Working at a mall arcade in 2008 was an enlightening experience in some weird ways. While the general stupidity displayed be the people who walked into the arcade was dismaying, the stupidity of the company that ran the arcade was downright depressing. I used to think that the death of arcades was simply caused by the rising quality of consoles and online play, but after working for this unbelievably cheap and stupid company, I think that companies like the one I worked for were also detrimental to their own success.
The company, which has locations all across the United States, was just completely backwards. Since the arcade wasn't making much money, they would spend as little money as possible to keep it operating, instead of spending some money to get people interested enough to actually show up. Basically, the only people who would come to the arcade were people that were just wandering around the mall. There weren't any everyday regulars because there weren't any games that gave the players reason to come back.
I'll go into detail about the poor selection of games at a later day, but for our purposes now I'll just say that all of the video games were about 10 years old and the only relatively new things were ticket games. So, there aren't any new racing games or fighters, new ticket games still make the arcade money, right? Well, not when the prizes at the redemption counter are as pathetic as the ones we had. Granted, most of the stores business was from the Deal or No Deal game, but I observed that almost everyone that played it did so before looking at the prizes.
The redemption counter was just sad. The low-end stuff was the expected cheap candy and probably dangerous plastic crap. We would constantly be running out the low-end stuff, especially the rare types of candy that were actually edible, because we rarely received orders of new stuff. We got our largest order of candy suspiciously right after Halloween. A lot of times I had to fill about half of the display case with stuffed animals, which were the only thing we had a lot of, and it just looked terrible. There were a lot of time when I had people walk away and leave their tickets because there just wasn't anything worth getting.
The mid-level stuff was always the most interesting. There were comics from the 90's that the company has probably been trying to get rid of for a long time. If you ever wondered what happened to all those thousands of comics independent publishers printed back when they were new and thought they could rule the world, this is where they've ended up. We had Archer & Armstrong and Bloodwulf and like ten other series with blood in the title. If you came to our arcade you could walk away with a piece of history, like a comic that has an advertisement for Mortal Kombat, saying it will be coming to arcades soon. Or you could get some really terrible plastic bling products.
I heard a whole bunch of horror stories about the stupid decisions the company has made. The way I heard it, at some point the daughter of the company's owner tried to start a business selling lotions in different scents or flavors or whatever, and it tanked. In order to bail her out when this happened, this arcade company bought all the leftover lotions to be used as prizes in arcades across America. So, if you ever want some mango lotions or body scrubs, just save up your tickets. There was also the story of how the company, after the success of Marvel vs. Capcom 2 and Capcom vs. SNK 2, bought a ton of SNK vs. Capcom: SVC Chaos cabinets. Of course, SVC Chaos is awful and nobody in the fighting game community embraced it, so the company mostly gave up on fighting games after that.
My biggest gripe with the company was that they just let their machines fall apart. As long as the machines were capable of taking someones quarter, they didn't give a shit. There were a couple of other guys that worked at the arcade that had previously worked at a Namco arcade previously, and they would tell me these fantastical tales about techs showing up to fix machines, and getting the parts needed to repair things. At this arcade, you'd be lucky to get some tape. Atrocities were committed against their cabinets whenever something went wrong. No matter the machine, if a light gun stopped working, they would be replaced with the bottom of the barrel, cheapest one on the market. Neither Time Crisis machine had recoil, and I hope you like turkey hunting with a fucking handgun, because that's what you got at this marvelous arcade.
I'm sure I've forgot things. There was just so much stupidity at the company it is hard to remember.