At the Penny Arcade Expo we saw how a few companies decide to give their games an extra edge by putting their console game into an arcade cabinet. The games which were showcased in such cabinets probably won’t ever see an official release but the understanding that an arcade cabinet attracts attention in a way that a standard kiosk setup does not was certainly highlighted. Now the same idea has moved over to the indie games scene where a small group of independent game developers found a way to grab some attention towards their games at the Fan Expo in Toronto. By using an old arcade cabinet, they converted it to play a number of indie games that were brought to the show and as a result it helped give those games some extra attention them might not have received otherwise. As it turned out, the indie developers got a taste of what an arcade location test can be like, which is different than putting out something like a public online beta. Maybe one of them will consider making an indie arcade title, although that can be a whole new challenge in itself as not everyone makes it there either since you need a way to get the game out there which involves selling hardware in addition to software and that takes funding.
Which takes us on a tangent for a moment, this is where something like Taito’s NESiCAxLIVE digital distribution system could prove useful. It does limit what could be done with the controls which are often one way arcades stand out on their own but it would save an indie developer from having to build a cabinet, I/O board, PCB and all of that to sell. There are still issues that would need to be resolved for that idea to work everywhere (Taito has the advantage in Japan of having a standard cabinet like Vewlix and clones/variations on that) but I think that something like it could be done elsewhere, such as the US. You would need standardized PC hardware, with a standardized cabinet, modular control panels, a stylish but simple GUI interface for selecting a game, a security system of some sort, a robust online delivery system and with all that together you could create a new dynamic in the market, where small or independent developers could have their content easily sent to operators anywhere. You would have to convince people to develop for the platform and not charge a fee to play as well but the right system could give arcade operators their answer to XBLA/PSN/WiiWare and make it so arcades would have access to unique and new content that is easy and fast to obtain, keeping their business fresh and exciting.
Anyways getting back to the indie games, you can read more about how that event went @ Ars Technica