Arcade game

Source: Wikipedia, the free encyclopedia.

An amusement arcade featuring several different types of arcade games, located in Chiba Prefecture, Japan

An arcade game or coin-op game is a coin-operated entertainment machine typically installed in public businesses such as restaurants, bars and



Broadly, arcade games are nearly always considered

slot machines and pachinko, often are categorized legally as gambling devices and, due to restrictions, may not be made available to minors or without appropriate oversight in many jurisdictions.[2]

Arcade video games

Arcade video games at ZBase Entertainment Center in Tampere, Finland

Arcade video games were first introduced in the early 1970s, with

monitor or television set

Carnival games

Skee-Ball was one of the first arcade games developed.

Coin-op carnival games are automated versions or variations of popular staffed games held at carnival midways. Most of these are played for prizes or tickets for redemption. Common examples include Skee-Ball and Whac-A-Mole.

Electro-mechanical games

light gun games using light-sensitive sensors on targets to register hits. Examples of electro-mechanical games include Periscope and Rifleman
from the 1960s.

EM games typically combined mechanical engineering technology with various

electronic games
and mechanical games.

EM games have a number of different genres/categories. "Novelty" or "land-sea-air" games refer to

light gun shooter video games. "General" arcade games refer to all other types of EM arcade games, including various different types of sports games.[4] "Audio-visual" or "realistic" games referred to novelty games that used advanced special effects to provide a simulation experience.[5]

Merchandiser games

claw crane
game, where one must time the movement of the claw to grab a prize

Merchandiser games are those where the player attempts to win a prize by performing some physical action with the arcade machine, such as

claw crane games or coin pusher


Pachinko is a type of mechanical game originating in Japan. It is used as both a form of recreational arcade game and much more frequently as a gambling device, filling a Japanese gambling niche comparable to that of the slot machine in Western gambling.

Photo booths

Fukushima City
, Japan

Coin-operated photo booths automatically take and develop three or four wallet-sized pictures of subjects within the small space, and more recently using digital photography. They are typically used for licenses or passports, but there have been several types of photo booths designed for amusement arcades.

At the Amusement & Music Operators Association (AMOA) show in October 1975,

computer printing technology to produce self-portrait photographs. Two other arcade manufacturers introduced their own computerized arcade photo booth machines at the same show.[6]

A specific variety designed for arcades,

digital images.[7] Introduced by Atlus and Sega in 1995, the name is a shortened form of the registered trademark Print Club (プリント倶楽部
, Purinto Kurabu). They are primarily found in Asian arcades.

Pinball machines

Pinball machines are games that have a large, enclosed, slanted table with a number of scoring features on its surface. Players launch a steel ball onto the table and, using pinball flippers, try to keep the ball in play while scoring as many points as possible. Early pinball games were mostly driven through mechanical components, while pinball games from the 1930s onward include electronic components such as lights and sensors and are one form of an electro-mechanical game.

Slot machines

In limited jurisdictions, slot machines may also be considered an arcade game and installed alongside other games in arcades. However, as slot machines are mostly games of chance, their use in this manner is highly limited. They are most often used for gambling.

Sports games

Air hockey tables at an arcade

Sport games are indoor or miniaturized versions of popular physical sports that can be played within an arcade setting often with a reduced ruleset. Examples include air hockey and indoor basketball games like Super Shot. Sports games can be either mechanical, electro-mechanical or electronic.

Redemption games

A general category of arcade games are those played for tickets that can be redeemed for prizes. The gameplay itself can be of any arcade game, and the number of tickets received are proportional to the player's score. Skee ball is often played as a redemption game, while pachinko is one of the most popular redemption games in Japan. Another type of redemption game are medal game, popular in Japan and southeast Asia, where players must convert their money into special medal coins to play the game, but can win more coins which they can redeem back into prizes. Medal games are design to simulate a gambling-like experience without running afoul of Japan's strict laws against gambling.[8]

"Game of skill" versus "game of chance"

Arcade games have generally struggled to avoid being labelled wholly as games of chance or luck, which would qualify them as gambling and require them to be strictly regulated in most government jurisdictions.[9] Games of chance generally involve games where a player pays money to participate for the opportunity to win a prize, where the likelihood to win that prize is primarily driven by chance rather than skill.[9] Akin to sweepstakes and lotteries, slot machines are typically cataloged as games of chance and thus not typically included in arcades outside of certain jurisdictions.[9]

Pinball machines initially were branded as games of chance in the 1940s as, after launching the ball, the player had no means to control its outcome.[10] Coupled with fears of pinball being a "tool of the devil" over the youth of that time period, several jurisdictions took steps to label pinball as games of chance and banned them from arcades. After the invention of the electric flipper in 1947, which gave the player more control on the fate of the ball after launching, pinball manufacturers pushed to reclassify pinball as games of skill. New York City's ban on pinball was overturned in 1976 when Roger Sharpe, a journalist, demonstrated the ability to call a shot to a specific lane to the city's council to prove pinball was a game of skill.[10]

Prize redemption games such as crane games and coin drop games have been examined as a mixed continuum between games of chance and skill. In a crane game, for example, there is some skill in determining how to position the crane claw over a prize, but the conditions of the strength and condition of the claw and the stacking of the prize are sufficiently unknown parameters to make whether the player will be successful a matter of luck.[9] The Dominant Factor Test is typically used to designate when arcade games are games of chance and thus subject to gambling laws, but for many redemption games, its application is a grey area.[11]

Nearly all arcade video games tend to be treated as games of skill, challenging the player against the pre-set programming of the game. However, arcade video games that replicate gambling concepts, such as video poker machines, had emerged in the 1980s. These are generally treated as games of chance, and remained confined to jurisdictions with favorable gambling laws.[9]


Skee-Ball and carnival games (late 19th century to 1940s)

A row of mutoscopes at a Disneyland penny arcade in the 1980s

penny arcades near the turn of the 20th century, the name taken from the common use of a single penny to operate the machine.[13]

Penny arcades started to gain a negative reputation as the most popular attraction in them tended to be mutoscopes featuring risqué and

Atlantic City boardwalk arcade. The popularity of these games was aided by the impact of the Great Depression of the 1930s, as they provided inexpensive entertainment.[13]

Abstract mechanical sports games date back to the turn of the 20th century in England, which was the main manufacturer of arcade games in the early 20th century. The London-based Automatic Sports Company manufactured abstract sports games based on British sports, including Yacht Racer (1900) based on yacht racing, and The Cricket Match (1903) which simulated a portion of a cricket game by having the player hit a pitch into one of various holes. Full Team Football (1925) by London-based Full Team Football Company was an early mechanical tabletop football game simulating association football, with eleven static players on each side of the pitch that can kick a ball using levers.[14] Driving games originated from British arcades in the 1930s.[5]

Shooting gallery carnival games date back to the late 19th century.

gun games had existed in England since the turn of the 20th century.[16] The earliest rudimentary examples of mechanical interactive film games date back to the early 20th century, with "cinematic shooting gallery" games. They were similar to shooting gallery carnival games, except that players shot at a cinema screen displaying film footage of targets. They showed footage of targets, and when a player shot the screen at the right time, it would trigger a mechanism that temporarily pauses the film and registers a point. The first successful example of such a game was Life Targets, released in the United Kingdom in 1912. Cinematic shooting gallery games enjoyed short-lived popularity in several parts of Britain during the 1910s, and often had safari animals as targets, with footage recorded from British imperial colonies. Cinematic shooting gallery games declined some time after the 1910s.[17]

The first

maze video games which allowed the player to manipulate individual elements within a maze.[20]

Pinball (1930s to 1960s)

Pinball machines from the 1960s at the Pinball Hall of Fame


games of luck and ruled them as gambling devices. As such, they were initially banned in many cities.[22] Pinball machines were also divisive between the young and the old and were arguably emblematic of the generation gap found in America at the time. Some elders feared what the youth were doing and considered pinball machines to be "tools of the devil." This led to even more bans.[23] These bans were slowly lifted in the 1960s and 1970s; New York City's ban, placed in 1942, lasted until 1976,[22] while Chicago's was lifted in 1977.[24] Where pinball was allowed, pinball manufacturers carefully distanced their games from gambling, adding "For Amusement Only" among the game's labeling, eliminating any redemption features, and asserting these were games of skill at every opportunity.[22] By the early 1970s, pinball machines thus occupied select arcades at amusement parks, at bars and lounges, and with solitary machines at various stores.[22]

Pinball machines beyond the 1970s have since advanced with similar improvement in technology as with arcade video games. Past machines used discrete electro-mechanical and electronic componentry for game logic, but newer machines have switched to solid-state electronics with microprocessors to handle these elements, making games more versatile. Newer machines may have complex mechanical actions and detailed backplate graphics that are supported by these technologies.[22]

Electro-mechanical games (1940s to 1970s)

shooter video games such as Gun Fight (1975).[25][5]
All American Basket Ball (1969), an EM game produced by Chicago Coin

Alternatives to pinball were electro-mechanical games (EM games) that clearly demonstrated themselves as games of skill to avoid the stigma of pinball. The transition from mechanical arcade games to EM games dates back to around the time of World War II, with different types of arcade games gradually making the transition during the post-war period between the 1940s and 1960s.[26] Some early electro-mechanical games were designed not for commercial purposes but to demonstrate the state of technology at public expositions, such as Nimatron in 1940 or Bertie the Brain in 1950.

In 1941, International Mutoscope Reel Company released the electro-mechanical driving game Drive Mobile, which had an upright arcade cabinet similar to what arcade video games would later use.[3] It was derived from older British driving games from the 1930s. In Drive Mobile, a steering wheel was used to control a model car over a road painted on a metal drum, with the goal being to keep the car centered as the road shifts left and right. Kasco (short for Kansai Seisakusho Co.) introduced this type of electro-mechanical driving game to Japan in 1958 with Mini Drive, which followed a similar format but had a longer cabinet allowing a longer road.[5] By 1961, however, the US arcade industry had been stagnating. This in turn had a negative effect on Japanese arcade distributors such as Sega that had been depending on US imports up until then. Sega co-founder David Rosen responded to market conditions by having Sega develop original arcade games in Japan.[27]

From the late 1960s, EM games incorporated more elaborate electronics and mechanical action to create a simulated environment for the player.

jukeboxes, before a new wave of EM arcade games emerged that were able to generate significant earnings for arcade operators.[30]

Duck Hunt, which began location testing in 1968 and released in January 1969.[39][40][41] Missile, a shooter and vehicular combat game released by Sega in 1969, may have been the first arcade game to use a joystick with a fire button, leading to joysticks subsequently becoming the standard control scheme for arcade games.[30]

A new type of

racing video game, with an upright cabinet, yellow marquee, three-digit scoring, coin box, steering wheel and accelerator pedal.[3] Indy 500 sold over 2,000 arcade cabinets in Japan,[5] while Speedway sold over 10,000 cabinets in North America,[28] becoming the biggest arcade hit in years.[5] Like Periscope, Speedway also charged a quarter per play, further cementing quarter-play as the US arcade standard for over two decades.[5] Atari founder Nolan Bushnell, when he was a college student, worked at an arcade where he became familiar with EM games such as Speedway, watching customers play and helping to maintain the machinery, while learning how it worked and developing his understanding of how the game business operates.[46][47]

Following the arrival of arcade video games with

8-track player to play back the sounds of the motorbikes.[52] Air hockey itself was later created by a group of Brunswick Billiards employees between 1969 and 1972.[53] EM games experienced a resurgence during the 1980s.[54][55] Air hockey, whac-a-mole and medal games have since remained popular arcade attractions.[49]

Arcade video games (1970s to present)

A row of video games at an arcade

After two attempts to package

Donkey Kong (Nintendo, 1981). The golden age waned in 1983 due to an excess number of arcade games, the growing draw of home video game consoles and computers, and a moral panic on the impact of arcade video games on youth.[22][57] The arcade industry was also partially impacted by the video game crash of 1983

The arcade market had recovered by 1986, with the help of software conversion kits, the arrival of popular

Sega Model 3 remaining considerably more advanced than home systems through the late 1990s.[60][61] However, the improved capabilities of home consoles and computers to mimic arcade video games during this time drew crowds away from arcades.[22]

Up until about 1996, arcade video games had remained the largest sector of the global video game industry, before arcades declined in the late 1990s, with the console market surpassing arcade video games for the first time around 1997–1998.[62] Arcade video games declined in the Western world during the 2000s, with most arcades serving highly specialized experiences that cannot be replicated in the home, including lines of pinball and other arcade games, coupled with other entertainment options such as restaurants or bars. Among newer arcade video games include games like Dance Dance Revolution that require specialized equipment, as well as games incorporating motion simulation or virtual reality.[63] Arcade games had remained popular in Asian regions until around the late 2010s as popularity began to wane; when once there were around 26,000 arcades in Japan in 1986, there were only about 4,000 in 2019. The COVID-19 pandemic in 2020 and 2021 also drastically hit the arcade industry, forcing many of the large long-standing arcades in Japan to close.[63]

Trade associations

American Amusement Machine Association

The American Amusement Machine Association (AAMA) is a trade association established in 1981.[64] It represents the American coin-operated amusement machine industry,[65] including 120 arcade game distributors and manufacturers.[66]

Amusement & Music Operators Association

The Amusement & Music Operators (AMOA), a trade founded in 1957. It was composed by 1,700 members up to 1995.[67] In music industry, forged license-compliance programs with right groups ASCAP, BMI or SESAC,[68] and it represented the country's licensed jukebox owners.[69]

Japan Amusement Machine and Marketing Association


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