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An arcade game is a coin-operated entertainment machine, typically installed in businesses such as restaurants, pubs, video arcades, and Family Entertainment Centers. Most arcade games are redemption games, video games or pinball machines.
See also: Timeline of arcade game history
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 which claim to tell a person their fortune or played mechanical music. Although none of these were coin-operated games themselves, 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.
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 videogame market. Nonetheless, 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 and other countries during the late 1970s and early 1980s. Games such as Space Invaders (1978), Galaxian (1979), Pac-Man (1980), Battlezone (1980), and Donkey Kong (1981) were especially popular.
By the late-1980s, the arcade video game craze was beginning to fade due to the reputation of arcades as being seedy, unsafe places as well as the advances in home video game console technology. The last gasp of the youth arcade subculture, as it once was, may have been the advent of two-player fighting games such as Street Fighter II (1991) by Capcom, Mortal Kombat (1992) by Midway Games, and Fatal Fury(1992) and King of Fighters (1994-2005) by SNK.
By 1996, 32-bit 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. 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, the exact same gameâ€”for a video game consoleâ€”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 couldn't support the business all by themselves.
To stay in business, the arcades themselves were reinvented as "fun centers" such as Chuck-E-Cheese, with arcade games being supplemented by a variety of other attractions, most notably the redemption game. 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 which 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 House of the Dead (1998) and Time Crisis. However, 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.
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. Coin-operated arcade video games generally use multiple CPUs, additional sound and graphics chips and/or boards, and the latest in computer graphics display technology. The newest arcade video games tend to also have interactivity as part of the game design, making the game player feel like they are more kinesthetically connected to the game itself. One form of interactive technology, virtual reality, has failed to truly become popular in arcade games, but this is due to technical limitations preventing games from being able to achieve convincing virtual reality in the first place.
- See also: Category:Arcade emulators
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, bar/pubs and even bakeries. In short, arcade games are popular in places open to the public where people are likely to be waiting on something.
More recently, Arcade games have found a new home in sites that contain browser-based games. Many independent developers are now producing Arcade games 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 games often have very short levels, simple, easy to grasp controllers, iconic characters, and rapidly increasing difficulty. They are designed as quick bursts of adrenaline-fueled thrills, as opposed to most console games, which feature more in-depth gameplay, and stronger storylines. This is due to being coin-operated, where the player is essentially renting the game for as long as their game avatar can stay alive (or until they run out of tokens). Games on consoles or PCs can be referred to as an "arcade game" if it shares these qualities, or if it's a direct port of an arcade title.
Arcade racing games are those which have a simplified physics engine and do not require much learning time, in opposition to racing simulators. Cars can turn sharply without losing speed or overdrifting, and the AI rivals are sometimes programmed so they are always near the player (rubberband effect).
- List of gaming topics
- Arcade cabinet
- Golden age of arcade games
- High score
- Killer List of Videogames
- List of arcade games
- Neo Geo