Ask Arcade Heroes: How Come All These New Arcade Games Aren’t On Home Consoles?

arcadehero February 18, 2016 31
Ask Arcade Heroes: How Come All These New Arcade Games Aren’t On Home Consoles?

Not long ago, a question popped up on our Facebook page asking a question that I have read often on the interwebs:

why not sega and others make them on the pc and consoles? – GM Alonzo

I.E., where are the home console ports of modern arcade titles? Just about every manufacturer social media page gets this question asked of them in some form although they tend to not answer since explaining it in details isn’t something that fits on a bumper sticker.

The quick answer is that there are various factors to consider due to how the arcade market works that makes it more involved than simply changing the control input and printing money from there. For the longer answer, let’s break it down into pieces (as a plug, I do expand on a lot of these points in my book The Arcade Experience, in case anyone is interested):

Creative Flexibility: When you create a game with a particular platform in mind, aspects of that platform can limit how the game operates in practice. There are limitations of the console hardware itself then the limitations of the controller. Manufacturers have expanded what controllers can do, especially with the WiiU but you still generally have that framework to operate in. Exceptions are games with accessory controllers but those tend to be more niche than wide audience sellers.

The same limitation aspect is true for arcades but the limitation tends to be the budget and practicality more than the controls. Arcade games can use every aspect of the hardware to their advantage. They don’t have to try and please different kinds of monitors or sound systems and you can provide a consistent control experience without asking the customer to buy an accessory they wouldn’t use for any other game. Those aspects including the cabinet itself can all be tailored to provide a specific experience that the content creator wishes to convey. Top that off with arcades being more social in nature and they provide a different culture and mentality towards gaming than home games often do. With every play, your money is on the line but you don’t have to spend all the cash on the hardware to enjoy what the game offers. When arcade titles come home, they can lose that unique haptic factor that they otherwise stand out on.  There is also the aspect of showing off your skills in public, which can be an art form under the guise of the right player. Losing that wouldn’t be a victory for gaming in general but a loss.

This is much cooler than pretending at home.

Doing this alone from the comfort of home just isn’t the same.

Some games still do come home: When you read some comments on social media, it is easy to come away with the impression that no one has done an arcade port since the Dreamcast. It is true that a vast majority of cash investment into the video game industry goes to the home market which pumps out thousands of titles a year across consoles/mobile/PC combined. A lot of those games are ports and clones across multiple platforms. It isn’t recognized very often but there have been some games ported to home consoles in recent times. Here’s a list that covers the past several years, let’s start with Sega since that is from the question:

Afterburner Climax (Sega); House of the Dead 4 (Sega); Sega Rally 3 (released as Sega Rally Online); Tank! Tank! Tank! (Namco); Tekken Tag Tournament 2 (Namco); Time Crisis 4; Razing Storm (Namco); Pac-Man Battle Royale (Namco);  Dariusburst Another Chronicle (Taito); ReRave Plus (Step Revolution); NEON FM (Unit-E); Big Buck Hunter (Play Mechanix/Raw Thrills); Raiden III & IV (MOSS); the Blazblue series (Arcsys); Guilty Gear Xrd (Arcsys); Street Fighter IV Arcade Edition (Capcom; every version of SF4 came home); Tatsunoko Vs. Capcom; titles like Gunlord, Razion & NEO XYX (NGDevteam; granted the home releases were to the Sega Dreamcast and NEO GEO AES). I might be missing a few shmups here but that should give an idea.

Tatsunoko vs. Capcom

Tatsunoko vs. Capcom

More is on the way: Tekken 7, Mario & Sonic At The Rio 2016 Olympic Games, Taiko No Tatsujin and Pokken Tournament are coming home later this year. This all isn’t what I would call a dearth of content or ports when you consider that we only see about 20-30 new video arcade releases a year (not counting Japan which would boost that up to the 50s-60s) as opposed to the 200+ releases like back in ’82. And speaking of the classics, if they aren’t available on emulation then just about every company has released compilations or digital downloads of titles from the 80s and 90s, making those games available on just about every platform with a screen.

There are also franchises that the arcade has ‘lost’, which used to be known for being arcade games first. Now they are exclusive on consoles such as Street Fighter V, Mortal Kombat X and the upcoming King of Fighters. Metal Slug has had ports to various platforms including that compilation of every MS game on one disc and it looks like SNK is shunning future arcade developments.  Even the Raiden series is coming along with a console only release in Raiden V. From an arcade gaming perspective, I think that is unfortunate since it was the crucible of the arcade mentality that made these games special in the first place.

With that in mind….

The Allure of Exclusive Content – Every game console likes to tout things like ONLY ON (XBOX 360/PS4/WIIU). One big reason you might buy one game console over another is because it has games that you can’t get on any other platform. This same principal works in the arcade business to and it tends to drive long term sales. In most instances, a game that is only available in arcades tends to earn better. There might be some occasional exceptions to that rule, such as with titles that sold in very low xbox-live-retrocadenumbers on the worldwide market. But if it is a game that almost every arcade has, the weekly earnings on it can collapse if the same or a “good enough” version of it is found at home. While light-gun and driving games can differentiate themselves better, this really affects fighting games, which are always joystick-based. Since there is a niche market of home arcade controllers and online play covers the “play a stranger” aspect, those types of games lose their appeal when offered in an out-of-home format.

It should be noted that arcade operators have to take big risks on every game purchase. A new game on average costs about $7500 right now and a lot of new releases are driving that average higher with some games costing in the $20,000-$30,000+ range. On the developer/manufacturer’s end, most games cost millions of dollars to create and produce. The price of a single game and its potential for generating revenue also doesn’t take into account all of the other costs of business that an arcade has (rent, electricity, insurance, taxes/fees, maintenance, wages, etc.). It has been shown that porting home games to the arcade can work if the hardware is different enough but that also does not guarantee a top earner. Let’s also not forget that most redemption product is exclusive to the arcade sector since they are heavily or purely mechanical in nature, playing a game in exchange for a physical reward.

I remember right before I opened my arcade, I was waiting in line at a store when the conversation with complete strangers led to the mention that I would open an arcade. The gamers in the group said something to the effect “why would anyone go to the arcade when I can play all those games in MAME”? It’s a good question that pops-up often, seeking to find the value in what the arcade experience offers.  All-in-all, the more I can tout “ONLY IN ARCADES”, that’s a little bonus that shows to visitors that not everything they find in my place is playable at home in MAME or via a port or on the phone.  If there was no content that could be exclusive to the arcade, that makes it a little harder for an arcade business to stand out. Standing out in some way or to some degree is necessary if you want to stay in business and most arcades can’t develop their own games. That is why many will have other attractions – food/drink, rides, batting cages, laser tag, etc.

It is worth noting that Dave & Busters has been driving a lot of development in trying to get exclusive concepts for their venues or at least timed exclusives as they understand the value that having games that their competitors can’t have brings to their bottom line.

IMG_6128

A unique version of the new ghostbusters videmption game found at Dave & Busters.

While the counter-argument might be that there are plenty of areas where new games won’t show up, that has become less of a problem as large arcade chains like Dave & Busters, Round 1 USA, Main Event, Boomers, or Chuck E Cheeses have opened more locations out there and more independent arcades are popping up all the time as we like to note here on the site. If there weren’t places to sell new games to, there wouldn’t be new games!

Licensing – Star Wars, Jurassic Park, Transformers, Mario Kart, Batman, Aliens, Terminator Salvation, Angry Birds, Ghostbusters, Pink Panther, Flappy Bird – these are all properties which have been found in an arcade in the past couple of years. Licensing a popular media property is becoming big business as there are certain advantages to using a license. Primarily in that the license itself markets the game for you and it helps develop the game concept without needing to start from complete scratch. This is also why a vast majority of pinball machines use a license – license = built-in fanbase.

GOTHOBPINLE

Is there a license that pinball won’t sell its soul to?

With licensing, certain restrictions tend to be placed on the developer, such as what format they can release the game on. That can mean that there is no legal way for the game to be released to a modern game console or it would be too costly to be worth it. The best example I can think of is with Terminator Salvation. The movie was released in 2009 and a particular home console developer obtained the rights to make the version that was launched to various systems. In that instance, even if Raw Thrills had wanted to bring the game home it likely would have been a real legal headache since the rights for that home version belonged to someone else. It also would have been confusing to buyers.

This issue existed back in the early 80s too, sometimes with movies, sometimes with arcade games themselves. Atari had the rights to do Pac-Man at home but it was Midway who bought the rights for the arcade. Due to those kinds of contracts a company like Atari was able to release Donkey Kong & Mario Bros. to their Atari 7800 console right in the middle of the NES’ reign on the market.

Many games on the arcade market are ports from the home: Along those same lines, more and more titles are being ported from a home device over to the arcade, although this is stronger with mobile titles than consoles. That makes porting them back pointless. Any changes made to the software are to make it work properly in an arcade environment and those changes are not always conducive to what works at home. Some examples: Angry Birds, Candy Crush Saga, Crossy Road, Fruit Ninja, Infinity Blade, Doodle Jump, Flappy Bird, Jetpack Joyride, Plants Vs. Zombies, Showdown (based on DiRT: Showdown), GRID, Sonic & Sega All-Stars Racing, Virtua Tennis 4, Bejeweled, Redline Rampage, Twisted, Blazing Angels, Paradise Lost (Far Cry), Timberman, Guitar Hero, Temple Run 1 & 2, Subway Surfers, Rail Rush, Left 4 Dead, Skullgirls, and several others with more on the way like Q*Bert.

qbertvidemption

The Bottom Line?

I completely understand the desire for arcade-to-home ports and own my share of them but I think it is important for players to understand that there are valid reasons for why arcade manufacturers don’t port every single game over.

To arcade game makers, their primary target market is the operator. Players are still important since they determine whether or not a game earns but if a developer can’t make a game that convinces the operators to purchase the game in the first place, the game won’t go anywhere. Being arcade exclusive (timed or permanently) has proven to be a benefit to the arcade market; then you have the flexibility to do more with an idea thanks to the hardware which can be tailored to that experience (moving seat, dome screen, moving screen, unique sound system, etc).

In the case of operators, you can’t make a living off of buying a $10k/$20k/$30k game that makes its money back over the course of several years so if exclusivity helps it make the investment back faster, it isn’t hard to see why that can be a deciding factor.

What are your thoughts? Agreed or disagreed and why?

 


31 Comments »

  1. Alfred February 18, 2016 at 10:07 pm - Reply

    This makes me wonder what would happen if someone had an arcade for indie games. The games would be cheaper comparatively, but may not be arcade exclusive.

  2. rafi indonesian arcades February 19, 2016 at 4:48 am - Reply

    This makes me wonder to have Latest Maximum Tune Series or Initial D Arcade Stage Series at home especially Network/Internet-based arcades such as Initial D AS 6/7/8, Maximum Tune 4/5/5DX and Tekken 7/Tag Tournament 2. This happens for most Asian countries which had always play these following games ever had since 2004, especially Indonesia, Hong Kong, Macau, China, Malaysia, Philippines, South Korea and Japan. They had it’s majority too including European and American countries.

  3. voltz February 19, 2016 at 11:01 am - Reply

    I remember how much I really enjoyed arcades when I was a kid, but as I grew up and finished high school, one of the things that stuck out was the locals I used to go to started to shrivel up and vanish, as well as so many games I was looking for never turned up anyplace. I’ll give you this as my excuse to why I’m no longer keen on the idea I have to travel all over the place just to get only a half hour experience with something I may never get to play again, even if I’m lucky enough to find it.

    I’ve had this issue so much on fighting games and of course all the stuff I preview in stuff like “Hot at the arcades” or “Tips and Tricks” magazine.

    • voltz February 19, 2016 at 11:04 am - Reply

      Wish there were some way to re-edit and preview my posts btw. I look so unprofessional.

      • arcadehero February 19, 2016 at 12:33 pm - Reply

        I think you should be able to do that on your WordPress account. Login to it and go to Comments where you can make any changes needed. 🙂

    • arcadehero February 19, 2016 at 12:36 pm - Reply

      Tastes certainly do change. Right now I can’t bring myself to sit down with most console games for hours on end. Just too busy. I suppose one way I should angle the argument is that if ports are going to happen with every game, there needs to be some minimum amount of time: 2-3 years or more depending on the game. It’s the releases that happen almost instantly on fighting games that make those pointless to throw money away at unless you’re one of those locations where fighting is the bread and butter and you can manage that.

      • voltz February 19, 2016 at 6:40 pm - Reply

        Don’t you think that maybe this is all due to two different types of mediums being too similar to each other? I mean look at what arcades actually were before videogames even became part of the equation. They were meant as quick, fun entertainment on the go and I’ve been looking at how things have transitioned back in a ways towards being that again with ticket/redemption games. Arcades typically aren’t the arcades most of us remember them as, so I think the best solution is to quit making those games that we’d keep wishing on console and keep it down towards something most folks will feel are just worth a few minutes of their time.

        • voltz February 19, 2016 at 6:47 pm -

          Also I forgot to add that technology and social norms have changed what kind of audiences we have. I don’t feel that a number of genres, including shmups and fighting games have any real place in arcades anymore as most of their communities are on the home front. These people don’t want to be limited in their play time, let alone having to restrict themselves to what they’re now calling a payola scheme to their entertainment. People want the full leeway to practice and play each other, arcades are such a limitation in that regard that it’s practically why some releases tend to be looked down upon, just for having to go the exclusive route.

        • arcadehero February 19, 2016 at 8:36 pm -

          The struggle to be different has generally been pursued via hardware since the 90s but in recent years the trend of videmption is going down that route of quick play (or easy to learn, difficult to master). One example at IAAPA was very interesting in that regard – Snaky Tickets, which was really just the old snake-style games that burst onto the market 40 years ago but with new paint. Or Galaga Assault’s Amusement Mode; or World’s Largest Pac-Man & Friends. But apart from that, most titles that are on the market are not particularly deep. We rarely see anything that would have as much to it as say Gauntlet Legends.

          I think in the case of fighting games what would help get operators to buy them again would be to have a guaranteed Arcade Edition, with some sort of difference that they don’t put into the home version – unique character(s) and/or stages, maybe a unique story like Capcom is doing with Cytus Omega (which as a music game that is an interesting path to take).

        • voltz February 19, 2016 at 8:52 pm -

          I know we tried that in the past and fans didn’t take to it too well. SRK had so many forum members complaining they didn’t have SSFIV: Arcade Edition around, so they had no chance to play the extra characters like Evil Ryu, Oni, Yun and Yang (who we already have on 3rd Strike). Then there was Marie Rose on DOA that others wanted. Plus this throws in some pretty major conflicts when it comes to tournaments as it basically locks out others who never got their hands on what’s current. If you look at what’s happening at this year’s Evo, Tekken 7, plus a few others will have limited access simply because those few were lucky to have a cabinet nearby. Its from my understanding you have to live in places like California, Texas or Chicago to enjoy this genre of titles, where living in central US means everyone is SOL.
          It’s like I said, fighting games used to have their place in arcades, but every time you’re locking them out, communities get mad, which is why we don’t see Capcom or Namco supporting them like the way they used to. Same thing with NetherRealm.

        • arcadehero February 19, 2016 at 9:38 pm -

          Fair enough. It does mean that the same communities shouldn’t complain about no more fighters in arcades because their own demands make it unsustainable. No one can expect operators to take the hit with every release because the demands are that they have no time to make the investment back and that the versions have to be the same. It’s really a shame that arcades can no longer enjoy a genre that was designed for them in the first place (and would still work if they didn’t have to compete with the console version).

          I guess what I want to float but I know it would be crapped on since the communities wouldn’t accept it is a fighter with a name that stays arcade exclusive for a long period of a few to several years (also using unique hardware like ultrawide screens wouldn’t hurt).

        • voltz February 19, 2016 at 9:53 pm -

          Taking the console only route has brought a number of negatives however. Do you remember when Soul Calibur 3 started off at home? People had to ask Namco at the time for them to do an arcade version and now it’s to the point where they don’t even make this series for anything but home anymore. In fact, the changes with being consoleized has done a lot to take away from future games to be anything as solid. I’ve also seen this happen to a number of other games to some extent, but I’ll admit without having an arcade release, it does take some balance out of what usually makes for a solid release down the line at some point.
          Here’s a good question, do you think MK9 would have revived arcades in the US had NetherRealm gone that route, plus if they later added Injustice as well?

        • arcadehero February 19, 2016 at 10:58 pm -

          Agreed – when you lose sight of your roots and what made a game great in the first place, I think you lose that spark from the game. I’d forgotten about SC being another series that is console only now. I think the same can be extended to shmups…personally I can’t stand playing them on the phone but I know a number of the fans have grown to accept that.

          I think one prime example of that balance loss is being seen with Street Fighter V. The variables of online only play are always going to keep fighters from being like what you get in the arcade but then Capcom has done other things with that game that make the $60 price tag laughable. If it started as an arcade title, single player would be there as well.

          I do believe that any MK in the arcade would do extremely well right now, assuming a nice period of exclusivity (it was stuff like Soul Calibur 3 and Tekken 5 that turned most ops away from fighters). It would likely draw as much attention as SSFIV:AE did for it’s short arcade exclusive period. My SSFIV hasn’t worked in months due to a hardware issue but when it was, I had weeks where SSF2Turbo made a few dollars more than it did. So while the game started out well, it ended up earning the same or worse as games 20 years older. I got Mortal Kombat 3 last year and it does about the same as my SSF2. It was always a highly requested game so I think a new one would work out.

          I can’t recall off the top of my head the numbers but I do not believe SSFIV ever made its money back for me, made worse by the board failing twice now and having to spend a bit of money to try and get it working again. If I had 6 months of exclusive time it would have made it back however.

          It is worth noting right now my Jurassic Park is pulling numbers that rival or best what I saw with SSFIV in that short time. It’s doing impressively well, better than Star Wars Battle Pod (sadly, given that SW costs more than twice as much after shipping/taxes/financing fees) and Aliens Armageddon combined. So if ops out there have been hearing ‘hype’ about JP, it isn’t vapid PR, the game is making a killing.

        • voltz February 19, 2016 at 9:56 pm -

          I also recall the spat in one of your articles over SFIV: AE having something of a 2-month exclusivity, so I can pretty much understand when it comes to loss of investments. How much was lost on that btw?

  4. gblock February 19, 2016 at 11:01 am - Reply

    whoa whoa whoa….when is the states getting Taiko no Tatsujin (for home console)?!?!? I haven’t seen that anywhere?

    • arcadehero February 19, 2016 at 12:31 pm - Reply

      No US announcement yet just Japan but still fits the bill: https://www.youtube.com/watch?v=Bph7hq-xsew

      • gblock February 21, 2016 at 7:43 am - Reply

        I got ya. Yeah I had to go through the “eye patch” route to get my Taiko no Tatsujin fix currently, got all five wii versions on a soft-modded Wii right now…I wish they’d region-free US Wii U’s…I’d own one and both taiko games that are out right now.

  5. Arcades4ever February 19, 2016 at 3:09 pm - Reply

    But even when they demand the games and they bring them to consoles they tend to get bad review anyway because of lack of content which is something most arcade games don’t have since they are designed to be played in short burst but with replayablility. Then you have to find somewhere to store the controllers and if you have too many controllers then they just take too much space in the home especially in countries like the UK and Japan where there is lack of space compared to the likes of the US.
    Games like dead storm pirates just aren’t the same on a console compared to the arcade version especially the moving seats and enclosed cabinet.

  6. voltz February 19, 2016 at 8:14 pm - Reply

    I was almost into the idea of opening a location in GB for fighting games, but with the majority of them on console, it’s a moot point and I’d have to go for some other type of gaming establishment that wouldn’t work in the long run. We’ve had two-three gaming centers here in the span of 5 years and they all vanished.

  7. SaraAB87 February 20, 2016 at 9:04 am - Reply

    Aside from Playport in Erie I haven’t seen another place that has fighters in my area in many years. Definitely no one that has the new fighters. I guess its a losing proposition for arcades and that is probably why I don’t see them locally especially with machines being so expensive and taking up space that could be better used with something that would earn more.

    Home consoles seem to be mainly for the shooters these days, aside from the Wii U there is little on the Xbox One and PS4 that cater to anyone who doesn’t like shooters. Unless you like the Lego games or Toys to Life if you want to play something that isn’t a shooter you basically have to get a Wii U or else there isn’t much at all. While the XBox 360 had a great lineup of games for all people these days it seems very much they are selling the consoles to the shooter crowd. I don’t know anyone who really plays anything else on their XBox One’s or PS4’s. Sure the PS4 has a handful of anime based games and some RPG’s. but again that is another specific crowd. I am not sure if these arcade games have enough content to draw the shooter crowd away from that, the best I can see them doing is releasing the arcade games as a digital download but then again if people are absorbed in the latest multiplayer shooter I don’t know how many people are going to bother to even look at that section of the console.

  8. voltz February 21, 2016 at 11:51 am - Reply

    What’s the feeling on those games that have been long out of circulation? I know most of them end up either converted/destroyed or wind up in some collector’s basement, so when it comes to that point nobody is ever going to see these games again.

    • arcadehero February 22, 2016 at 10:16 am - Reply

      As mentioned timed exclusives aren’t necessarily bad, it just becomes an issue when the two compete. It’s hard to pinpoint where the cut off point is as most games are actively manufactured and sold for about two years – then assuming you have a number of arcades jump on them near the end they still might need about 12 months to pay off (unless we’re talking the Star Wars Battle Pod or Dark Escape which need about 5 years). Granted fans generally don’t want to wait that long and so devs might relent sooner as is the case with every fighting game.

    • RJAY63 February 26, 2016 at 2:22 pm - Reply

      I think there has to be a business case too. I would love to see both Sega’s Scud Race (1996) and Daytona USA 2 (1998) receive a home port but the market isn’t there to make it worthwhile. Plus I remember reading both games were not profitable in the arcade to begin with.

      • voltz March 2, 2016 at 7:43 pm - Reply

        They’re kinda throwing a bias here if they’re willing to keep bringing Datona 1 back. Nothing’s to say that game deserves to continue getting proverbial treatment over the other. Seriously, what makes the suits think that D2 is any worse?

  9. voltz February 28, 2016 at 7:18 pm - Reply

    I’m kinda wondering how much longer do they plan to keep Tekken overseas? I know I’m dying to play this already, yet I have to deal with the fact that even when/if they do bring it over, there’s no reliable locations in the US for me to practice on. At least not for where I’m at.

    • arcadehero February 29, 2016 at 12:02 pm - Reply

      I think this gets to my overall argument, particularly with fighters. I totally understand the player side of it but I understand the ops side of it now too. Namco had it at IAAPA to see how it would be received. It looked great but ops won’t touch it for that price ($14k-$16k) and pending console release. I also heard from the D&B location test that the earnings numbers were “confusing” as some reports state “lines of players” but then the intake doesn’t match the claim. All in all, that’s a recipe for a difficult sell to anyone except for the handful of fighter focused arcade locations.

      • voltz February 29, 2016 at 9:41 pm - Reply

        I still never get over how Japan has done so much to screw the industry for foreign markets. Getting it shipped isn’t worth the investment and what games they do release they have a habit of keeping to themselves. I’ll likely never get to play Wonderland Wars either. On the other hand, doing those arcade to console ports for audiences overseas is the only option I can see that’s viable…. unless you really want me to spend $$$ on that plane ticket.

  10. FTW March 2, 2016 at 10:38 pm - Reply

    Franchises the arcade world has lost:
    -Marvel vs Capcom
    -Gauntlet
    -Golden Axe
    -Gradius (latest was a pachislot but that doesn’t count for me)

    series and or games that have cult following and should continue on arcades today in 2016:

    -Capcom’s Dungeon & Dragons
    -Sega’s Streets of Rage (originally on console but was “arcadized” also)
    -Taito’s Dungeon Magic (not a series but why not)
    -SNK’s Art of Fighting
    -Capcom’s Darkstalker/Vampire Savior
    -Capcom’s Jojo’s Bizarre Adventure
    -SNK’s Magician Lord (not a series but tons of fans would be pleased to see sequels)
    -Data East’s Gate of Doom(Dark Seal)

    • MasterFygar March 10, 2016 at 2:30 pm - Reply

      I wouldn’t really say Jojo’s Bizarre Adventure was a lost series for arcade. The Capcom game was a hardcore dedicated fighter that held its own. The only other “fighting” games were by a different company and the first was a ridiculous fanservice fun game with zero balance or competitive scene with the most recent being an even more broken arena fighter.

    • voltz March 19, 2016 at 9:48 pm - Reply

      Just wanted to follow up that is was these publishers who decided the arcade industry was no longer worth it and refused to bring them back. Looking at how the industry is these days, I wouldn’t say I’d even try anymore as people would rather play at home anyways (some of them have been even updated for it).

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