Arcades Are So Dead That They Are Packed With Customers…Wait, What?

arcadehero June 17, 2014 27

(Thanks to Nik Thorpe of Retro Gamer Magazine and formerly a writer of Arcade Heroes for sending this my way)

This morning I was sent a video on Facebook that is another in the series of “arcades are dead” videos that pop-up from time to time. It’s actually not as bad as some efforts I’ve seen in the past where the makers try so hard to be intellectual but they end up showing how absolutely ignorant they are about the subject. One of my favorites had to be the one where the game wonk stated “How do you do a sports game in the arcade?” (yes, really). I’ve rarely found one of these videos to make a solid, logical argument because if they were to research the subject they would find that it doesn’t match up with the assertions they confidently throw out there. But the visuals and the sound are nice, too bad they have to be wasted like this.

I was not going to post it since hits are the important thing with online videos but I may as well so you can see where my reaction is coming from this time, a video called “Arcade Oratory”. Get those Kleenexes out, it’s a reeeal heartbreaker:

Or not. Again, nothing here is a good argument to make unless your audience is oblivious to the truth of the market. I’m glad this is really short, as an hour of  the imagery of the abandoned facilities would have given him way too much rope to hang himself with. I have to wonder – what are this guys credentials to make such claims? He’s been to Japan but so have a lot of other people. He grew up in NJ, so have a lot of other people. I can say the same for having a video camera and editing software. But like all of these videos, it’s practically a wonder that they get so many things wrong. They all assume that the downturn around 1999-2003 was the end, not that it was a temporary thing like any other market. I may as well go film myself looking sad in an abandoned 1930’s speakeasy while claiming that the US economy had a good run through the 20s but after that it should be written off, end of history. He doesn’t bother to search out locations that are open, doesn’t mention any manufacturers that are still in business and making money off of NEW game sales, doesn’t show any new games(all of which would ruin the narrative and cause some cognitive dissonance issues), he does drop a mention about places only focusing on redemption but even that isn’t 100% accurate. Many Chuck E Cheeses will have a few video-only games, I took my daughter to one not long ago for a birthday and they had Dead Heat, Mario Kart Arcade GP2, Deadstorm Pirates & Terminator Salvation. Thus the core argument of this “oratory” simply amounts to “a few arcades I have known growing up are out of business so the arcade as a whole is dead”. Don’t tell him that some Gamestops have closed before, we might have a crisis on our hands. What do you think Captain Sisko?


So why bother to even respond? Well unfortunately this line is repeated enough and people believe it. Arcades are my livelihood, I’ve turned it into a career that provides the means to feed and clothe my family, so I feel the compulsion to defend the industry against these false and ignorant notions. This post is serving up as a response to show what is happening in arcades today. Just the stories ran on this site should be sufficient but since they are not, let’s beat the naysayers over the head of pictures of some non-abandoned arcades from right now in 2014. I posted on Twitter and Facebook a couple of pictures that I took this afternoon from my own arcade in Utah and received some other pictures from some of you that read the site showing similar situations.

As you can see, the arcades of 2014 are so dead, they are packed with customers.

If you work at/own an arcade and have pics like these below, please send them in and I will add them to this post!

Taken at 12:33PM on 6/17/14. Tuesdays aren’t always known for being a bustling business day but I have had a constant stream of customers coming in and out through the day so far. Saturdays and Sundays of course are quite a bit busier and I’ve had instances of every game being played before (I have around 50 games, zero ticket redemption)



Here is Galloping Ghost today, taken on 6/17/14 an hour after they opened at 2PM. ” 44 people in the door already” according to owner Doc Mack


From Arcade Hunters, they took this picture at Modern Pinball in New York City this past Saturday


Also from Arcade Hunters, the Barcade in New York City this past Saturday. As Nick stated with the photo: “Another packed house at Saturday. Yep, arcades are dead”


This one was taken by Toby Nakhorn, a manager at Las Vegas Soho in the UK. It was from a Bishi Bashi tournament held at the venue in April, you can see people playing games in the background that are not a part of the event. Obviously all of these people are obsessed with playing games in a place that doesn’t exist…or something. The illogic hurts my brain :



Also from the Las Vegas Soho in London, UK, a picture taken today, 6/18/14. As Toby states, “Here in London our arcade is busy day in, day out =]”



I am of course happy to add any other photos that any of you happen to have so this post can serve up a helping of humble pie to the next naysayer that thinks that they are making a clever “historical viewpoint” video. As I have pointed out many times, manufacturers of new games wouldn’t be making them if they didn’t think it would be profitable for them. That is the main reason people create businesses, to make money and companies like Raw Thrills, Sega Amusements, Bandai Namco Amusements, Incredible Technologies, Adrenaline Amusements, InJoy Motion, Barron Games, UNIS, GlobalVR, ICE, Baytek, LAI Games, Benchmark Games,Stern Pinball, Jersey Jack Pinball, IGS, Wahlap and various others have all been around for quite a while doing just that.

And once again, I’ve lost track of how many times I’ve mentioned this but the internet has the resources to find that arcade location near you:


  1. voltz June 17, 2014 at 10:50 pm - Reply

    It’s really nice to see that there are still locations people are happy to play a few rounds on. I entered this dilemma a couple years back when I moved to packer city and there were two gaming avenues that closed down, including the mall which had a bad loan deal forcing it’s closure. For 10 years, you’d think a high profile area like this just because it’s linked to the NFL franchise would have a couple decent places to go to, yet I have to run to Appleton which is slightly lesser quality then the area’s Nick visits on his youtube channel and to top it off, I’d have to run state lines to Chicago to find anything even remotely good.

    I seriously can’t wrap my head around this anymore.

  2. Fun With Bonus June 18, 2014 at 4:37 am - Reply

    Not only are arcade alive, but kids play with regularity! Here’s another example of Modern Pinball NYC to demonstrate.

  3. Dario June 18, 2014 at 7:18 am - Reply

    I don’t think almost anyone that comes to this site questions if arcades should exist, but our approaches to their continual existence differ. I’d do away with 95% of the redemption machines, old cabinets and CRTs, modern racing games and these sad excuses they call modern light gun (mounted gun actually) games. Put one or two cabinets in places around town with your branding, make sure the thing looks clean, runs with emulation of handpicked games w/a smooth interface, and has a great sound system. You might not making a killing, but at least you’ll be providing an experience for gamers that most arcades seriously lack.

    • arcadehero June 18, 2014 at 7:34 am - Reply

      One thing to note – multicade games make NO money. I have two of them and while a Pac-Man multigame (Namco Classic Collection Volume 1) might make about $6-$8 a week, my Atari multicade with Centipede, Millipede & Missile Command I am lucky if it makes a full $1. I was speaking with an arcade operator down in Miami yesterday who said the same thing – they make very little money for him as well. The one exception is NeoGeo 4-slot cabs which can do around $20 a week. Anything with a menu either confuses casuals that don’t know the old games or offends nostalgic players who want the original game in an original cabinet with everything original. I wish it weren’t the case but that’s how it breaks down.

      I should also mention that a majority of 80s and 90s games also make very little money on a week-by-week basis. That is why a lot of retrocades have to do a door charge instead of a per game charge as per game will find $1-$8 per week earnings. That is very difficult to sustain business on, even if you have 100 games. You need several titles that will make $100+ a week to reach or sustain profitability, at least in a typical arcade setting.

      • dario June 18, 2014 at 10:20 am - Reply

        I hear you, thats why the interface would have to be very different from these multi-board jamma style cabinets weve seen for the last few years. They usually combine multiple genres in a sloppy interface with games from different eras lumped together into one. No wonder they don’t make money, who wants to play Scramble these days right? Bring some SF II though with decent sticks/sound, and Star Gladiator etc etc and who knows what magical things could start happening. Maybe even combine it with an option to pay for time or pay for credits. The selection of games would have to be very specific though, so it stands out from being ‘just another arcade compilation’.

      • Steffen June 18, 2014 at 11:09 pm - Reply

        Well, the Neo Geo always was a multi game thing from the beginning so it’s hard to compare them to a real multicade.

        But it’s quite funny that they have to be in an original red cabinet for better earnings. A buddy was working in an arcade. They had two Neo Geos. One was an original red one and the other one was a conversion. You could swap the games as a complete set between them. They always earned better in the original cab.

        Seems like Neo Geo players are looking for that iconic red cabinet.

  4. Toby7Ten June 18, 2014 at 10:11 am - Reply

    Thanks so much for the shoutout.
    This is our arcade, “Las Vegas Soho” in Central London.

    Check out the Facebook photo stream: Does this arcade look “Dead” to you?

    Keep doing what you’re doing, Arcade Heroes.

    • voltz June 18, 2014 at 6:21 pm - Reply

      I can see that selection is more based on real gaming titles that make an effort to compete as opposed to those “amusement” titles which our industry is falsely believing itself needs to thrive on. It’s games like this that people wanted to see and have a reason to keep coming back for. You won’t get it with driving, light gun, cheap indie or those lame-ass redemption titles that only kids will flock to.

      • voltz June 18, 2014 at 6:23 pm - Reply

        and I’m sorry I brought up the term “lame-ass”, but sometimes when I see how business agendas come into conflict with what gamers are asking for, I can’t help but call it a cancer that has been eating this industry from the inside-out for the past 15 or so years. You have to compete and you have to have the right games to keep people from saying “nah, I’ve got better things to play at home.”

  5. editor June 18, 2014 at 5:24 pm - Reply

    Arcades are alive guys – the arcade is dead – long live amusement!

    Just ask Barcade how dead it is! or D&B?

    • voltz June 18, 2014 at 6:30 pm - Reply

      I would like to see the barcade experience spread out more into other areas. Mine could use one pretty badly as it is more fitting to our age group so the folks attending will have plenty of things to relate to.

    • Adam Coate June 19, 2014 at 12:23 am - Reply

      I think these pictures show that true arcades can still live today as well. It seems Galloping Ghost is really thriving with its flat rate business model. It may just be that people are tired of being nickel and dimed by arcade machines, and don’t want to have to worry about how much money they’re going to spend to see the end of a game?

      • arcadehero June 19, 2014 at 7:40 am - Reply

        I depends on the game selection. I was having a conversation this week with a video arcade op in Florida who has a larger number of classics that I do and between us the earnings on 80s/90s games is sadly small in a majority of cases. Either very specific titles with a strong following or newer titles do the best. I have not seen any venues yet that offer the latest games using such a model however that is where it might make sense to have a cover fee area with the classics and a pay-per-play model in a separate area.

  6. OMG KON! June 18, 2014 at 7:02 pm - Reply

    We get people in every day to play in our music game room at Under The Big Top. The venue has typically been slow over the Summer but seeing people coming in to just play arcade games every day is pretty awesome. We are now having extended hours on some nights for the music game players in our area. Here are a few pictures from the last one…

    • Seth Eldridge June 19, 2014 at 6:21 am - Reply

      All the arcades around here only have ddr and/or pump, wish they’d get something else in addition.

    • Toby7Ten June 19, 2014 at 2:58 pm - Reply

      Brilliant! I actually recognise a few friends in that picture.

      Despite living in the UK, many of us met up through the love of arcades, and the “out of home experience” you can only get face to face.

      Arcades can thrive with the right titles. The issue is, the people who run the industry are old, out of touch, and not arcade gamers. How can you run a business stuck 20 years in the past?

      Who wakes up in the morning thinking “Oh, it’s Saturday I can’t WAIT to play PLANTS VS ALIENS ARCADE EDITION”. Seriously?

      To be honest the mainstream industry deserved to die the way it did. Now the gamers and those in the know are picking up the pieces. There are good, new arcades popping up in London, Paris, New York, LA… Run by gamers for gamers. I hope this is the way forwards and the future!

  7. Brent Silby June 19, 2014 at 2:42 pm - Reply

    Thanks for this post. You’ve offered a solid refutation of the strawman argument that “arcades are dead”.

    We have a local arcade attached to a shopping mall. Every Saturday and Sunday the place is absolutely packed. They have a mix of video and redemption machines. If our local experience is any indication, arcades are far from dead.

    My long term goal is to open an arcade. I’ve always been a big supporter of the industry. I have designed a few online arcade games too.

    Keep up the good work. Thanks again for your post.

  8. Alex J. Brihn June 22, 2014 at 6:13 am - Reply

    Has anyone been to Dubai? The arcade scene there is unbelievable. With so many mega-sized shopping malls, I have so many arcade joints here, it is crazy!

    The kind of setups they have is amazing, I will try taking a few pictures in a couple of days to prove my point.

  9. Phil "iTossWomenSalads" Arrington June 26, 2014 at 8:12 am - Reply

    Sorry, I’m late to the party again.

    Arcades aren’t dead…..yet. It probably won’t be for sometime. However, with Japan going the route of “NESiCA Live” and all the other big ASIA only arcade network connected “DLC GAME” its slowing killing us over here.

    Most likely we will never see the new “Rumble Fish 2” over here as well as a long list of titles that would do good in our markets. Not even a ROM dump. Hell, it would be nice to see “Mortal Kombat X” slapped in an arcade or the Castle Crashers arcade that’s at PAX every year go official. It would be nice if they make a few units just to see how it goes in the market. Hell, we not even getting Skullgirls from the looks of it.

    I’m glad Sega is starting to step up in our markets with Project Diva in the R1 arcades and Namco making a “somewhat cute” attempt with Tekken Tag Tournament 2. But these are not gonna make it to the small arcades. The NESiCAxLive is what needed to get our market going.

    • Seth Eldridge June 26, 2014 at 3:03 pm - Reply

      Gonna have to agree with the nesica stuff, but fiber internet isn’t big here. I wonder if google could contact them and get some sort of “magic” going or so I wish… :/

  10. Ro Jeeves July 3, 2014 at 10:16 pm - Reply

    I think you missed the point of the movie. He mentions at the end the resurgence of arcades on the east coast via barcades. This was in some ways a celebration of an era, that frankly does not exist today. The arcade scene in America isn’t dead, merely different. This seemed to really focus on the culture of 90s arcades more than anything else.

    • arcadehero July 4, 2014 at 10:07 am - Reply

      The visuals of the short are nothing but closed down, broken arcade venues. He strains to make that point, with sad shots of game machines, sad shots of him being sad in front of said machines. If his point was ” The arcade scene in America isn’t dead, merely different, here’s why I loved the 80s or 90s” then you need more than a mere mention of barcades stuffed inside of shot after shot of dusty cabinets. Barcades are not the only type of venue finding success these days. But no one that does these documentaries ever bother to just reminisce, they have to bash the current market which they know nothing about, without a thought that maybe pushing the “death” (which has never happened; video arcade games have been released every year since 1971) might do more harm to those out there still trying to make a living in the market.

  11. Jarjar Bink October 21, 2019 at 10:04 am - Reply

    So much for Arcade Heroes being such an overdramatic crybaby conservative. Why don’t you just move to Japan instead of whining? It’s that simple.

    • arcadehero October 22, 2019 at 1:28 pm - Reply

      Huh? Nothing about your comment makes any sense. Maybe lay off of the psychotropic drugs before typing?

    • Toby na Nakhorn October 23, 2019 at 4:03 am - Reply

      HaHa! It’s the real Jar Jar Binks!

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