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News: Coin-op legend Bill Cravens dies

by on April 18, 2007

StreetFighterDad.jpgBill Cravens, born in 1942, was a leader in the arcade and coin-op industry for many years, weathering a number of industry slumps, all the way to its current relatively dormant state. He was a longtime arcade game retailer, having sold some of the very first pong games, and according to his son Ryan Cravens, also sold such games as Mr. Do, Super Punch Out, Final Fight, Street Fighter and Golden Tee 3D. The companies he worked for or distributed include Capcom, Nintendo, Cinematronics, Universal, Pacific Novelty, uWink, Incredible Technologies, Bromley, Team Play (P&P), and Wurlitzer, according to RePlay Magazine.

His name is painted in the background of a stage in Street Fighter, as you see in the image to the left. His whole surviving family is in the arcade and amusement distribution business, with sons Ryan and Todd both working for Betson, who distributes for Eugene Jarvis’ company Raw Thrills, among others.

Bill died in his sleep on the 29th of March, ironically during the Amusement Showcase International show in Las Vegas – though I suppose that shows his dedication to the industry. A thoughtful short piece on his passing can be found here, written by his son Ryan.

Bill Cravens was involved in the American Amusement Machine Association (AAMA) and at one time served as president of its charitable branch, the American Amusement Machine Charitable Foundation. His other son, Todd Cravens, shared some heartfelt words with the AAMA. “I would like to thank the members of the industry for their outpouring of support over the passing of my father. My mother, brother, Ryan and I cannot begin to tell you how much it means to our family. I am truly humbled by the sheer amount of people that cared for my father.

“I believe the reason my father loved this industry so much was evident today. He always felt that regardless of company or competitor people genuinely care for one another in this business. That was true today. One minute I received a hug from my boss, Bob Geschine, and the next from my competitor, Vince Gumma. That meant a lot to him, and it means a tremendous amount to our family.”

BillCravens.jpg
RePlay also gathered quotes from folks at the show:
“Billy died doing what he enjoyed best,” said Virginia operator John Newberry at ASI, referring to his passing during a night at the Las Vegas show.

“Bill had been feeling poorly for a while, but he insisted on making his sales appointments,” said Eddie Adlum, publisher of RePlay. “Oh, but that guy could charm you, entertain you and sell you. When he was in top form, he was the best.”

“He was one of the most giving guys on the planet,” said Betson Distributing President Rick Kirby, referring to both his personality and Craven’s well-known philanthropic bent. “He reached out to people. He cared about people. This business was his life.”

The AAMCF and AAMA are working together to gather funds for a memorial donation in Bill’s name, to be used towards diabetes research. Donations can be made payable to the AAMCF and sent to AAMA headquarters at 450 E. Higgins Road, Suite 201 Elk Grove Village, IL 60007.

This is the man who got arcade machines into our pizza parlors, bars, and convenience stores when we were children, so I tip my hat to him and his family for their continued contribution to our preferred form of entertainment.

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