The Case For Greater Variety in Arcades

Hello there, Arcade Heroes readers! I’m Dustin Wilcox, and I’ve been an avid fan of this site for about five years now. Even though I run an arcade blog of my own, it feels really special to submit writing to one of the most beloved news sources in the amusement industry.

Given the opportunity to reach a wider audience, I wanted to write about something extremely important to me: variety, defined by a quick Google search as “the quality or state of being different or diverse; the absence of uniformity, sameness, or monotony.”

In my experience, the average modern arcade can be somewhat lacking in this attribute. Many major family entertainment center game rooms, for instance, are comprised of 60 to 70 percent ticket redemption machines. The remaining video games are largely racing or shooting games, sometimes all from just one manufacturer. (I’ll let you guess which one.)

If you’re a player looking to expand your horizons, modern arcades may not be the place for you. But I believe this can be remedied, provided arcades take proactive steps toward diversifying their lineup.

As much as I love racing and shooting games, there are plenty of other options available to shake things up. Most indie developers, in fact, haven’t been constrained by the confines of those two aforementioned genres. Titles like Killer Queen, Black Emperor, Skycurser, Rashlander, Cosmtrons, Retro Raccoons, and DeathBall are all refreshingly unique compared to what’s often available on the “mainstream” arcade market.

One particularly intriguing indie contender injecting the arcade industry with much-needed variety is Exa-Arcadia, a multi-video system often covered on this site. (As Adam would say, searching for “Exa” should bring up plenty of articles.) Arcade fans and operators alike can look forward to the release of shoot-em-ups, fighters, platformers, and other genres that have been more or less untouched by the “big guys” for many years now.

In my eyes, it makes a lot of sense for arcades to veer off the “beaten path” — a.k.a. the output of major manufacturers — when striving to improve variety.

Due to this lack of varied output from the major players, another good option for an arcade to diversify their lineup is to purchase older titles. “Older” doesn’t necessarily have to mean ‘70s and ‘80s games either, as the ‘90s were still full unique concepts. With decades of content available, it’s not likely an interested arcade will run out of cabinets to beef up their offerings any time soon.

Many of my personal favorite classic titles come from companies like Midway, Sega, and Namco due to their seemingly unwavering sense of experimentation in previous eras. That being said, every arcade gamer has his or her own preferences, so it’s probably wise for arcade owners to poll their patrons.

Maybe I’m too nostalgic, but I feel that it’s equally important for arcades to offer classics to provide their players a wider breadth of options.

Taking community tastes into account can make for an even more well-rounded arcade experience. Perhaps most neglected is none other than the rhythm gamers, a group continually shafted by Japanese developers that simply don’t want to deal with the historically unprofitable Western market. Fortunately, there are, in fact, some good options available for purchase on this side of the planet, such as Pump It Up XX, StepManiaX, and NEON FM.

I’ve noticed that pinball players have seen relatively uneven representation, as well. While bar/arcades and “retrocades” will more likely than not carry at least a handful of pinball machines, the average family entertainment center will tend to ignore the scene entirely. With so much focus on redemption and, to a lesser extent, video games, I personally feel it’s a shame that pinball doesn’t get more love. (Though that’s changing thanks to the efforts of companies like Stern and Jersey Jack.)

Because niche communities are often overlooked, I firmly believe serving these crowds can do wonders for game variety.

Pump It Up XX by Andamiro

At the end of the day, it doesn’t matter how the arcade industry achieves variety, per se — it just matters that some effort is made. As a jaded blogger, I can’t say I’ve seen too much of this effort, but the outlook is changing rapidly with each passing year.

Before I sign off, I’d like to thank Adam for letting me submitting this article. Hopefully, I’ll be back here again soon. However, if you’d like to read more of my stuff, you can always check me out at Wilcox Arcade.

Do you believe arcade game manufactures and locations need to do a better job of offering variety in their game lineups? Share you thoughts in the comments below.

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