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Posts Tagged ‘WICO’

Willis Ms. Pac-Man side art mystery solved!

Saturday, September 22nd, 2012

We’ve all seen it at some point during our collecting days. That piece of hideous arcade cabinet artwork that just makes you cringe and wonder what the hell they were thinking when they produced it. Why would anyone cover the original artwork with this? The infamous Willis Ms. Pac-Man side art is a prime example of this…or is it?

ms. pac-man side art

Looking at this side art makes me wonder if the artist was given a day, or maybe only a few hours to crank out some artwork that could be mass produced in the fastest time possible. Maybe to fill a big customer order or special request. This side art would be used to cover some of the most iconic cabinet art ever produced, and while I realize that time was money in the coin-op business, this was pushing the boundaries of bad taste to the limits. More time should have been spent to craft artwork suited to the rejuvenation of a worn ms. pac-man cabinet. Having never seen this artwork in person, I was forced to accept what my peers were saying about it. “…some of the worst Willis artwork ever produced, just awful.” I have to agree that it’s awful, but thanks to a few pictures from a fellow collector, I was able to confirm my long standing suspicions.

ms. pac-man side artms. pac-man side artms. pac-man side art


ms. pac-man side art

The artwork was not produced by Willis, it was a Wico product as can be clearly seen on the side art, part number and all. Everyone knows the Wico Corporation, famous for their red top joysticks, unmatched in the industry and standard on scores of classic arcade games. Wico was in the parts business in a big way, which also included replacement artwork. In this case bad replacement artwork. So with that the mystery of the bad “Willis” Ms. Pac-Man side art is laid to rest, firmly on the shoulders of Wico. Hug your Willis artwork, it’s finally over.

NOS Centipede CPO by Wico?

Thursday, September 29th, 2011

At first glance I thought this CPO was a Willis piece. It has an identifying part number listed in the lower right corner, a common characteristic of Willis overlays. The cpo has die-cuts and appears to be manufactured with a quality screen printing process. However, there is no Willis logo anywhere to be found, and the paper backing and adhesive isn’t by 3M. The part number sure does resemble other Willis part number formats, odd.

Wico? Centipede cpo

So I did some digging through my archives to figure this out. I re-read my 2009 post about The Wico Willis partnership. If you check out the catalog pages in the old post you’ll see another centipede overlay clearly listed, and it has the exact same part number. Well, minus the “00” at the end, but otherwise identical. So the same part number exists for two pieces of artwork, but why? Here are a couple examples I have of the overlay from the Wico Willis catalog. Some genius decided it was a good idea to trim off the top and bottom, so its impossible to read any identifying marks, but you get the idea. So what’s the scoop on these?

Willis CentipedeWillis Centipede

My guess is that sometime after the Wico Willis partnership dissolved, Wico decided to make their own control panel overlays (or maybe they had made them previously, I just don’t know). Wico would have used their own printing company, possibly a vendor they had been working with for awhile and that company just didn’t use 3M paper products. They whipped up their own artwork and just kept the catalog part number on the front. I mean if you’ve already sent out a couple thousand product catalogs with the numbers listed, why change them? Just replace the product with your own and keep selling. Seems reasonable to me.

Wico? CentipedeWico? CentipedeWico? CentipedeWico? CentipedeWico? CentipedeWico? Centipede

If you know anything about the relationship between Wico and Willis, or any information about either company, I’d love to learn more. This piece of arcade artwork gets added to the growing archive. Game on!

NOS Defender cpo by Wico

Saturday, May 8th, 2010

That’s right, Wico. The dissolution of the former partnership between Willis and Wico must be complete as the latter is now cranking out their own control panel overlays. Not quite sure if this was a licensed product, but I can’t imagine Wico would bootleg such an item, considering the two companies weren’t far from one another here in the Chicago area. I’ll call this a new old stock item, just made by Wico and not an OEM part from Williams.

defender cpo

The cpo is screen printed with nice die cuts, but on plain white backing. The color scheme is appealing to me, but the mountain range has been done a million times, boring. Overall it is a simple, clean overlay. Not much excitement, but I guess its better than an old worn out original. Not really, but I’ll archive it anyway.

Willis Enviro-Graphics, or bye bye Wico!

Thursday, March 11th, 2010

“Enviro-Graphics, an exciting new concept for the amusement industry. The Enviro-Graphics kit includes all the decorative treatment, signage, and support material required for your arcade, game room or game location. These products are designed and produced by the premier game art company in America – Willis Industries.” A bold statement from a company that the classic arcade collecting community tends to frown upon. But take a look at the brochure and you might think twice.


I had never heard of Enviro-graphics, or known about artwork packages that operators could use to decorate their arcade. I was too busy finding my next quarter for that new game, or waiting for the 6 tokens for $1 special at Aladdin’s Castle. Who paid attention to the d├ęcor? I vaguely recall the way my local arcade looked back in the day, with a simple neon exterior, lots of games inside and a pseudo space theme. The atmosphere did contribute to the overall memory, though my strongest memory seems to be of dark and smokey spaces, with lots of flashing lights and sounds! Even so, perhaps Willis had a good idea. Token signs, out of order signs, score boards, event schedules, specials, rules…all things the operator needed to communicate with his customers. The random space scene posters remind me more of the black light posters you’d find at Spencer’s gifts in the mall, along side the edible underwear. The brochure states that the posters were directly screened onto 1/8″ thick foam board, which made them more durable and easier to hang, but is also probably why so few (if any) survive today. Once they came off the wall if you couldn’t store them, they got tossed.

enviro graphicsenviro graphicsenviro graphicsenviro graphicsenviro graphics

One thing I noticed is the apparent change in relationship between Willis and Wico around the time this stuff was being produced. If you recall my post about the partnership they shared, apparently it didn’t last or just wasn’t working out. Whatever the reasons, the brochure above is a lot different from the unopened one you see below. Dated September 10, 1982 it has the Wico name and distributor information prominently displayed. A few additional pieces of artwork can also be seen on the back. The almost identical brochure above has all traces of the Wico name removed and “Now operators can buy direct from Willis”. Interesting move and even before the industry crash really took hold. If you can shed any light on this relationship or if you have a Willis Enviro-Graphics poster you’d like to sell, let me know.

enviro graphicsenviro graphics

The Wico Willis partnership

Saturday, December 26th, 2009

If you know anything about classic arcade games, the name Wico should be familiar. They’re the famous makers of the Wico 4 and 8 way leaf switch joysticks, a “must have” for many classic restorations. While they were standard equipment on many of our beloved classics, finding complete NOS Wico joysticks gets harder and harder every day. Those knock off replacements just don’t stack up to the originals. So what does Willis have to do with it? I’ll tell you. (more…)

Great piece of WICO history in Play Meter magazine

Monday, June 29th, 2009

I was checking out a link to the blog nocashvalue that Preston posted over at coinopspace, a fantastic forum for arcade game enthusiasts. The link showcases a scanned article from Play Meter which reveals a little history about the part supplier WICO. We all know WICO for the famous 4 way joystick that was used on so many classic games, so it is interesting to learn a little more about the company and its contributions to our beloved hobby. You can read the WICO article over at Preston’s blog. Check it out!