Here on Arcade Heroes we have rarely touched upon “bartop touchscreen games”. While they do fit into the out-of-home entertainment angle, they are an oddball, at least among other options that can go into a bar. That said, they have been a very popular oddball in the past but it seems that time is running out for them as the biggest name in that part of the business announced today that they are ceasing “all development and production of touchscreen terminals and associated software”. This means that the ML-1 will be their last hardware to go out the door, something that attempted to offer an Xbox Live style online setting with player accounts and tournaments. Despite those features and an HD 22″ touchscreen, it appears that it came too late to save the brand as a whole. The press release mentions that support will still be offered in terms of warranty and parts. They also will be releasing a kit to give the ML-1’s offline support and the other divisions of the company that support jukeboxes and change machines will continue normal operations.
What will that mean for the out-of-home entertainment industry at large? Well I don’t think this bodes any bad omens for arcades. While one could look at the explosion of gaming on smartphones and tablets as a threat to arcades, I don’t share that conclusion. If anything it was the smaller screen bartops that suffered since they didn’t offer as different an experience as what arcades can do. Bartops had an advantage in the 80s and 90s since they were one of the few places you could find a touchscreen experience outside of a museum or perhaps an airport. But once touch technology was available in every pocket, the luster of it being cool tech was lost. Among the problems that the arcade industry might/does have, hinging everything on a single control scheme is not one of them (yes I know some bartops had those little joysticks but they were mainly used for the touchscreen). And in cases where a touchscreen is used, generally they go big, up to 46″/47″ in the case of the TouchFX or ReRave cabinets which you’re not getting on your phone (although with some of those tabletphones I’ve seen, you almost have to wonder when the Backpack Model is coming). As further proof that the arcade industry is not being damaged by phones in the same way bartops have, it has been getting a lot of traction from offering simple phone games in an oversized format with a physical controller, Doodle Jump, Temple Run, Rail Rush, Jetpack Joyride are just a few that immediately come to mind. I can’t comment on the quality of the games that bartops were offering but in the limited exposure I’ve had to them, they usually were not impressive. Often they felt to be just a step above Flash games and I think you would have to do more than that to get some earnings. The only “killer app” I have heard of for these kinds of setups was either that polar bear hitting a fish with a bat game or as pictured above, a Photo Hunt game. Those aren’t winning any Game of the Year awards or producing long lines of eager customers but just something to hopefully soak up a quarter or two from people with nothing better to do at the bar.
Interestingly enough, there are a lot of people that would buy Megatouch bartops for home use. I don’t know what the percentages are but for a high-end home bar its been a popular option as well. My guess is that it helps a home-bar feel like a professional bar, much like adding a jukebox or a shuffleboard to a game room. But with a lot of new models going for around $3000 at non-coin use, that’s a hefty price tag for something that could be just as easily replaced with a different gaming option. As far as I know there is at least one other company out there called JVL that is making bartops although their last model, the Echo or the Encore 2 whichever you prefer, has not been updated since 2011 from what I have heard. I do not follow bartops very well so I could be wrong. If they are still supporting their bartops with new updates then I imagine there will be some news about that pretty soon.
What are your thoughts on the downturn of the bartop game? Do you agree that it is isolated from arcades or do you have a different take?
[Via Replay Instant E-News]
I’ve often noticed that the term “arcade” seems be only used in the context of arcade locations and FECs. I feel that quite often most people forget about operators or people who own coin-op routes. While there are some arcade only operators who put games on location (like bars, pizza parlor, restaurants, liquor stores, etc.) the majority of the operators I come across these days pretty much own/supply all coin-operated machines to locations. This includes arcade games, jukebox, pool table, foosball, pinball, electronic darts, gum/candy machine and even the bathroom condom vending machine. In most bars I’ve been to, there is usually a bartop touchscreen with a combination of the other coin-ops I mentioned above. If bartops machines stop being made, I feel this could possibly impact a lot of operators forcing many of them to go out of business. This will definitely have some impact on pinball and arcade game sales. How much is uncertain since it’s hard to pinpoint the percentage of independent operators out there.
I’m really surprised that very few people took advantage of the technology touch screens in arcades before even when the original DS came out and instead just made games like mahjong, solitaire and quiz games even after the DS and few other touch screen games came out. they should come up with games that require more than the touch screen such as e.g. A pedal used from time crisis series (but of course depending on the sort of game that was made for it. Even now the ideas are limitless and just because tablet computers are more accessible than ever before doesn’t mean there are no ideas left for the arcade. After all most tablet computer feature few controls even button as it mostly uses the screen to operate.
I agree with your conclusions that touchscreen games/ Megatouch is an isolated example of a failed arcade machine. Whenever I’m in a bar with one I look to see if anyone is playing it. I cannot remember the last time I remember seeing someone play one of these. They simply do not offer better games than what can be played on a smartphone for free. If they were smart at the very least they would’ve licensed some of the popular touchscreen games like Angry Birds. But instead, like you said, they want to try and survive off of junky Flash-type games. Lazy companies do not survive for long in the video game business unfortunately.
i am using arcades and own shops in Greece for 25 years.Here we use Funworld’s photoplay (which i dont see much in other countries.I don’t see them in Eag Expo in London which i attend for the last 5 years.The bartop has some advantagew for operator.Small footprint ,small weight , easy transport, easy upgrade,low cost to buy,But has a big competitive the touch screen , tablet world.Because i am using touch screen for a long time i believe we (and the companies which produce machines) need to see the customer who givew a coin to play more seriously.Noone will pay for a low graphic and simple game when in a tablet you get the best there is .So i need a touchscreen with online capabilities(which i still shout for big companies to do the same ,i own sega grid’s sega rally’s 3 , and i cant connect them through my locations,…)i also need touchscreens with modern games and of course licensed games BUT to be able to login with my personal account .For example in a licence game in an account i have i have made some progress during the months i play so i would pay just to play a little bit more with my account and of course updates all the time .It is also good that in a small touchscreen game can play 3 to four people all together ,in photoplay we play find the diference a lot of people … Anyway for conclusion the technology in hardware exists the software exists when the product is good the market will take it when it is bad the market will keep it away .This is my personal opinion and an opinion through the years
I said it before and I’ll say it again, the Megatouch game is a hit and a money maker…..years ago and the company didn’t adapt.
My question is what did this company put all its chips into arcades and bars and not push their limit and went to casinos? Konami did it with their Beatmania Pachislo Machines
Capcom with Resident Evil, Namco with Ridge Racer and so on.
More people would sit on their asses, slap a nickel into and play Picture Hunt with a chance of winning something over some slot machine. Hell, it would bring more youth.
This is not an example of a failed arcade machine. This is more of an example of a failed company that didn’t push their limits and venture outside their bubble. Arcades should have been the beginning and they should have went to Casinos and introduced a whole new way to gamble.
Daily or weekly updates, themes and what not.
I’ve got a Merit Megatouch 5000 XL bartop that runs on a Pentium 100 CPU with Microsoft MS-DOS OS frontend dated from 1998. The actual software is on a CD-Rom so it uses a 16x CD-Rom drive to load up the actual program to run the various games. The currently installed Mars dollar bill acceptor will take quarters, 1998 dated dollars & older (unless it’s upgraded to accept the modern-day U.S. dollar bill denominations these days). It sports one of those old-school 12″ CRT-based VGA monitor with an overlayed touch screen setup (which is still quite razor-sharp for it’s age). High scores & high score initials are saved for posterity via NVRAM chip setup. Pretty impressive technology from the late 1990s era, indeed, as far as bartop gaming was like back in the day.
I remember EDGE magazine doing a feature on one of the Erotic Photo Hunt games from the late 80’s/early 90’s. It focused more on the technology of the system rather than the game content and made for interesting reading. Hopefully some of the touchscreen tech Megatouch owns can be sold on so at least their legacy will remain.
We have three counter-tops in our home bar – two MegaTouch machines and a newly added JVL Retro. The author is right in that they add alot of authenticity to the place and people who see them always let out a “Wow!” I would not recommend them to anybody not inclined to tinkering, though. It would be great if JVL could revitalize itself. The Retro machine they made is gorgeous.