Thursday, February 14, 2008

Capitalize on the ‘Kong’ Effect

Last month a fantastic documentary was released on DVD, “The King of Kong: A Fistful of Quarters.” You can check out the movie’s official site here, but essentially the film follows one gamer’s quest to capture the world record score for “Donkey Kong.”

It’s a fascinating character study on many different levels, but what stuck out to me in reference to our industry is the apparently still-vibrant fervor for classic arcade games (I’ve certainly seen some retro cabinets popping up on the IAAPA Attractions Expo trade show floor the past few years). While “King of Kong” obviously focuses on “Donkey Kong,” the film touches on the sustained popularity of several other titles from the early 1980s, including “Ms. Pac-Man,” “Q*Bert,” “Burgertime,” “Missile Command,” and many more.

Even though the documentary was released last summer, almost no one saw it; its widest release was just 58 theaters and it made less than $700,000 at the U.S. box office (though this still makes it the highest-grossing documentary about a video game of all time). But now that "King of Kong" is out on DVD the movie’s getting all kinds of pub, especially with next month’s U.S. release of the first “Guinness World Records Gamer’s Edition,” which is referenced in the movie (the European edition is already out). Just anecdotally, I know several of us here at IAAPA have seen the movie and can’t stop raving about it.

So here’s my question: It seems there’s a bit of a groundswell for classic video games right now, so how can family entertainment centers capitalize on the release of this movie and the hubbub it’s generating? Here’s my idea: Host a classic arcade gaming tournament. Licensing issues would probably prevent you from crowning your own “King of Kong” (or directly referencing the movie in any way, really), but I’m sure you can come up with something catchy and clever—“Retro Gaming Championship,” or something much better than that. It seems like an event that would draw kids and their parents; my dad doesn’t know a “Halo” from a “Guitar Hero,” but he can still run power-pellet-munching circles around me on “Ms. Pac-Man.”

If anyone out there has already tried something like this, please drop a comment to let us know how you did it, how it went, what worked/what didn’t, etc.

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