An arcade game is a coin-operated entertainment machine, usually installed in public businesses, such as restaurants, bars, and particularly 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 video games was from the late 1970s through the 1980s. While arcade games were still relatively popular during the 1990s, this type of media saw a continuous decline in popularity in the Western world when video game consoles made the transition from 2D computer graphics to 3D computer graphics. Despite this, arcades remain popular in Asia through to the present day.

The term "arcade game" is also, in recent times, used to refer to a video game that was designed to look like a classic arcade game (adopting an isometric view, 2D graphics, scores, lives, etc.) but instead released on platforms such as Xbox Live Arcade or PC.


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 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 gamesEdit

In 1966, Sega introduced an electro-mechanical 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]

Other early electro-mechanical games included Taito's Crown Soccer Special in 1967, which was a two-player sports game that simulated association football, using various electronic components, including electronic versions of pinball flippers[5]; gun games that used rear image projection in a manner similar to the ancient zoetrope to produce moving animations on a Projection screen|screen,[6] such as Duck Hunt and Grand Prix, a racing game which had a first-person view, electronic sound, a dashboard with a racing wheel and accelerator,[7] and a forward-scrolling road projected on a screen.[8]

Throughout the 1970s, electro-mechanical arcade games were gradually replaced by electronic video games, following the release of Pong in 1972.[9] This game was an instant hit, with many Pong and other similar sport rip-off games to follow over the years, and arguably the arcade boom that proved video games were here to stay occurred in 1978 when Space Invaders was released, creating more clones and a shortage of the Yen currency in Japan.

Arcade video gamesEdit

In 1971, students at Stanford University set up the Galaxy Game, a coin-operated version of the Spacewar! video 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 first successful electronic video game. Pong proved to be popular, but imitators helped keep Atari from dominating the fledgling coin-operated video game market.

Golden ageEdit

Taito's Space Invaders in 1978 proved to be the first blockbuster arcade video game.[10] Its success marked the beginning of the golden age of arcade video games. 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), Defender (1980), and Donkey Kong (1981) were especially popular. By 1981, the arcade video game industry was worth $8 billion.[11]


The video game crash of 1983-1984 affected all areas of video games, from home consoles to the arcades. However, in the early 1990s, the arcades experienced a major resurgence with the 1991 release of Capcom's Street Fighter II,[12] which popularized competitive fighting games and revived the arcade industry to a level of popularity not seen since the days of Pac-Man.[13] Its success led to a wave of other popular fighting games, such as Mortal Kombat by Midway Games, Fatal Fury: King of Fighters (1992) by SNK Playmore, Killer Instinct (1994) by Rare Ltd., and The King of Fighters (1994–2005) by SNK. Arcade video games thus experienced a resurgence with the advent of two-player fighting games.

Following the rise of 3D graphics in the early to mid 1990s, racing games and light gun shooters[14] would also gain considerable popularity in the arcades. By 1994, arcade games in the United States were generating revenues of $7 billion[15] in quarters (equivalent to $11 billion in 2011), in comparison to home console game sales of $6 billion, with many of the best-selling home video games in the early 1990s often being arcade ports.[16] Combined, total arcade and console game revenues in 1994 was nearly two and a half times the $5 billion revenue grossed by movies in the United States at the time.

Around the mid 1990s, the fifth generation home consoles of the Saturn, PlayStation, and Nintendo 64 began offering true 3D graphics. By 1996, personal computers followed, with 3D accelerator cards. While arcade systems such as the Sega Model 3 remained more advanced than home systems,[17] consoles and computers began approaching technological parity with arcade equipment. The technological advantage that arcade games had, in their ability to customize and use the latest graphics and sound chips, narrowed, and the convenience of home games caused a rapid decline in arcade gaming. By 1998, Sega's Dreamcast could produce 3D graphics on-par with arcade machines at the time.


Arcade video games had declined in popularity so much by the late 1990s, that revenues in the United States dropped to $1.33 billion in 1999[18], and reached a low of $866 million in 2004.[19] Furthermore, by the early 2000s, networked gaming via computers and then consoles across the Internet had also appeared,[20] replacing the venue of head to head competition and social atmosphere once provided solely by arcades[21].

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 became the preferred choice. 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.

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",[22] some of the longstanding chains such as Chuck E. Cheese's and Gatti's Pizza ("GattiTowns")[23] also changed to this format. Many 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 The House of the Dead (1996).

In the Western world, the arcade video game industry still exists today, but in a greatly reduced form. Video arcade game hardware is often based on home game consoles to facilitate porting a video arcade game to a home system; there are video arcade versions of Dreamcast (Sega NAOMI, Atomiswave), PlayStation 2 (Namco System 246), GameCube (Triforce), and Microsoft Xbox (Chihiro) home consoles. Some arcades have survived by expanding into ticket-based prize redemption and more physical games with no home console equivalent, such as skee ball and whack-a-mole. Some genres, particularly dancing and rhythm games (such as Konami's Dance Dance Revolution) continue to be popular in arcades.

In the Japanese gaming industry, on the other hand, arcades have remained popular through to the present day. As of 2009, out of Japan's $20 billion gaming market, $6 billion of that amount is generated from arcades, which represent the largest sector of the Japanese video game market, followed by home console games and mobile games at $3.5 billion and $2 billion, respectively.[24] However, due to the country's economic recession, the Japanese arcade industry has also been steadily declining, from ¥702.9 billion (US$8.7 billion) in 2007 to ¥504.3 billion ($6.2 billion) in 2010.[25]

Worldwide, arcade game revenues gradually increased from $1.8 billion in 1998 to $3.2 billion in 2002, rivaling PC game sales of $3.2 billion that same year.[26] In particular, arcade video games are a thriving industry in China, where arcades are widespread across the country.[27] The US market has also experienced a slight resurgence, with the number of video game arcades across the nation increasing from 2,500 in 2003 to 3,500 in 2008, though this is significantly less than the 10,000 arcades in the early 1980s. As of 2009, a successful arcade game usually sells around 4000 to 6000 units worldwide.[28]


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 central processing units (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 video games apart from other games, as they are usually too bulky, expensive, and specialized to be used with typical home PCs and consoles.

Bottom Of The Screen Shooters for the arcadeEdit


  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. Steven L. Kent (2000), The First Quarter: A 25-Year History of Video Games, p. 83, BWD Press, ISBN 0-9704755-0-0
  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 Games, ISBN 0-7615-3643-4
  5. Arcade Museum entry of Crown Soccer Special
  6. Killer Shark: The Undersea Horror Arcade Game from Jaws by D.S. Cohen [1]
  7. Arcade Museum Grand Prix entry
  8. Bill Loguidice and Matt Barton (2009), Vintage Games: An Insider Oook At the History of Grand Theft Auto, Super Mario, and the Most Influential Games of All Time, p. 198, Focal Press, ISBN 0-240-81146-1
  9. Brian Ashcraft (2008) Arcade Mania! The Turbo Charged World of Japan's Game Centers, p. 134, Kodansha International
  10. Chris Kohler, Power-Up: How Japanese Video Games Gave the World An Extra Life, page 18, BradyGames [2]
  11. Can Lasers Save Video Arcades?[3] The Philadelphia Inquirer, 3 February 1984
  12. Gamers: Writers, Artists & Programmers on the Pleasures of Pixels, Shanna Compton, Soft Skull Press, 2004, page119, [4]
  13. Spencer, Spanner, The Tao of Beat-'em-ups (part 2), EuroGamer, 12 Feb 2008
  14. Virtua Cop, IGN, 7 July 2004
  15. Business Week, issue 3392-3405, page 58, 1994, Bloomberg L. P. [5]
  16. Mark Stephen Pierce, Digital Illusion: Entertaining the Future with High Technology, chapter 30, Coin-Op: The Life (Arcade Videogames), ACM Press, 1998, 2 May 2011, page 444
  17. News: Virtua Fighter 3 article, Computer and Video Games, 1996, May issue, #174
  18. Lydia Henry, Skee-ball Mania, [6], Reading Eagle, 26 April 2001, page 36
  19. Video Killed the Arcade Star [7], East Valley Tribune, 20 April 2006
  20. Donald J. Mabry, Evolution of Online Games, February 9, 2008
  21. Awakening the Arcade, 21 September 2007 [8]
  22. Bullwinkles Family Fun Center, [9]
  23. Gatti's Pizza: About Us [10]
  24. Yukiharu Sambe, Japan’s Arcade Games and Their Technology, Lecture Notes in Computer Science, vol. 5709, page 338, 2009, Entertainment Computing– ICEC 2009 [11]
  25. Market Data [12]
  26. Yuntsai Chou,|G-commerce in East Asia: Evidence and Prospects, Journal of Interactive Advertising, Fall, 2003, vol. 4, issue 1 [13]
  27. Eric Jou, The Wonderful and Seedy World of Chinese Arcades, [14], Kotaku
  28. Digital Sport for Performance Enhancement and Competitive Evolution: Intelligent Gaming Technologies, 2009, IGI Global [15], page 260
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