The Adaptation of the Modern Arcade

arcadehero May 10, 2012 15
The Adaptation of the Modern Arcade

There is a subject we kick around here on Arcade Heroes every once and a while and that is what is it that modern arcades are aiming to do that is unique in the gaming world? This year marks the 40th anniversary of Pong and thus the 40th year in which video games and arcade video games in particular have been a part of the culture.

The CTO of arcade game maker Raw Thrills, Andrew Eloff was interviewed by Josh Neland of Electronic Design about modern arcades and technology. He bills it as ” If you want to understand what we do in 30 seconds, look no further.” It’s not a terribly long interview but it does get into the essence of what special advantage arcade games can offer over games you play at home or on your phone. Take a read here. He talks about the evolution of technology in arcades and what it is about a modern title that makes them stand out, which to boil down briefly is that they have moved more into the realm of simulators than just gaming boxes.  Mr. Eloff notes that with extra resources, they would be working on something like the Holodeck from Star Trek, which I agree is the direction that we are eventually headed although it will probably still be a while before we get there. But if that is any indication then arcades have good prospects well into the 24th century with technology like that!

My own thoughts on this, to dive further on the subject aren’t a secret and in my new, still unnamed book (I’m calling it a Book With No Name for the moment, a play on this gaming forum’s name) I actually have dedicated a whole chapter to the subject of technology and arcades. It’s actually become such a large part of the book that I’m considering splitting it in two parts as there are plenty of historical examples to pull from that emphasize the real advantage arcades can have in creating a unique gaming experience that is done in good part by the hardware the user has in their hands to control the situation. Even though trends have been towards Kinect style motion technologies, I think that gamers have quickly realized that something like Kinect is good for an enhancement but not always the total replacement of the whole gaming experience. Sure there are some games that pull it off well like dancing games but racing games – not so much. Perhaps that will change over time but I can’t say that aside from a small handful of titles, I have not heard of many killer apps for Kinect. That’s not saying that it is a bad technology by any means but it seems more enjoyment has been got out of hacking it or using other non-game features then there are for the games themselves. That’s just my impression on it so far.

Of course I have been a constant advocate for other genres to get some love back in arcades and I have said before that when it comes to games based around vehicles, arcades really should be way ahead of the crowd. We have the racing genre pretty well covered but take any vehicle you can imagine – a tank, a mech, a submarine, a fighter jet, a train, a boat, a spaceship, a motorcycle, a bike, etc. and what you can do with that in arcades doesn’t have to be limited to a simulation of that vehicle, but can branch out into many unique forms that give us a gaming experience worth paying for over and over again.  There are examples I could cite but I won’t bore you this time around. Suffice it to say I think that the simulator angle is here to stay with arcades and seeing it develop further is one thing we have that is worth looking forward to on the arcade scene.


  1. neil May 10, 2012 at 10:23 pm - Reply

    I think the biggest issue with modern arcades is the lack of engaging games. There really is absolutely nothing actually EXCITING coming out in the arcades anymore. Everything is toned down, and watered down for kiddieville redemention town/gambling hall.

    I just saw the preview for “Crysis 3” and by God it looks like a blockbuster movie. What pisses me off about arcade games is that they stopped innovating twenty years ago. The graphics on some games are good/okay, but nothing that a home system can’t do, or even do better.

    It’s 2012, the damn arcade games should literally be at the “movie blockbuster” graphical level by now. The HARDWARE is there. Nvidia just unveiled its dual GPU that is just simply MONSTEROUS and only costs a $1,000. The interfaces and motion sensing tech has been there for almost six years now.

    But the few arcade manufacturers are simply putting out high priced GARBAGE instead of the state of the art experiences that is the whole purpose of the arcade!

    The arcade USED to be where you went to get that experience you could not get at home. Now, with kinect you can even play BETTER interactive simulations that you can in most arcades.

    Sure, everyone it seems has regressed to playing games at home on Xbox live/Blizzardnet/iphone/etc. but I do think the arcades could rise again with a handful of INCREDIBLE games.

    What we need is a company like Jersey Jack Pinball to step up to the plate and fill the whole that’s there for QUALITY product.

    Otherwise, are we really going to be playing low grade Chinese import driving games and “Golden Tee 2022” in ten years?

    • polster May 10, 2012 at 11:02 pm - Reply

      Well, you make a good point. Though I have a lot of favorite arcades across different genres. And low grade Chinese driving games? Tch, they don’t seem low grade to me, those look totally high-tech and fun! Now to this day i’m still dying to give those games a try once, or maybe twice, and have the feeling of coming back for more. And there is nothing like multiplayer competition in the arcade, doesn’t matter what genre, that never gets old.

      • arcadehero May 11, 2012 at 8:14 am - Reply

        A LOT of stuff from China is very low-grade. I’ve seen a couple of titles that seriously did not look much different from an N64 game. It’s only starting to change but aside from Power Truck even the games they do have which look nice like Storm Racer is the same kind of driving game you played 15 years ago.

        I can tip my hat to the game I played at IAAPA that used a water gun to put out the virtual fires but graphically it looked like a game you come across on those “play arcade games for free” flash-game websites. If you had a game like that, with some better looking guns and a game where its more along the lines of Brave Firefighters but with cutting edge graphics and a few other software features (possibly a hot air bladeless fan to simulate fire heat), that would take a concept like that out of the low-grade. Neil is making a great point that arcades can use hardware that most people won’t be able to afford at home but it doesn’t really matter at the moment because that technology is not being utilized. He is also bringing up something that I was also emphasizing in our recent discussion on racers we were both involved in – it’s not just the hardware but also the software. Arcade history is replete with examples of how one game could change everything. Of course not every game is going to be that sort of catalyst type game but you just need a few really every few years. Our complaints with racers is they have come to represent stagnation and not advancement.

        • polster May 12, 2012 at 6:51 pm -

          Storm Racer looks really badass, as it reminds me of Ridge Racer and I loved that game so much and Storm Racer will definitely win me over. A racing game with badass Ridge Racer-style car designs and still awesome gameplay will sure get a lot of attention. So the game is the same we played 20 years ago, so what? From the get-go, I’m so glad people like them are building games of any genre that remind you of the classics. Look at H2overdrive, they took everything you love about it’s predecessor, Hydro Thunder(if that was one of your favorites back in the day), and expanded upon with it with next-gen graphics and made the old-school experience better, if not the best. Many of us gamers really miss old-school experiences like that and god bless them for planning to bring us the nostalgicness we had back to life. Since Ridge Racer was one of my favorite racing game series back in the day, I’m totally dying to give Storm Racer a try, if anyone feels the same way, I’m sure it will win them over and if this cycle keeps up, enjoy Old-School coin-op fun all over again along with fresh, new features of any kind. Peace out!

  2. voltz May 11, 2012 at 1:29 am - Reply

    I think the real problem is none of the developers to these games are the grade A stuff we had back in the 80’s. Everything I’ve seen so far amounts to nothing short of a quick thrill ride and doesn’t make you wait on a home port, short of what could arrive on xbox live or psn.

    To get into the good stuff, we have to go to Japan since those cockroaches want upwards of $12,000+ and what goes into shipping costs. I feel truly sorry for the guy who put so much into his SFIV investment when Arcade Edition arrived.

  3. editor May 11, 2012 at 8:10 am - Reply

    I agree that the ‘experience’ needed in the public-space has to be far more compelling than ‘KO DRIVE’!!! The current crop of ‘traditional’ amusement pieces do not cut it – but the new Mid-Scale Attractions (Dead Escape, XD, 5Di) are the future. Though it is very uncomfortable for the old sales agents to adopt MSA style systems to their business model. You can see the problems that some are having figuring how to present the latest 4D+ system.

    I would say that the future for the market is to create a Experience Economy – lots of themeing and specialist entertainment systems (pods, capsules etc.,) – but this is more a issue of the ‘traditional’ amusement scene transitioning into the new ‘attractions’ sector!

  4. voltz May 12, 2012 at 1:48 am - Reply

    I think all this talk about “cutting-edge hardware” is getting to be a tad bit redundant. It used to matter back when everybody was at 16-bit, but today’s standards of 360, PS3 or PC are more then enough for everybody’s tastes. Trying to up that level on the arcade front is just going to drive costs up per unit and retain the market’s un-affordability thus keeping it out of reach.

    As I said, we need real developers to get back into the race, not groups like Raw thrills or the like just so we end up with another version of Buck Hunter that nobody with a 10-foot pole would ever come into contact with. Besides, stronger hardware just pisses off folks who want their ports arcade perfect…. sadly I fall into that bracket. : /

  5. Hansen May 13, 2012 at 7:45 am - Reply

    Hey, polster. That comment you made about old-school nostalgia, that is just one of the best, most thoughtful speeches anyone could ever make by someone who is a fan of arcade gaming, trust me, I really feel the same way. back then in the 90’s, that was the best years of the arcades with awesome games like street fighter, mortal kombat, hydro thunder, daytona USA, and others. Now it kinda seems to slow down which causes things to be less than exciting. If any existing companies can make sequels to games we love back then from the 90s arcade scene more often, the arcades could be more awesome again, i’m tired of seeing gimmicks that no one cares about, I love to see more old-school favorites with new installments even though some already did like Raiden IV, H2overdrive and dirty drivin, and others. When I play a game, it will remind me of any kind of old-school game that I used to love to play back then, that’s one of the ways arcades are meant to be enjoyed. You speak the truth, bro. thumbs up.

  6. BMIGaming May 13, 2012 at 1:28 pm - Reply

    I truly agree with most of the comments made here – Video arcade game technology is stuck in a rut, current game pricing for major titles are not in line with modern realities, and there is little to zero investment in true R&D in the amusement industry in order to bring about the next big breakthrough concepts in pay-for-play entertainment, outside of a few firms making motion simulator attractions and start-ups like Adrenaline.

    Yes, there has been some small incremental advancements to arcade gaming made in the last decade, from better on-screen graphics and flat panel displays, to LED cabinet lighting and online play ability, but for the most part, we seem to be stuck in rather large rut – Where is the cutting edge design and technology needed to jump-start the manufacturing base and attract the next generation of arcade gamers, who are used to sitting at home playing console games on a couch, which are, on many levels, far superior to today’s industry offerings?

    In my opinion, both amusement manufacturers and our trade associations both urgently need to start programs to attract and groom “A +” engineering and content creation talent to enter the industry, as current grads surely are not considering our industry as a viable career path at present – And without “big thinkers”, there will be no “big ideas” that will take our industry to the next level of its evolution.

    More importantly, we need to raise the global awareness of the amusement industry at large, and vigorously promote both our products and the entertainment value they provide to the world. Current industry promotional
    and “industry-awareness” support from most global amusement trade associations is pathetic at best, and damaging at worst. These situations much change soon if we are to be perceived as a viable industry now and in the future.

    I believe that with the combination of attracting talented individuals, producing cutting edge products at reasonable prices, and with a laser-like focus on global industry promotion, these combined efforts would bring about the next wave of entertainment possibilities, and carry our industry into the 21st Century and beyond.

    David Young
    BMI Worldwide

    • voltz May 16, 2012 at 2:29 am - Reply

      I’d hate to use you for an example, but I looked around your page just to see if there were still anything supported regarding Atomiswave, Naomi or the Taito Type X boards. If they keep coming up as discontinued/unavailable, how are we going to stock up on games that match what was previously released on those systems?

      I’m also wondering about circulating older cabinets back into distribution, is this not allowed or do they somehow wind up in the hands of collectors?

      • BMIGaming May 17, 2012 at 9:31 am - Reply

        Yes, using our firm as a source for discontinued items in stock would not be good, as we neither sell game boards, nor support old platforms like AtomisWave – Modern commercial distributors just do not support these outdated platforms anymore, as they are not used in modern day arcades for the most part.

  7. gokhan May 13, 2012 at 2:13 pm - Reply

    I think all this talk about “cutting-edge hardware” is getting to be a tad bit redundant. It used to matter back when everybody was at 16-bit, but today’s standards of 360, PS3 or PC are more then enough for everybody’s tastes. Trying to up that level on the arcade front is just going to drive costs up per unit and retain the market’s un-affordability thus keeping it out of reach.
    As I said, we need real developers to get back into the race, not groups like Raw thrills or the like just so we end up with another version of Buck Hunter that nobody with a 10-foot pole would ever come into contact with. Besides, stronger hardware just pisses off folks who want their ports arcade perfect…. sadly I fall into that bracket. : /

    • voltz May 14, 2012 at 12:49 pm - Reply

      Btw, why did my name appear as “gokhan” in this post?

  8. chaos May 13, 2012 at 6:18 pm - Reply

    I’ve grown up pretty much with arcade games all my life and never thought I would see the day when home video games would surpass the arcade.

    I want arcades to survive and see cutting edge games but you have to take into consideration that today’s video games are very different from the ones in the 80s and 90s. What I mean by this is the format for most games in the past was for 25 cents you get a number of lives. The most common was 3 lives for a quarter. Today’s games are played very differently where you have massive campaigns and unlimited lives. That model wouldn’t hold up in the arcades unless folks are willing to pump in money constantly for lives or a timed game.

    As for “incredible” arcades games, any arcade manufacturer can put out good games but there are several major roadblocks. The biggest reason is cost. With most home console games, the development is strictly software whereas arcade games they have to take into consideration hardware design and manufacturing costs. Another reason I see the arcade market struggling is because of high definition TVs. Back in the day arcades used CRT monitors those were realitively cheap. Now with HDTV, this really drives up the costs of games.

    To be short and brief, arcades can easily have kick ass games but it would cost a lot of money to develop. The bottom line is would you pay a premium to play them? When I say “premium”, I mean greater/more than $2 for a few minutes of arcade play.

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