This was a bit of an odd topic but it’s pretty central to understanding why arcades stopped being the norm, and there’s a couple of reasons. One of them I never even considered, but to understand why they left, you also need to consider why they became popular.
Arcades really became popular in the late 70’s and early 80’s because of technology developments. It had finally become cheap enough to make an entire device hard-coded for one game and ship it overseas. When I say cheap enough, the box alone cost $2400 (and that was just for one Pac-man console).
As a result, this new electronic thing was interesting and novel. They were also pretty fun. Unlike pinball machines which despite theme-ing and lighting and a few mechanical differences, video games could have different buttons and seriously different play styles. The games got more popular and the companies got more money and then the technology improved. It was all looking pretty good. (Kent, 2011)
Since the technology kept getting better it was pretty much affordable by households now rather than just businesses which led to home consoles. You could play the same game from the comfort of your own couch! But since people stopped going to the arcades they slowly withered and died. At least… the ones that weren’t in Japan anyway.
The consoles still got cheaper in Japan but there’s one major difference between here and there: people. There’s so many more people in Japan. In Tokyo alone there are 13 million people. Thats more than half of the entire country of Australia, so it’s understandably more crowded. Living space is smaller and you basically have no personal space on public transport. (Crawford, 2012)
Moving not only yourself but your home console to play with your friends over there would be a nightmare. So you go somewhere that already has the technology and the space set up for you. The arcade!
There you have it. The quickest crash course in the rise and fall of video games at arcades. Next week I’m going to talk to someone who lives in Australia about why they go to the arcades here.
Kent, S. L. (2001). The Ultimate History of Video Games: From Pong to Pokémon. Three Rivers Press.
Crawford B. (2012) 100 Yen: The Japanese Arcade Experience, Strata Studios