February 2, 2008 by Jenni Shuttleworth
From arcades to tenpin bowling to real estate, Belgian company Seeben has made an effort to involve itself in a range of industry sectors over the past 40 years.
Jenni Shuttleworth takes a look at its action-packed history so far`
Games and gaming company Seeben started life as the Seeburg Juke Boxes distributor for the Benelux countries in 1967. Seeburg in Chicago, US, was the most important jukebox manufacturer in the world until the company stopped producing vinyl machines in 1980.
Seeben doesn’t look back though, as these days it has its own casinos, its own tenpin bowling locations and is part of a group of companies that work in various fields including computer software, real estate and arcade operation.
Within the amusement industry, the company is involved in manufacturing, operating and distributing. To begin with, it distributed to Belgium, the Netherlands and Luxembourg. Nowadays, it is hugely active in the international market, selling and distributing used and new machines to Europe, Africa, Asia, the Middle East and North and South America.
The main companies it is represented by include big names such as Sirmo Games in Belgium, Astra in the UK, Change in Italy and Amatic in Austria.
Current owner Victor Bosquin took over Seeben in 1978, a time when jukeboxes and amusements were in great demand. The company considers the 1970s to have been a significant period for the entire amusement sector (not just because of Bosquin’s take-over), as well the 1980s when SNK launched Neo Geo, a product that was seen as a major platform for arcade games.
Bosquin has been instrumental in the widening of the company’s base and his entrepreneurial talents have been passed down to his son, also Victor, who is president of the Unibox group. The father and son’s work has come to light particularly in the past five years, mainly due to their involvement within the casino business.
Aside from this, Seeben considers its most significant times so far to have included the launch of its video games, flippers, bingo games and in the 1990s, its gambling machine venture.
"The 1999 Gambling Act in Belgium clarified gambling in the country," said Seeben’s vice president, Urbain Thewissen. The company handles mainly the in-house bingo tables manufacturing its business under brand name Sirmo.
Having such a large operation of interests gives Seeben’s competitors a run for their money and is arguably its unique selling point, as it enables the company to access valuable information on what works and where it works in the game business.
Of course, each country has its own player trends and operator requirements, but where Seeben is present in the world, it has seen many changes and trends within the coin-op industry throughout its time.
Talking to InterGame about trends in the coin-op sector, Seeben’s sales director, Stefaan Michels, who handles the company’s international business, said: "Amusement is practically gone." Perhaps it is this realistic view on the industry that keeps the company fresh and looking for new business, something that is necessary in today’s economic climate. After all, there is no point investing time and money in an area that is on the decline.
On a more positive note, Seeben recognises that the industry is now regulated better than it has ever been, and that investments are easier to complete because of this.
Over the last few years, Belgium has witnessed an incoming trend in taking advantage of the more liberal regulation in the way that bingo games are presented - upright cabinets with video-dominated features are now permitted.
Which is why Seeben’s product catalogue consists of an increasing portfolio of bingo machines, including its new product Magic Empire.
"Nowadays, bingo machines are modern with large touchscreens," said Michels. Not one to miss out on trends, Seeben’s future plans involve investing even more in video games and investing in a few other companies while it’s at it.