No doubt, the pandemic is bad for lots of businesses. But in Japan, it’s especially awful for arcades.
Because Japan is currently under a state of emergency due to covid-19, nightspots have been ordered to close early. Those that don’t risk fines. As AFP News reports, bars and restaurants get compensation from the government to replace lost earnings. Arcades, however, do not.
“Usually after 6 pm until midnight is the most profitable time,” Yasushi Fukamachi, manager at the legendary Tokyo arcade Mikado, told AFP. “Now we have to close at 8 pm which means we lose our four most profitable hours.”
“The government is doing nothing to help us out of this hopeless situation,” he added. “Our income has gone down by more than half. This is horrible.”
Some of these arcades depended on tourists, who have been barred from entering the country due to covid-19. Arcades like Mikado, however, have a dedicated following of loyal customers, but the pandemic has also kept them away.
As Kotaku previously reported Mikado installed barriers and disinfected the cabinets to prevent infection.
“Customers were slow to return,” says Fukamachi of the period following Japan’s first state of emergency earlier last year. But by the fall, they were back, and the earnings had reached 90 per cent of usual.
Even before the pandemic, AFP points out, the arcade business in Japan had been struggling. In 1989, for example, there were 22,000 arcades in the country. But by 2019, that number had dropped to 4,000. No doubt the pandemic has pushed it even lower.
“The fact that even big arcades are going out of business one after the other shows the situation’s severity,” said Morihiro Shigihara, a journalist and former arcade manager.
Mikado’s Fukumachi has been streaming arcade matches to his followers on YouTube as a way to supplement earnings with advertising money and launched a highly successful crowdfunding campaign. He thinks that his arcade will survive as it’s “a bit like a cockroach” but warns that others “that keep on with business as usual, will suffer.”