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Free Races for First Place are Fun

Something I’ll forever and always appreciate is a rewarding arcade game. And while a reward can come in many different forms, I think my absolute favorite reward is getting to play longer.

The simple pleasure of playing longer is very keenly encapsulated by the age-old mantra of “free race for first place”. There are few gaming moments quite as intoxicating as speeding through the finish line, neck and neck with your competitors, and earning another go.

In fact, I may as well be describing cherished memories from early in my own arcade career. When I was 7 or 8 years of age, trying to stretch my two quarters as far as possible was an art form largely facilitated by the potential free races I could nab in The Fast and the Furious: Drift. (I rarely won said races, but the point stands.)

I also think it’s neat that this “monetization practice”, for lack of a prettier way to put it, has been so ubiquitous among various arcade games for so long. At some point in our industry’s history, someone had the utterly genius idea to lure players in with the promise of free fun.

Whether it’s Cruis’n USA, Super Cars, or anything in between, the iconic flash of “FREE RACE FOR FIRST PLACE!” during an attract mode sequence never fails to capture my attention. Maybe it’s because I’m a fairly dedicated gamer—or maybe it’s because I’m a loathsome cheapskate—but I can’t begin to express how much I appreciate not having to spend more money for more game time.

I’m all for this concept outside of the racing genre, too. A good number of competitive arcade games, such as one-on-one fighters, grant players extra gameplay for their success. “Winner stays; loser pays,” am I right?

As much as it pains me to say it, I can’t help but feel that the industry has slowly moved away from this model in recent years. Modern racing games Cruis’n Blast and Super Bikes 3, for instance, only offer free races for first place in “head-to-head” races. The lone player is required to pay to continue after each race, regardless of performance.

While it wouldn’t be the end of the world otherwise, I desperately hope free races/matches/whatever for wins stick around indefinitely. The sense of accomplishment I feel after securing a victory and a few more minutes on the machine is truly special. Surely, I’m not the only one who feels this way.

Here’s a big “thank you” for the individuals “behind the scenes” at arcade game factories who still push for free races and other such player-friendly practices. Without people like you keeping the spirit of coin-op alive, I don’t know what I’d do.

Oh, and thanks to you, dear reader, for clicking on my little opinion piece today. I’ve had a lot of fun highlighting my favorite aspects of games/media over the past month or so.

Keep it real, ya sweaty flippin’ nerds.


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