A new organizer, an eyebrow-raising floor plan and an extra level upstairs were just three of the themes running through this year’s ATEI. Clarion Events took the mantle previously held by Reed and although the show seemed as busy and bustling as ever, according to the interim statistics, there were dissenting voices to be heard in many areas of the show floor. The visitor Experiences Show, whose remit crosses paths ever so slightly with the coin-op entertainment and amusement industry, was, by contrast, eerily quiet. It did, however, afford good views of the ATEI main hall below.

      Once again, an influx of eastern European exhibitors added to the international mix as did a higher number than usual of German and Austrian exhibitors, due in no small part to the postponement of IMA Number because of German companies preparing machines to comply with the new spielverordnung.
      On the domestic front, Astra’s managing director Neil Chinn reckons section 34 machines, which offer higher payouts for the locations where they are permitted, are the way forward. Astra is arguably the most successful producer of Section 16 games over the past two years. Chin presided over a large stand dominated by Section 16 games. “The major arcade operators have done well from Section 16, but part of their clientele has grown up with AWP games and is still looking for them.

There must be some reinvestment in AWPs. I know that they are limited to £ 25 and the industry is clamouring for an uplift in stakes and prizes, but a move up to £ 35, for example, would not help the sales of AWPs. It needs a rise in the stake (currently a maximum of 30p). A 50p stake would make all the difference. ”
      He said that Section 16   had now become a replacement market but it was noticeable that the AWP was at the ATEI show in greater numbers. “We may be seeing the return of the old-fashioned AWP, but it must see an increase in stake. ” Those who were at the show with Section 16 games for the first time, he said, had ‘missed the boat. ’ “They are a year too late,” he concluded.

Everywhere, it seemed, there were ‘casino style’ cabinets with semi-circular tops, as the coin-op industry doffed its cap to its casino contemporaries. Also on the casino theme, contemporaries. Also on the casino theme, Austria’s Infinity Games, exhibiting for the first time, demonstrated an automated roulette that featured an in-between –spins pocker game. Celebrities were, for once, fairly thin on the ground, although England darts captain Martin Adams spent some time on the merlin area of the Electrocoin stand – where the Wild Bull, the first electronic board accepting steel-tipped darts captain Martin Adams spent some time on the merlin area of the Electrocoin stand – where the Wild Bull, the first electronic board  accepting steel-tipped darts was launched. Ex-England football captain and manager Kevin Keegan was spotted on the show floor too expressing an interest in the Goal Striker product upstairs. Simon ‘Aces ’ Trumper, a professional poker champion also warrants a mention, if only for his ludicrous name.

      Elsewhere, traditional competitive video gaming made a mini comeback in the shape of Ford Extreme, House of the Dead 4, Virtual Tennis 3, the latest incarnations of Dragonball, Z, Golden Tee Live and Dancing Stage Supernova. Konami added to the video games quota by demonstrating an early version of Pro Evolution Soccer 2006 Arcade, which will be in arcades an online towards the end of the year. Gamers will have an option to take their own PS2 controller to the arcade if they don’t fancy using the joystick mounted on the cabinet. An exciting new SWP, albeit in prototype form, was on display from UK mavericks Fat Spanner and, despite the dissenting voices from numerous quarters, the show went on. Next year, therefore, becomes the most eagerly-awaited ATEI since it first moved to Earls court in 1992 as coin-op companies battle for floor space and prime positions in the all-new layout