I used to frequent an arcade/children birthday party center in my youth. I’m pretty sure thinking back they were a somewhat Chuck-E Cheese ripoff as they had animal robots playing birthday songs for the kids on a stage along with small rides and whatnot. The rides were basic but the arcade was spectacular in terms of what they had. There was Time Crisis, Metal Slug, Dance Dance Revolution, Marvel Vs. Capcom, you name it. It was an awesome place which sadly no longer exists but the memories live on. Arcades in general were a huge staple of after school activity all across the world. Today, arcades have been on a tough road to attract customers to come outside to play games. Home consoles and mobile phones being the most popular ways to play games have been the biggest obstacles for arcade owners. Why go out to a shop down the street to play a game when you can do that on almost virtually any piece of technology in the comfort of your own home? In the US at least, arcades are no longer as common as they once were.
Yet…what if there was a game were you could own one yourself? How would you run it? What would you do to keep having customers return? Well, that is what Arcadecraft did back in 2013.
In terms of its relation to vaporwave, there is a very small subsection in aesthetics found online called Arcadecore. Its use of neon and nostalgic video games as well as its dark atmosphere does cross a lot with vaporwave so the two are in some respects related.
This game is dripping in Arcadecore for obvious reasons as its all about running arcade, uses a lot of neon colors, and it feels like an almost dingy little establishment. A place that one might remember from their childhood.
What is the Game About and the Gameplay?
Arcadecraft is a real-time, business tycoon/simulator that was published in 2013 by Firebase Industries Ltd. It was originally only on the X-box Live Arcade store until it got a PC release in 2014 on Steam.
The game starts with a basic tutorial along with the ability to give your new arcade a name of your choice. You also can pick your own appearance in the game from several pre-made avatars. The game officially starts once you place an arcade machine in the store itself and kids start appearing to play video games to their hearts content. Besides arcade cabinets you also have the option to place a vending machine and a jukebox.
In order to make money, you have to click on and hold down your mouse each machine to withdraw any money that was collected from players. This also applies to the the vending machine and jukebox. As you collect more money, you only have to be mindful of rent you have to pay per month as well as making sure all game are working right, you resolve broken games machines by the onscreen prompts. Including tapping the space-bar on each machine to collect money. At the end of 1981, you also have to make sure you earned around $13,000 in order to pay off the loan you acquired at the beginning of the game to actually buy the arcade store itself. Eventually you can hire an employee to help you collect money which takes some of the responsibility off you. However, I found doing it myself to be quicker.
Besides buying arcade machines you can also buy some customization options for your store including decals for your walls, colors for the pillars and neon sign, flooring, etc.
As for the arcade machines themselves, they are extremely detailed with different designs in both how they are built (aka the cabinet itself) and the artwork. As you go through the years, you’ll see how the artwork and even the game on the screen itself looks slightly more polished as you progress from 1980 all the way through the decade.
Some of the key objectives to keep your arcade profitable is to keep popularity as high as possible. You do this by installing more machines as well making your arcade look nicer with some wall decals and what not. It does take some time to earn enough to buy a new machine but you can sell older ones that have almost no popularity left so you can finance a new machine.
Depending on the games’ popularity, some machines will produce more profit then others. Popularity of the machine has several factors that effect it including how old the game is and after a certain amount of time, the cabinet can gain a “retro” status which can reboot some its popularity as well as garner a decent-sized fan base to keep its lifespan going, and also in general newer games are normally very popular for a while.
You also have to regularly keep an eye on your machines as sometimes they break and need to be repaired, they get jammed, a power outage can occur, or a rowdy kid can start banging on the machines which can damage them so you have to at times kick patrons out. Also at times, people will approach you with a proposition. In some cases to sell you an arcade cabinet from Japan, a guy wanting to beat the highest score on a video game for a contest, or someone who wants to buy an extremely old machine for a price higher then what you could sell it for normally. Each of these of course have benefits and drawbacks as you may not have enough to buy a Japanese arcade machines as they usually cost at least over $2,000 and the person playing for the high score will lock the machine off from other customers but the arcade’s popularity will increase for a time.
Besides all those things as well as keeping your arcade maintained and stocked with new machines, there is not really much else to the game in terms of features.
Would I Recommend the Game?
This game is frankly hard to recommend for several reasons. While the game runs well and suffers no bugs, the game has pacing issues. Your first few years of owning the arcade will have you earn money at a very slow pace. Again you only earn a profit from the machines thus you would spending most of the time clicking machines to collect money. Many times, I would just leave the machines alone and look at another screen while the game was running in the background as I let them accrue money. There is almost nothing to do in between earning money except just kicking out patrons who hit the machines and making sure they are running correctly. You can increase the cost of the machine per game but that can push customers away from using it thus affecting your profits.
The game seriously needs other ways of making money. Such as taking out loans so you can fill up your arcade with more cabinets, hosting tournaments, selling food (not just a vending machine), and maybe advertising. There are so many opportunities here that are not even remotely attempted so the game feels incomplete. The foundation is there and its clear a lot of love went into this game as each cabinet looks different and the game overall functions well with minimal bugs. Its just needs more to justify playing it more then just once, as each time you play from the beginning its the same thing with the same cabinets available. You also start with the same strategy and stay on that path the whole time in each play-through which becomes repetitive.
Yet, I still had a lot of fun with this game as it does become interesting to watch your arcade grow and seeing all the cool new machines you can buy. There is definitely some levels of micromanaging that was well designed but it just needs more features.
This is also why even though it says on steam its a “simulator”, I don’t really see how or why was it advertised as that. The customization is extremely limited and you quickly run out of things to build. You can only change the price of the machines, the difficulty level of the game, and that is about it. There is nothing else to do so you feel like a employee of an arcade store ,not an actual owner where you can do more and change things. You can’t even choose a room layout, you’re stuck with the same one each time you start over. If anything its a casual simulation game if you want to keep calling it a sim-tycoon game but its very, very basic.
More About the Developers
The original developers, Firebase Industries was only credited to have published and created three games. This includes Arcadecraft, a game called Orbitron Revolution, and one more called Star Bridge that appears to be the last one they ever published. The studio was founded by Matthew Leigh and overall was a small team of people. I was able to find an interview conducted by Al Keenan from a blog called Following the Nerd (link is at the bottom of this article).
According to the interview with Mr. Leigh, they were looking into combining a game with three features: using avatars, customization/creating your own adventure, and something truly unique that would jump out at players. This was not long after Orbitron: Revolution was released on the Xbox Live store and stated that the game didn’t do as well as they hoped so they needed to do something really different for their second game. According to the interview, Matthew said this about how he came up with the idea for Arcadecraft:
“…One night while returning a DVD to a store I began thinking about what kind of game we could make that merged Avatars, customization, and a concept no one had ever done. I had thought about how great Game Dev Story was and how it leveraged characters and then had a spark of a thought about moving boxes around. Boxes turned into arcade machines and about 20 minutes later the game was more or less designed…” (Keenan, Arcadecraft Review and Interview with Developer, 2013)
The Future of ArcadeCraft
I tried to access their website, but the link is dead. They still have a social media account on Twitter but they haven’t updated or made any recent posts. The PC version of the game is the only game they have left thats readily available to the public online. That port hasn’t been updated since 2015. The original port of the game to the X-box Live Arcade is obviously gone as Microsoft discontinued the service years back. as the same fate of their previous game.
I looked up the founder of Firebase, Matthew Leigh, and after some research it seems he has moved on from the independent gaming scene as his title in his twitter reads “Ex-Indie Game Developer” and is now committing fully to film-making and other projects. Based on his career bio I can find online, he has had a long career in cinematic work for lots of video games as well as collaboration work with other developers.
So I think its safe to conclude with the dead website, new status of the founder, and the lack of social media, that the company Firebase must be closed or put on hiatus with no real plans for the game or future content. The last update they did was about porting the game to the Nintendo Switch but it seems they have had no luck in finding someone to finance the port so it never happened.
While its fun, I think it suffered from being a little too lacking as I stated previously. The reviews on Steam also support my theory, as many of them also feel the game is incomplete and after some odd hours of playing, you run out of things to do and you reach a point where you cannot run out of money. Pacing again was a major problem.
They released one more game on record which was an mobile game called Star Bridge and a mobile version of Arcadecraft in 2016. After that I wasn’t able find anything else on the company. You can still play both mobile games from the app store on IOS. I didn’t see either game on Google Play.
Arcadecraft is still remembered fondly by a small group of fans as evidenced by their twitter page. The reason for that was that it was unique, fun, and easy to pick and play. Arcadecraft was a game with lots of good ideas and intentions but feels incomplete. It really needs more content and I think overall is a fantastic starting point to hopefully make a sequel or a new developer to come along to make a completely new game.
If someones decides to make a new arcade business management game at some point, please make sure to have pizza and creepy robots singing happy birthday a thing to build. I want to relive my childhood nightmares from the arcade in my hometown again.
Link to the Steam Page for Arcadecraft: https://store.steampowered.com/app/297330/Arcadecraft/
References and Links:
Keenan, Al. “Arcadecraft Review and Interview with Developer.” Following The Nerd, 2 Mar. 2013, http://www.followingthenerd.com/ftn_news/arcadecraft-review-and-interview-with-developer/.