In recent years, major arcade game developers have slowly been embracing online functionality in their games. It started small, with Raw Thrills and Play Mechanix implementing Coin-Up for online high score tables. Recently, we’ve seen a few more gains, like the ability to share high scores with a QR code, online account systems in games like Dance Dance Revolution A and Maximum Tune 5, and free online updates in indie arcade games like Skycurser.
However, I still feel as if the industry as a whole has been a bit slow in adopting meaningful online features. (Prime example: the fact that nearly every new racing game still use a machine-dependent PIN system.) And I have to wonder: why is this? Is it difficult to implement online features? Is it expensive? Is it just a decades-old industry dragging its feet? I assume that online systems are complex and that it may very well be all of the above.
Still, I think it’s high time for us to take a good look at what we’re doing and maybe do it better. QR codes are nice—but what if we did more? Most major Japanese arcade games are already connected to vast online networks, so why can’t we do the same? Though it may be hard (and I may just be some 17-year-old on the Internet), I think it is absolutely worth everyone’s time to try.
Above all else remember that today's article was written, well...for the fun of it! My suggestions aren't too serious, but they're still ideas I hope developers take into account. So, without further ado, let's get crackin'.
Universal Account Systems
Universal online account systems are something the American arcade industry has been dragging its feet on for a long time, and this can’t go on. Sure, we can already save our progress on some games by entering a PIN. Of course, that PIN is machine-dependent, so we can’t pick up where we left off at a different arcade. And if the machine were updated or reset…well, let’s just say we’d all be screwed.
So yes, it is a very good idea to kick online account systems into high gear. In 2018, using PINs in arcades seems positively antiquated. For most console gamers, the idea of not being able to transfer progress from one location to the next through an online account is silly. And though I like to be civil, it’s silly to me, too! I have experienced Japanese card systems. With my e-AMUSEMENT pass, I can save my progress on Dance Dance Revolution A and pick right back up anywhere—yes, anywhere! But with my PIN on The Fast and the Furious: Super Bikes, the $30 or so I’ve spent beefing up my profile is gone as soon as the machine is gone. This is not okay. (And neither is my Super Bikes addiction.)
I understand that implementing online infrastructure may be difficult, but account systems are way past due. If Raw Thrills, Namco, and SEGA could all create a system for saving stats and achievement across all of their games, we might finally be able to play in “modern” arcades. PINs are not modern. But online accounts are dripping with modernity—the kind of modernity that modern gamers expect. I obviously don’t want to sound demanding (once again, just a kid here), but I want me some universal account systems. After all, I’d be that much more likely to play a game if I knew I wouldn’t have to start all over again!
Please, please, arcade game developers: allow us to save our progress and resume on any machine in the country. I don’t want to keep starting profiles on racing games in different cities. For right now, at least, we will have an online account systems through Waypoint in Halo: Fireteam Raven. That's about it, though.)
Online leaderboards actually do exist in many modern arcade games, but it’s surprising how few operators actually utilize this feature. CoinUp is a service from Play Mechanix that provides online leaderboards and much more. However, I’d really like it if all arcade games had this feature, and all operators connected their machines to the Internet.
If online leaderboards were to become more commonplace in arcade games, I would want them to be organized nationally (highest scores within one’s own country), regionally (highest scores within one’s own state, province, or territory), and locally (highest scores on the machine itself). That way, players can compare themselves to multiple standards. When high scores (and subsequently attaching one’s initials to a high score) were first implemented into arcade games, it gave players extra incentive to play. By taking high score competition to its logical extreme in the Internet Age, player interest (and potentially earnings) will surely increase.
While I don’t have a problem with games offering players the option to share their high scores on social media with QR codes (I’ve done it with Dialed In! pinball, after all), I would very much appreciate the ability to save scores to an account and compare oneself to others on an official website. Once again, this will require the development of e-AMUSEMENT-esque services, but it’s worth it in the long run.
It’s all about embracing modernity. With online leaderboards saved on arcade machines, an official website, and an online account, we can achieve this goal.
Free (or Paid) Online Updates
Online and physical game updates, like online leaderboards, have gained some traction in American arcades in recent years. Indie arcade game developers such as Griffin Aerotech have been especially excellent at regularly releasing and promoting each update sent out to their arcade machines, and even major developers send out updates to games with some degree of regularity (though it tends to be done through physical mediums instead).
However, though this may all be true, I think we can do a lot more in this regard. On the home console front, online updates are used primarily to A) fix bugs and B) add post-release content to keep things interesting. And while arcade developers may send out some minor updates on USB sticks every now and then, there don’t tend to be many large content updates. (Well, sometimes there are. I’ll address this in a bit.)
In the arcade scene, I think updates are incredibly imperative to keeping a game fresh and exciting. Earnings pay the bills, and eventually, once players have played a game to death, the earnings decline. If there’s nothing else to do (which, considering how short most arcade games are, this is sometimes a problem), gamers move on. This is okay; this is understandable. However, to remedy this, large content updates can be released on a schedule and be heavily promoted on social media.
There are most certainly arcade games out there that do this really well already. Griffin Aerotech has done it with Skycurser, letting each new level drip out one at a time. Namco did it a few times with Mario Kart Arcade GP DX and Star Wars Battle Pod. Play Mechanix and Raw Thrills have done it remarkably well with Big Buck Hunter—the game is six years old and still sees major updates! And once again, DDR A is the king in this department. (Konami updates that thing like crazy, man.)
But of course, there’s nothing wrong with all arcade developers embracing online updates for all of their games. This is, naturally, much easier said than done, so I shouldn’t push too hard for it. I am just a 17-year-old on the Internet, folks.
This is perhaps the zaniest item on my list, and I definitely don’t see it being implemented any time soon. Still, I think it’s an okay-ish idea, and I’d rather put it out there than sit on it forever.
For better or worse (but probably for worse), online multiplayer has changed the entire landscape of home console gaming forever. Before the advent of online play, multiplayer was always something you did at your friend’s house or with your siblings. Then, in the early days of online play, there was a healthy coexistence: you could play with your friends at home, or play with anyone, anywhere, through the Internet. Now, much to my chagrin, local multiplayer is dying. It’s upsetting. Heck, it’s darn near tragic.
So yes, it is just the slightest bit odd that I want to see online multiplayer emerge in a sector of gaming still yet untouched by its poison. There’s something special about going to an arcade and playing with other people, whether you know them personally or not. And though online play may diminish the value of these encounters, it was an idea I felt compelled to include.
I totally dig playing arcade games with strangers. There’s something super special about someone joining your game and making conversation with them. Sharing tips and tricks, discussing the quality of the game, laughing at funny sequences—it’s all great. While sometimes the joy of multiplayer is one-sided—like, for instance, when an adult I played Batman 2015 with completely ignored me—the perks of local multiplayer are undeniable.
However, sometimes, there’s no one else to play with. Perhaps it’s a racing game, and the operator only purchased one cabinet. Perhaps you really are completely alone for your entire playthrough. Why should you be denied multiplayer in those scenarios? Almost every time I play The Fast and the Furious: Super Bikes at Wal-Mart, I wish someone could play with me, too. Sadly, there’s just one cabinet. Wouldn’t online play remedy this problem?
Of course, it is a somewhat silly suggestion. (Alliteration, people.) You’re meant to interact with people in arcades—not play with strangers online. But still, I wish I could play with others, even when I’m all alone. However, I’m sure that building servers for online multiplayer in arcade games would be a massive undertaking. Plus, I wouldn’t want to pay extra to play online (which, if online features in Golden Tee and Big Buck Hunter are any indication, we’ll always have to pay extra). So it is a wild idea.
Still, I felt the need to include online multiplayer in my list of suggestions. Sometimes, I’m all alone. And sometimes—just sometimes—I wish I could play online. I sincerely hope developers will consider it in the future.
Times…they are a-changin’. The Internet has touched nearly ever facet over everyone’s lives, and I hope it touches arcades, too. I suppose that, out of all the things I’ve written on this list, I want universal accounts systems the most. This is 2018, people; I don’t want my game stats locked to a single arcade machine. The other ideas, while nice, are a bit more “out there”.
Like I always, I’m just a 16-year-old on the Internet. I may spew a lot of big ideas, but I don’t know how difficult it would be for developers to actually implement any of these concepts into their games. But with Japan as our guide, I think it’s high-time we implemented some more online features. (The card system is definitely still my biggest wish, though.)
Maybe eventually I’ll get to save my arcade stats and load them up on any machine in the country—nay, the world. Maybe the vast majority of games will start displaying online leaderboards. Perhaps we’ll see heavily-promoted content updates seep their way into games. Heck, maybe we’ll even see online multiplayer in some capacity. (Do they have online play on any Japanese arcade games yet? I honestly don’t know. They probably do.)
With all that in mind, I guess I’m finished for the day. This article has been in the works for a long time, and I think it’s okay. I got my ideas out; that’s all I needed to do. I haven’t felt like writing too many articles this month.
So without further ado, see ya around, kiddos. I’m out.