Why does it work in Japan but not North America?

Last week, I made a guest post over at Sure You Can Fight, a new site started by some people in the Austin-area fighting game community. While writing that post, I found out that Super Street Fighter IV Arcade Edition is crazy expensive. Well, arcades in general. Roughly $5,000 per cabinet, and you can only officially purchase it in sets of 4 (more than $20k!).

Arcades are a tricky beast. Are they expensive because they’re dying out, or dying out because they’re expensive?

I remember as a child there was many arcades in the area. Heck, the local 7-11 usually had two arcade cabinets. Grocery stores had ’em too. Pizza parlors always did. Oh, and of course the dedicated arcades. In Texas, I only find them now in family fun centers–places with putt-putt, redemption games galore, bumper cars, etc.

In Japan, I was able to find arcades without too much difficulty when I wanted. Usually they are multi-level buildings with each floor dedicated to a particular genre of games. Sports, medal (redemption) games, UFO catchers (crane games), fighting games, shooters, music, etc. They’re fun places for me to go, and there are always people. So why are arcades still fairly sustainable in Japan versus North America and much of the rest of the world? I think it’s because of the society.

In Japan, if you want to do something social, almost everyone goes out. Homes are usually small, and having many people over is just not practical, so people go out. Want go drink? Go to a bar or 居酒屋 (いざかや/izakaya). Play video games? Go to an arcade. In the metropolitan areas of Japan, a large majority of people walk. And with all that foot traffic, arcades are a great place to stop off for a few minutes. And they’re usually not out of the way.

In Texas, everyone drives. When you go to an arcade, you might have to worry about parking. Is it easy to get to? Will there be other people?

The plus side to arcades here. They’re almost always non-smoking. In Japan, be prepared to cough a lot and have burning eyes from the smoke that inhabits many, but not all, arcades.

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