Creep E. Cheese and the Rebirth of the Arcade

Remember when we used to beg our parents for a quarter (or more likely, a roll of them) to go play at the arcade while they shopped at dumb ol’ JC Penney’s? Those were the days, weren’t they?

However, the sad fact today is that Arcades are a rarity in the USA, and sometimes sit eerily empty, smelling of dust, rather than pizza and diet coke that got spilled on the floor by that clumsy kid.

Stiff competition from the home console market in the nineties soundly defeated most of the Video Arcades in America, with ports of many of the same games, and the promise to parents of never having to shell out those quarters again – if only they knew it would create a lifelong habit and drain on money either way.  As an added bonus, there were exclusive titles, and no creepy animatronic rodents to sing you songs. It would seem that the day of the Arcade has come and gone with the slap bracelets and pogs, relegated to the role of a daycare center for hyperactive children at the mall.

Not pictured: Sushi crane game

Or has it? Not if Japan has anything to say about it.

One of the biggest developers of games in the industry, SEGA, continues to make arcade boards year after year, pushing the envelope of technology when it comes to commercial systems. From save game cards to better graphics, SEGA has become the pioneer of the Arcade business. Their drop from the console market after the tragedy that was the Dreamcast has propelled them into a whole other realm of moneymaking possibility.

However, the question remains – is it even a viable market anymore?

Japan says yes.

Among the oddities of Japan’s city culture (see: used panty dispensers, woman shaped pillows, sushi), there lies a hidden gem of gaming unknown to most in the west.

It is called a “Gaming Center.” More than just an arcade, these coin-operated oases stand as one of the biggest moneymaking centers for gaming in all of Japan, arguably the most gaming oriented nation in the world (apart from first-person-shooters and bro games. See: Madden ’11, Fifa ’11, Doucheball ’11).

One such Gaming Center – called the GiGO in Tokyo, a.k.a the Sega Club Akihabara. This massive building towers as a neon testament to what Gaming might be in America some day – if businessmen are smart.

The rooms inside are not the dim and dank interiors of your standard arcade, but are instead well lit with working and well kept arcade systems, concessions, tile flooring (remember that diet coke) and tons of other money wasting amusements that would capture the fancy of any man, child, or man-child.

The fact is, Japan (specifically SEGA) has figured out how to make the Arcade a viable money making outlet, thus keeping them open, allowing us second hand nostalgia and hope for the future here in the land where Chuck-E-Cheese remains the main location for arcade games, at least for deranged children and people who decide they want to look like a creep on any given day.

Of course, if this were brought to America, it would have to be tweaked, sure – but if SEGA decides to go international with this sort of idea, then we might see a skyscraper filled with SEGA games within the next decade.

Hopefully without sushi or used panty dispensers.

-Allen

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