If you are new to the modern arcade business, then stick with me here for a brief history lesson; Otherwise, old-timers or distributors, feel free to jump down to the 3rd sub-header…
UPDATE: Made a slight correction below – Paul Jacobs was with SNK America from 1986 (where he founded the US division) until late 1992.
A Quick History On Kits & Dedicated Cabinets
Kits have had a long and storied history over the years, first coming into widespread use in the post-crash days of 1984, and eventually becoming a staple of the industry after the JAMMA wiring setup became a standard in both Japan & the US (If that last part sounds like gobbledygook to you, it just means that JAMMA wiring standard made it relatively easy to buy a game kit and insert a new title into a cabinet without the need of rewiring everything – most of the time).
In the US, generic cabinets had their heyday in the 80s & 90s, until most manufacturers found it more lucrative to focus on dedicated cabinets; The same has gone for distributors who find it easier to sell an all-in-one package as opposed to something with a bunch of options. Poorly converted cabinets (pictured) can also stick out like a sore thumb and a good game can struggle to earn if the converted cabinet looks like a spruced-up trash can. We often lovingly refer to these as “hellcades.”
Japan and most other parts of Asia on the other hand have embraced the idea of generic cab designs that make it easy for game swaps. While often referred to under the blanket term “candy cabs,” quite a few varied designs have launched to Eastern markets over the years, with those cabinets sometimes finding their way to Western shores via imports.
The ease of game swapping is a real benefit in this case, although what we call “dedicated cabs” still hold an important advantage over generic. Such cabs tend to provide a specially tailored experience for a game concept, which leads to a more memorable play session and higher earnings, particularly when the cabinet helps add something to the game, like specialized sound/lighting/controls/etc. In the distant past, it was common for competing companies to develop kits to convert out some other popular, but perhaps aging title over to their new game, but that’s another practice that has become rare.
Some kits have had dedicated cabs, the most famous of which was the Neo Geo MVS by SNK. Thanks to this design, it provided a uniform build for their multi-game system, and players could easily recognize a Neo Geo in a crowded game room.
The ExA-Arcadia Preps For A US Launch
If you are reading this far, here then there’s a good chance you’ve heard of the exA-Arcadia system before, something that I have covered on the blog many times since 2018. If this is the first time you’ve heard of the exA platform, think of it as being the modern “spiritual successor” to the Neo Geo MVS shown above. The similarities are there in more ways than one, a big one being the involvement of Paul Jacobs, head of SNK USA from 1986-1992. Bringing that experience of launching the MVS into the US market 31 years ago, he is aiming to bring the same success to exA. A big step in that direction involves the use of a dedicated cabinet for exA systems to go into.
This hasn’t been particularly necessary over in exA’s hometown of Japan, thanks to the variety of JVS (another wiring standard that essentially replaced JAMMA) cabinets there, but the US is a very different beast in that regard. While there have been generic JAMMA cabs made for the market here, nothing saw the same level of success that “Japanese candy cabs” have, and brand new generic cabinet options have also been uncommon since almost every game comes with a custom dedicated cabinet for it for the past 20~25 years.
The only company I’ve seen making brand-new, generic but professional quality coin-op cabinets has been Fun Company, a cabinet manufacturer out of Wisconsin. Fun Company has developed a number of dedicated cabs for major manufacturers, and now they have been working with exA-Arcadia to produce a few different models that will be ready-to-go for US operators who want the various benefits of an exA system, without all the hassle of finding the right cabinet to convert it over to. Where I was one of the first operators in the US to grab an exA, they are the company I used for my cabinet need; I went with their FunGlo V4 model with some custom artwork, as shown here:
The Fun Company/exA-Arcadia Dedicated 4-Player Cabinet Design
Now for the news of the article – a new cabinet.
A short time ago, exA-Arcadia began testing a 2-player cabinet at a Dave & Busters in Florida that was similar to my FunGlo but with some additional improvements (such as a marquee & better artwork). This week, exA-Arcadia has begun testing out their 4-player pedestal design, with sightings of this design at an FEC in Texas, where they also included a couple of seats for player comfort:
This takes the idea of the 2p model and expands it to comfortably provide space for the extra players. It also provides a better solution for the bevy of 4-player titles that will eventually be available for the system (as of this writing there are two: Lightning Knights and Nippon Marathon Turbo Hyper Running, but more are on their way including P-47 Aces Mk. II and some others that have not been announced yet). I can’t imagine that many operators would want to use an old Konami 4p cabinet to showcase these kinds of games. Here’s the game running with Nippon Marathon Turbo:
This cabinet will be a benefit to distributors, who haven’t always been very keen on selling kits, since it can be tough to answer questions on cabinet compatibility and quality, or expecting a distributor to throw something together. This gives them more control over knowing what it is that they are selling, making it easier to do.
This 4p cab comes with a 55″ 4K TV, a large backlit static marquee(there is a high probability that the size of this will change by final production), LED-backlit buttons, a single exA system + game, and exA’s specialized I/O board. It also includes a “Game Menu” button which will take the user back to the primary game menu, in the event that there aren’t any coins inserted (normally this function is done by pressing 1p Start+Action 1). Purchasing will be handled through exA-Arcadia’s US distributors and orders will open later this year.
It can also be noted that this is not the only cabinet design on the docket. There are two other 2p cabinet designs, one with the ability to change the monitor orientation with little difficulty, that will also be available.
Operators who are interested in one will be able to see these in-person at Amusement Expo 2021 in Las Vegas, where exA will debut their full line-up to the US industry. Recently the organizers of that event announced that it is 80% full – and it will also take place over two rooms instead of one, with COVID restrictions requiring much more space between booths – but it isn’t clear yet how many operators will be attending at this point. I will be there to see and play these live; Until then, perhaps one or some of you will come across the tests.
What do you think about this from what has been shown above?
Those cabinets are too cheesy in a retro disco way for me but seems to address the issues around the modern arcade with more redemption games than anything else to accommodate new titles.
I am glad that Exa Arcadia is partnering with cabinet makers that can evoke the aesthetic of Neo Geo style, which are dedicated, but advertised as an intuitive convertible kit.
I would prefer to see an enclosed cabinet similar to the raw thrills ninja turtles or injustice arcade style.For a secure fec or whatever it really doesn’t matter but for route locations I really don’t like the flat-screens so exposed as seen on the funglow or this new prototype.