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Feature: A New Life for Arcades?

Industry consultant Kevin Williams examines the state of the arcade market, exploring why, despite changes in the Western biz since its '80s heyday, there's still room for
The arcade is a goldmine for retro enthusiasts, earning high honors as a key patriarch of the games industry as we know it. But it's also easy to dismiss it as no longer viable or functioning, possessed largely of mere nostalgia value. In a new Gamasutra feature, industry consultant Kevin Williams challenges that view, uncovering what he calls a groundswell of new developments in this so-called "dead" market. Consumer gaming may have become a multi-billion dollar industry, he asserts, but the arcade industry has also evolved itself into a sector that maintains its relevance to both players and publishers. Explains Williams: "What many still call the "arcade" business has not existed in any serious size for 20-odd years -- the industry that this feature is covering is that of the video amusement and public-space sector (also known as the Digital Out-of-Home interactive entertainment industry). Where once wooden black box arcade cabinets were crammed into retail units and called an "arcade", the modern industry places the latest dedicated amusement pieces in a multitude of sites ranging from retail, bowling centers, family entertainment venues, cinema chains, hotels, theme parks and airports -- and many sites in-between. Rather than supplying the stand-alone presence, public-space gaming is now largely a compliment to a facility's primary activities. The general North American market, where these products are placed, also consists of Family Entertainment Centers (FEC), ranging in size from 15,000 to 200,000 square feet, mixing entertainment such as bowling, lasertag, mini-golf, go-karting, redemption and amusement under one roof, with 200 to 400 machines. An aspect of this includes facilities that focus on a centralized experience such bowling alleys, light-gun arenas, and video game rooms." Venues like Chuck 'E' Cheese and Dave & Buster's also fall under this umbrella, Williams highlights. Many multiplex cinemas also include arcade centers. There are also emerging arenas for "digital out-of-home entertainment," such as in the hospitality sector, bar-top kiosks and tavern terminals. "There are also game kiosks for hotel and truck stop utilization. Growing in recognition under the moniker "VenderTainment", this application is married to network prize elements and tournament play. This also includes the pay-to-use game systems that build on a cybercafe-style experience. The appliance of game methodology into new areas of public-space environments is one of the driving factors towards entertaining a sophisticated audience now highly familiar with digital play. This has seen the birth of exer-gaming, which blends interactive play with new-style fitness technology -- some systems using amusement-originated motion capture applications. Another area that falls into this new development is edutainment -- with new-style interactive attractions placed in educational arenas, including new interactive simulator experiences and networked audience theater systems in museums, galleries, and heritage venues. Special needs education and rehabilitation are also being served by a new level of intuitive game experiences. While this falls outside the conventional pay-to-play revenue model, many public-space entertainment systems run like attractions in a theme park." You can now read the full feature on the viability of the arcade market (no registration required, please feel free to link to this feature from other websites).

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