Gaming is a multi-billion industry today, with millions of gamers logging in and going online to play their favorite games from the comfort of their homes. Yet, it all started with a humble quarter of a dollar, or ten pence, in many arcade halls spread out throughout the world, where the first generation of young people were initiated to the art of gaming. Bright lights, lots of noise, and high scores – could arcade halls today still have something unique to offer us?

Arcade Halls and The Origins of Modern Gaming
Arcade halls are the forefathers of modern gaming – and they have even inspired the modern phenomenon of eSports. Today, the whole video gaming industry has risen to an unprecedented value: in 2013, Americans spent more than $20 billion in video game content and just 4 years later, in 2017, they spent $36 billion in total. More than $29 billion of that amount went to content, over $2 billion in accessories and $4.7 billion in hardware. Goldman Sachs has researched the incredible rise of digital gaming and pinpoints its success in a trio of trends: the evolution of the gaming business model, the boost that eSports saw in recent years and the fact that mobile devices are ubiquitous, which makes mobile gaming one of the most profitable sectors. Consoles like PlayStation took gaming from public spaces and brought it to the comfort of our homes.

Infographic: Americans Spent $36 Billion on Video Games in 2017 | Statista You will find more infographics at Statista

The advent of home-based console gaming, as well as PC gaming and, lately, mobile gaming, has signaled the sharp decline of arcade halls. A whole new generation of gamers has been brought up in a world where gaming mainly means playing alone and undisturbed, logging on and off at will, at any time. Of course, if you are an arcade enthusiast, you can always build your own home arcade machine and enjoy all that convenience playing arcade games from home. Yet there is something quite unique that arcade halls offered generations of players: it was a truly social occasion. Flashing lights and loud noises greeted you the moment you walked into an arcade hall, surrounded by the buzz and the sounds of arcade machines.

What Arcade Gaming Has to Offer
Most players went to arcade halls with friends, to hang out while playing games that often involve shooting, racing or fighting games, like the iconic Street Fighter series. It also represented a whole different model of gaming, one where you do not need to invest $50 or $100 at a time to play a game. In arcade halls, you simply needed a few quarters for the coin-op machines – and the emphasis was on quick and fast playing, with levels getting harder and quicker as you progressed in order to push you to lose, instead of today’s dragged out RPG video games that might take days on end to finish. Hence the focus on high scores, with players competing to get the chance to write their names on the high winners’ list. Starting out in the 1930s, arcade halls reached their peak in the 1970s.

Nowadays, arcade gaming itself seems to have tapped into its potential to reinvent itself in order to be saved from extinction. The BBC reports that more and more players are turning to the classics: places like the National Videogame Arcade that has opened in Nottingham, UK (soon to move to Sheffield), offers gamers the chance to play retro games – and arcade gaming has a role to play. Several arcade cafes and bars have popped up all over the world – like the Konbo Arcade Café in Edinburgh, Barcade in Brooklyn, NY, or Castles ‘n’ Coasters in Phoenix, Arizona. But Japan remains the arcade hall heaven: as the Hoshino Resorts Magazine reports with regard to the Japanese lifestyle, there are roughly 15,000 game centres in the country.

Arcade Club is one of the biggest arcade halls currently operating in the world and the biggest in Europe – and well worth a visit if you are around the Manchester area. Arcade gaming has also influenced and spilled over into other areas of gaming: according to Betway Casino, online casinos have taken on some arcade elements, with online slots featuring arcade style bonus games. Classic arcade games like Pac-Man and Space Invaders have been relaunched as PC games or browser-based versions for new gamers. The next trend that might render arcade halls even more relevant is pairing up with cutting-edge gaming tech: Virtual Reality arcades have been a thing in Japan for a while now and they are finally coming to the UK. The two VR-cades that have come to London and Kent use Bandai Namco games and HTC Vive headsets to offer a VR gaming experience.

Even though it seemed like the golden days of arcade halls were over, their allure and charm still carry on in the hearts of many gamers around the globe – and new trends like VR arcade gaming might just breathe some new life into arcade gaming.