Too Little, Too Late…

Despite the innovation in these games, so many players were already lost to the PlayStation. Arguably speaking, these early attempts to address the differential advantage of the PlayStation did more than in the 17 years since.

But the decline of the arcade industry was because of other reasons too. Rising development costs eventually got passed onto players, forcing a higher cost per play. Only older games could remain priced at $.25 per play. New games at $.50 and $1 met price resistance that may have avoided with a dollar coin. Higher pricing only made the option to buy the same game more appealing. But in exchange, they gave up the adrenaline rush that came only from a trip to the arcade.

Compounding its problems, the arcade industry didn’t do itself any favors. They failed to overcome the poor public relations image of arcades and video games in general. The most successful arcades today have addressed the image problem head-on. The large, upscale restaurant/drink establishments like Dave & Buster’s are good clean establishments, suitable for the whole family. For the industry to flourish again, it needs a lot more of these locations.

The industry also needs to focus on providing unique entertainment value. Different from what can be experienced on consoles, pcs and mobile devices. Coin-op has always had the ability and differential advantage to bring people together socially. Exploiting that advantage should be the centerpiece of its recovery.

Next Up

The PlayStation has endured years of console competition from Microsoft and Nintendo. A short time ago the consensus opinion was that mobile gaming would supplant consoles. It’s a story that continues to be written as the PlayStation 4, Xbox One and mobile devices continue to evolve.

Given coin-op’s long history, I believe it has a bright future ahead. As people become more engrossed with their smartphones and wearables, we risk becoming more solitary individuals. With our mobile devices, we snuggle into the corner of the couch and close out the world on trains. A plethora of apps now assigns the term “social” as though it’s a thing of the past. People ultimately will crave for what they have less of. Person-to-person social interaction will one day become the rallying cry of a future generation.

In cities around the world, urban planners are replacing streets and cars for bike paths and tables with chairs. New York City’s Time Square stands as a prime example of this change. The film, “The Human Scale” describes how urban architect Jan Gehl, is reimagining and redefining how cities can be more sustainable and livable. With the global urban population estimated to increase from 3.6 billion in 2012 to 6.5 billion by 2050, cities can’t continue to grow only higher and wider.

I believe social interaction and the ability tap into in your inner child are amongst many keys to lifelong happiness. I believe games and entertainment are necessary escapes from the stress of daily life. Video games are just one of these ways. With new technology, our forms of entertainment will continue to evolve.

Video games and arcades were once thought of as the bane of society. Now their study has become college curriculum and “gamification” is being utilized to create more engaged employees. Today games are a $93 billion industry. Games have finally been accepted as a mainstream and permanent component of society. To quote the founding father of Namco, Masaya Nakamura; “To Play is Human”.

It’s interesting how Japan was left relatively unscathed by events that rocked the video game industry in America. The Video Game Crash of 1983 and to a lesser extent the demise of the video game arcade in the mid to late 90’s.

So in Japan arcades continue to be social centers, in large part due to how their cities are structured. A high concentration of people in a train-based society continues to enable an arcade entertainment lifestyle. Albeit now on a smaller scale. Rows of mainstream prize machines and photo booths have replaced most of the testosterone-charged fighting and gun games of years past.

For more insight into how Namco worked with Sony in the development of the PlayStation, check out this interview with Tekken producer Katsuhiro Harada.

Thanks for reading!

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4 Responses to Namco: The Role of Coin-Op in the PlayStation

  1. Bob Weiss says:

    Hi Jerry,
    A little side bar for you regarding the playstation hardware that we used for the production of our coin op games at NAMCO America.
    Unaware we began production of our first games utilizing this hardware, only to discover that we could not export the finished product out of the United States. Seems as though it was O.K. to import the hardware, but we were not able to export it. Turned out there was no one in the U.S. that we could team up with to solve this, not even Sony. The government had concerns about the potential of and for the hardware falling into the wrong hands.
    As such I took it upon myself as Director on Manufacturing, under the direction our COO, Kenji Hisatsune to work with the government to obtain the necessary approval that would allow NAMCO to be able to export the product. When the process was completed, NAMCO became the only company in the U.S. with the government approval that could export product utilizing the playstation hardware.
    Bob Weiss

  2. Bud Leiser says:

    Great article!

    We never did do a class field trip to any arcades. I agree with you thought it’s the games that can’t port to console that dominate the floor space. Especially if they have tickets or prizes.

    Just the other day at Riviera hotel’s pinball museum I saw an “old” game I loved that had a skateboard control system. So much fun and could never be ported without a similar control device. Yet that’s also a double edged sword, because the control is so different it creates a friction barrier. Some people look at it and won’t try it or physically can’t use it.

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