A magazine’s final issue of the year is the traditional spot for a year-in-review story and a forecast of the coming year. VT actually began this twin focus (both retrospective and prospective) with Frank Seninsky’s article in our December issue, headlined “In Five Years, This Will Be A Very Different Industry – With Phenomenal Opportunities.” If you haven’t read it yet, go back and give it a careful study.
Next, turn to our review-forecast story in this issue. We point out how the downloading jukebox is leading the industry, not only in terms of sales volume and financing trends, but also in terms of technology, changing customer and location relationships and new business models.
Finally, read Kevin Williams’s column in this issue, “The Future Of The Amusements Industry: 2007 And Beyond.” He outlines factors that are poised to shake up the industry and suggests sound strategies that can help ensure long-term survival and success.
Some readers may feel these three pieces by Seninsky, Williams and Webb are pie in the sky – not relevant to the daily grind of keeping machines running and getting all those cashboxes collected. But it is exactly those readers who have the greatest need to look up from the trenches and to reorient themselves to the big picture of this industry – where it is, and where it’s going.
William F. Buckley, father of the modern conservative political movement, famously joked 50 years ago that the mission of his magazine, National Review, was to “stand athwart history, yelling stop!” For the past 15 years, too many members of the amusements industry have assumed an equally hopeless posture of yelling “Stop!” rather than adapting to inevitable changes.
Buckley, of course, was more than half kidding. Unfortunately, our industry’s most change-resistant members are dead serious, and their postures will ultimately prove deadliest to themselves.
When the end comes for a small market sector – or for an entire industry for that matter – the pattern is often a long, slow and agonizing retrenchment, followed by a sudden final collapse. Inevitably, many who have hung on, year after year, are surprised that their industry really was vulnerable to catastrophe after all. They kept hearing predictions of doom that didn’t come true, so they convinced themselves that despite bad conditions, the basic market would live forever.
It’s folly. Just ask the poker operators of South Carolina now, and ask the former poker operators of North Carolina next year.
I don’t believe the U.S. amusements industry is doomed to experience an unavoidable, sudden, catastrophic collapse. But I do believe the challenges we face today will continue to mount, and must be aggressively met.
Let me quote another political conservative. When Ronald Reagan assumed the presidency in 1981, America was said by many to have entered an era of irreversible national decline. Reagan strongly disagreed.
In his first Inaugural Address, he proclaimed, “I do not believe in a fate that will fall on us no matter what we do. I do believe in a fate that will fall on us if we do nothing. So, with all the creative energy at our command, let us begin an era of national renewal.”
This is a pretty good philosophy for the amusements industry today. Can we muster the will to follow Reagan’s bold prescription?
Some observers doubt that we can. They remind us that this industry’s average members are closer to retirement than commencement. But I believe a surprising number of our old dogs are willing to learn – and eager to perform – some new tricks.
Reagan was 69 when he entered the White House. If a man in his seventh decade could revive the U.S. economy and defeat the USSR, surely a group of smart, energetic entrepreneurs in their 40s, 50s and 60s can revive a hi-tech products and services industry.
That’s what my crystal ball says, anyway.