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May 2017 Retro Gaming Article


May 27, 2017 Retro Gaming Blog Post:

Arcades upgrading from tokens to swipe-cards offer convenience, but perhaps at a cost

Time Crisis 3 arcade game with a card reader instead of a coin slot
It's VERY easy for arcade operators to change the price of a game when everything is digital.
Watching dollar bills disappear into the change machine in exchange for four tokens was the start to many good nights at the arcade. Most of my weekends during the 80's began like this. When Dragon's Lair came to The Electric Playhouse, I gladly put in two tokens for the opportunity to interact with a style of animation I'd never seen in an arcade game.

Many years later, I found an arcade game with a bill acceptor - I was outraged. I'd drop multiple tokens, but the idea of charging one dollar for a game opened up a possibility I was certain would ruin arcades. Many arcades did meet an untimely demise, but no tie-in with the ability to tender dollar bills.

While technology can bring convenience, it's not always in your favor ;)
Many arcades operating these days are still doing anything possible to reign in costs. Some have done away with redemption tickets. Those dreadful machines are still going strong, but the physical tickets are gone. The ticket-count simply transfers across the local network to the "account" attached to your swipe-card. My local arcades changed over to swipe-cards for payments a few years ago.

The networking that lets redemption tickets appear on your account is part of the networked arcade. A lot of machines connect to the web for a variety of functions for both gamers and operators.

I stopped by the mall arcade tonight and discovered they'd repaired the broken gun on Time Crisis 3. At the same time I also realized they'd raised the price! Suddenly I saw another side to upgrading the arcade's backbone - pricing. Back in the day, there were varying methods for operators to adjust pricing, from the number of "lives", difficulty, and the number of required tokens. Changing these settings was a time consuming venture. These days, the price can be changed remotely and at will.

I'm sure there are some governing rules to this practice, but none the less, Time Crisis 3 went from 69¢ to 95¢. As a fan of Bill & Ted, when an arcade game costs 69¢ - you tend to remember. "69, Dudes!" Granted this is the start of the Memorial Day weekend and the tourists will be descending in great numbers. Even the arcade wants to maximize the influx of money.

This may be a permanent price hike rather than a holiday jump, but the ease with which prices can be changed makes me wonder where this will go. I guess it's hard for me to get out of the 25¢ per game model of the 80s. You'd think by now I'd be accustomed to everything rising in price. :)

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