The Rise and Fall of Arcade Machines

Early History of Arcade Machines

In the 1970's and early 1980's, arcade machines were the first introduction to gaming for many people, and proved to be extremely popular during that time. With the home gaming market still in its infancy, few people were willing to spend large sums of money on a home system. Arcades machines also tended to feature games that were more advanced than anything that could be produced on consoles at the time.

Pong was the first major arcade hit in 1972, and several more followed throughout the decade including Breakout, Asteroids, and Space Invaders. Atari and Taito were two of the pre-eminent names in arcade gaming at the time, and were responsible for many of the most popular games of the era.

The early 1980's proved to be the golden age for arcade gaming. Several popular games were released that are still played today, including Pac-Man, Donkey Kong, Frogger, Dragon's Lair, Gauntlet, Marble Madness, and Paperboy. The arcade game industry was still more prosperous than the home gaming market at that time.

Short Revival

The release of the Nintendo Entertainment System in the mid 1980's stole a lot of thunder from the arcade industry. Home console technology had caught up to arcade machines, and many popular arcade games were quickly ported to home consoles, giving gamers less incentive to shell out buckets of quarters for limited play runs. However arcades would be reinvigorated in the early 1990's with the release of several prominent fighting games, most notably Street Fighter 2. Others like King of Fighters and Mortal Kombat would follow, and arcades became popular places for gamers to put their skills to the test against other players and to show off their skills.

The revival was short-lived though, and a new generation of consoles, coupled with the decline in popularity of fighting games led to their eventual demise. By the 2000's most arcades had closed up shop, and the arcade industry in total was worth less than $1 billion annually in the U.S, a fraction of what it was worth 20 years earlier.

Arcade Games Today

While arcade machines can still be found throughout the world, dedicated arcades have mostly disappeared. The current crop of new arcade games largely consists of games that are more difficult to recreate at home. Dance rhythm games have proven extremely popular in this regard, with games like Just Dance and Dance Dance Revolution providing opportunities for gamers to play and show off their moves in a great setting. Fighting games are also experiencing a revival in the past few years, and arcade machines of some of those games like Street Fighter 4 have proven popular, especially in Japan.

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