Arcade game

Arcade game
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An arcade game is a coin-operated entertainment machine, usually installed in public businesses such as restaurants, bars, and amusement arcades. Most arcade games are video games, pinball machines, electro-mechanical games, redemption games, and merchandisers (such as claw cranes). The golden age of arcade games was from the late 1970s to the late 1980s, and while arcade games were still relatively popular during the first half of the 1990s, this type of media saw a continuous decline in popularity when video game consoles made the transition from 2D to 3D.



The first popular "arcade games" were early amusement park midway games such as shooting galleries, ball toss games, and the earliest coin-operated machines, such as those that claim to tell a person their fortune or played mechanical music. The old midways of 1920s-era amusement parks (such as Coney Island in New York) provided the inspiration and atmosphere of later arcade games.

In the 1930s, the earliest coin-operated pinball machines were made. These early amusement devices were distinct from their later electronic cousins in that they were made of wood, did not have plungers or lit-up bonus surfaces on the playing field, and used mechanical instead of electronic scoring readouts. By around 1977, most pinball machines in production switched to using solid state electronics for both operation and scoring.[1]

Electro-mechanical games

In 1966, Sega introduced an early electro-mechanical arcade game called Periscope.[2] It was an early submarine simulator and light gun shooter,[3] which used lights and plastic waves to simulate sinking ships from a submarine.[4] It became a worldwide success in Japan, Europe, and North America,[5] where it was the first arcade game to cost a quarter per play,[2] which would remain the standard price for arcade games for many years to come.[5] In 1967, Taito released an early electro-mechanical arcade game of their own, Crown Soccer Special, a two-player sports game that simulated association football, using various electronic components, including electronic versions of pinball flippers.[6]

Sega later produced gun games which resemble first-person shooter video games, but were in fact electro-mechanical games that used rear image projection in a manner similar to the ancient zoetrope to produce moving animations on a screen.[7] The first of these was the light gun game Duck Hunt,[8] which Sega released in 1969;[9] it featured animated moving targets on a screen, printed out the player's score on a ticket, and had sound effects that were volume controllable.[8] That same year, Sega released an early electro-mechanical arcade racing game Grand Prix, which had a first-person view, electronic sound, a dashboard with a racing wheel and accelerator,[10] and a forward-scrolling road projected on a screen.[11] Another Sega release that year was Missile, a shooter and vehicle combat simulation that featured electronic sound and a moving film strip to represent the targets on a projection screen. It was also the earliest known arcade game to feature a joystick with a fire button, which was used as part of an early dual-control scheme, where two directional buttons are used to move the player's tank and a two-way joystick is used to shoot and steer the missile onto oncoming planes displayed on the screen; when a plane is hit, an explosion is animated on screen along with an explosion sound.[12] In 1970,[13] the game was released in North America as S.A.M.I. by Midway.[12] That same year, Sega released Jet Rocket, a combat flight simulator featuring cockpit controls that could move the player aircraft around a landscape displayed on a screen and shoot missiles onto targets that explode when hit.[14]

Throughout the 1970s, electro-mechanical arcade games were gradually replaced by electronic video games, following the release of Pong in 1972.[15] In 1972, Sega released their final electro-mechanical game Killer Shark, a first-person light gun shooter known for appearing in the 1975 film Jaws.[7] In 1974, Nintendo released Wild Gunman, a light gun shooter that used full-motion video projection from 16 mm film to display live-action cowboy opponents on the screen.[16] One of the last successful electro-mechanical arcade games was F-1, a racing game developed by Namco and distributed by Atari in 1976;[17] the game was shown in the films Dawn of the Dead (1978)[18] and Midnight Madness (1980), as was Sega's Jet Rocket in the latter film. The 1978 video game Space Invaders, however, dealt a yet more powerful blow to the popularity of electro-mechanical games.[19]

Arcade video games

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In 1971, students at Stanford University set up the Galaxy Game, a coin-operated version of the Spacewar computer game. This is the earliest known instance of a coin-operated video game. Later in the same year, Nolan Bushnell created the first mass-manufactured such game, Computer Space, for Nutting Associates.

In 1972, Atari was formed by Nolan Bushnell and Ted Dabney. Atari essentially created the coin-operated video game industry with the game Pong, the smash hit electronic ping pong video game. Pong proved to be popular, but imitators helped keep Atari from dominating the fledging coin-operated video game market. Taito's Space Invaders in 1978 proved to be an even greater success, and is now regarded as the first blockbuster arcade video game.[20] Video game arcades sprang up in shopping malls, and small "corner arcades" appeared in restaurants, grocery stores, bars and movie theaters all over the United States, Japan and other countries during the late 1970s and early 1980s. Space Invaders (1978), Galaxian (1979), Pac-Man (1980), Battlezone (1980) and Donkey Kong (1981) were especially popular.

During the late 1970s and 1980s, chains such as Chuck E. Cheese's, Ground Round, Dave and Busters, and Gatti's Pizza combined the traditional restaurant and/or bar environment with arcades.[21] By the late-1980s, the arcade video game craze was beginning to fade due to advances in home video game console technology. Arcade video games experienced a resurgence with the advent of two-player fighting games following the success of Street Fighter II (1991) by Capcom, leading to many more successful arcade fighting games such as Mortal Kombat (1992) by Midway Games, Fatal Fury: King of Fighters (1992) by SNK, Killer Instinct (1994) by Rare, and The King of Fighters (1994–2005) by SNK.

However by 1996, home video game consoles and computers with 3D accelerator cards had reached technological parity with arcade equipment—arcade games had always been based on commodity technology, but their advantage over previous generations of home system was in their ability to customize and use the latest graphics and sound chips, much as PC games of today do. Declines in arcade sales volume meant that this approach was no longer cost-effective. Furthermore, by the late 1990s and early 2000s, networked gaming via console and computers across the Internet had also appeared,[22] replacing the venue of head to head competition and social atmosphere once provided solely by arcades.[23]

The arcades also lost their status as the forefront of new game releases. Given the choice between playing a game at an arcade three or four times (perhaps 15 minutes of play for a typical arcade game), and renting, at about the same price, exactly the same game—for a video game console—the console was the clear winner. Fighting games were the most attractive feature for arcades, since they offered the prospect of face-to-face competition and tournaments, which correspondingly led players to practice more (and spend more money in the arcade), but they could not support the business all by themselves.

Recent 20th anniversary arcade machine, combining two classic video games.

To remain viable, arcades added other elements to complement the video games such as redemption games, merchandisers, and food service. Referred to as "fun centers" or "family fun centers",[24] some of the longstanding chains such as Chuck E. Cheese's and Gatti's Pizza ("GattiTowns")[25] also changed to this format. Many old video game arcades have long since closed, and classic coin-operated games have become largely the province of dedicated hobbyists.

Today's arcades have found a niche in games that use special controllers largely inaccessible to home users. An alternative interpretation (one that includes fighting games, which continue to thrive and require no special controller) is that the arcade game is now a more socially-oriented hangout, with games that focus on an individual's performance, rather than the game's content, as the primary form of novelty. Examples of today's popular genres are rhythm games such as Dance Dance Revolution (1998) and DrumMania (1999), and rail shooters such as Virtua Cop (1994), Time Crisis and House of the Dead (1996).


Inside of a Neo Geo

Virtually all modern arcade games (other than the very traditional midway-type games at county fairs) make extensive use of solid state electronics and integrated circuits. In the past coin-operated arcade video games generally used custom per-game hardware often with multiple CPUs, highly specialized sound and graphics chips, and the latest in computer graphics display technology. Recent arcade game hardware is often based on modified video game console hardware or high-end PC components.

Arcade games frequently have more immersive and realistic game controls than either PC or console games, including specialized ambiance or control accessories: Fully enclosed dynamic cabinets with force feedback controls, dedicated lightguns, rear-projection displays, reproductions of automobile or airplane cockpits, motorcycle or horse-shaped controllers, or highly dedicated controllers such as dancing mats and fishing rods. These accessories are usually what set modern arcade games apart from PC or console games, as they are usually too bulky, expensive, and specialized to be used with typical home PCs and consoles.

Arcade genre

Arcade games often have very short levels, simple and intuitive control schemes, and rapidly increasing difficulty. This is due to the environment of the Arcade, where the player is essentially renting the game for as long as their in-game avatar can stay alive (or until they run out of tokens).

Games on consoles or PCs can be referred to as "arcade games" if they share these qualities or are direct ports of arcade titles. Many independent developers are now producing games in the arcade genre that are designed specifically for use on the Internet. These games are usually designed with Flash/Java/DHTML and run directly in web-browsers.

Arcade racing games have a simplified physics engine and do not require much learning time when compared with racing simulators. Cars can turn sharply without braking or understeer, and the AI rivals are sometimes programmed so they are always near the player (rubberband effect).

Arcade flight games also use simplified physics and controls in comparison to flight simulators. These are meant to have an easy learning curve, in order to preserve their action component. Increasing numbers of console flight arcade games, from Crimson Skies to Ace Combat and Secret Weapons Over Normandy indicate the falling of manual-heavy flight sim popularity in favor of instant arcade flight action.[26]


Emulators such as MAME, which can be run on modern computers and a number of other devices, aim to preserve the games of the past.

Legitimate emulated titles started to appear on the Sony PlayStation and Sega Saturn, with CD-ROM compilations such as Arcade's Greatest Hits: The Atari Collection 1, and on the PlayStation 2 and GameCube with DVD-ROM titles such as Midway Arcade Treasures.

Arcade games are currently being downloaded and emulated through the Nintendo Wii Virtual Console Service starting in 2009 with Gaplus, Mappy, Space Harrier, Star Force, The Tower of Druaga, Tecmo Bowl, Altered Beast and many more. Other classic arcade games such as Asteroids, Tron, Discs of Tron, Yie Ar Kung-Fu, Pac-Man, Joust, Battlezone, Dig Dug, Robotron: 2084, and Missile Command are emulated on PlayStation Network and Xbox Live Arcade.


In addition to restaurants and video arcades, arcade games are also found in bowling alleys, college campuses, dormitories, laundromats, movie theatres, supermarkets, shopping malls, airports, ice rinks, corner shops, truck stops, bar/pubs, hotels, and even bakeries. In short, arcade games are popular in places open to the public where people are likely to have free time.

See also

Gamepad.svg Video games portal


  1. ^ Vintage Coin Operated Fortune Tellers, Arcade Games, Digger/Cranes, Gun Games and other Penny Arcade games, pre-1977 from Marvin's Marvelous Mechanical Museum
  2. ^ a b Steven L. Kent (2000), The First Quarter: A 25-Year History of Video Games, p. 83, BWD Press, ISBN 0970475500
  3. ^ Brian Ashcraft (2008) Arcade Mania! The Turbo Charged World of Japan's Game Centers, p. 133, Kodansha International
  4. ^ Steve L. Kent (2001), The ultimate history of video games: from Pong to Pokémon and beyond: the story behind the craze that touched our lives and changed the world, p. 102, Prima, ISBN 0761536434
  5. ^ a b Mark J. P. Wolf (2008), The video game explosion: a history from PONG to Playstation and beyond, p. 149, ABC-CLIO, ISBN 031333868X
  6. ^ Crown Soccer Special at the Killer List of Videogames
  7. ^ a b D.S. Cohen, Killer Shark: The Undersea Horror Arcade Game from Jaws,,, retrieved 2011-05-03 
  8. ^ a b "1969 Sega Duck Hunt (Arcade Flyer)". Retrieved 2011-05-03. 
  9. ^ Duck Hunt (1969) at the Killer List of Videogames
  10. ^ Grand Prix at the Killer List of Videogames
  11. ^ Bill Loguidice & Matt Barton (2009), Vintage games: an insider look at the history of Grand Theft Auto, Super Mario, and the most influential games of all time, p. 198, Focal Press, ISBN 0240811461
  12. ^ a b Missile at the Killer List of Videogames
  13. ^ S.A.M.I. at the Killer List of Videogames
  14. ^ Jet Rocket at the Killer List of Videogames
  15. ^ Brian Ashcraft (2008) Arcade Mania! The Turbo Charged World of Japan's Game Centers, p. 134, Kodansha International
  16. ^ Wild Gunman (1974) at the Killer List of Videogames
  17. ^ F-1 at the Killer List of Videogames
  18. ^ Mall Arcade (Dawn Of The Dead) on YouTube
  19. ^ Brian Ashcraft (2008) Arcade Mania! The Turbo Charged World of Japan's Game Centers, p. 136, Kodansha International
  20. ^ Chris Kohler (2005), Power-up: how Japanese video games gave the world an extra life, BradyGames, p. 18, ISBN 0744004241,, retrieved 2011-03-27 
  21. ^ "Dave and Buster's About Page". Retrieved 2007-09-20. 
  22. ^ Mabry, Donald J.. "Evolution of Online Games". Archived from the original on 2008-02-09. Retrieved 2007-09-21. 
  23. ^ Fuller, Brad. "Awakening the Arcade". Retrieved 2007-09-21. 
  24. ^ "Bullwinkles Family Fun Center". Retrieved 2007-09-20. 
  25. ^ "Gatti's Pizza: About Us". Retrieved 2007-09-20. 
  26. ^ Butts, Steve (2003). "Secret Weapon Over Normandy Review". IGN. Retrieved August 15, 2007. 

External links

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Look at other dictionaries:

  • arcade game — arcade games N COUNT An arcade game is a computer game of the type that is often played in amusement arcades …   English dictionary

  • arcade game — a game or type of game available in arcades. * * * arcade game UK US noun [countable] [singular arcade game plural arcade games] a type of computer game that you find in an amusement arcade Thesaurus: computer and video games and games played on… …   Useful english dictionary

  • arcade game — UK / US noun [countable] Word forms arcade game : singular arcade game plural arcade games a type of computer game that you find in an amusement arcade …   English dictionary

  • Arcade Game Construction Kit — was developed by Mike Livesay and published by Brøderbund for the Commodore 64. AGCK is a four disk program that allows inexperienced game designers to try their hand at game creation. The program features a joystick driven menu system and a few… …   Wikipedia

  • Arcade Game — Arcade Spiel Arcade Spiel ist eine Bezeichnung für Videospiele, die seit den 1970er Jahren in öffentlichen Spielhäusern in den USA, so genannten Penny Arcades bzw. in Europa in Spielhallen kostenpflichtig angeboten werden. In den frühen 1980er… …   Deutsch Wikipedia

  • Arcade Game Construction Kit — Das Arcade Game Construction Kit (AGCK) war ein Programm zur Erstellung von Spielen, das von Mike Livesay für den Commodore 64 Homecomputer programmiert wurde. Es ist erstmals von Brøderbund im Jahre 1988 veröffentlicht worden. AGCK war ein… …   Deutsch Wikipedia

  • arcade game — ar cade ,game noun count a type of computer game that you find in a VIDEO ARCADE …   Usage of the words and phrases in modern English

  • arcade game — a game or type of game available in arcades. * * * …   Universalium

  • arcade game — ar cade .game n a type of electronic game that was first popular in ↑amusement arcades (=a place where you play games by putting coins in machines) in the early 1980s, but is now usually played on a computer …   Dictionary of contemporary English

  • arcade game — /aˈkeɪd geɪm/ (say ah kayd gaym) noun a coin operated device for entertainment, such as pinball. {originally as located in an (amusement) arcade} …  

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