Stuff that makes no sense, No.1

Why don't they make arcade cabinets any more?

(I mean, obviously they do. There are still new arcade videogames being made, but they all run on boring generic cabinets, and they're not really what I'm talking about anyway.)

Why is it that you can't just call up Taito and buy yourself a brand-new classic-style Space Invaders machine?

After years of bitterly and angrily fighting against the chance to make money out of their old gaming IP, most games companies have now embraced the business of retrogaming. Whether it's just endlessly re-releasing the same old coin-op ports dozens and dozens of times on countless different formats (hello Namco!), or just using famous old names on brand-new games (such as the scores of modern releases in the Frogger and Space Invaders lines), the industry has finally wised up to the ongoing value of what it created.

But as anyone who ever visited the Game On exhibition, or is lucky enough to have been to Luna City (currently for sale if you've got about half a million quid to spare), there's nothing quite like playing old arcade games on original hardware. And with legions of arcade veterans now grown-ups with well-paid jobs and disposable income, why doesn't anyone want their money too?

Think about it. Mint-condition coin-op cabinets from the golden age of arcades go for sums in the thousands of pounds. Even poor substitutes like generic JAMMA cabs running games on MAME typically fetch well over a grand. But why? Because they're rare. And there's no reason for them to be.

Let's take a Robotron cabinet by way of example. What's actually in there? Essentially it's some lumps of painted chipboard, a small screen (typically just 15"), a ROM chip, a couple of joysticks and a coin mech. Heck, the wood is probably the most expensive thing. Now, you COULD find an old beat-up one, then spend weeks and weeks repairing, rebuilding and repainting it, at a cost of goodness knows how much in parts and labour. Or you could pay somebody £3000 for a nice one.

OR, Midway could churn them out from a little workshop in a tiny corner of their multinational empire, and sell them brand new. They've got all the templates, all the artwork, they could make them to order to avoid stock inventory (who'd mind waiting a couple of weeks for their very own mint-condition Robotron?), and they could punt them out at anywhere from £500 to £1000 for a markup of about 400%+, and make a nice little profit out of making a lot of people very happy.

Imagine how many gamers out there would be prepared to pay that sort of price to have their own flawless Robotron Galaxian or Pac-Man or Space Invaders or Centipede cabinet, with real, better-than-emulation controls and made to modern standards of reliability. (The insides of the machine could be far simpler now than they were originally, and so much less prone to breakdowns. You could even pop a battery or little bit of flash memory in to save high scores.) Hell, at those sorts of prices someone would probably open a retro arcade in every city in the land.

Sort it out, somebody.

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4 Responses to “Stuff that makes no sense, No.1”

  1. wow good points

  2. Nice article… but check out that awesome carpet! Now I'm not saying I'd want the whole house decked out in it, but what a fantastic centre point a rug in that style would make.

  3. I suspect the reason is (and I'm sure someone will point out an obvious flaw in my argument, but anyway) to do with the fact that some people (eg me) would be buy such a machine only on the proviso that it provides a 100% copy of the experience of the original machine.  The problem is that for the hardware (eg display) to operate exactly as the same as the original would require the use of digital and analogue interface electronics that is no longer manufactured.  But maybe I'm being too pedantic, I don't know…

  4. […] House of the Dead PCB fetches a few hundred quid on its own. I really hope someone starts doing this, soon. […]

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