Conversion kits were the bread & butter of the arcade industry around 1984 when operators already had more cabinets than they really wanted to deal with. With the introduction of the JAMMA wiring standard in 1986, kits became even more commonplace and enjoyed a nice life for many years until after the 2nd downturn of the industry around 2002. While we have occasionally seen kits released in the modern industry – here’s a collection of coverage 5 years ago; you also had the Airframe kit launch last year – for the most part, modern manufacturers have preferred to stick with just dedicated cabinet releases. As I have been told by different companies, they get more out of it than they get from kits.
The problem is that operators get plenty out of kits and many of you that I have spoken with agree: We need a good kit solution to revitalize our “dead wood” (i.e. old cabinets with old games that barely make any money in 2018).
Over in Japan they have had online systems such as Taito’s NESiCAxLIVe or Sega’s ALL.NET+ Multi. Due to both the online nature and the strenous revenue share programs these force on ops, they have not been well-received by remaining Japanese operators who would prefer something more traditional.
Here Comes A New Challenger – ExA-Arcadia
I was contacted by a representative of this new company based out of Japan back in December and now that JAEPO 2018 week has arrived, we can unveil a new system that is seeking to “revitalize the arcade industry” via the creation of a new kit. This is not just intended for the Japanese market however – this system is going to be released globally so that arcade venues in North & South America as well as Europe will be able to enjoy the content that the new exA board will offer.
When asked about who Exa-Arcadia is, they replied:
“Some of our international team members had previously operated arcade locations in both the US and Japan and also sold Japanese arcade product in the US in the ’90s;
This is our first time developing product directly for the arcade market and are looking forward in supporting everyone in the ecosystem alike to revitalize the arcade industry.”
I also asked about what brought the project about; the answer:
“Simply, as arcade players, we saw that there is less and less content being produced today for arcades with a number of arcades closing their doors. Why was this happening even in Japan which has long been considered the mecca for arcades? We sought to solve this exact problem. We began looking at the solutions on the marketplace in 2017 in both Japan and overseas and did not find a product that fulfills the needs of consumers, operators and developers. So in September 2017, we set out to build a product that does.”
If you happen to be fortunate enough to visit JAEPO later this week, you can find exA-Arcadia setup at the Safari Games booth.
The exA Board – Hardware
The prospect of a new offline hardware kit has already turned heads in Japan as the CEO of M2 noted that this marks the first PCB released to the Japanese market since Cave’s 2012 release of DoDonPachi SDOJ.
The exA board itself is a modular Windows based arcade platform that “bridges the growing convergence of console and PC hardware to game centers.”
“A single exA-Arcadia motherboard is able to support 4 software kits simultaneously to maximize operator revenue on 1 cabinet” – similar in nature to the popular (and still functioning on sites around the world) NEOGEO MVS hardware.
It has been developed with the global marketplace in mind (Japan, China, USA, Europe, etc), with a wide variety of titles from not only premiere developers in Japan but from the world over in the works. ExA’s current pipeline features over “10 confirmed titles covering every major genre.”
– Supports both older 4:3 CRT based cabinets and newer 16:9 LCD cabinets
– 1 exA-Arcadia unit supports up to 4 software titles to maximize operator revenue on 1 arcade cabinet
– Optimized for Operators with no forced revenue sharing on coin play
– Continuous support of titles via free online updates with no extra network charges
– Lower cost Software Kits that are easily interchanged
– Hardware specs* that surpass current home consoles, “easily on par with Playstation 4 and XBOX ONE.”
– The board is compliant with the JVS standard and is compatible with all JVS JAMMA I/O boards on the marketplace.
*Hardware Specs & Pricing information to be announced in the near future
They have also developed a new I/O board that performs faster than any of their rivals in terms of “input lag” (on the hardware side). To quote:
“We have input lag from a hardware perspective down to a minimum where it is not noticeable by even pro players.” This is something that I’ve heard Japanese developers such as Taito discuss in regards to their cabinets previously but it isn’t something we hear about too often in the US apart from the display lag people think about when it comes to CRT vs. LCD.
They continued: “However, there is still display lag with cabinets such as the Vewlix which ship to operators in an unoptimized state. Operators will need to manually adjust monitor settings for the best performance such as enabling Game Mode, disabling any kind of scaling and using DVI-D cables on both sides.”.”
The exA Board – Software & Support
Content, content, content – when applied to video game hardware, it’s the equivalent of the “location, location, location” mantra you hear used for small retail businesses.
When the exA board launches, it will have “around 4 titles that cover popular genres such as shooters and action titles that come from both Japanese developers and talented developers from abroad.” The types of games that will grace the platform are focusing on shoot ’em ups at first but other genres will be supported including fighters, beat ’em ups and more. For those curious about how getting your hands on the games will work:
“Software Kits can be purchased with an exA-Arcadia motherboard or will be available separately as physical media to ensure that no matter where or who you are, our products will be available to you without any kind of contracts or corporations needed. We have no plans for digital distribution.”
For developers, they are able to announce that Tanoshimasu and Locomalito with Abylight Studios are working with exA-Arcadia on producing arcade quality content. “We have a large number of well known Japanese and overseas partners that will be announced in due course throughout 2018. Some long desired arcade titles are definitely in the mix!”
I asked about exclusivity to the format to which they replied:
“In the current video game market, developers are required to maximize their earnings via versions for a number of formats.
However, we require developers to provide exclusive content to the arcade version to enable a longer lifetime for operators. Otherwise, there is no reason to have an arcade version.
For example, with Aka & Blue Type-R, the game is being reworked from the ground up with an all new UI and game play design. Graphic texture detail have been increased by 4x and are exploring adding a brand new arranged soundtrack exclusive to this version. In Super Hydorah AC, Locomalito has gone back and remastered/rebalanced the game to be what he originally envisioned it to be. These features are exclusive to the arcade.”
Aka & Blue Type-R – This is considered to be the launch title for the hardware, developed by Tanoshimasu and already discussed briefly on the site here. This is a vertical scrolling shoot ’em up that is already available on iOS/Android mobile devices and will also be headed to the Nintendo Switch. As mentioned, the arcade version will have new UI and game play design while also supporting TATE orientation and will support play in horizontal orientation as well. Click on any of the thumbnails below to access the slideshow:
Super Hydorah AC – Considered the second release for the exA platform, this game is a remake of Hydorah (2010) that was released to console and PC platforms last year. Described as a “Gradius meets Darius” kind of game(with some of the objects reminding me of elements in R-Type II & Leo), this will fill in the side scrolling shoot ’em up for the platform. The Arcade version will be a remixed version of the title that is available on home game devices, with Locomalito going back and rebalancing the game to be what the developer originally envisioned it to be. These features will be exclusive to the arcade edition. The game features an extensive number of levels, offers 2p co-op and uses a filter to give it an authentic CRT scanline appearance. Abylight has posted more details to their website here. Click on the thumbnails below to view; after that we have even more info for exA:
Game#3 – To be announced at JAEPO later this week.
Where To Buy?
The company is presently looking for additional developers to support the system. So if you are an aspiring game developer and have a game that you think would work out great for traditional arcade joystick/button controls and in an arcade setting, be sure to drop them a line.
This also goes for interested operators & distributors – if you are interested in carrying or operating the exA system, the best way to get in contact with them at present is via Twitter
You will also soon be able to play an exA game in the US as the company will be holding location tests at certain select locations. My arcade in Utah (Game Grid Arcade) is signed up, as is Galloping Ghost Arcade (Brookfield, IL) and the Two Plumbers Brewery + Arcade (St. Louis, MO). The board will then be shown at both California Extreme (CAX) 2018 and ReplayFX this Summer for the United States; it will appear at Stunfest in Paris, France and perhaps a special announcement at EVO 2018 in Las Vegas.
We’re very excited to see this new development as I think that this has become an underserved part of the arcade market in the race to develop games that work best for FECs but not so much street locations. What do you think about it and what would you like to see come to the platform in the future?