Will Arcades return?

Posted: November 12, 2014 in Uncategorized

Over the last ten years or so, you may have noticed arcades becoming more and more rare. Gone are the days when your local bowling alley or Cinema has a good sized arcade with the latest Sega games set up and full of teenagers.

The glory days were the days of Daytona, Virtua Fighter 2, Ridge Racer and Time Crisis. After that, the consoles took over, and it’s all downhill from there. Now if you find an arcade it’s likely to just be a selection of fruit machines and maybe the odd dancing game.

The consoles took over by providing the same games, but at home, with improved graphics and the ability to play as many times as you like without needing pockets full of cash. The arcades were also getting really expensive too, I remember the last time I went into the Trocadero in London, some of the newer games were asking for £2 a go!

The current thoughts are that maybe a new technology will arrive to revive the arcade, maybe something like Virtual Reality?

What made arcades work was that the games were more advanced than anything you had at home and in most cases, took up more space physically. It’s pretty hard to set up 8 Daytona games next to each other in your living room, all with steering wheels, racing seats and gear shifters! The same goes for the famous R360 machine.

The reason virtual reality may work better for arcades is it could offer a more immersive experience than the home. Currently VR at home can give you a great experience if you’ve got a top end PC with an Oculus Rift DK2 developer kit, but it’s tricky to set up and expensive to get all that gear.

What may work better, is if Sega were to remake Daytona, but with rugged VR headsets and moving platform driving seats, keep the side by side nature of the game, but add the full VR experience. An arcade machine used to cost over £10,000 each for something like Daytona, these days you could build something much more powerful with top end PC graphics cards and processors to deliver a hugely improved visual experience through something like a VR headset. The reason keep picking on Daytona is that it’s been shown seated VR experiences work best right now, standing experiences are very difficult, partly due to needing cables to attach the headset to the computer without lag and the obvious problem of people running into walls.

But for that, the Virtuax Omni treadmill may work well for t he arcades. IT’s very similar to the Virtuality Rigs from the early nineties, but is much cheaper to produce and offers a frictionless running surface for players to physically walk on while playing. I can see arcades of the future offering paintball like experience using a room full of Omni treadmills. No need for paint, or a forest, and you can offer games in any environment imaginable! The same setup could also be used for VR sports games like baseballl, basketball, running races.

 

The main obstacle right now is the ruggedness of the hardware, the Oculus Rift DK2 is a dev kit, which has several shortcomings for use as a general consumer product for the arcade, it needs automatic focus adjustment added, IPD adjustment, be able to withstand being dropped, and ideally be wireless to stop people strangling themselves playing standing games. It also needs a bigger “sweet spot” in the lenses to allow for players to see clearly when using it.

It’s all about being able to drop it on your head and play straight away, without needing to calibrate anything, no having to reset head position, just plug and play. I’m sure that’s what they’re going for with the CV1 release to consumers, but I also hope they’re building a rugged version for the arcades.

How else could arcades resurface? What about sharing gaming profiles with your home setup? So when you play a racing game in the arcade, your home car selection should be available, along with all your stats. You should also be able to play against people on their home machines when in the arcade.

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