There was a time when I would seek out bars with pool tables, Foosball, and Chexx hockey. At the time, I was not aware that Chexx hockey was made right here in WNY. When I discovered that the game was rooted locally, I loved the table hockey arcade game even more.
I recently learned that the company that makes the fast action game – Innovative Concepts in Entertainment (ICE) – was originally founded by ten investors in 1982. Eventually ownership was whittled down to two of the original founders, Ralph Coppola and Jack Willert.
ICE’s early-on arcade games successfully found their way into skating rinks, taverns, pool halls, etc. In its first year, 5000 Chexx hockey games were sold, which was even more impressive when you consider that video game craze of the time. But there was something about Chexx hockey that was captivating – the game was fast paced, retro in appearance, yet had a futuristic bubble, which meant that it was more fun to take slap-shots.
ICE has come a long was since those early days. Not only did the company introduce Super Chexx in 1988 and Super Chexx Pro in 2017, they also began to roll out a plethora of additional coin-operated amusement games.
Over the course of the company’s history, there have been plenty of product launches, mostly aimed at arcade-style venues. But these days, ICE has begun to include a diversified production element that has seen huge successes due in part to the pandemic. The introduction of home games that are as authentic, fun, and exciting as the original arcade games, has provided an entirely new market for ICE.
I recently spoke to Greg Kania, Director of Sales for Super Chexx, along with Josh Krouse, who was brought onboard to lead the new consumer side of the business and launch the new home Arcade Pro games at homearcadegames.com.
The objective of this new program, according to Kania and Krouse, was to create a series of professional games that would look and feel like the arcade versions, but would be suited for the home. That meant that the games needed to be able to fit through the customer’s front door, for example. They also needed to come down in price, while being easy to assemble.
When I spoke to Kania and Krouse during a Zoom call, they were happily camped out in a customer’s third floor game room (see photos). They wanted to demonstrate that a room in someone’s home could be converted fairly easily into “game central.” From “bubble hockey” to pinball machines, the game world is suddenly anybody’s oyster when it comes to acquiring their favorite arcade games – all they have to do is to take a “test ride” at ICE’s game room/showroom, which can be booked on the company’s website. Or they can let the chips fall where they may, and just order the games from the company’s website, to be delivered right to their front door. The games can even be customized to the customer’s specifications – favorite teams, graphics, etc.
Although the pandemic has put a lot of arcades and bowling alleys on ice, Kania and Krouse told me that there has been a huge uptick in home game sales, including NHL Super Chexx Pro Bubble Hockey ICE Ball Pro, NBA Game Time Pro Basketball, Super Kixx Pro Bubble Soccer, Jurassic Park Pro, Air FX Pro Air Hockey, Guardians of the Galaxy Pinball Pro, Led Zeppelin Pinball Pro, Marvel Avengers Infinity Quest Pinball Pro, Spider 2000 Series Dart Board Machine, Star Wars Home Pinball, Stranger Things Pinball Pro, Teenage Mutant Ninja Turtles Pinball Pro, Arcade Legends 3, and Ms. Pac-Man/Galaga… the list goes on and on.
Kania and Krouse reminded me that people are social by nature, and games bring them closer together, especially families. After a year of lockdown, many game lovers decided that it was time to be more resourceful. That meant that it was time to spice up the list of home activities that appeal to both kids and adults. The competitive nature of the ICE games turns out to be just what the doctor ordered… not just for the kids, but for the adults as well. And for the record, sometimes there’s nothing better than schooling one’s mom or dad at pinball, Air Hockey… or Super Kixx Pro Soccer!
The best part of these ICE games? They’re made right here in Buffalo. Maybe you knew that Chexx hockey was invented here, and is still manufactured and sold here… but chances are that you were not aware that so many different types of games are being produced and sold all over the world. It’s a huge Buffalo success story that keeps getting more and more exciting year after year.
And now arcade fans don’t have to visit a Dave & Busters or Chuck E Cheese, or a local bowling alley, a SEGA Family Entertainment Center in the UK, or a even a mega arcade in Suadi Arabia to “get their game on,” because ICE is now conveniently available for home installation wherever one roams.
Fortunately for Buffalonians, we don’t have to roam too far from home to find this epic game manufacturer, which ships the games right to our front doors. Talk about an extraordinarily chill convenience.