Japan is one of the last bastions of prolific arcade culture, where people go out to arcades to play arcade cabinet games with or against each other, but this may not last much longer. Especially as the COVID-19 coronavirus and subsequent orders to avoid crowded places and stay home have hit Japanese arcades and gaming stores hard. Famitsu published a series of interviews from April 3-10, 2020 with the managers of famed arcade Mikado and Akihabara BEEP retro gaming shop, who detailed how dire the situation was.
Here are the highlights:
- Due to the announcement of the emergency in Japan, all non-essential stores have been ordered to close, including Mikado and other arcades.
- While the government advised caution beginning late February, earnings were basically the same in March. However, since the possibility was raised of a state of emergency announcement on March 25, 2020, earnings dropped 60% and 30% respectively across the two locations in Takadanobaba and Ikebukuro.
- As arcades operate on marginal profits as-is and costs like HR costs, equipment and building costs still need to be paid anyways, business has been made extremely difficult. As such, Mikado has resorted to crowdfunding as sort of “an investment for the future” to stay alive during these times. As per government orders, Mikado will stay closed until May 6, 2020 if things get better, and if it reopens, the owner wants to hold as many events as possible to make earnings rebound.
How you can help: Campfire page
- While not an arcade, BEEP specializes in retro gaming goods, old computers, and media. The biggest way BEEP has been hit is the drastic decrease in overseas tourists, who made up around 50% of their usual clientele. Akihabara in general has also been hit hard, and the bustling city of subculture has lost a lot of visitors. That said, BEEP has continued to purchase old goods from people willing to sell them, and that amount of people has stayed stable. It is also continuing to take orders.
- While game shops aren’t part of the state of emergency orders, BEEP is closed anyways until April 16, 2020 out of precaution, though things may change. The manager criticizes the Japanese government’s orders for not being clear and direct enough.
- While BEEP is slightly better off due to having different divisions, things are still tough. The manager makes an appeal for people to help any way they can, as games are a part of Japan’s culture they should be proud of, to the point where even overseas people come to Japan to buy them.
How you can help: BEEP Online shop
For more information on Japanese arcades and how to help, you can also visit the following pages (in Japanese): Eisei Minarai, Support Gaming, where people have been documenting various ways to help out.