The Demise of the Arcade Industry

The Demise of the Arcade Industry

The Demise of the Arcade Industry

As I lay here in my hotel room in Blackpool, I see a striking sign across the road outside my window. The sign reads Arcade Club Blackpool. Now, if you aren’t familiar with Arcade Club here in the UK I’ll tell you. Essentially it’s a place where you can totally absorb yourself in a sea of nostalgia. The three locations are based in Bury, Leeds and as mentioned above here in sunny (I use the term loosely as it’s pissed down all day) Blackpool.You pay a one off entrance fee to enter, and once you are in , all the arcade games, pinball etc are free to play. Good food and drink can complete your experience and in my opinion is a fantastic trip out for the family, or a gang of like minded friends who want to relive their youth by playing the classics as they was meant to be played in their original housing

What inspired me more about this topic is the fact that I am in Blackpool. Typically considered one of the UK’s most popular places to visit, the Golden Mile was awash with arcades and still is today. However it’s a different experience now to what it was say thirty years ago.

In my hometown of Wigan I was probably blessed that we had a few places where we could play arcade machines. My first ever memory of an arcade machine was a table top Galaxian at a Berni Inn up in a small area called Orrell. Galaxian was one of the more well known Space Invader type games which were ten a penny back then. I can’t remember how much money was put into the machine.i know I enjoyed it though.

I wrote a previous blog about the NES and its huge influence bringing gaming into the home back in the late 80s and early 90s. Before that though I suspect the majority of young people was playing arcade machines in Wigan. The two main places were Starburst and Wallpaper Supplies.

Starburst was your typical generic arcade. Dark, dingy and the whiff of stale Benson and Hedges lingering in the air. The main games I remember in here was the original Street Fighter and Renegade. Both classic games of the time but haven’t particularly aged well now. Even so. Starburst was always busy and people would consistently pop their money in to keep playing.

Starburst didn’t last much longer, but Wallpaper Supplies (yes it was a DIY store) still kept that vibe going in a small section of the store. They used to get a lot of footfall from the local Swimming Pool which was across the road. Back in 1992/1993 this was the place to spend all of your money. The reason why: Mortal Kombat.

Mortal Kombat was so revolutionary and realistic. Don’t get me wrong, the other cabs in the small selection had amazing games on them. Street Fighter 2 : Hyper Fighting, Simpsons Arcade, Lucky and Wild and After Burner were good munchers of the 20 pence piece, but nothing could hold a candle to Midway’s ultra violent smash hit.

After this. I feel we saw the huge decline of the traditional arcade. I can only certainly recall playing arcade games in the local bowling alley. They still had some crackers like NBA Jam, Ridge Racer, Tekken, Virtua Cop, Killer Instinct but you could see the loss in popularity.

Arcades in the mid 90s were expensive machines. Big, bulky and having to at at least £1 a go. It was sad to see them leaving but it just wasn’t cost effective any more for places to have them in.

Even in places like Japan they are seeing a steady decline of arcades. It’s nobody’s fault. It’s just how people’s tastes and preferences evolve over time. The Promenade here at Blackpool is still awash with amusements, but they are no longer what you could call the classic arcades

Places here have to make money to stay alive and pretty much every machine here now has the end goal of winning tickets to exchange for prizes. It’s a very clever business model. You could pump ten quids worth into a game win like 100 tickets and then exchange them for a small tub of slime.

That’s just the way of the world now. I genuinely think that the eighties and the nineties were the best decades to grow up in. So much cool stuff around back then. Would we ever see a resurgence in the classic arcade scene again ? I don’t think so . 

As long as we have places like Arcade Club there is still enough to whet the appetite of us gamers for years to come. For more info go to www.arcadeclub.co.uk. Also, be sure to check out Arcade Paradise on the PS4, PS5 and Xbox Consoles. 

In the meantime Keep Gaming.

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