The third and final day of AAA 2024 (the Asia Attractions & Amusement Expo 2024) has come, and with that we can wrap things up as we look at the best of the rest at the show. This includes looks at the most notable companies outside of the ‘big two’ of Wahlap and UNIS, and a wide range of pieces from other manufacturers that interested Shinichi Ogasawara from Sega Amusements – who once more sent us much of the photos and information you see below – the most.

We’ve said this more than enough by now, but a huge thanks to Oga-Shi for his efforts in reporting from the show floor. He’s a true Arcade Hero 😉 If you missed our reports from day one and two on the two aforementioned factories, find them here and here. There have been a few other trade shows this month elsewhere in the world too, and though these haven’t had any new game launches, look out for some coverage of them grouped together in a Newsbytes soon.

Wahlap Recap

Just before we get onto the main part of the post, let’s briefly return to one of our advertisers, Wahlap. They have now posted a couple of videos related to AAA 2024. These show a few games that we didn’t get photos of, including Monster Eye 3, the Chinese version of NFS Heat Takedown (which was right next to ME3 and may have not been photographed for that reason), very quick footage of the Taiko No Tatsujin kiddie ride – and more. This also shows how some manufacturers really make a spectacle out of their booths, as opposed to just putting games into a space:

As mentioned in passing before, they also held another of their global partner gala parties. We do of course see after-show events like this after IAAPA or AEI – they’re always a great way to keep operators and distributors networking, while hyping up the newest products:

Ace Amusement

Moving onto the other companies now, one outfit out of China that has really been starting to strike on the global stage is Ace Amusement. They’ve been gaining prominence to the extent that they had their own booth at IAAPA last year, alongside Wahlap, and UNIS. As of right now though, they still heavily rely on local distributors for overseas sales; usually UDC in Europe and Coastal Amusements in the States.

Besides their many successful water gun shooters in the Ice Man mold, Ace’s approach generally involves taking familiar concepts from the arcade scene’s past and updating them for the present day, often with kid-focused elements and styles. That does include adding a redemption mode on pretty much all of them, but for those with good knowledge of arcades, it’s interesting to spot the obvious influences at play:

Ace Amusement's booth at AAA 2024.

Ace showcased several new releases at AAA 2024 in that very template. The one below is Fierce Chase, a revival of the two player driving and shooting hybrid gameplay originally employed by Namco’s old Lucky & Wild from way back when. But there were a couple more that Oga took pictures of, and we nearly included them in this post… until Ted realized that they both had photography sharing bans.

Fierce Chase arcade game by Ace Amusement. It's like Lucky & Wild by Namco.

We can still describe them in text though, so for the first of those, Air Combat looks like a cross between Sega’s old Sky Target and Ace’s recent Air Strike in a larger twin pendulum motion cabinet. The other is Skull of Shadow, a pirate-themed shooting game shown off in both tethered and fixed gun forms that should immediately bring Deadstorm Pirates to mind. The tethered version offers four players while the fixed is limited to three. It’s funny that they would go for this specific concept of all things right now, with an actual official sequel to the original game on the horizon... wouldn’t be the first (and likely nor the last) time that an attempt to sweep the rug out from under a more recognized game has happened though.

Both of these games were there with English art, so I’d say there’s a good chance that they will find their way out West, it just depends on who wants to import & distribute these over here (likely Coastal and UDC). Also, Ace has the Asia version of Air Strike listed on their website, although originally we first heard about the game through a Chinese company called Game Art. Who knows what’s going on with the IP there.

Playmore

Another lesser-known name that has been getting a lot of product distributed on the Western scene of late is Playmore (no, not the one that bought up SNK in 2001). They specialize in coin pushers, and though those aren’t really our bag at AH it’s hard to ignore this company’s rise. Oga even described the company to us as the “lion” of China’s industry, with Wahlap as the dragon and UNIS the tiger, adding that their quality is pretty good and how numerous companies have been approaching them:

Playmore's booth at AAA 2024.

Playmore announced two new machines at the show; Dragon Knight (which you can see above) and another without an English name for now, that has a big lion/bingo ball cage centerpiece. It’ll most likely come out West under some sort of title though, or with a suitable licence, as some of their machines have done. Solar System got rethemed to Rick and Morty by LAI Games, for one, although Sega Amusements did release its original version and LAI have also just put out Cosmic Tower as is:

Another Chinese pusher

They also had an unusual new crane game on hand called “High Five”, which as the name implies has five claws:

Firestone Amusement / Huoshi Chuan Yu / Gym & Fun

One that Oga did not cover, and it is a little confusing as a company that goes by Firestone Amusement is quite active on LinkedIn, but no such company by that name is on the exhibitor list and the art that is seen in the pics says “Huoshi Chuan Yu” Technology or “Gym & Fun”. Perhaps that’s how they say firestone in Chinese, but my online translators are failing me. Anyways, they produce the Thunder Attack game that Amusement Source International is currently selling in the US and Electrocoin have been testing in the UK:

Thunder Attack at AAA 2024.

They also appeared at AAA 2024 with a few variations on JET Games’ Mega Shot. We talked about this before, but as they made the original Top Gun that JET brought out as Quick Shot and Electrocoin brought out as Skill Shooter, it’s likely that both have deals with them to bring over their product (am currently following up with JET on that). They do have some different English marquees calling their video model Master Sniper:

Master Sniper

They also had a couple of electromechanical shooting galleries:

Shooting gallery

Arccer Amusement

Oga also didn’t take any photos of these guys, as they haven’t got much in the way of new games currently, but Arccer Amusement are also worth a mention. Besides their Tata Island pusher (which Bandai Namco brought over as Tower Island, and had an updated three player version shown off here), they haven’t even had many pieces see official representation out West yet. However, they have been gaining recognition among rhythm gamers around the world for their takes on popular examples from Japan.Arccer Amusement's booth at AAA 2024.

Lots of these started out as the usual Chinese clones, but over time they’ve been tweaking these base concepts into more of their own thing. They even have some slight advantages in some cases now – like the series that started out as their Maimai imitator, Dance Cube/Show. As well as different gameplay mechanics, this one has just gone 120hz with a newly upgraded white cabinet. Other rhythm games out of Japan (Taiko, Chunithm) have long done that already, but not Maimai itself just yet.

In the absence of photos from him here, Oga did tweet out this very interesting thread on how an industry higher-up he spoke to perceived Maimai’s impact on the Chinese amusement scene.

Yuto Games

This company has been very busy on the tradeshow circuit, attending the SEA Expo in Riyadh then heading straight home for AAA 2024. We briefly mentioned them before too but this video on LinkedIn offers a trailer for the first day of the show to them. As of this moment, I don’t see it on their YouTube channel yet, however we will update to reflect that whenever it appears.

They did have a couple of straight video games there, although it is difficult to say if these are just rehashes of old content or not. Yuto tends to be rather busy on the ‘high seas’, so to speak, despite doing the occasional original piece. They also have all of the old InJoy Motion IP, but it is odd that they keep regurgitating that in new cabinets. From this screencap of the LinkedIn video, the game on the right called Volt might be another rendition of InJoy’s Power Boat; Showtime could also be InJoy’s old street racing game that was trying to be like NFS:

Yuto Games screencap from their AAA 2024 video.

Yuto is also one of the few manufacturers at the show, from what we’ve seen, that appears to still have a few VR products. I’ll get more into that at the bottom.

The Rest

With the other names to look out for all summed up now, let’s look at some curiosities that Oga found on the booths of the smaller companies at AAA 2024. Some of these are video games, but others are fairly unique concepts, including one or two that you don’t really see elsewhere… for a number of reasons. Information on the exact manufacturers of these and who they are isn’t always easy to come across though – so many of them distribute each other’s product, clone each other’s games, and do the same things that it does get hard to keep track sometimes. We and Oga have done our best, however.

One of the nicest things we saw at Wahlap’s stand was the Taiko No Tatsujin kiddie rides from Bandai Namco, and the latter company have not stopped there. Over at the booth of Mecpower/Tecway, there was also a new ride by them based on their classic Gator Panic whacker series. Note that we’ve seen Tecway at IAAPA in the past, although their attendance is inconsistent:

Wacky Gators kiddie ride

This is of a similar concept to the aforementioned Taiko rides. It offers a scaled-down video version of the game to play (a more elaborate digital edition of it did already release some time ago as Whack ‘Em Funky Gators) whilst the ride-on motion of the Gator does its thing. One has to wonder what other arcade IP might end up as a kiddie ride here soon – with Namco’s revival of Animal Kaiser, I could see a ride version of that game; I’m surprised that Bay Tek hasn’t done so with their Big Bass Wheel game yet either.

Whack 'em Funky Gators kiddie ride

Proving that ‘proper’ joystick arcade machines do still exist in China, here’s a company making one of those new multi-game cabinet designs. According to the display, they are actually officially licensed by SNK! Anyone’s guess as to whether other titles on them are aside from KOF though:

SNK licensed arcade cabinets at AAA 2024.

A prime example of the confusion over distributors, manufacturers and developers is in this “Furious Speed/Pro Street 2” racer. It’s funny to see when they have two completely different names printed on the same cabinet, as some Chinese manufacturers do.

Available in two cabinet designs (one more Initial D-like, the other more Cruis’n Blast/Fast & Furious Arcade) with different names on separate booths, the game screens say the software is made by “Shengshi Network Information Co., Ltd.”, but little else is clear:

Furious Speed china

This videmption game by Iplay called Jump For Treasure is in the style of Frogger, though despite being grouped together these units apparently do not have any linked multiplayer function. Oga did say he liked how the middle screen is oddly smaller than all of the others. I agree there – with the US trend to make everything bigger/taller/wider, having a game like this is welcome for both small locations and the fact of it being so unusual that it instantly draws your attention:

Frogger-like game from China

Huangyue Technology, who make Demolition King and others, have these new whack-a-moles that award toy prizes. The theme of Lego-like blocks and a whacker is a nice touch, although having a Lego license on this sort of game would boost its appeal even more. They also appear to be distributing Apex Rebels on behalf of 3MindWave and Sega Amusements in China – note the cabinets of it in the background here:

One thing you could see at AAA 2024 that you most definitely couldn’t at other arcade trade shows is their allowance of goldfish vending machines/cranes. This is something that definitely seems to be illegal to have in the UK; I would assume so in the States, but I had not heard of these particular games here before (crabs in cranes, yes, but not fish). China, however, they’re a-ok.

Crane machines featuring live goldfish as prizes at AAA 2024.

The concept must be somewhat viable there, as two were spotted by Oga:

More crane machines featuring live goldfish as prizes at AAA 2024.

Alongside the likes of OnPoint and all those other shooting gallery videos, a recent trend in Chinese amusement was mechanical shooting ranges with real pellets. According to Oga, bow and arrow archery looks to be usurping that at AAA 2024 and is going back in vogue this year. We have seen somewhat similar setups at shows like IAAPA before, although they usually involve soft tip arrows that are fired at a projector screen. I’m not sure if Europe has seen anything like that, but done well, perhaps this could enhance a location that already features axe throwing:

Archery ranges at AAA 2024.

Speaking of archery, Oga snapped this horse riding + archery game that appeared to be popular. It’s a little hard to tell what’s going on, although there is a motion base and saddle. Oga said it looked to be Mongolian themed, although he wasn’t sure (I want to say yes, judging by the clothing of the girl on the right, but I could be way off on that :P).

Mongolian archery

Another thing not strictly related to video games that Oga took a liking to was this photo booth, with a vaguely futuristic design (almost looks like a rhythm game) and curtains that automatically open and close for taking pictures. This is quite different to the typical booth types you see most everywhere else:

Odola Foto

Oga’s personal favorite oddity of all though was this mini prize ball shooter themed after pool, though the gameplay and how the locked toys are awarded to winners are not clear from this. He told us he would like to make the machine more 1970s in style and design:

Overall

Though we don’t have any exact numbers, it looks like AAA 2024 was a success, with plenty of buzz around what Wahlap and others are doing on the show floor. Wahlap’s approach in particular is emphasizing big IP, and that appears to be paying off right now.

It might be a little while before we find out which of the new games will make a debut in either the US or Europe, although if I were to guess, Monster Eye 3 by Wahlap is a certainty. Who it might go through is a different question though. Amusement Source International might take it as they did with the second game, but LAI Games could do it instead this time (the Asphalt games have done pretty well for them).

The appearance of more arcade IP in the kiddie ride space is a surprise, but the market to entertain kids will always be there. It makes sense to place IP that’s already made for kids (such as with redemption games) and turn it into an interactive ride.

One surprise to me out of AAA 2024 is the greatly reduced presence of Virtual Reality. Yes, there was some in place, but its a stark contrast to just a few years ago when it seemed that everyone had a least one VR piece to show, especially the likes of UNIS. Given the current success of Godzilla Kaiju Wars here in the States, I’m sure we’ll see one or two clones of that concept pop up by the next AAA Expo. Yet like the last couple of trade shows in Japan, there was a lot less here than other recent years.

Does this mean that we’re past peak LBE VR? I think we are on the VR arena side. I’ve noticed quite a few operators getting rid of their VR arenas since last year, and recently the FEC down the hall from me got rid of their Hologate in favor of a Godzilla and pair of F&F Arcades. Business since the end of last year has been ok, but not great, and if a setup that costs $80k~100k isn’t getting played any more than your games that cost $15k each, it makes no sense to continue to invest in.

Like I mentioned, games like Godzilla can reinvigorate the smaller scale side, but that effect also might be limited to the license. Take for example Beat Saber – when that popped up, so did a number of clones. None of them stuck though, and after Meta pulled the plug on the Beat Saber license from arcades, interest in VR rhythm gaming seems to have evaporated completely. Of course, someone could come along and change that with a new concept – or if Konami decided to make a proper Bemani VR game with DDR attached to it.

I think that FECs will continue to keep VR alive on the smaller scale, but where it made no sense for me to invest in at my small, limited budget arcade, that’s not changing just because of a license here and there. Of course, what we had already seen from it out of most Chinese developers was inexpensive, but the games were just not any good.

Before ending, I just want to thank both Oga-Shi and Ted one more time for their work to make all these posts happen on AAA 2024. Information out of China still isn’t as forthcoming as elsewhere in the world, and these posts wouldn’t be so big without them (Oga on the show floor in particular 🙂).

What are your thoughts on the products seen at the show? Would you like to see any specific games from AAA 2024 come out here?





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