the chain was wholly acquired last year by the
Sega-Sammy Group, and the company is trying once again to take the
stereotypical image of the U.S. arcade and completely change it.
GameWorks has taken its seventeen facilities in the U.S. and added
millions of dollars worth of new arcade games and expanded food and
beverage offerings with its Arena Sports Bar & Grill concept.
operates as a subsidiary of Sega Entertainment U.S.A. Inc. (SEUI),
based in Glendale, California. Its sister company and content partner,
Sega Amusements USA, is in a new facility located in Elk Grove Village,
Illinois. Sega Amusements has partnered up with GameWorks to use its
facilities as testing grounds for new games from Japan, (the
trading-card Mushiking and Love & Berry games, as well as UFO Catcher machines, among many).
Gamasutra caught up with GameWorks vice-president of sales and
marketing Clint Manny to find out what GameWorks has been up to, and
how Sega has given the amusement chain a whole direction and breath of
creative fresh air since its chapter 11 reorganization. Manny reveals
how GameWorks caught the attention of Bill Gates at its Seattle
location for a Microsoft company event, and how games such as Extreme Hunting 2 Tournament Edition will be utilizing Sega's new All.net system starting this month.
Gamasutra first reported Sega's acquisition of GameWorks last November (http://www.gamasutra.com/php-bin/news_index.php?story=7061), and how Sega was going to deploy their Mushiking and Derby Owners Club
games into locations. So it seemed fitting to start off the interview
asking Manny if the Mushiking game would generate any other new
In Japan, the Mushiking franchise has been a merchandising boom for
Sega, a Gameboy Advance game released, an animated TV series was aired
on TV Tokyo, toys, trading cards, and even tournaments have been held.
Has there been any Mushiking merchandising planned for North America?
Or is the market for Mushiking still being tested?
Manny: We actually have, through Sega Amusements USA (SAU), they have
folks who are now dedicated to the card-playing games, and working on
the selling of those which would include any of the merchending and the
materials that go along with it.
have through our redemption counters and for sale at our sites, we do
have a limited number of Mushiking items: the neck-holder that carries
the cards that you're playing, we do have portfolios that guests can
purchase to store and hold their cards. So there are limited supplies,
certainly not to the breadth of items you can find in Japan. It is
certainly an area of focus for Sega and again through SAU, they have
dedicated people there working on sales of Mushiking, and other
GS: One of Sega of Japan's other trading card games has been (Oshare Majo) Love & Berry.
While Mushiking appears to be aimed at boys, Love & Berry appears
to be aimed at young girls. The appeal of the game for young girls is
the ability to win trading cards that will have a new outfit of
clothing or hairstyle that the player can apply to the CG character on
screen. Has Sega thought of bringing this Love & Berry game into GameWorks to test its reception?
We have and we will be doing that in the coming months. As far as the
manufacturing, distributing, and all the R&D that goes into
converting, Sega Amusement will be handling that.
Let's switch gears for a moment and talk about the present state of
arcades here in the United States. In your opinion, has GameWorks been
trying to change the declining arcade scene here in North America?
I don't know if we're trying to single-handedly change the arcade
business in the U.S. I think what GameWorks has done has recognized
where our opportunities are, and through our relationship with Sega –
hopefully we're starting to see innovations back on the arcade side
that bring a new and different environment and experience that people
can't get at home.
If you're familiar with House of the Dead 4
and the graphics that are a part of that, it's now starting to be back
to having an appeal, starting to see some of that impact back on the
arcade-side where you can't play in front of a 52-inch screen and have
all of the very vibrant color and animation that's part of it – you
can't just do that at home.
Then the socialization of what those game brings as more and more games (Derby Owners Club
a few years ago) where it's a social environment and you're playing a
horse racing game and you're sitting there and you can have cocktails
and food, and really get into this game. It's bringing that social
entertainment environment back to the users.
we've questioned in recognizing that is how to create these games in a
social environment, in a social setting, whether it be for kids, teens,
adults and offer them something where it’s a constant changing of the
programming that's available. That's where we started with the Arena
Sports Bar & Grill (left).
Arena Sports Bar & Grill has so much synergy between the gaming and
the action and the environment that's created on the arcade side –
taking that to a bar and grill environment where you've still got that
energy and excitement – there's so much synergy between those two.
of what GameWorks does, or what you do, or what I do, I can tell you
that the World Series and Major League Baseball playoffs, it's going to
be in October, it does not matter what I do (laughs) it's going to
happen. Super Bowl? End of January, beginning of February, somewhere in
that time frame it's going to happen. What it does is, bringing those
sports and that excitement and the enthusiasm that's behind all of that
– that's built-in programming. People can come for different reasons.
Now they're coming for NBA playoffs coming up, NHL playoffs coming up,
we've got the Super Bowl and all these different things. (They) can now
go out and play NFL Blitz, Major League Baseball, hey let's go compete at half-time, between innings.
is that synergy between the game floor and back-and-forth in a social
environment where you're not sitting at home in front of a screen with
two friends playing a game. Now you can compete, be the star, really
shine, but you can also be there watching the latest and greatest on
the flat-screens that we have which works really well on the gaming
GS: What kind of people do you think visit arcades now?
I think there are degrees of "arcades". There are certainly arcades
that appeal to a younger demographic, and those primarily that don't
have the food and beverage component. They don't have the bars - they
don't have the restaurants. They probably have generic arcade games, no
real special attractions, and then the other side of it where you do
have more special attractions and bigger, new games in that
probably much more diverse than what people would think from the
outside, and I think once people experience it and can experience
either a personal experience or an event experience at any of the
locations that are more glorified than just the standard arcade. I
think that they can see themselves in that experience, let me give you
do a huge focus in our group sale component. We do many parties,
hundreds, thousands, of parties a year with corporations. Either for
holiday parties, for the entire family of different businesses will
bring all their employees and families for a great summer event. Or an
incentive program: 'Hey, if we reach this target goal, we're all going
to GameWorks, we're going to eat, we're going to play games, we're
blowing the afternoon off.' Our corporate business is huge. It's
anywhere from, depending on locations, over 20% of our overall business
is through group sales. That continues to grow year over year.
created a great "team-building" program in corporate America now, where
you can actually go and be with your boss to talk about your sales
goals and initiatives for the year, and planning for the quarter – all
of those things. Then you can go out on teams and compete against each
other and it really brings the team together. We've built great
team-building programs where some of the bigger corporations in the
country, we deal with Microsoft, Toyota, Limited Brands in Ohio. We
deal with tons of major corporations and they love that competitive and
fun environment that gets you out of that mundane day-to-day conference
room at the hotel having a quarterly meeting. You can blow some steam
off and go have a great time and you can still accomplish what you need
on the business side. We still have the internet access, the big
screens for the presentations, then you can go out and have great food
and go play games.
GameWorks has introduced the Sports Bar & Grill concept across many
of its locations, which allow a mix of patrons into its facility, from
families looking to enjoy time together on the weekends by playing
video games, to sports fans that'll want to watch a game in the sports
bar. Overall, how does GameWorks market itself as a facility for both
families who will want to play games and adults who will want to enjoy
drinks after work?
It's a very interesting question and continues to be, anyone that can
answer that question deserves a lot of money (laughs).
the age old question: How do you know outdoor advertising or billboard
advertising works to drive traffic to your store? You can tell me how
many people drive by the board, and all I can tell if our traffic went
up or did our sales go up. When you're looking at the product specific
and GameWorks with the food/beverage component and the gaming
component, and then take into account age policies and typical
day-in-the-life of a family, versus day-in-the-life of a teen, versus
day-in-the-life an adult and merge those together.
lot of it is, is media has become so segmented, I can target
specifically kids and families through internet, their cable
advertising, through programming of what the majority of those
audiences are watching at home. I can really segment that, where if
that's a spot about "Host your best 12th birthday party at GameWorks",
it's not going to be a cross-over with ESPN running "Hey come watch the
NBA finals at GameWorks" - two completely separate audiences. We're not
trying to be all to everyone, we're not Jim's local sports bar that's
down in the neighborhood that every guy goes to because it's a tavern
and they are serving just beer.
we're trying to do is create an environment where physically within our
locations there is enough segmentation that you can have a great sports
bar audience that's controlled in being able to literally, at every
seat regardless of which direction you've turned your head, is going to
see flat-screen programming – and the kids can still be on the game
floor having a great time in a safe, clean environment. Not many places
can do that. We really look at segmenting that.
understand that we're not trying to be all to everyone, but what we are
is as the generation grows, you and I grew up where we could go to the
convenience stores and play Pac-Man and Asteroids. Then later we started getting into other games and we understand gaming.
still go in with my ten-year old girl and my seven-year old girl and my
wife and I'll play the games. I'll also wander over and have a beer and
check out the score of the college football games. That's a nice
environment for me.
Do you strategically place your GameWorks locations next to other key
locations like movie theaters and shopping malls? Do you carefully
choose those locations?
Unfortunately, what we refer to as Old Co (the old GameWorks company
and owner), it was not as strategic. The growth plan was very
aggressive, and through that aggressiveness lost a little of the
strategy. What we're doing now in any of our future locations, we want
to grow that (The Arena Sports Bar & Grill franchise) into a
stand-alone franchise and brand, where GameWorks is one brand that is
Sega Entertainment USA Inc, and the Arena Sports Bar & Grill is
another brand and have stand-alone locations as soon as the next twelve
to eighteen months.
just converted five locations to include the Arena Sports Bar &
Grill and we've got plans for three more this year. We're making all of
that happen. As far as strategically going forward where we're locating
these you're absolutely right, these are entertainment districts where
you've got great restaurants and we're not afraid of competing on the
restaurant front. So we can go by nature of volume, if you've got five
great restaurants that are all in one location you're all going to
benefit from the traffic that's driven to five great locations, and we
want to be one of those five, with either the GameWorks location for
the entertainment, or the Arena Sports Bar & Grill concept for the
enjoyment of sports viewing and entertainment.
With Sega-Sammy's acquisition of GameWorks and because Sega is a well-
known name in terms of video gaming and entertainment, has there been
any thought of placing the Sega logo on GameWorks locations to lure in
Yeah, it's a pretty protected brand. We have certainly talked about it
a lot. You'll see more and more as the year roles out, you'll see more
and more included in that. It has (the Sega logo) started to be used in
some of the advertising, with Sega logos and characters being included.
We do have a focus to continue growing the Sega brand in the U.S., and
we're working together to do that.