Gameinformer responds to my letter about arcades in latest issue, but changes a few things

Shaggy February 16, 2008 8

So I received the latest issue of GameInformer magazine in the mail today and to my surprise they published an e-mail I sent to them a few months ago in response to an articlegami_179_cov_a.jpg they ran suggesting the that arcades are totally dead, with no acknowledgment of any new titles that had been released last year. What is in the magazine is a bit shorter than what I sent and edited quite a bit for content as when I originally wrote the e-mail, it was fairly scathing. Now I understand that they couldn’t publish my entire letter – it was too long for the format and it’s normal for magazines to trim letters down so they fit but it’s interesting to see what I originally sent them and what was actually published. I do thank them for running it so I figured it would be fun to show the differences in the letter I originally sent and the one that was published, along with their response. In my original e-mail, I made a point out of showing how there are actually several arcade ports that have come out recently, including games coming to the Wii which they do talk about in their response but they talk about it as though I never brought the point up. At least it looks like they were being more gracious in their response than I was with my original letter but I’m not oblivious to how things are in the gaming world – I play on Xbox Live and understand that “gamers can compete, share scores, and chat online” as they mention and I know that has changed things. Some people still go to arcades for the live social experience that you don’t get online. Anyways, hit the post break to check it out:

Here is what I originally sent along to Game Informer. I was a little peeved at the time of writing so it does have some typos and grammatical errors(some of which I am only finding as I re-read it).

Hey GI,

I have to comment with one point in your “Top 10 dying video game trends” article in the December 2007, specifically point number 8. I am quite disappointed with the negative edge you put on arcades as a whole, being an arcade operator myself it is already difficult fighting negative or false impressions surrounding arcades. Now it’s true that arcades have lost the huge advantage they once had in terms of graphics but then again some arcades run off of the “sophisticated console hardware” you mention, such as the upcoming Tekken 6 running off of PS3 hardware. Most arcades run off PC hardware these days which can be run better hardware than a console (if the developer chooses to do so). A lot of new arcade title are focusing on providing new experiences instead of solely shinier graphics.

I am not sure what is meant by “there is not enough time and money behind the games to let them compete” – Raw Thrills (run by Eugene Jarvis) recently announced that his company would be investing $25 million into arcade development over the next few years. It may not be as large a budget as some console releases but big money doesn’t always lead to better games, it leads to better hype which mostly seems to be used to offset fairly shallow games so people will go out and buy them. And hype is one thing arcades just don’t seem to get and media outlets like yourselves don’t help much by practically ignoring any arcade coverage. Either way, arcade developers are ramping up for 2008 as was shown by recent events such as IAAPA (something else pretty much ignored by game magazines and press).

“No arcades – no arcade ports” – was this even researched or is it just a generalization? Of course it is doubtful that your readers learn about new arcade titles seeing how coverage is pretty slim even on the internet, although it is there. In the past year there have nearly 30 games that came out for arcades (more if you count Japanese releases) – yes far short of console releases but the way it was written, arcades are simply written off as completely dead already and that there is nothing to look forward too. I understand that the article was focusing on dying trends and yes there are fewer arcade ports around than there used to be but it should have been written “fewer games = fewer ports”. Some recent ports include:

Metal Slug Anthology (including MS6 that is a fairly new arcade release)
Ghost Squad (for the Wii)
Virtua Fighter 5 (released first as an arcade in Japan – will see an arcade release in the US early next year)
King of Fighters Maximum Impact Reg. A (for the PS2)
Raiden 3 and 4
Time Crisis 4 (for PS3)

It’s not in the 100s like it used to be so yes it is a dying trend and that is not what I am arguing about because I know that there are fewer arcade titles than there used to be – just please stop passing off arcades as a thing of the 80’s and 90’s that is long gone – while many have passed on, some are coming along just fine and 2008 will be an excellent year for arcades in the US.

Adam

And here is what it looks like I wrote, as published in the March 2008 issue of GI.

I have to comment on your “Top 10 Dying Video Game Trends” in issue 176 – specifically the one about the death of arcade ports. I am quite disappointed with the negative edge you put on arcades as a whole. Being an arcade operator myself, it is already difficult fighting false impressions surrounding arcades. It’s true that they have lost the huge advantage they once had in terms of graphics, but then again, some arcade games run on the same hardware as console titles (like the upcoming Tekken 6). Plus, a lot of new arcade titles are focusing on providing new experiences instead of solely shiner graphics. In the past year there have nearly 30 games that came out in arcades (more if you count Japanese releases) I know that there are fewer arcade titles than there used to be, but stop passing off arcades as a bygone fad of the ’80s and ’90s. Some arcades are coming along just fine, and 2008 will be an excellent year.

And here is their response to this other letter

Thanks for the insight, Adam. You’re right to point out that arcades are not completely dead, but they have long lost their central relevance to gaming culture. We recognize this as a sad trend; many gamers have fond memories of the social and competitive opportunities an arcade provides. However, these concepts have since been adapted and expanded in the home console experience. Gamers can compete, share scores, and chat online. Even some of the gimmick-based cabinets (like rail shooters and boxing) are finding their way onto the Wii. The challenge is offering something at an arcade that you can’t get at home… besides hot wings.

We do agree on a couple of things here – arcades have lost their status in culture compared to what it once was and yes the online experience that people can get has changed things. But there are a few arcade games that are playable online and the social experience in the arcade is still there, especially when an arcade holds a competition. I also agree that arcades need to offer something more, which they are trying to do but it is difficult when the same developers release their games on a home console. But as you can see in my original letter, I made a point to show that several arcade games have been ported to consoles recently and in their response they acknowledged that, which I find to be funny since according to the original issue 176, such things didn’t exist anymore.

Overall, arcades still have a long way to go in changing perceptions and seeing a total revival as it used to be, but they are not dead – not as long as arcades still exist and new games are coming out. I understand that arcades are not the same as they used to be, but that’s why I write on here everyday, pushing for change (now I sound like a politician! changity, changity, changity, change! But no really, I’m honest about it).


8 Comments »

  1. editor February 16, 2008 at 1:25 am - Reply

    Welcome to the party Shaggy!
    Seriously, the magazines are taking great liberties at the moment. I would send a formal reply not to the GameInformer editor, but to the magazine publisher, with a quizzical comment about selective editing.

    I noticed that the magazines and web media were all too quick to rush with the story after the Namco announcement – incorrectly interpreting it and then spinning the story to Nintendo kills arcade. Now the media is sitting on their hand (where they can) not wanting to print the story hoards mass to play Street Fighter IV at arcade show, as they avoided the same at ATEI over Tekken 6!!

    I have even seen some sites try and avoid mention the arcade machine and just talk about the game. If the amusement scene dose see an increase I expect it will come just as consumer starts its main downward turn – which would also see magazine editorial team changes… a good time to change policy on reporting Out-of-Home entertainment.

  2. SaraAB87 February 16, 2008 at 4:40 am - Reply

    What I am wondering if the Wii really did kill arcades, why hasn’t Sega closed any arcades in Japan? They have a huge presence in Japan as well as Namco, if its only one company closing arcades you cannot blame it on one single factor like the Wii, because if that was the case then all companies would be closing some arcades. I have yet to read an article about how Sega is closing arcades in Japan because the Wii killed arcades.

  3. Shaggy February 16, 2008 at 5:20 am - Reply

    Good points that both of you bring up. The thing is that just because the Wii is a lousy light0gun simulator doesn’t inherently mean that there is no longer a point to go to the arcade. For one, I have noticed that all of the “light-gun” games on the Wii don’t sell terribly well and also don’t see excellent reviews. Of course the Wii does have the motion based games but even those are spotty some times. And it’s not like every game in the arcade is available on the Wii. As long as people know that arcades are out there and they have games you can’t find anywhere else, then they will go.

    At this point I am actually going to dedicate myself to learning Dark Basic and see if I can make my own arcade game. May as well put my money where my mouth is and try to make a game. It will take a while to learn though but if I can do my part to help it will be good.

  4. mr-phelps February 16, 2008 at 6:14 pm - Reply

    I think that always the common misconception about the arcades. I understand that Nintendo is trying to go a different path than Sony and Microsoft, but they are not doing anything that hasn’t been done already by the arcades. Not to mention, that is what the arcade thrives off of in my opinion. Innovation!! You can’t beat that arcade feel.

    Recently I remember seeing House of the Dead 2 & 3 on the wii, and it looked horrible. It doesn’t even compare to the arcade version. People always complain why would you waste $10 dollars at the arcade when you can just buy it. Honestly why am I going to spend over $300 dollars for a system and the game when I can spend $10 at the arcade. Not to mention its on a 42-52 plasma screen, with 5.1 surround.

    I don’t know why people have such a negative image about the arcades.

  5. editor February 17, 2008 at 2:45 pm - Reply

    It is a favorite rant of mine – but it is the consumer game mags that are down on amusement more than any other group.

    The fundamental reason is simple – arcade games do not buy advertising, and advertising is what drives magazine business. There is also another issue that arcade business is a closed shop to outsiders and the media hates being left out.

    The biggest problem I have is that we will see an increased criticism of the amusement scene as the console sector slows – better to divert attention and try and noble the competition.

  6. SaraAB87 February 19, 2008 at 2:29 am - Reply

    For people that do not have the technology, like myself, arcades are a godsend. I am not even interested in light gun games. I don’t have an HDTV and I do not have a Wii, nor do I have 700$ to spend on one, which is the total you will be spending after buying the system, extra controllers and 50$ games, not to mention you STILL cannot find the system anywhere here. People act like you can just go to a store and buy a Wii, but THAT IS NOT THE CASE here, it is far from the case. The Wii has not been in stock ANYWHERE here since launch. There are also extra attachments you need to buy to turn it into a light gun game, thus sucking your dollars even more. And yet, even more if you add in the fact that I would have to spend for an HDTV to really get the arcade experience. I probably spend WAY less than $100 per year at the arcades. People see the $250 price tag of the Wii and are mislead, the truth is you will be spending A LOT more than that to get fully up and running with the system and a decent amount of games.

    You waste $700 on the Wii and possibly even more if you need to purchase a TV, and then it becomes outdated in a few years and drops in price to the point where you felt like a turd for spending all that money on it in the first place. Sorry, but I am too cheap for this vicious cycle. So what are you gonna do, spend A LOT less at the arcades, or sink all your money into home console equipment that is not even as good as the arcade and that will become outdated in a few years, forcing you to again sink major $$ into the next greatest thing.

    In Japan competitive play is very popular, you can’t exactly get 50 or more random people into some person’s house to play the Wii. Sure you can have friends come over but thats usually limited to when they are available, and if you are an adult, it becomes harder and harder to find a group to game with. Try getting 50 working adults into the same room in the USA at one time to play the Wii, not gonna happen. With arcades in Japan you can just up and go and your almost guaranteed to find a packed house for games like VF5. Sure online play is there, but its not the same as playing against another human in person. I still think the arcade offers an experience that the home consoles cannot offer.

  7. Shaggy February 19, 2008 at 2:45 am - Reply

    You make an excellent point Sara. I think it would be interesting to find out how much people really spend on console games vs. arcade games in a year. Of course there are a lot of variations such as arcades that don’t charge $1 per play but something much lower and on the console side when you get a good deal but I’ve had my Nintendo Wii since December 06 and total I’d say I’ve spent about $773 on that alone. Then there’s my 360 and I’m not even considered a PS3. I’ve spent about $20 going to the arcade a few times and getting several hours of entertainment out of that. Of course buying arcade games yourself is a different story but you still get a neat thing out of that.

    As for the social aspect, they say the Wii i killing arcades and they say that online play is taking away the social aspect of arcades too but the Wii’s online interface really sucks compared to other services. Of course Nintendo is still scratching their heads trying to figure out how to get more people to use it (one hint, copy XBL) but either way – online is different than playing against a real person. It’s also much different than showing off in front of a bunch of people at the arcade when you’re tearing it up on a game and they just stand there in awe.

    I think the social aspect of arcades will increase as more people become interested in arcades again and start heading back. But this is why I also stress that developers need to keep up the innovation while bringing prices down to keep people coming back for more. I think that by the end of the year arcades will be in a great position however as we are bound to see some great releases starting next month.

  8. SaraAB87 February 21, 2008 at 12:05 am - Reply

    Its the idea of playing in the same room together on the same machine that keeps arcades alive. Also with an arcade you might have new people periodically dropping in for a challenge which means never-ending entertainment, as long as the people keep coming. So being able to best another random player who has just walked in is a major part of it.

    I have personally tried to organize video game get togethers in the past and it just doesn’t pan out because someone has to work, someone has somewhere else to be, someone has to be at school, etc. Although I did manage to get about 5 people to a mall for a session of Pokemon one time and I will say that is an accomplishment in itself considering it took about a week of planning and people calling me at 9am to make it all work.

    Nintendo will NEVER have a good online service, they exist to protect the kiddies, and that attitude will not change. Don’t ever expect to get a good online system out of Nintendo, because it will not happen, and you will simply be hoping for something that will never exist, and it will ultimately lead to disappointment. I was told this by NOA on their message boards when they first initiated the friend code system, the system will never change, simple as that. If they did change it I would consider it a huge miracle.

    I think for me console games are a huge initial investment, so I don’t make the investment unless I have a ton of money floating around, which doesn’t happen often. You have to purchase controllers, memory sticks/cards and games, and possibly other accessories. However I usually find that after I make the initial investment that I can get by on very cheap games, 19.99 and under. Of course, I wait till a console has just past its prime of expensive games so the games drop in price and used games are available. There is an art to scoring games just after they hit that magical price drop point! So at least even though I am spending money on it, I do get a lot of stuff for my money. I am not buying crappy games either, I purchase the good stuff, I just wait for it to go down in price or look for used copies.

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