An arcade is a place where people play video games and electro-mechanical games. Traditionally, customers of these establishments were overwhelmingly teen and young adult males. However, presently families are the largest arcade constituent, mainly because the lack of standard new games being released in arcades (arcades now are comprised mostly of deluxe games which are more popular with families).
Video arcades typically have subdued lighting to inhibit glare and enhance the viewing of the game's video display. This atmosphere has added to the stores' sometimes negative reputation in the United States, as well as in other countries. In Japan, however, male and female teens and adults can often be found enjoying arcades, typically on dates.
With the increase of Internet cafes opening (which also provide gaming services), the need for video arcades and such arcade games are reduced, and many have been shut down or merged with the cafes as a result.
The video games are typically in arcade cabinets. The most common kind are uprights, tall boxes with a monitor and controls in front. Customers insert coins or tokens into the machines (or use magnetic cards) and stand in front of them to play the game. These traditionally were the most popular arcade format, although presently American arcades make much more money off deluxe driving games and ticket redemption games. Japanese arcades, while also heavily featuring deluxe games, continue to do well with traditional JAMMA arcade video games.
Some machines, such as Ms. Pac Man and Joust, are occasionally in smaller boxes with a flat, clear glass or plexiglass top; the player sits at the machine playing it, looking down. This style of arcade game is known as a cocktail-style arcade game table, since they were first popularised in bars.
Some arcade games, such as racing games, are designed to be sat in or on. These types of games are sometimes referred to as "sit-down" games. Sega is one of the largest manufacturers of these types of arcade games.
Arcades are not limited to video games only, though. Pinball machines and redemption games such as skee ball are also common in many arcades. There may be a counter where players can redeem the tickets earned at the latter for prizes ranging from cheap toys to dolls and jewelry.
Other kinds of machines can also be seen at video arcades, like gambling machines such as slot machines and pachinko machines, or even vending machines. Large toys and rides usually seen in amusement parks are also common on certain video arcades.
Video arcades started springing up in the late 1970s and were most popular during the golden age of arcade games, the mid-1980s.
During this time, arcades were so popular in the United States that school children could easily pass one or two on their way to or from school. This disturbed many parents who disapproved of the perceived seedy atmosphere of the arcades and of their children's use of money on the "frivolous" activity of video game playing. Some attempts were made to prohibit children's patronage of such establishments with varying degrees of success.
Most opposition to such stores has evaporated with the decline of these businesses beginning in the mid-1990s. Some stores still exist in the US, but not in nearly the large numbers since the mid-1980s. This decline is due mainly to the fact that after 1994 arcade game companies failed to stay ahead of the technology curve and would release games that had graphics equal to or worse than the video game consoles of the time.
High game turnover in Japanese arcades required quick game design, leading to the adoption of standardized systems like JAMMA, Neo-Geo and CPS-2. These systems were essentially arcade-only consoles where the video game ROM could be swapped easily to replace a game. This allowed easier development and replacement of games, but it also discouraged the hardware innovation necessary to stay ahead of the technology curve.
Most US arcades didn't even see the intended benefit of this practice since many games weren't export ed to the US, and if they were, distributors generally refused to release them as simply a ROM, preferring to sell the entire ROM, console, and sometimes cabinet as a package. In fact, several arcade systems such as Sega's NAOMI board are arcade versions of home systems.
Video arcades are still very popular in Japan, where they are called game centers (ゲームセンター). Game centers are made up of four general types of machines: sit-down games, prize-awarding games, casino games, and photo booths. Sit-down games are still the most popular, and as mentioned above, Sega dominates the market for sit-down games. However, Konami had dominated the Bemani types of games, which is becoming increasingly popular in Asian culture. Prize-awarding games often include machines such as the UFO catcher (known as the "crane machine" in the US), and prizes are generally merchandise of popular animation characters. Casino games (メタルゲーム) include pachinko and slot machines, although you cannot win money from these machines. Photo booths (プリクラ) are especially popular among teenage girls, who trade tiny photos of themselves among friends.
In the United Kingdom, arcades were particularly popular in seaside resorts where, until around 1994, a game would cost between 10p and 30p. The decline of the traditional arcade, however, did not occur in line with the stagnation in technology improvements. Indeed, it was the huge leap towards polygon 3D games in the mid-90s that caused the decline. With the improvements in technology came considerable price rises, often at £1 a game. This isolated the traditional teen male visitor and many of the businesses fell into decline. They were forced to accommodate more for their other traditional visitor group, the middle-aged male, which precipitated a shift towards a more gambling focused businesses. As a result, many arcades in the UK today are comprised mostly of fruit machines.
|Sega Arcade Boards|
|Originating in Arcades|
|Fonz||Galaxian||Zaxxon||Appoooh||X Board||Model 2||Hikaru||Atomiswave|
|Blockade||G80||Hang-On / Space Harrier||Model 1||H1||Model 3||NAOMI 2|
|VIC Dual||System 1||System 24||NAOMI|
|VCO Object||LaserDisc||System SP|
|System 2||System 18|
|Based on Consumer Hardware|
|SG-1000||System E||System C||Triforce||Europa-R||RingEdge 2|
|Mega-Tech System||Sega Titan Video||Chihiro||Nu|
|Hardware Series / Generations|
|Electro-mechanical systems||Sega System series||Sega NAOMI series|
|Discrete logic systems||Super Scaler series||Post-NAOMI systems|
|Pre-System boards||Sega Model series|