These M’sians Turn Nostalgia Into Profit By Putting A Twist On Old-School Arcade Machines
Tee May Tan
Back in the days when arcades were a thing, teenagers would gather at arcades and spend the rest of their after-school hours at those machines.
Classics like Donkey Kong, Space Invaders, Super Mario and Pac-Man have the ability to turn stern dads into big man-childs relieving their own days of youthful gaming—I know, because I’ve personally seen my dad become one.
The Solution Builders are going for that market gap and capitalising on the thread of nostalgia by offering personalised arcade machines.
Started by 2 good friends with a shared love for retro games, a thought occurred to them if it was possible to custom design an arcade machine to make it friendly for house or office spaces.
The two co-founders Dave Tioh and Calvin Chew launched it in June 2016 with two categories under their brand—Arcade Builders and Leisure Builders.
As you might be able to tell, Arcade Builders focuses on fully customised arcade products that incorporates with a home decor concept based on customer preference.
Leisure Builders focuses on recreation and other forms of entertainment like pool tables, vinyl recorders and foosball tables. It also acts as a platform to provide interior design services; customers that desire a leisure corner can opt to have such a space built by proving the size and dimension of the area.
“Business aside, we wanted to bring back the good old memories to the community. Consumers want to have a corner of their own for retro gaming but the ones available in the market is usually just the console itself or the standard design.”
They allow customers to fully customise the arcade gaming cabinet as they wish—some request for a shoe storage cabinet, others prefer mini-fridges for them to grab a quick beer between gameplay.
“We custom design from scratch, which means any design can be done.”
Customers can get the standard machines for between RM2,000 to RM4,000, but prices are determined by the level of customisation.
“We can even hook them up with the token slot as an old-school way of gaming to give them a more memorable flashback of the old days. For parents that are concerned with their kids becoming addicted to the game, we can actually custom a child lock to control the credits of the game.”
They have over 900 games pre-installed and available. Popular ones include King of Fighters, Street Fighter, Marvel VS Capcom, Super Mario, and Metal Slug.
They quit their corporate jobs in an MNC company and started off with savings of RM50k to purchase the stock, and broke even within the first 3 months.
“We roll the profit by investing in our office and showroom to diversify our business plan from selling arcade consoles to arcade cabinets and leisure products.”
Their products seem to be fairly popular amongst corporate and retail companies. Chew revealed a substantial portion of their deliveries are to offices.
“We have done a lot of corporate and retail requests where they prefer a custom design arcade machine based on their company theme and logo.”
“Offices with a leisure corner will prefer to have an arcade machine as those games are suitable for their age range and are also fast-paced which won’t take much time to complete a game.”
One can see how this concept would appeal to the millennial office culture, seeing as the games offer a short yet entertaining break from work which is ideal for emphasising efficiency in a fun and fast-paced work environment.
They have already sold more than 1,200 units across their own platform and other authorised business partners in KL, Perak and Penang.
“Our latest achievement is a collaboration with Major Drop. We are doing a crossover of our Arcade Cabinet with them and users can even place orders on the exclusive design of the Major Drop Arcade Pro Cabinet via their official store in Mid Valley.”
As the market they are targeting is pretty niche, they have engaged in several promotional efforts and marketing campaigns to expand their reach.
“So far, we have been to 9 roadshow events in order for the potential customers to drop by and get a better picture on our customised products. As most of the enquiries come from other states, we have set up 2 hubs for demo, testing and COD in Petaling Jaya and Penang.”
“Besides that, we have done lots of giveaways, contests and loyalty programs to rewards the fans.”
Pricing and logistics were few of the mountains they had to cross to step up their game in the industry.
“We had a price war on selected items, thus we brought in an in-house designer who focused on custom design and a marketing specialist to focus on other online platforms.”
“Previously we tried to save on costs by engaging normal courier to deliver the product and some of it went completely haywire. Since we are shipping fragile items such as the monitor and glass panel, we decided to engage a professional logistics solution instead.”
Eventually, they plan to implement a 3D Floor Planner on their website. Customers can then use gain a complete visual of the planned layout based on the dimensions keyed in.
“For arcade range customisation, there are only 2 players in Malaysia excluding us. But if we are talking about custom design from scratch to accommodate every single request of the customer’s requirement, then we are the only one.”
UPDATE: Since publishing, we’ve received some questions about the legitimacy and legality of the games in the consoles. We put the question to the team, and they replied that the games used are more than 20 years old, and considered license free.