Are the Arcades Dead? Bandai Namco's "Star Wars: Battle Pod" Says No.

Steve Anderson : End Game
Steve Anderson
The Video Store Guy
| The video game industry has gone from a mole hill to a mountain in no time flat, Chris DiMarco is your Sherpa as you endeavor to scale Mount “Everquest”

Are the Arcades Dead? Bandai Namco's "Star Wars: Battle Pod" Says No.

It would have been a safe bet, even just a couple weeks ago, to say that the arcade that we know it is dead, consigned to the ash heap of history by a combination of powerful consoles, improved PCs and increasingly accessible high-speed Internet. But there seem to be some elements of arcade gaming out there, and they're showing up in increasingly strange places. One development that proves the arcade isn't quite so dead as expected was a new release from Bandai Namco, specifically, a new Star Wars-themed arcade machine called “Star Wars: Battle Pod.”

“Star Wars: Battle Pod” got an official unveiling just ahead of the New York Comic-Con, which really wasn't a surprise given that most attendees of the New York Comic-Con are likely gamers on at least some level as well. But “Star Wars: Battle Pod” is a little something different and a lot something exciting. Using a curved screen inside a domed package, the end result has an immersive perspective to it, aided and abetted by 5.1 surround sound, fans to blow air around the cabin, vibrating controls and even a seat that reacts to conditions like explosions. Players will blast their merry way around the “Star Wars” universe, going from Yavin to Hoth to Endor and beyond, even participating in something of a continuity-bender of a tale featuring a disgruntled Darth Vader pointing his Advanced TIE Fighter squarely at the Death Star.

The price per game is expected to be somewhere around “a couple of bucks” a game at Dave & Busters locations, according to reports, and those interested will be able to see it in wide release starting in January. But for those in New York, the Midtown Dave & Busters will have it on hand until November 2.

For most gamers out there, the challenge will be not in finding an arcade that has this title, but rather, in finding an arcade in the first place. These are not widespread locations, and most people probably aren't within 50 miles of a Dave & Busters outlet. But that's really only part of the story here; the arcade has been on something of a comeback trail in recent months with the growth of things like augmented reality, virtual reality, and the concept of the bar / arcade hybrid known, not unreasonably, as the “barcade.” With all these developments, it's not surprising to see companies like Bandai Namco bringing back the arcade game, which was generally seen as more popular in Japan—who still has plenty of arcades at last report—than in the United States, particularly over the last few years.

But gamers may well be in a position to bring back the arcade. With most of the arcade-goers of the 1980s and 1990s now well into their late 20s to early 40s, there's a lot of disposable income out there that's just ripe for a nostalgia plucking. Throw in booze and the possibility of adult gamers getting their arcade on in the grandest old style makes a particular note of sense. Of course, this may never actually come to pass. Arcade machines are a huge investment, particularly the new models—have you priced a copy of “Alien: Extermination” lately? The thing's almost ten years old, released in 2006, and the cheapest price I could find was five figures—and that's going to be a lot of Tanqueray needing sold in order to recoup the investment off that, leave aside the price of the kilowatts to keep them hopping.

Still, there's been some development in the arcade lately, and that forces me to wonder if maybe, just maybe, there's a bit of a reset afoot in this market. It's a reset that can't come too soon for my tastes.

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