VR & the Revival of Computer Game Arcades
It was my last night in Barcelona and I had come down with what was either a bad cold or a mild flu. In any case, it was bad enough to return my invite to the Huawei Party, at the National Art Gallery, overlooking the city featuring Andrea Bocelli, the world’s leading opera tenor.
It was late and I was hungry and feeling a bit sorry for myself that I would have to eat alone, while my fellow Huawei blogging guests, the company’s employees, partners and friends partied in elegance. walked next door from the
Barcelona Princess to an outdated shopping centers, that was so old, it was camp. I went to a Japanese restaurant where I slurped down a big bowl of Ramen Miso soup, in the hopes it would clear my breath track enough to get some sleep before an early airport departure.As I struggled with a small mountain of wet noodles, I kept hearing a combination of tunes, that were strangely familiar. They reminded me of the sounds of rooms filled with slot machines in Vegas, but also like the honky-tonk midway sounds at old amusement parks such as one that sucked many quarters out of my pocket when I was a teen-ager.
This was an odd coincidence. I had just been think of how penny arcades of the 1950s developed into the computer game arcades of the 1970s, when Pong, then Pac-man flourished before home computers were powerful enough to play games.
These game arcades flourished for a while. In my research I found that Pac-man had taken in $2.5 billion dollars in quarters from arcades in the 1980s, before home tech got better and most games became free. The arcades slowly disappeared: A few remained but have gotten more than a little seedy: I was standing in one that seems to have predated the computer games and seedy would have been a kind word to describe it.
I had been thinking about exactly that while ingesting my soup. It had to do with Robert Scoble, and the book I was writing with him called Beyond Mobile: Life After Smartphones and the paradox that almost everyone who tried VT headsets loved them, but they were expensive and it was very hard for a small number of companies to convince millions of people to buy based on demoing the headsets for ten minutes to one person at a time.
It dawned on me that this had happened before; the games had to be played by kids who would become addicted to them and who would then help game makers to addict their friends with a drug called fun. It had worked and the games got wildly popular and tech got better and free at home saving kids from feeding the insatiable arcade coin slots.
I was thinking that the new VR Headset makers like Facebook’s Oculus, HTC with Vive and Samsung with Gear should consider the arcade model.These three companies along with others such as Apple and maybe even Amazon will compete fiercely, which is good for customers, but they should cooperate together to let people try on headsets and experience the amazing wonders of being totally immersed in games.
The design of the arcades would be highly modernized compared with what I was seeing in Barcelona. It would have music and vibe to appeal to Millennials and the coming generation that will follow them–I call them Mindcrafters after the game that seems to be shaping this new generation.
These arcades would flourish for a few years until increased adoption lowered priced and mass adoption kicks in–as it most certainly will. The cost of setting up these arcades would be far less than the mass marketing programs that are less likely to work among young gamers.
The number of people who could try and thus be convinced to buy would spike far higher far faster through arcades as a public testing lab. The game makers would learn far more in the arcades than in private usability labs.
And a certain mall in Barcelona could take this opportunity to execute a long-overdue update