Golden Age of Arcade Gaming

Back in the late 1970s up until the mid-80s, the primary place to go to get all of the latest and most high-tech games in the business were video game arcades. With the release of Space Invaders in 1978, video games were becoming a cultural phenomenon, and arcades were sprouting up all over the country, enticing kids of all ages through their doors. Several companies were all competing for the top spot in the industry, and this led to new games being released nearly monthly.

Sadly, this Golden Age was not meant to be a very long one. Within a few short years, the arcade industry slowed down exponentially. Too many games were being made too fast, and copy cats of the popular games were flooding the market. There was a mild resurgence in the market in the early 90s with the release of several fighting-style games, which were totally new in a gaming industry that had been largely non-violent up until this point. However, even the fighting games weren’t enough to save the arcade, especially after the 1995 release of the Nintendo Entertainment System. Focus turned to home gaming consoles.

pong and some games

A Slow Decline

For the next two decades, arcade business would falter slowly. With Sega, Nintendo, Sony, and eventually Microsoft all releasing new and more and more advanced gaming consoles every few years, arcades were largely forgotten. With home consoles developing such advanced graphics, especially with the releases of the Nintendo Wii, the Sony PlayStation 3, and the Xbox 360, arcades have been unable to keep up.

However, the arcade hadn’t faded completely from the limelight. Despite the home console gaming systems becoming so very advanced, there was always a group of people who would rather go out and enjoy video games the way they were during their childhood. The arcade, while not as popular as it had been back in the 80s, was still holding on.

Arcades Take a Dip

And then, disaster struck. In the mid-2000s, technology took a giant leap forward, and smartphone became the norm. At first glance, this seems like a good thing. However, smartphones soon came with the capabilities of many features, including filling your tiny phone with a whole arsenal of video games. Most of the classic arcade games are now available on smartphones. And this called into question the necessity of arcade machines. After all, why would you pay to play a game every time when you could simply download it once for a few dollars, and play it forever?

In a few short years, the arcade business, which back at its height in 1982 was a 12 billion dollar market, dropped down to 35 million by 2011. It had seemed that the smartphone killed the video arcade. It’s happening all over again.

This, however, is not entirely true. Arcades have managed to survive, even though they have changed quite a bit since their glory day. Nowadays, most arcades have taken one of two different routes. They’ve either become family-friendly centers, or they’ve switched focus onto the nostalgia factor. Many arcades have become places for much younger kids, centered on giving out prizes for tickets. These arcades have simpler games like skee ball and whack-a-mole.

The other route is to focus on nostalgia for the arcade audience, which proprietors have realized has aged and grown up. Many arcades nowadays have found the older classics, and present them to an older group of people, who were kids back in the 80s when they first came out. These arcades sometimes focus on selling alcohol and food, allowing players to relish in their childhood memories while also enjoying a beer. Sadly, most of these arcades make the vast majority of their money on food and alcohol sales.

Some individuals have become collectors of all the older games, choosing to gather all of their favorite classics in either their homes, or their businesses. Whether these collectors are doing so to enjoy childhood memories, or to introduce younger generations to the thrill of the classics, there are still places online where collectors can find used arcade games for sale.

Future of Arcade Games

Even though prospects look rather dim, the arcade is not dead and gone. With the advancements in technology, there are possibilities to create new games for the arcade medium that will help to bring the crowds that arcades used to be able to draw back into them. Arcades will be able to survive if they are willing to adapt and change to meet the current market’s needs.