Hello, boys and girls of the Internet! After long last, I have returned from the five-week Governor’s Scholar Program (GSP), and I’m ready to kick things back into high gear. As you may have noticed, my four most recent articles weren’t exactly topical. I published a SEGA 2018 Arcade Wishlist, a critical dissection of modern Raw Thrills racing games, my first Arcade Hype List of 2018, and my first Arcade Retrospective since January. While it was, in my opinion, a good batch of pre-scheduled articles, I did miss out on a lot of hard-hitting news during my time at GSP. However, since I am finally reunited with my laptop, I think it’s high-time I catch back up.
So, without further ado, let’s knock out a bunch of crud.
My letter-to-the-editor was published in Replay Magazine!
Oops! Sorry, y’all. Today’s first news item is just the slightest bit self-indulgent, but I’m still unreasonably giddy about it. Earlier in June, I e-mailed a letter to Key Snodgress, the editor of Replay Magazine, voicing my opinion of the increasing size and expense of video arcade games (an opinion I’ve voiced far too many times on my blog). He responded almost immediately and asked for a brief bio to run with the article. I was so, so excited to hear that I would be published in an upcoming issue of Replay. Little did I know that the article would be run as a real feature in the July issue.
I doubt I need to say it, but I will: I was incredibly grateful to be published—especially in this way! While Replay may be very broad in its coverage (ranging from ATMs to jukeboxes to pinball to video games to claw machines and more), I’ve come to see their publication as a soapbox for industry needs. When things are changing and operators and players aren’t digging it, they can always write a letter-to-the-editor and have their voices be heard. Because of this, I was so appreciative to have my little player’s perspective published in the pages of Replay. Thanks to the publishing team at Replay, my voice was heard. I could not be thankful enough for this opportunity. So if you’re reading this right now, thank you. Thank you all very, very much.
The piece I wrote is, like I said, an opinion I’ve written about a LOT on my blog. I’ve come to believe that video arcade games just a little too big and expensive for their own good. While I love the visceral experience deluxe arcade cabinets can provide, I think the lack of standard cabinets comes at a great cost to both small street venues/dedicated arcades and the players themselves. The subtitle makes it plenty clear: I’m a blogger pleading with video makers to think of the street market. But of course, this is a story we’ve heard plenty of times before; I’ve mentioned it (at least offhandedly) in nearly all of my articles since May. So what makes this Replay article so special? How is this different?
Besides the obvious fact that I’m so happy to be published in an actual industry magazine, being in the pages of Replay presents a very real and tangible opportunity to be heard. My blog, while growing rapidly every month, is still so infinitesimally small compared to a trade magazine like Replay. If I write an article about the abandonment of street venues and publish it on my blog, I might get a little Twitter exposure if I’m super lucky. But if I write an article about that same topic and it gets published as a feature in Replay Magazine, every one of their subscribers sees that article. People in the industry see my thoughts, and change may very well occur. It’s just so cool. I nearly SCREAMED when I saw my article in the June issue.
Of course, change may not happen. Based on the articles I usually see in the pages of Replay, their readers are mostly concerned with the happenings family entertainment centers, merchandising, and jukeboxes. But that’s okay. Being published in Replay was an opportunity I’m incredibly grateful to be a part of, and I still can’t emphasize my gratitude enough. It was not only exposure for an opinion I hold near and dear to my heart, but also exposure for my blog. I truly have to thank Key Snodgress for that.
So yeah, I’m pretty flippin’ stoked. To purchase this issue of Replay, click this link. To subscribe, click this one.
Pac-Man’s Pixel Bash is the most perfect arcade anthology cabinet to date—and we need to see more official releases of this nature.
As I’ve said in past articles, there’s no better way to preserve classic arcade games in their purest form than to release an anthology collection in a physical, coin-operated cabinet. Home console anthologies are great—fantastic, even!—but they aren’t entirely the same experience. Try as they may, developers can’t truly encapsulate the feeling of an arcade cabinet on your PlayStation 2.
Unfortunately, Namco is the only developer who has given sincere effort to releasing anthology cabinets. Back in the 90’s, Namco released their “Classic Collection” in two volumes with three or so games each. Then, in 2010, Namco dropped what was then the peak of legal arcade anthologies: Pac-Man’s Arcade Party. Featuring 13 games, Arcade Party almost seems modest compared to home console arcade compilations like Midway Arcade Treasures, or even Namco’s own 50th Anniversary Collection. But still, at the time, Namco’s Arcade Party was a great big blessing to the arcade industry. Up until that point, you were hard-pressed to find official “multicades”. (No, 60-in-1 Multicades are not official or legal to operate. I once again apologize for purchasing one back in February 2018.) So what Namco did was genius. They said, “Hey, if illegal multicades are so popular, why don’t we just release our own official compilation?” And that, like I said, was pure freaking genius.
Now, in 2018, Namco is at it again and determined to top their own previous efforts. Revealed at Bowl Expo 2018, Pac-Man’s Pixel Bash is a brand-new Namco multicade featuring a whopping 31 games—yes, 31! Take a look at the game selection and just…oh man, just prepare to have your mind totally flippin’ blown.
Tower of Druaga,
King & Baloon
Pac & Pal
While it ain’t no 60-in-1 multicade or “3,000 game ultracade”, this is an incredibly valiant effort on Namco’s part. Many of the games are what you’d come to expect from this kind of compilation—the Pac-Mans and the Galagas and what-not—but many of these titles are either kind of obscure or just haven’t gotten much attention in recent years. Did anyone expect King & Balloon or Grobda or Baraduke? Heck, did anyone even expect Splatterhouse? For the “sequel” to Pac-Man’s Arcade Party, Namco went all out. I will admit that the cabinet design itself is a little weak, but the games are all there. This is how you preserve classic arcade games in a pure and cost-effective form. This is how you please fans. I applaud you, Namco.
However, being the overly-analytical guy I am, I don’t want to end the conversation here. Namco’s intense efforts in releasing rock-solid arcade compilations is, like I said, to be applauded, but it raises a very crucial question. Why aren’t other developers applying this basic logic themselves?
Illegal multicades are a very real problem. There are people making these things in their garages and selling them to bars all over the country, yet most don’t realize the legal ramifications of doing so. It only makes sense that Namco, in an effort to combat this piracy or whatever you wanna call it, released their own official cabinet and did it right. They want money, don’t they? Of course they do. But the most baffling thing to me is that no other developer has released an official multicade of their own. In an industry where constant one-upmanship is the name of the game, where’s SEGA’s official multicade? Why, in the 8 years since Pac-Man’s Arcade Party first graced the market, have we not seen other video makers protecting their IPs in this way?
Maybe it’s not as much of a no-brainer as I think it is, but I’m pretty sure it is. Namco releases a multicade to combat rampant piracy; said multicade are relatively successful. Seems like an equasion that would add up to industry one-upmanship, right? But no. For whatever reason, it hasn’t. Which is why, to end this section, I’d like to thank Namco once again for preserving classic arcade games. Thank you very, very much.
And SEGA? Maybe you should take notes.
One thing we don't know yet is if there will be cocktail cabinet variant for Pac-Man's Pixel Bash, so stay tuned for updates on that. I assume there will be a cocktail version at some point, but you never know.
Halo: Fireteam Raven is now dropping at select Dave and Buster’s locations.
When Halo: Fireteam Raven was first announced back in May 2018, we knew it was going to be a timed-exclusive at Dave and Buster’s. The trailer stated it—clear as day. However, the one thing we didn’t have back then was a solid release date. We were given the classic “summer” window, and that was it. Now, things have changed.
Yes, boys and girls, it is official: Raw Thrills’s new four-player Halo rail shooter is rolling out to Dave and Buster’s across the country as we speak. The game is currently available to play at the D&B in Long Island, New York, and although other units haven’t popped up yet, it’s obvious that they’re on their way soon. If you’ve been champing at the bit to play in what is perhaps the biggest arcade cabinet to date, you’ll have your opportunity soon.
I’ve been over my thoughts on Halo: Fireteam Raven before, but I guess there’s nothing wrong with doing a quick rundown again. First off, I am 100 percent confident that Fireteam Raven will be a wonderful, exciting, and compelling rail shooter experience. Raw Thrills has proven time and time again that they know how to make fun games. By crafting their first four-player rail shooter, they’ve simply manage to double the fun. Like I said, Raw Thrills is above and beyond competent; they know what they’re doing.
My only problem with Fireteam Raven is the sheer size of the darn thing. This is a 9-foot by 9-foot by 11-foot arcade cabinet. I don’t care how fun it is—that’s a flipping ridiculous size. Is it an incredibly novel experience? Yes, absolutely! But is it an accessible game for arcade operators? Not even close. Halo: Fireteam Raven is a perfect example of a dangerous trend in the modern industry: over-bloating. Because large family entertainment centers like Dave and Buster’s have become the new norm, developers seem to be pandering all of their new games toward said locations. There are no standard cabinets for the small, local arcade or street venue. No no, quite the contrary! Every new game is huge and expensive and targeted squarely at FECs.
I get it; I do. This is just the way the industry is moving. Developers are making games of this nature because…well, I guess it’s what gamers want. Sure, these games are cost-prohibitive and way too big for their own good, but it’s what the industry wants.
Keep in mind, though, that I am very excited to try Halo: Fireteam Raven out for myself. I know with certainty that I am going to love squadding-up with three buddies and blasting the frick out of some alien dudes. Because it isn’t the game that’s the problem—it’s the fact that developers refuse to support the little guys with cost-effective, space-conscious standard cabinets.
I think I am about finished fighting this fight, though. It’s clear to me that I’m in the minority, and that’s okay. I’m still happy with the stunning quality of so many of the new video arcade games we’ve seen in the past decade, even if they are a little…gargantuan.
House of the Dead: Scarlet Dawn is…well, also heading to Dave and Buster’s!
Although SEGA Amusements had already confirmed a Western release for the fifth mainline installment of the House of the Dead series, we gamers still had to wait patiently to find out which locations would receive the new game first. Now, after long-last, we know that all Dave and Buster’s locations will be receiving House of the Dead: Scarlet Dawn during the “Halloween season” (so basically late-September/October). This is, in fact, yet another Dave and Buster’s timed-exclusive game. According to Arcade Heroes, SEGA is filling game orders on a “first come; first served” basis, and D&B just so happened to snap up a bunch of units early on. (And according to Kevin Bacchus, the Senior VP of D&B, there’s gonna be commercial and everything!) Other locations can purchase the game but will have to wait in line.
Considering that there are 122 Dave and Buster’s locations across the country, it shouldn’t be too hard to find the thrilling new House of the Dead chapter near you. Plus, seeing as D&B always launches strong marketing campaigns for timed-exclusive games, Scarlet Dawn is sure to garner the widespread attention it deserves. And even if you don’t live in close proximity to a Dave and Buster’s, I wouldn’t worry about missing out on House of the Dead: Scarlet Dawn. This is, without a shadow of a doubt, SEGA’s biggest game of 2018. Not only is it the first HOTD game in 12 years, but it’s also exactly the kind of game modern arcades are looking for: big, flashy, and full of newfangled bells and whistles. No arcade operator in his or her right mind would miss out on this monumental occasion. (Well, unless they couldn’t afford the $20,000 price tag. That is pretty flipping ridiculous.)
The Jurassic World VR Expedition is now available at Dave and Buster’s. (I think I’ve said Dave and Buster’s enough now.)
As if they didn’t have enough exclusives already, Jurassic World VR Expedition dropped at “more than 100” Dave and Buster’s locations on July 6th, which apparently makes it the “biggest location-based VR launch to date.” Developed by the Virtual Reality Company (VRC), Jurassic World VR promises to “…[transport] players to the visually stunning prehistoric jungles of Isla Nublar, where fans will engage in a film-inspired Jurassic World epic rescue adventure.” Jurassic World VR Expedition was written and directed by James Lima (a multi-Emmy Award nominated visual effects artist), and the VRC team itself purportedly includes “…several Academy Award-winning and nominated animators, visual effects artists and technicians.” Sounds pretty rad, right?
Well, maybe. The game itself is just a five-minute, dinosaur-rescuing romp through the world of the original 2015 film. Jurassic World VR Expedition is essentially a timed tech demo. Granted, the title is an interactive rail shooter, but at its core, Jurassic World VR is just four HTC Vive headsets encased in a fancy arcade cabinet. You give the attendant your card; he or she helps you start the game; you play for five minutes; and you leave. Is virtual reality cool? Yes. But is Jurassic World VR Expedition a super deep game? Probably not.
Part of my apprehension may lie in my firm disbelief of the notion that virtual reality is the future of arcades. Yes, it’s true that, since their inception, arcades have been havens of advanced technology that you can’t find at home. But as it stands, the vast majority of VR arcade games have been fairly shallow. Virtual Rabbids: The Big Ride, for instance, is nothing more than a Typhoon-esque motion simulator. And while Jurassic World VR Expedition may have a certain level of interactivity to it, it’s still essentially the same thing. You sit with your friends and shoot until the five-minute journey is over. VR games are a cool concept, but does Jurassic World VR even come close to rivaling traditional games like Time Crisis 5 or House of the Dead: Scarlet Dawn?
Of course, there is some potential to virtual reality in arcades. Although it is crazy expensive, Omni Arena VR from Virtuix and UNIS is a genuine death match first-person shooter that just happens to be elevated by the immersion of VR. Available in five-player and two-player configurations, Omni Arena takes a simple concept—shooting your friends—and takes it to this insane level where you aim a physical plastic gun, walk on an omni-directional platform, and see the in-game world through your own eyes. If more VR arcade games were as deeply interactive as Omni Arena, we’d be in good shape. But until I can play a VR title that’s just as good as Teenage Mutant Ninja Turtles or, once again, Time Crisis 5, I don’t see it as the future of the industry.
I do apologize for going off on this tangent: it just seemed like a good time to make my thoughts on VR known. Jurassic World VR Expedition may not be a vehemently bad game. In fact, it’s probably the opposite. The fact of the matter is that it is not a fully-fledged video game. It doesn’t have the depth of other rail shooters in the market right now. Maybe people like it, and maybe it rakes in tons of money for Dave and Buster’s. All I know is that I don’t want to play a game that is A) watched over by an attendant and B) only five-minutes. It’s just not the kind of experience I’d be in to.
However, don’t let me stop you from enjoying Jurassic World VR Expedition. If you like it, go play it!
After writing three different sections about exclusive Dave and Buster’s games (whether timed or otherwise), I’m almost a bit alarmed with how easily they call the shots in the arcade industry. Would huge, $20,000 games like Halo: Fireteam Raven exist if Dave and Buster’s didn’t immediately purchase 122 units for their locations and launch exclusive advertising campaigns? Would games be designed to accommodate more locations if Dave and Buster’s didn’t make up such a huge chunk of the industry?
I might be going off on a limb with those hypotheticals, but I know there is some truth in what I’m saying. As one of the biggest arcade chains in America, Dave and Buster’s has huge buying power. They can commission games like Rock ‘Em Sock ‘Em Robots or Spider-Man Homecoming, or they can pay for timed-exclusivity deals with games like Tomb Raider, Rampage, Halo: Fireteam Raven, or House of the Dead: Scarlet Dawn. Just because I love Dave and Buster’s doesn’t mean I don’t find their extensive influence a little concerning.
But hey, that was just a stray thought. We can talk about it more later. This is my last article of the summer before school starts on August 8th. I'm hoping to do Cross Country and get a job at Kroger, but you wanna know a secret? I can't guarantee my blog won't suffer because of it. Despite my impeccable track record thus far, there could very well be a hiatus in 2018. But still, I should be positive. Things will work out. Hopefully.
With this 3,250-word article behind us, I’d like to say one last thing:
Keep it real, ya sweaty nerds.