1up.com is doing a “What if” series of articles and videos that covers their idea of what life would be like if some sort of situation in the game industry were different. They decided to look at if arcades were the only thing that existed and I can’t help but think it’s all tongue-in-cheek since it certainly doesn’t take a serious look at what it would be like. Not that I haven’t thought up some “what if” scenarios in my head before about video games when I have some down time and nothing better to think about. Here’s the video if you are interested:
For some serious thought on it and not lamenting how it would suck to be a game journalist that has to *gasp* get out to play a game to review it (aka #1stworldproblems), I think it would be a lot like what you find in countries around the world where home consoles aren’t easily accessible due to cost. I have lived in Brazil for a few years and there a console like the Xbox 360 costs somewhere around R$2500-R$3000. I knew a lot of people that made about R$500-R$700 a month so such an expense as a game console is out of the question for many. As such arcades are fairly popular there as it is a much cheaper way for a consumer to enjoy their games. I imagine that it is also similar in China, where a lot of new arcade development is taking place and there isn’t a console in every home. There are inherent problems that come out of there, particularly with piracy but there are some who are trying to make their own unique games to appeal to players.
Spending quarters or the equivalent on arcade games is much easier to come by in a lot of places and that’s also not taking into consideration the other costs of a game console. Anytime I see arguments that arcades are too expensive, I haven’t seen comparisons of how much people spend on home entertainment as you have the cost of the console, accessories like the controllers, the games themselves at $30-$60 a pop, and the DLC for those games. Add in the cost of a new TV if needed for an HD game console or a surround sound system if desired; maybe even the cost of your internet service or Xbox Live subscription. That’s the thing that gets overlooked with arcades – when you have a cabinet, it has everything the game needs built into it already – the HD screen, the sound systems, the unique controllers and the game. Considering the effects of inflation, even paying a $1 for a game is not so bad when you look at it as a total package and we have to remember that markets only support what people are willing to pay for as well. That’s even more striking when a game uses some sort of expensive new technology like an autostereoscopic 3D screen like with Let’s Go Island 3D, a large multi-touch screen like TouchFX or ReRave has or a seamless multi-screen like with Dariusburst Another Chronicle. You are probably not going to fork over several grand to get that sort of stuff at home for a small selection of games. Of course with no home games, what would be out there would be different, to fit into the arcade model. But who knows, with all the development dollars being spent there, some variations of the model would certainly appear and the market would adjust to please the players.
Speaking of costs, how much do you really spend on an arcade game to beat it? I’ve spent about $15 before to clear out a newer game but as I get better at it I spend less for the same amount of entertainment afterwards. Anything I spend time on watching first that prepares me for what is to come as well. And if I don’t like a game, spending $1 to find that out (although usually more like 75¢) is much better than spending $60 for the same thing. Of course there are rentals for homes but I have been burned before on buying into the hype for a game only to really not like it afterwards. Again, that is a lesson for rentals but when you look at the arcade industry, it’s a rental model as it is. I should also add that arcades don’t have ridiculous DRM that requires an always on internet connection for you to play single player. That is what modern PC DRM is turning into, pricey rentals that are a bit more than what arcades will charge.
I’m not against home development by any means, I own over a dozen consoles myself and I play both home and arcade games frequently. There’s no reason you can’t enjoy both but if all you did was arcade gaming it’s not like it would be a dreary world of soulessness either. It’s not like the world of home gaming is a sea of roses either. Recent earnings reports from Japanese companies show Sega and Namco doing better in arcade amusements then home amusements. Sega cut back on their home developments quite a bit, Atari is facing continued pressure and rumors of cuts Sony is facing a potential disaster over the Vita which is not selling very well in Japan. A lot of development is moving to mobile platforms of course and costs for games will change as more shifts to the digital domain.