In a two-part series, Coinslot speaks to a range of stakeholders in the industry and asks them to share their views on what has been a roller-coaster of a ride. What started out as a year of huge promise turned suddenly after the emergence of Covid, lockdown, Brexit, economic recession and a gambling review – 2020 has changed the entire industry landscape. There’s optimism, anger, criticism, frustration, good news, bad news – an interesting Christmas read for all, with one notable exception. The folk devil of 2020 will be clear to all of you pretty early on, although the heroes of the year are drawn more widely from across the community.
JAMES ANDERSON COMMERCIAL & SALES DIRECTOR BANDAI NAMCO AMUSEMENT EUROPE LIMITED
How will you look back on 2020?
I think Covid-19 is something we all heard about but had that vague naivety to believe it wouldn’t affect us or be the huge debilitating issue that it is today. EAG 2020 was excellent, goods on order and all due on time. Shows in India and Saudi Arabia continued as it remained very much back page news in my mind. It wasn’t until the Amusement Expo in New Orleans which I went to see the unveiling of Raw Thrills’ Kong VR that it fully manifested and things moved very quickly from there. We went from a full team to skeleton staff overnight and I have had to learn other sides of the business in place of the team we furloughed. In a way, I think I have been lucky. Although furlough may sound good to some in principle, with a team as dedicated and passionate as ours are, it does put a terrible strain on mental health to have to rely on other means to keep busy and distracted.
We can’t deny it has been a tremendously tough year, but BNAE export throughout the world so as some markets closed and locked down, others were open.
We’re also thankful to customers for working with us in terms of outstanding debts and clearing them ASAP. Aside from this very obvious, other challenges including Brexit and the tariffs of products from the UK have kept us occupied. The latest news looks good for the tariffs, but we just need to take one certain step at a time.
What, if any, were your highlights of the year?
On a positive reflection, I think this has been a huge learning curve for the company and the industry as a whole. The need to future-proof ourselves has been quite a prominent factor, and it’s something we’d been slowly getting round to over the past few years. There’s nothing like a pandemic to give a boost in the right direction, and we should see the evidence of this progression over the next year. But something we’re able to comment on presently, and it surely comes as no surprise that our home sales and PAC-MAN Cave products have been very strong this year, especially in the US.
BANDAI NAMCO Amusement Europe Ltd. is now geared up with Social Media at long last where you can find our latest products and relevant news – we’ve got Facebook, Twitter, Instagram, LinkedIn and YouTube, so please do get tagging, sharing and talking to us. We’ve always been a social bunch, just now demonstrating it beyond the bar at trade shows!
How have the events of 2020 changed your view on how you run your organisation, how we run our industry and how the various authorities run our country?
On a Government, industry and company scale, it is very tough to balance the safety of the public with health of the economy. No matter what decisions are made, there will be some negative reactions. It’s about choosing the route with the fewest discrepancies possible whilst surviving this tough period. We’re extremely appreciative of our partnering venues in setting the top-standard for covid-secure procedures, and we can say with complete certainty that everything possible has been actioned to keep our customers safe while they support our products. Within the business we have had to be very fluid, adapt to change and look for opportunities where possible.
Covid, Brexit, The Gambling Review: what do you think will happen in 2021?
I read something on social media that there is to be a plague of giant locusts expected in 2021… But really, we’ve been working hard adapting to the changes expected with Brexit impending so we’re as ready as we can be based on the current information and we should be in good position to bat the curveballs too.
Ending the pandemic is what we’re all cheerleading right now – as mentioned, the sites we supply have all been extremely stringent with the rules so if we all continue to be compliant alongside the vaccine distribution, then the faster we can get 2021 on the right track.
If you had to pick a Hero(ine) of 2020 who would it be and who would be your folk devil?
I think for a year that has a lot of people anxious, we shall veto the folk devil aspect to your question in favour of casting the spotlight on the heroines and heroes. It would be an injustice to give the title to anyone other than our frontline and key workers. Doctors, nurses, emergency and protective services, scientists, cleaners, social and care workers, delivery staff – particularly my all-time favourite, the pizza delivery person.
There’s truly a lot of people to be thankful for this year whether frontline or just our closest contacts personally and professionally that are helping to encourage us throughout the tribulations of this year.