As cruise lines develop new forms of entertainment and guest amenities for all over the ship, the arcade remains a constant feature – and an expanding one at that. Alex Orban, vice-president, global business development at NAMCO USA, speaks to World Cruise Industry Review about the winning formula of staying fresh, engaging a wide demographic and ensuring play remains centre stage.

While cruise lines develop new forms of entertainment all over the ship, the arcade remains a constant. What do you see as its role today?

Alex Orban: The answer is simple: entertainment. It may seem simplistic to state it that way, but as one of the global leaders in all things entertainment, NAMCO USA – and the broader family of BANDAI-NAMCO Group – understands that what we provide is a way of producing smiles. To play is human – a quote our founder often used – and NAMCO prides itself in offering what the human spirit seeks: enjoyment.

What is the secret to an environment that appeals to children, adults, serious gamers and casual participants alike?

Variety in game play is the key to a quality arcade and we are always developing new ways to entertain. One of the factors that sets us apart from other operators is our ability to introduce leading-edge, specially developed games that complement a ‘classic Pac Man’ arcade.

The best way to provide fun for all age groups is to make the arcade space as inviting to families as possible. Video-style games tend to have a greater appeal to younger players. To attract older players, or for that matter unaccustomed players, the arcade should have merchandisers and redemption as well. The nature of prize games is that by varying the type of prize, you can attract players of differing ages.

Does the newest technology grab guests’ attention or is there still a role for classic games?

Much will depend on the demographics a cruise line is marketing to. If the primary market is for couples without children, then merchandisers tend to do very well. If, on the other hand, the market is geared towards families with children, then video, redemption and merchandisers perform best. As the company created by Pac Man, we’re happy to see that young and old are still attracted to this and other classic games.

How do you tie your games in with cruise-ship payment systems to make them as user-friendly as possible?

NAMCO uses a proprietary cashless payment system on ships that ties directly into the ship’s on-board management system. This allows the passenger to use the same payment card (the room key or another cruise-sanctioned payment card) to play in the arcade and have the cost go directly to their bill; or if given the option, to have the payment deducted from a prepaid rechargeable fund.

The merchandisers direct-vend the prizes; therefore, they play similarly to a video game, whereas redemption uses points that are exchanged for prizes. NAMCO runs its on-board redemption through the proprietary cashless payment system, tracking the points earned. The player then redeems the points at a self-dispensing prize unit like Prize Hub. In this way, there is no need for a full-time attendant to monitor points and prizes.

With ships often making only short stops in port, how do you ensure machines function reliably?

NAMCO is a global company and we pride ourselves on our ability to keep games operational wherever a ship ports.

The key to maintenance is being proactive and prepared. First, knowing the detailed maintenance of each piece of installed equipment and making sure parts that might fail are replaced before they actually do. Second, being prepared for eventual issues when service calls are made so the arcade can stay operational at all times.

One key element in the process is continuous communication with the ship’s staff, who should sweep the space on a daily basis and report any issues to our technicians. In this way, we are prepared to service the games when we arrive as well as keeping the prizes fully stocked.

How do you ensure games are safe to use in a seaborne environment?

The potential for injury to players is increased while on a ship due to its rolling platform. NAMCO uses a locking mechanism that secures games to the floor. This method, along with the levellers that come with the games, ensures that they stay where we put them. We designed these locking mechanisms so that our technicians can easily access the games when needed but securely lock the games to the floor when the ship is underway. Safety and efficiency are two of NAMCO’s operating hallmarks.