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Keatah

Did home consoles kill the arcade?

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The arcade in the town next to us had an under fourteen must be with an adult rule.  Not sure if it was a bylaw so maybe there is something to it.  My father took us there, it wasn't even that dark and was very clean.  The arcade nearest us was dark.  Went there whenever I had some money, my parents didn't care.

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One of the things that is hurting arcades during COVID is they often get segregated from other entertainment industries and treated more harshly BECAUSE of this old reputation about them being places that encourage truancy and drug abuse.  The guys at Free Play are very vocal about how bowling alleys, pool halls and other places were allowed to re-open before they were and blamed this old mischaracterization as the reason why.

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From 1985(?) onwards my hometown had banned all arcades. No new construction, and any existing arcades had to close down. Luckily for us we still able to patronize establishments in 3 surrounding towns. Made it a point to shop there and get take-out when we were done.

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For me, it was computers...

I wasn't a console kid.  (We did have an Odyssey 2..  Hey!  No jokes about it making sense I wouldn't like consoles because I had an O2!!  I liked my O2!!)

 

I didn't have a lot of money as a kid.  So while I loved the arcades like crazy, it was always fun AND a class in economics.  ;-(

But when I got my Vic-20, I found that I could have a lot of fun with that, and as a result spent much less time at the arcades.

Now, it wasn't no time at the arcades.  I would still go for the edgy games.  Dragon's Lair, TRON, etc...  But arcades became something I would stop at for short periods of time, and then I'd spend most of my time on the computer.

And with the computer, it wasn't just games.  It was programming.  It was BBSing (yes, at 300 baud and 22 columns!!).  And those took all my spare time and then some...

I knew the games I had at home weren't arcade quality, but they were good enough.  Combined with all the other things I could do on the computer...

 

I still miss arcades, but economics taught this young kid that I needed to cut back on them. 

Do you know how many games of Donkey Kong I didn't playt so I could pay for a Vicmodem???  ;-) 

(Neither do I, but it was a lot...)

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2 hours ago, desiv said:

I still miss arcades, but economics taught this young kid that I needed to cut back on them. 

Do you know how many games of Donkey Kong I didn't playt so I could pay for a Vicmodem???  ;-) 

(Neither do I, but it was a lot...)

Had I been splurging on the arcades during 1977-1980 I would NOT have saved up enough money to acquire an Apple II. And the years I spent money at the arcades were the years I didn't have enough money for Apple II peripherals and software.

 

But I learned in good time and eventually watched every penny I spent at those places. And it carries over till today. Either give away money to arcades and come home $100 poorer or sock it away for that new 2080 RTX.

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Myself, I didn't go to arcades That often and I never really spent that much ($5 and sometimes $10) so it was negligible (I had a paper route in junior high and then that plus a job in high school)...Actually my mom once told me I should save a quarter every time I play an Atari game, then eventually all those quarters will be enough to buy another game.  Needless to say,  my Mom was Awesome!

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The $100 would include going to the mall and buying stuff, and food, and gas. And it was really probably closer to $50 maybe.

 

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I didn;t have a problem with 50 cent machines. Games like Dragon's Lair had to be that way, because they were so freaking expensive. IIRC the environment MACH 3 in my home arcade cost $5000, and that machine did not recoup that money quickly either.

 

In my area, arcades were doing well enough though the glory days were long behind them. Arcades didn't start closing until 1988 or so, but it was a slow death. The way I think people around me saw it, the NES gave an experience very close to the arcade, and the Genesis upped the ante, and the SNES upped it even further, and the prices kept coming down in subsequent years. I think the PS1 really was the one, because that was where you saw actual ports of the classic games come in that played close to the arcade experience if not exactly like it.

 

When I moved to Florida in 1993, from an arcade standpoint, it was like traveling back in time to about 1982 or so, because every mall had an arcade and people were going to them, especially in Orlando. The scene did start dying off in 1995 or 1996, however.

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I was trying to find this: http://akinokure.blogspot.com/2009/03/home-video-game-consoles-did-not-kill.html when I first responded to this topic. The best part about the article is this graph that shows consoles vs. arcades:

 

videogamesales.JPG

 

It actually shows arcades losing steam before the rise of consoles (1981 time frame). And then it shows a slight bump at the same time as the rise of NES. The decline of the arcade is pretty steady from 1988 to 2002. Consoles over took arcades briefly in 1983ish, but consoles didn't really out pace arcades until about 1990ish. Heck, both arcade and consoles (1991-1996) declined for a time together (meaning the rate of decline, yes I can see consoles were higher than arcades). No matter your feelings about the topic, this graph is still interesting (IMHO).

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12 hours ago, Keatah said:

But I learned in good time and eventually watched every penny I spent at those places. And it carries over till today. Either give away money to arcades and come home $100 poorer or sock it away for that new 2080 RTX.

I learned the same lessons, but now I'm too frugal to splurge for a 2080 even though I could afford it,  lol.   I didn't even like spending $300 for a 2060

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1 hour ago, pboland said:

I was trying to find this: http://akinokure.blogspot.com/2009/03/home-video-game-consoles-did-not-kill.html when I first responded to this topic. The best part about the article is this graph that shows consoles vs. arcades:

 

videogamesales.JPG

 

It actually shows arcades losing steam before the rise of consoles (1981 time frame). And then it shows a slight bump at

Is that hardware sales or quarter intake?   82-83 seemed like the glory days of arcade where I lived.   But that was when machines were popping up everywhere--  laundromats, grocery stores, etc.     They were selling to those locations because the arcades were saturated and not taking that many new games.  I guess that could explain why hardware sales where falling while arcades were thriving...

 

But then people got bored with the same-old same-old arcade games leading to the home crash..

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1 hour ago, zzip said:

I learned the same lessons, but now I'm too frugal to splurge for a 2080 even though I could afford it,  lol.   I didn't even like spending $300 for a 2060

I'm still using my 2nd hand GTX 1080. I was getting ready to look at a new graphics card because industry publications were saying the 1080 is dated and wouldn't run things like MSFS2020 very well. Bullshit on that. It's running perfectly with everything set to max or near max.

 

I figure once the price drops and bugs get worked out I'll get one 2nd hand. Always something to look forward to!

 

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I dunno, I really don't think that the negative connotation that arcades might have had in the late '80s stuck, because the industry successfully rebranded itself under "Family Entertainment Centers." Check E. Cheeses, Dave & Busters, all of the many clones out there. Of course, many say those aren't "arcades," because they arbitrarily say so. 

 

I would question the sources of that graph, given that the early '90s had massive hits - Street Fighter II, Daytona USA, NBA Jam, Mortal Kombat - each of those games alone were estimated to rake in billions of dollars, NBA Jam generated an estimated $2 billion by itself, but that graph claims that the entire market didn't generate that much total after 1994. 🤷‍♂️

 

I use the word estimate because there is no one that is able to get the numbers on every arcade company out there. Most operators are notorious for clamping down on their earnings and protecting them more than nuclear launch codes. I can't even get fellow operators to tell me what they make on their games in a private group, because they're so paranoid that the numbers will get out or something. So there is a lot of unreported income that's simply impossible to nail down from the arcade side, while that isn't a problem on the home side.

 

There's no one other than the landlord that I report my income to, but that's monthly gross. I don't tell any organization or entity exactly how much each game makes. That same thing is repeated thousands of times across the country with the operators out there. But I guess we're not actually making any money, it's all just a dream because we're actually dead :P

 

 

 

 

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23 minutes ago, Shaggy the Atarian said:

 

I use the word estimate because there is no one that is able to get the numbers on every arcade company out there. Most operators are notorious for clamping down on their earnings and protecting them more than nuclear launch codes. I can't even get fellow operators to tell me what they make on their games in a private group, because they're so paranoid that the numbers will get out or something. So there is a lot of unreported income that's simply impossible to nail down from the arcade side, while that isn't a problem on the home side.

 

There's no one other than the landlord that I report my income to, but that's monthly gross. I don't tell any organization or entity exactly how much each game makes. That same thing is repeated thousands of times across the country with the operators out there. But I guess we're not actually making any money, it's all just a dream because we're actually dead :P

 

I think the chart may be charting cabinet sales rather than arcade income,  because as you point out the latter is much harder to tally.

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Problem is we don't know, which is why it's hard to take it 100% seriously. It might be partially accurate, but there's no way to know. Of course even cabinet sales have been very difficult to track, as most companies never revealed those numbers either (especially Japanese companies - in all the research I've done into arcade history over the years, I've never seen cabinet sales numbers from Sega/Taito/Konami/Namco/etc. Atari is the only one I came across, but Curt Vendel said that even those weren't 100% accurate)

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31 minutes ago, Shaggy the Atarian said:

I dunno, I really don't think that the negative connotation that arcades might have had in the late '80s stuck, because the industry successfully rebranded itself under "Family Entertainment Centers." Check E. Cheeses, Dave & Busters, all of the many clones out there. Of course, many say those aren't "arcades," because they arbitrarily say so.

 

These Family Entertainment Centers aren't arcades. They are Family Entertainment Centers. Nothing arbitrary about it. The industry rebranded itself.

 

Back in the 80's we would generically use the term "arcade". It would cover all the local establishments regardless of name. Today we use specific names like CEC or D&B or UGRC or GG.. I don't recall hearing anyone saying, "lets go to the arcade" in like ages.

 

Edited by Keatah
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1 minute ago, Keatah said:

 

These Family Entertainment Centers aren't arcades. They are Family Entertainment Centers. Nothing arbitrary about it. The industry rebranded itself.

Not as a whole, but if they have any coin-operated games on site, then they are partially an arcade.  That's how they are looked at legally (by local city/county/state) as well.

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Maybe this will help my argument ;) Here is one of the few places that did gather some rounded numbers, but the data is getting a little old. Play Meter no longer exists, but their final report from 2015 is still online. Here are some interesting numbers. "Street Locations" are places like movie theater lobbies, gas stations, waiting rooms, restaurants, etc. that have some machines placed inside. These numbers would have been much higher by 2019 based on the reporting I had been doing on new location openings:

 

image.thumb.png.9a453f7213205b3f2446ecda9df22160.png

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In mid-1980s, we can see ending in the arcades.

 

A skillful player can play to the end with only one coin.

 

Before, games play in loop until players lose all lives.

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10 hours ago, Keatah said:

 

These Family Entertainment Centers aren't arcades. They are Family Entertainment Centers. Nothing arbitrary about it. The industry rebranded itself.

 

Back in the 80's we would generically use the term "arcade". It would cover all the local establishments regardless of name. Today we use specific names like CEC or D&B or UGRC or GG.. I don't recall hearing anyone saying, "lets go to the arcade" in like ages.

 

 

"lets go to the arcade"

 

I think I said something very similar in 2018 or 2019,   Before COVID at any rate...Though you're right!  It's been a while...Back in the day, (but after we had our Mustangs, Camaros, Trans Ams, Corvettes, and Roadrunners etc., it meant we were driving to the other side of town to go to Le Mans...)...

 

This last time, it meant we were going to a barcade downtown called Flipper's, or going to the Cheyenne Ice Center to play some Pinball.   Another friend and I sometimes go to Denver to go to 1Up or Hyperspace...

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Something that may be missed here is the 'Love' for the business. It seems like Shaggy loves his. I'll get to that in a minute. I started and ran a very successful Hobby Shop in the greater Phoenix area from 1998 to 2007. In that time, I saw 9 others Hobby stores close within 15 minutes of me. To me, it was easy to see. I got IT. The others clearly didn't. Restaurants fail every day. Yet many others thrive and make lots of money. Many came and went in the plaza I was in. Yet the one next door thrived, grew, and made LOTS of money. The owner and I talked about it several times. She clearly got IT. I traveled around the country visiting Hobby Shops as a part of my hobby :). Walking in the door spoke volumes. In a glance I could tell if they got IT.

 

For a few years owning the Hobby Shop, I had 2 EM games in a local 50's style Diner. I bought them for a few hundred dollars, cleaned them up and made sure everything worked on them. They each had about 50,000 plays on the internal meter, which we often bragged about. Every week I would take $400-500 dollars from those two machines. Eventually, I had good offers to sell that I couldn't refuse and I wanted to do other things with that time. Also, the restaurant owner didn't get IT and I could see his downslide long before he did.

 

Back to IT. What is IT? Its hard to describe. First you have to be flexible to match the market. Many small business owners are stuck in their ways and it drives them out of business. They clearly don't get IT. Its a destination business. For specialized business like Arcades or Hobby Shops,  people will come to you no matter where you are. It seems so simple but the very basics like Inventory and Customer service are EVERYTHING! Yet, many small business owners don't get IT. Being in the  fancy plaza, big signs, advertising, etc don't get IT done. They might for an Ice Cream parlor but not a specialized business. Robert Irvine and John Taffer clearly get IT. And they have successful TV shows because so many small businesses owners don't. Is a great example of IT.

 

I don't know Shaggy but I see a lot in his photos he posted. Its a bright store. Mirrors reflect light, make it appear bigger, and generally brighten the place. He has a variety of machines including Pinball, stand up classic arcade, sit down, climb in. Look at the mother sitting with the kid at the Pac Man table or whatever it is. He has targeted as many demographics as he could. The T shirt says he has a reception desk with merch to sell. This rounds out the store and gives him an opportunity to grab a little more money while people are excited and their adrenaline is up. But mostly, it adds to the whole image reinforcing he gets IT.

 

Does this have anything to do with home video games killing the Arcade market? I don't know, but I grew up in the 70's-80's and visited LOTS of Arcades. Knowing what I know now, its easy to think back and see that most owners were trying to cash in on the market growth and just didn't get IT. They were destined to fail from the beginning. The big crash is regularly documented. To me, its easy to see they just didn't Love their business and didn't get IT. Its a mute point to argue because people that argue the point, don't get IT :) Hey Shaggy, I can't wait to come visit your business. I love meeting people that have a passion and get IT.

 

Scott

Edited by mgas
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Think the answers here are going to vary... contingent on the area you were in. I have some insight here from a patron and from an owner's/operator's perspective.

 

Regarding the '83 crash, I think this was touched up before here previously in a different topic... I sorta equate to video stores back then with some minor differences. Recall there used to a mom and pop video shops galore? That is until you start to seeing the Blockbusters and Family Video stores taking hold. The minor difference here is I don't the corporate chain arcades played a part of the mom and pop arcades. I cant exactly remember the source, I think it was Ed Logg (Atari designer), stated it was the over saturation of games coming through the pipeline from '82 as well as '83. It wasn't just the surfeit of games but the fact that majority of these were good earners, so people weren't exactly buying. Case in point, if you look at '84 in general. Majority of the manufacturers' production was cut in half (I do have production #'s from Atari that year.) The market does bounce back in '85 and '86.

 

While we did lose much of the mom and pop arcades in that era, the corporate ones thrived. Where I lived (Chicagoland), it was the Aladdin's Castle, Showbiz Pizzas, Just for Fun, Galaxy Worlds and whoever supplied games to Great America amusement park. I read an article that Aladdin's Castle chain most profitable year was in '86. That's why I can't get onboard with the arcade industry in its death throes in '83 even '84 if you will... Hence my comment about video stores kinda relates here.

 

Now to me, I saw the real decline around the mid '90s, 'bout the same type Aladdin's Castles were shuttering stores. I'll never forget we had a new mall being built in our area. I think it was a Namco Time Out they had around the food court. Walked in, majority of the stuff towards the front of the entrance was redemption. I don't think they even had a pinball machine now to think about it. That to me is when the industry died for the most part. My only saving grace was the Galaxy World arcade (which was a behemoth bitd). It eventually too floundered in the early 2000's.

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On 9/2/2020 at 2:50 PM, wongojack said:

One of the things that is hurting arcades during COVID is they often get segregated from other entertainment industries and treated more harshly BECAUSE of this old reputation about them being places that encourage truancy and drug abuse.  The guys at Free Play are very vocal about how bowling alleys, pool halls and other places were allowed to re-open before they were and blamed this old mischaracterization as the reason why.

Example

https://reason.com/2020/09/09/are-video-arcades-more-dangerous-than-casinos-during-a-pandemic/?fbclid=IwAR2s2_WtELAUXl1Vghyy458-kwdqALDGOiMTBPuvCLtxC0yQe5Hc8JwRO2w

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On 9/6/2020 at 10:26 AM, mgas said:

Something that may be missed here is the 'Love' for the business. It seems like Shaggy loves his. 

...

Back to IT. What is IT? Its hard to describe. 

...

I don't know Shaggy but I see a lot in his photos he posted. Its a bright store. 

...

 

Hey Shaggy, I can't wait to come visit your business. I love meeting people that have a passion and get IT.

 

Scott

Thanks Scott! I appreciate the kind words. I definitely have a love for the industry as a whole and after blogging about it since 2007 and running an arcade since 2008, I've come across the notion that "arcades are dead" a lot, but it bugs me because I've been making a living off it for most of my adult life and I know many others that are in the same boat ;) I've also talked many times in person with Eugene Jarvis, who runs Raw Thrills and he doesn't think it's all dead either.

 

Speaking of all this, arcades are so dead that I'm taking a huge risk and am investing in opening a second location :) Projected opening date is Oct. 1st. I'll have some classics (Pac-Man, Ms. Pac-man, Galaga, Crystal Castles), along with brand new/newer titles like House of the Dead: Scarlet Dawn, Luigi's Mansion Arcade, Daytona Championship USA, Cosmotrons, Nirin and others. 

 

 

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In addition to what has already been said, part of it for me was also the change in design philosophy and style in arcade games.  Early 'golden era' games were designed such that you could always get a little bit better, you could always practice more, have those "magical" games of being in the zone where you'd get to another level or two.  No matter how good you were, there was always someone better.  It was that "never ending" aspect that I really liked, and still do.

 

 

Towards the mid-late 80s coin-op designers shifted to "war of attrition of how many quarters you had" gameplay.  As much as I do like Gauntlet, nobody could ever really get that far on one quarter.  It was strictly timed, and many games did that.  After a certain (pretty quick) skill ramp-up, you just had to put more money in to go farther.  Those were the genres of the day.  It wasn't that fun for me to go to an arcade, and pay money to play through the same two levels I've already played through to get to the same point and end because I didn't have enough money.  Not that these weren't skill games, but the point wasn't to play them over and over.  It was just to get to the end, and get as much money out of the player as possible in the mean time.  Of course, the classic arcade games were also designed to get as much money as possible, but there was always the allure and possibility of getting really far on one quarter, or doing just a bit better than last time because your skill at the game had a long ramp.

 

It is interesting to note that fighting games rejuvenated arcades for a while, and the winner could keep playing on their on single quarter... if they kept winning.

 

To me that was a really big shift, on top of the improving graphics of home consoles and computers.

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