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Submitted by Gwynne Dixon on December 21 2011 - 14:20

How shall we comfort ourselves, the murderers of all murderers?

Arcade-style video games are on the way out, or so analysts and CEOs would have us believe – Hollywood-style spectacles are what gamers want in a full-priced boxed product. Last year saw the release of two big budget arcade racers – Split/Second and Blur – both of which struggled for sales despite healthy reviews, ultimately resulting in the closure of the two British developers that created them (Disney's Black Rock Studio and Activision's Bizarre Creations). This year we've had an arcade shooter in the form of Codemasters' Bodycount; a title that received a poor reception from critics and floundered in the charts. Again, this resulted in Codies closing the Guildford studio that made the game while publicly stating that investment will be focused on its core racing game IPs in future. Sticking with arcade shooters, another Bizarre Creations gem (in this site's humble opinion), The Club received a lukewarm reception from critics in 2008 before dropping like an anvil on the sales charts. And then, of course, there's the might of EA's annualised Need For Speed series, the latest instalment of which (NFS: The Run) failed to even make it into the top 10 of the UK charts in its debut week last month (the first time this has happened with an NFS game in recorded history).

I could go on using examples like the pitiful state of affairs with Namco's Time Crisis games this generation, or how the publisher's Ridge Racer series failed to even be visually impressive with its latest iteration on Nintendo's 3DS (when a Ridge Racer launch game looks rough, arcade racers are truly lost). And we, the consumers, are to blame – not, perhaps, for the crappy visuals of Ridge Racer 3D or the stunted attempt at publicity that Activision made with Blur, but ultimately our lack of interest and general malaise towards contemporary arcade design styles has led to their now inevitable demise at retail. It's a crying shame in this writer's humble opinion, because in an era when first-person shooters have become little more than a penis extension and action/adventure titles are often more concerned with emulating Hollywood than anything else, arcade gaming has a purity to it that's lost on the blockbusters. It acts as a kind of antidote that reminds us exactly why we fell in love with video games in the first place: gameplay.

One bright light amongst this gloom has been the resurgence of fighting games, where Capcom's Street Fighter IV has led the way and incoming Namco team-ups on Street Fighter X Tekken/Tekken X Street Fighter promise to keep up the pace of this reinvigoration. Other than that though, it appears the roots of coin-op gaming – that had remained so sturdy on consoles as arcade cabinets disappeared from the corners of our shopping centres in the late 90s – are now finally starting to rot from their base. Video game arcades are these days maligned to sleepy seaside piers, airport terminals, and depressing motorway service stations here in the UK where they host severely aged games at the old costing of 50p per play despite marked inflation and tax increases all around them (almost as if they're in some kind of tragic time bubble). The genre of console games that have so successfully imitated and expanded in their wake over the last decade now appear doomed to a similar fate.

Or do they? As arcade gaming has fallen off the boxed product cliff edge, mobile phone apps have risen to prominence. Entirely by coincidence, the original arcade selling point is back in style: gaming for less than a pound or dollar. This market strategy of pursuing high yields of individual payments at low prices once again grips the game industry, and not just with gaming apps either. So-called 'micro-transaction', 'free-to-play', or 'freemium' games, which can now be found everywhere from Valve's Steam service to Facebook, offer the highest rate of growth in any sector. The opportunity to play a game without charge but with the option to fast-track your progress, customise avatars, or unlock more content with relatively small payments is evidently a very popular one, from FIFA Ultimate Team to Battlestar Galactica Online, Team Fortress 2 and The Smurfs' Village. As opposed to the traditional arcade experience, where you stuck another 50 pence piece into the cabinet because you ran out of lives and wanted to complete the game, now gamers pull another 50p out of their bank accounts to speed-up the grind of unlocking items or to bolster their gameplay experience. Both models revolve around the idea of small payments on a regular basis to further your progress in the game, but don't take our word for it – Philip Reisberger, the Chief Games Officer at Bigpoint Games (which runs free-to-play titles like Battlestar Galactica Online and Battlefield Heroes) recently spoke with TVG and offered these comments on the matter:

“I see quite a lot of similarities between the arcade model, where you pay little instalments and decide whether you want to continue paying or not, and the free-to-play model. I think these two models are a lot more similar and have a lot more in common than the retail up-front model or even the regular subscription model.”

“It's not buying a box, putting it on the shelf and playing it, but it's really the time you want to spend – like going to the movies – the time you want to dedicate to spend on it and pay for it,” Reisberger added. “I think the idea of games as a service behind that – that's what these two models really share.”

Call me old fashioned but, when it comes to comparisons of arcade and free-to-play, I know which style I prefer. Having been schooled on 8-bit consoles, my tolerance for punishment is considerably higher than it is for reward; I'd much prefer to die hundreds of times than grind away to unlock a virtual hat for my troubles. Quite why modern video games insist on rewarding their users every five seconds just for playing the game is beyond me anyway – it's just so... needy. Perhaps there's a third way, then, and in the highly unlikely event that any game executives happen to be reading this, here's an idea for free...

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By: Anonymous

Added:Tue 18th Sep 2012 10:39, Post No: 25

Arcade gaming has been dead a long time in my view.  You used to go because the games there were vastly better than anywhere else.  When that stopped being true, I stopped going.  The thing that's really missing from games today is the feeling of importance.  Like they don't seem to have any pride in themselves or even care that you're playing


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By: Anonymous

Added:Wed 18th Jan 2012 14:54, Post No: 24

I just read this site is being killed off !! OMG - I always read here quite a bit... 

...for anyone wanting to keep up to date with Xbox news, thisisxbox is still going strong


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By: Anonymous

Added:Fri 13th Jan 2012 23:53, Post No: 23

we didnt kill off arcade game's its you the video game reviewer's critisism's of these arcade game's short commings vs full on adventure/simulation games.

 

even in this article you describe RR on the 3DS as basicly piss poor, who the F is going to buy it now after reading what you said about it, well go figure pal its people like you who killed the arcade not us gamers.

 

Gwynne Dixon AKA the ARCADE GAME KILLER.


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By: Anonymous

Added:Fri 13th Jan 2012 23:49, Post No: 22

thanks to people like gwynne dixon many great game's have been shuned becasue they dont like them, a prime example is the saboteur, an awsome 3rd person adventure set in WWII in paris with an irish guy called sean where you seak revenge against a nazi war lord, if you can forgive the games minour missgivings such as scanty clad women who just for the record are not naked (even with the code/dlc there only topless) the rest of the game is suprisingly enjoyable and very satisfying.

 

but alas the developer just like many folded and wend into liquidation cause the majority of gamers this gen go by reviews/reviewers opinions rather than actually trying the game them selfs.

 

just for your information gwynne, activision pretty much shut bizzare creations down almost imedietly after blur was released, if activision hadnt taken over im fairly sure bizzare would still be going and developing PGR5 as that franchise of racing had served them very well in the past ever since its incarnation on the dreamcast back in 1999 (MSR Metropolis Street Racer) also as sega were re-releasing their back catalouge of DC game's as BC are no longer with us MSR will never get a HD remake which i can assure you many people wanted but will never see.


By: editor

Added:Fri 06th Jan 2012 01:53, Post No: 21

The answer your question - it may be best you go to my LINKED page (Kevin Williams - KWP)

As you can see I work in the heart of the interation Digital Out-of-Home entertainment (DOE) sector that includes amusement business. Along with this I write for a number of trade publications and publish the leading e-newsletter in the sector (The Stinger Report).

If you are interested in the trade show in the UK that will include the launch of some of the new SEHA and Bandai Namco releases for the sector - drop me an email and we can talk on how best TVG can retain our services.

 


By: freeradical

Added:Tue 03rd Jan 2012 14:56, Post No: 20

It was a tricky point to make to be honest, purely because arcade gaming has become so mixed in with different genres and platforms across the years.

My main point was to say that boxed-product arcade games on consoles - the likes of Blur or Bodycount, for example - are a dying breed. Publishers will be reluctant to invest in these kinds of games in future given how poorly they've been performing of late.

I was using the reference to arcade cabinets to point out that these kinds of console games emerged from them in the first place. Also, while I'm not denying that arcade emporiums can still turn a profit in places and do still exist, it's true that their business has been marginalised and they're not the forefrunt of new gaming that they were in years past. Quite to the contrary, usually they're old games that have been upkept or refurbished (not that I don't love playing those games still - I do).

So, amusement arcade gaming has undoubtedly receeded and now boxed-product arcade console games are doomed to a similar fate. No doubt hobbyists and fringe businesses will keep the style of gaming alive, but the mass-market mainstream appeal is as good as dead.

As I point out at the end of the article though, there are still opportunities and creative possibilities to keep arcade gaming alive on consoles. Dedicated amusement arcade enthusiasts such as yourself are evidently doing a great job keeping the culture alive too (long may it continue).

Which I suppose leads me to the obvious questions: what part of the amusement arcade industry do you work for, when is this trade show, and what's it about?

Also, respect to you for picking me up on the Trocadero closure. Shame on me for not double-checking.


By: editor

Added:Tue 03rd Jan 2012 01:32, Post No: 19

... Sorry but this 'comment' tool sucks.

One last point - your title was Game Over - Arcades Are Dead - which would be the point of your feature - and I have just proved that arcade gaming is far from deaf - and that point stands much better than yours :)


By: editor

Added:Tue 03rd Jan 2012 01:29, Post No: 18

@Freeradical, thanks for your comments - I had created a reasonable reply to the article but for some reason the 'comment' software dose not like it.

Anyway - correction, the Troc has closed and is now only hot four crane games - all the videos are about to be moved - in London there is however County Hall, and outside of London there are a number of bowling venues and cinemas with strong FEC tendancies.

I think you may not be aware of what the moder amusement industry represents - the traditional whole machine arcade us not viable, all amusement is FEC (additional) now - arcades are secondary spend to the main venue operation - and this is not small this sees over 10,000 machines in operation. 

I was in a modern Service Station recently as well as one arcade at Heathrow  and they all had videos and most were sub 2001. That said - you are right that this is not as strong as it use to be (96) - but not dead and still turning a profit!

Look we have a big amusement trade show in Feburary - would you guys like us to cover it for TVG? Email me if this is of interest.


By: freeradical

Added:Mon 02nd Jan 2012 17:13, Post No: 17

Thanks for the feedback, 'editor'. I'm aware there are still arcade venues turning a profit these days. London's Trocadero is still going strong, and you'll find plenty of arcade cabinets at any given Butlins resort - I take your point on the redesigned Weston pier as well.

These are specialised entertainment locations, however - they are some of the few remaining commercial areas where arcade cabinets continue to draw worthwhile interest in this country. It's no coincidence that they're also areas with very high levels of footfall (The Trocadero is in a tourism hot-spot, for example).

I spent a sizeable chunk of the 90s playing arcade cabinets and you'd find them everywhere from town-centre shopping malls to fast food restaurants and cinema foyers - this is no longer the case, or at least it's a lot rarer. You'd also find the newest games on these arcade cabinets with the best graphics before they were released on consoles further down the line. Where arcade cabinets do remain in this country, the offerings of new titles imported from Japan are much slimmer. Only in the very best UK amusement arcades will you find even vaguely recent titles such as Virtua Tennis 3, for example - most motorway service stations and airports harbour cabinets that were first released around a decade ago.

That was the point I was trying to make, and that point stands.


By: editor

Added:Mon 02nd Jan 2012 14:35, Post No: 16

This editorial seems to miss some of the big developments in the amusement scene and the number of new openings of venues - also the brand new Weston pier that saw bumper attendance last year. Best not to write without a little research no matter what time of year!


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