Nary a few weeks after the famed Sega GiGO Game Center shuttered its doors in Tokyo’s famous Ikebukuro area, Sega’s president Nao Kataoka announced that a new arcade will open in Ikebukuro on October 22nd. That’s a mere month and two days after the original location closed. There were whispers that the original building was due for renovation and the lease was up, while others figured that lackluster income due to covid had quashed the location. While the news of a reopening may be pleasing to arcade aficionados, how Sega withheld the details about the new location has some fans miffed.
When the original Sega arcade closed on September 20th, there was an air of finality to it. Fans of the 28-year old location lined up across Ikebukuro’s avenue, eager to experience the conclusion to this celebrated location. For many, it was the final opportunity to enjoy a venue where they had previously forged a myriad of pleasant memories. It was a place where high schoolers hung out with their friends after a long day of study; where boyfriends tried to win plush toys for their girlfriends; where ex-pats tried to score unique prizes to bring back home. As daylight gave way to dusk, employees lamented the surreal atmosphere, unable to grasp that their legendary place of work was closing forever in only a few short hours. As night fell and the last patrons made their way out of the store, the head manager held a curtain call. In his speech to the massive crowd, he said:
“I want to share something important with you all. Sega Ikebukuro GiGO is closing due to the renewal of the building. We have not been defeated by covid. If we could, we [would] want to stay open and see your smiling faces every day. I really mean this. But sadly, we have to close our doors. While this shop may disappear from Ikebukuro, we strongly believe the culture of arcades is here to stay.”
After a month of radio silence from Sega following the big send-off, the president announced that the Sega arcade will return on October 22nd with a 5-story building in Ikebukuro across the street from the old location. To turn around so abruptly with a reopening announcement feels like they made a publicity stunt out of the shutdown. It feels a bit dishonest, as everyone, including the employees, seemed to be under the impression that it was closing for good with no promises of a reopening, as was the case with the Akihabara location. Whatever their angle was, it worked: the closing brought in hundreds, perhaps thousands of patrons, and so impactful was its closing that the news reached the ears of people overseas as well.
The short divide between closure and reopening suggests that reopening was likely finalized months ago, as leasing a massive location in Ikebukuro isn’t something that can be accomplished in a few weeks. Whether the upper echelons of Sega’s corporate ladder disclosed this information to lower-level employees is debatable, but it’s reasonable to assume that if that were the case, the information about a reopening would’ve leaked at some point.
Did you ever play a video game or watch an anime where they kill off a character and make a big deal out of it, only for the character to return a few chapters later? That’s what this feels like. It’s bad storytelling.
Was Sega intentionally withholding the reopening informatin from the public to dredge up publicity and increase revenue? It’s tough to say for sure, but it feels a little shifty.