News: Betson (arcade) Q&A

Betson is a major distributor of arcade games and cabinets right now, and is sort of taking charge of the rather lame arcade resurgence we’re having now (we are having one, by the way – but it’s mostly stuff like driving and hunting games). Anyway, the Q&A has a lot of info about the current state of the industry, which I think most of us have basically just speculating about until this point. He’s pretty up on the industry in general, naturally, since he’s got to sell it, but I don’t think Ryan Cravens, the fellow I spoke with, is making up his statistics. He says that even today, 70% of his company’s sales come from games, and that the industry is worth 6 billion. Sounds crazy to me, but what do I know? I asked him questions about where he sells the most cabinets, where the games are going if not dedicated arcades, and things like that. Also about his late father, explaining how he got into the Street Fighter background. Not bad, all told. Still doesn’t mean we’re getting Melty Blood AC in arcades nationwide…

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News: Tose interview sequel

Frank and I broke the news of Tose to the western world (give or take), about a year ago, with this interview. I’m sure everyone knows who they are by now, but they have developed a number of games behind the scenes, not taking credit for it, having worked on over 1,100 games since the company began in 1979. Here you’ll find my followup interview with three of the higher up Tose fellows. It’s not as much of a megaton, because it’s hard to beat breaking a story… but through this interview I learned that Koichi Sawada, Tose’s director of china sales used to work for SNK, and now that they’ve gotten some exposure, they’re thinking of scaling back again, and withdrawing once more to the shadows. I also tried to discern the differences in teams within the company, since their games are very up and down (Rocket Slime being a particularly ‘up’ title).

So yeah – might as well read this, because you won’t likely see another Tose interview until…I interview them again. They fear the press! Incidentally christian nutt very recently took that photo on a shinkansen platform in kyoto. They may be a secret, but they still need to hire! The large version of the photo is pretty interesting…

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News: Melty Blood Act Cadenza Ver.B for the PC

melty.jpg4gamer reports that the popular doujin-turned-arcade game Melty Blood Act Cadenza Ver.B will be released on the PC come late July. The PC version will be based on Melty Blood Act Cadenza Ver.B2, which is the latest revision of Melty Blood in the arcades right now. The limited edition package will sell for 8190 yen while the normal version will sell for 6090 yen – both prices are significantly higher than the original selling price of Melty Blood when it was released as a doujin game in 2002.

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News: Sonic hacked into Knuckles Chaotix

Frank found a really awesome hack for the (very good!) 32X game Knuckles Chaotix, which replaces Mighty the Armadillo with Sonic. Check it out on the Sonic2Beta forums. Pics and downloads are available there. Very well implemented sprites (done by Heran Bago and KojiChao, with the hack authored by JJFTails), and Sonic is even playable in the special stages.

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News: 3 O’CLOCK studio formed

3oclock_logo1.jpgAs of a few days ago, From Software has created a new sister studio by the name of 3 O’CLOCK. Their first title is a Hello Kitty effort on the DS but the remaining games in the studio’s starting line-up will be announced fairly shortly. The interesting thing about this is that From Software already has a dedicated handheld arm, by the name of From Capsule, but it seems 3 O’CLOCK’s remit is a far broader one (which can only be a good thing). Anyway, could be an interesting little studio to watch.

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News: Beautiful Katamari Damashii for the PS3 and Xbox 360

damacy.jpgThis week’s famitsu has revealed Beautiful Katamari Damashii for the PS3 and the Xbox 360, the latest in the game series of… collecting stuff. This newest edition will feature next-gen features such as online play and allegedly more beautiful graphics. The release date has yet to be announced.

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News: Return Fire Saturn version released

Return Fire originally came out for the 3DO, and was a bit like Mass Destruction, but with a bit more flag capturing. Actually a lot more. Quite a decent game, it was, and a Saturn version was completed, then scrapped. This is sort of the “lost” Saturn game, you might say, though there are a few more. Here’s why the project was never completed, according to the developer, Prolific.
The game was finished for the Sega Saturn. At about that time, Hitachi made a Saturn system that was not 100% compatible with Sega’s, and the game did not run correctly on it.

We were asked to make the changes which would allow it to run on the “HI-Saturn,” and after a bit of back-and-forth, we even received a loaner HI-Saturn test system. But, did not do this work because the project was stopped because the publisher did not believe the Saturn was going to make it. The Saturn version of Return Fire was therefore never manufactured on “protected” CDs and therefore never released.

But the game was finished, and through a lot of legwork, Mr. Saturn at has released it for download. You must have a chipped saturn (or emulator I suppose) in order to make this work. The game ships with a crapload of languages: english, german, french, spanish, portuguese, japanese, italian, korean, arabic, and russian. There’s also full cover art and documentation if you want to make an actual retail-like version. Very cool news for Saturn fans – a new, full game in 2007!

Update: Forgot to mention that there’s video of the game as well. Unfortunately they decided it was a better idea to make the video all stylish and have crazy music on it instead of showing the game sounds. Ah well.

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News: Upgrade kit for Arcana Heart Full arrives

arcana.jpgThe Arcana Heart Full upgrade kit has been arriving at arcades for the past week and some arcade operators are surprised by the contents. According to Asachan Blog, the 78,000 yen upgrade package apparently only contains a small custom chip.

Arcana Heart Full is supposed to fix certain bugs regarding the actual operation of the game together with some character balancing tweaks, additional colors, and a practice mode. It was originally planned to sell for 148,000 yen before the price was slashed to 78,000 yen after protests from arcade operators. (In comparison, Melty Blood’s upgrades were free.) The article also mentions that Examu only provided one arcade marquee per upgrade, meaning that locations with versus cab setups in which two cabinets are connected back to back (as in most popular japanese arcades), there wouldn’t be enough for both! Bit of a shoddy upgrade from the arcade shops’ perspective.

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News: Coin-op legend Bill Cravens dies

StreetFighterDad.jpgBill Cravens, born in 1942, was a leader in the arcade and coin-op industry for many years, weathering a number of industry slumps, all the way to its current relatively dormant state. He was a longtime arcade game retailer, having sold some of the very first pong games, and according to his son Ryan Cravens, also sold such games as Mr. Do, Super Punch Out, Final Fight, Street Fighter and Golden Tee 3D. The companies he worked for or distributed include Capcom, Nintendo, Cinematronics, Universal, Pacific Novelty, uWink, Incredible Technologies, Bromley, Team Play (P&P), and Wurlitzer, according to RePlay Magazine.

His name is painted in the background of a stage in Street Fighter, as you see in the image to the left. His whole surviving family is in the arcade and amusement distribution business, with sons Ryan and Todd both working for Betson, who distributes for Eugene Jarvis’ company Raw Thrills, among others.

Bill died in his sleep on the 29th of March, ironically during the Amusement Showcase International show in Las Vegas – though I suppose that shows his dedication to the industry. A thoughtful short piece on his passing can be found here, written by his son Ryan.

Bill Cravens was involved in the American Amusement Machine Association (AAMA) and at one time served as president of its charitable branch, the American Amusement Machine Charitable Foundation. His other son, Todd Cravens, shared some heartfelt words with the AAMA. “I would like to thank the members of the industry for their outpouring of support over the passing of my father. My mother, brother, Ryan and I cannot begin to tell you how much it means to our family. I am truly humbled by the sheer amount of people that cared for my father.

“I believe the reason my father loved this industry so much was evident today. He always felt that regardless of company or competitor people genuinely care for one another in this business. That was true today. One minute I received a hug from my boss, Bob Geschine, and the next from my competitor, Vince Gumma. That meant a lot to him, and it means a tremendous amount to our family.”

RePlay also gathered quotes from folks at the show:
“Billy died doing what he enjoyed best,” said Virginia operator John Newberry at ASI, referring to his passing during a night at the Las Vegas show.

“Bill had been feeling poorly for a while, but he insisted on making his sales appointments,” said Eddie Adlum, publisher of RePlay. “Oh, but that guy could charm you, entertain you and sell you. When he was in top form, he was the best.”

“He was one of the most giving guys on the planet,” said Betson Distributing President Rick Kirby, referring to both his personality and Craven’s well-known philanthropic bent. “He reached out to people. He cared about people. This business was his life.”

The AAMCF and AAMA are working together to gather funds for a memorial donation in Bill’s name, to be used towards diabetes research. Donations can be made payable to the AAMCF and sent to AAMA headquarters at 450 E. Higgins Road, Suite 201 Elk Grove Village, IL 60007.

This is the man who got arcade machines into our pizza parlors, bars, and convenience stores when we were children, so I tip my hat to him and his family for their continued contribution to our preferred form of entertainment.

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News: Odin Sphere details

More Odin Sphere details have been revealed today – the u.s. release date is set at may 22, only five days after the japanese release. And as a further bonus, it turns out the game will have both language tracks selectable – and english dub, or original japanese dub with subtitles. Very nice! Purchase this game and strike down the demon that is the third dimension!

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