PAX Prime: Arcadecraft celebrates the American arcade

Management simulators have seemingly fallen out of favor in recent times. It used to be you’d see new theme park managers or train simulators on what felt like a weekly basis, but that’s not so much the case these days. Firebase Industries’ upcoming Arcadecraft is the newest member of that genre, though it evokes the spirit of a sadly long-dead chapter in the gaming industry: the American arcade.

The build shown at PAX Prime 2012 showed off what Arcadecraft is about pretty well. As an aspiring arcade owner in the year 1980, you’re given a loan from the bank to start your business. The space you find is perfect — a nice corner spot in a decent part of town. There are two pillars slightly offset from the center of the room and a desk. Otherwise, the room is entirely empty and ready to become a fully-fledged arcade in ways only you can imagine. The first step to lining your pockets quarter by quarter, of course, is buying your first arcade machine.

There are plenty of machines to choose from at first, all of which are original titles that appear to be inspired by actual classic titles. For example, “Space Rocks” is suspiciously similar in appearance to Asteroids, while “Gecko Run” seems to be inspired by Frogger. All of the 120 games in the final version will be original and unlicensed. It’s honestly a nice touch that helps add some level of authenticity to the memories this game may bring back despite the lack of actual properties.

Buying a machine places it in one of four spots in your storage room. You’ll then need to select it and move it to wherever you would like it in the arcade. It’s entirely up to you where it will go, though placement is important. For example, nobody will be able to play if it’s facing the wall. Once it’s placed properly it will start to make money automatically. The more money you make, the more machines you can buy. The more machines you have, the more money you’ll make. It’s a simple formula to digest, though there are a ton of important wrinkles to keep in mind.

Firebase has implemented almost every angle an arcade owner might have to consider in the decade of decadence. Machines can break down and will need to be repaired, either through normal use over time or by angry gamers who will need to be ejected before causing harm to your units. Games fall out of popularity and start to make less money. Buying new machines, which release at about a rate of one per month (in game time), will help keep public interest high. They can then be sold to make room for new machines. Coin chambers will need to be emptied periodically or they’ll stop being able to take quarters, cutting off some of your revenue. Soda-pop machines can also bring in money, and will need to be both emptied and refilled. And the list doesn’t stop there.

Power outages can shut down your entire fleet meaning you’ll have to manually reboot every system to continue. You can chain games in the same series in a line to make more money, though a game collector may come to your store and offer to buy a classic unit which may break up the group if you choose to sell. Adding neon lights, wall-graphics and different colored floor tiles may increase the popularity of your establishment. A machine that’s too difficult will drop in popularity and cause the avatars in your establishment to say things like “Ripoff” or “Arrg” instead of “Sweet” and “Radical”. If the devil is in the details then this game is Satan himself.

One of the coolest features planned is the ability import arcade versions of actual games. Firebase is kicking this off with their own Orbitron: Revolution. Those who already own the game or purchase it later can redeem a code to buy an Orbitron machine for their arcade. No other developers or games have yet been confirmed, but Firebase thinks the idea could be beneficial for all parties involved.

One thing to consider is that every game of Arcadecraft will last four hours exactly. You can save at any time, so it has the potential to be a pick-up-and-play kind of game, but your arcade is only good for 10 years of in-game time. It’s probably a good thing Firebase cut it off there anyway, given the collapse of the arcade industry during the 1990s. This is a nostalgia trip, not a history lesson.

The game is slated for Xbox Live Indie Games and is targeting a price of 240 Microsoft points ($3). A PC version is being discussed, but the team is still trying to hammer out the details on how to create characters that actually enter your arcade and play without the use of Microsoft’s Avatar system. It would be a shame if such a well-planned simulator failed to make it to a bigger marketplace, but we’ll just look forward to the XBLIG version with high hopes for now.

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Posted on by Anthony Swinnich in Previews, xblig, XBLIG Previews
  • Stephen Dunn

    No point in putting it on PC with the pirates jumping on anything that costs more than nothing.