A decade after first launching, Crown Direct opened its Northern Showcase to operators once again on 3 – 4 May, with the regional Bacta AGM accompanying to provide a well-balanced day-out in Leyland, Lancashire.
With the promise of warm food, a free bar, and a large room lined with the latest products from Crown Direct and Astra Games, operators from the North West and far beyond attended the tenth annual Northern Showcase.
Accompanying the event, the regional Bacta AGM, giving visitors a healthy balance of discussion and tested equipment to view first-hand. The burning question of the meeting, Crown Direct’s managing director Dean Harding explained, was “what’s happening to the review on stakes and prizes?”, with the snap election leaving operators with a familiar sense of uncertainty. However this sentiment didn’t lower spirits at the show, and Harding was pleasantly surprised by operators attending from further afield.
“When we get people from Margate, Scarborough, Perth, I’m really pleased,” he said. “It’s been a great networking event, and from a product point of view, there’s new games here for people to see.”
Indeed, two of these new products stood side by side in Wellington Park, competing for the attention of operators at the show.
“It’s the first time we’ve shown the Encore from SG, and it’s the first time we’ve show the VIP Lounge from Astra and Novomatic, so those have very much been the dominant pieces on the gaming side.” Harding continued, before motioning towards the redemption games on the other side of the room.
“On the novelty side, games like Let’s Bounce are proving to have very strong income, and the Project Coin Crazy Chicken been very good for us too.”
Besides being quality redemption games, a strong April has also helped fill cashboxes, with seaside operators especially getting off to a good start to the season.
“In general coastal operations have had a good April, and May Day was decent for some,” Harding said. “The season ahead should be a strong one for people, it’s always encouraging start on a good foot.”
Another company excited to start the summer season is Astra Games, with director of sales Alan Rogers explaining that recently the company has had much of its attention on its latest lounge cabinet.
“VIP is one of the main focuses, and that’s going out into the estate in the next few months,” said Rogers, who has been happy with its reception. “We’ve got good reviews on it, backed up by orders, and it will be good to get it out there onto arcade floors.”
One of the appeals of Astra’s VIP Lounge Cabinet, Rogers noted, is its ‘wow factor’, with operators ordering ‘one or two’ of the units as centrepieces in their arcades.
“You’ve got to have wow factor, there’s an element of keeping up with the Jones’ for arcade operators, and the customers will drive that,” he added. “Once word of mouth starts buzzing around, they’ll really kick off.”
While B3 is likely the top earner in many venues, Astra has also found success with three-player Batman Begins, with Rogers highlighting the Cat D as “very successful, both seasonal and inland.”
A more demanding segment, he continued, is Cat C, which continues to fall behind B3s in the pecking order of player-preference.
“Cat C is a challenge to the marketplace at the moment, because a lot of people are playing B3s on 25p, 50p and £1,” he said. “They look at that £100 and compare it to the £500, so I’m looking forward to the triennial to see how we can reinvigorate Cat C.”
Looking past the review of stakes and prizes, Rogers outlined a different, long-term issue for the amusements industry.
“The one challenge we have in this industry is the ‘coin’ in ‘coinop’, we need ‘beep’,” he explained, acting out the motions of contactless card payment on Astra’s Batman Cat C.
“I think that is one fundamental challenge that we’ve got over the next coming years where less and less coins are in pockets,” Rogers added, digging out the little change in his pockets to emphasise the point. “Cash is an issue, and we are working with the regulator.”
Indeed, with Crown, Astra, John White, and many other industry players attending the Northern Showcase and Bacta AGM all under one roof, the spirit of working together seemed very much alive and thriving in Leyland, Lancashire.