How Much Did An Arcade Machine Cost In The 80’s?


How Much Did An Arcade Machine Cost In The 80’s?

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Now in America, the golden age of arcade gaming is usually defined as the 80’s era even though it began during the late seventies. The era started right after Space Invaders was created. During this time, there was a rise of many arcade games that were influenced by pop culture.

So How Much Did An Arcade Machine Cost in the 80’s?

There are many factors that went into how much an arcade machine cost back in the 80’s. Depending on the arcade game you got, how old the machine was, the demand and availability, an arcade machine’s average cost was around $2,500.

The Golden Age In Arcade Games

The golden age of arcade gaming is usually defined as the 80’s era though it began during the late seventies. During this time there was a rise of many arcade games that were influenced by pop culture. 

Some of them included the famous Donkey Kong which was influenced by the King Kong movie in 1933 and Beauty and the Beast. The Pac-man design in which the developer Toru Iwatani specifically said that it was inspired by a pizza slice missing. They also had cartoons, music and other pop-related culture infused into the arcade games. 

Pricing of Arcade Machines

Surprisingly, during the 80’s, arcade machines were a lot cheaper compared to now. Now there are arcade games that are worth twenty-five thousand dollars. Now you couldn’t exactly determine a fixed price for arcade games, so the pricing of an arcade game depended on the following factors:

  • The Game Type

Unlike modern game consoles where you get to play multiple games in one console, arcade games back then were a single game-specific arcade machine. Thus the kind of game directly determined the price of the game. You would have arcade machines for the Defender in the 80’s costing about six thousand dollars while Ms. Pac Man could go for around a thousand dollars up to eighty thousand dollars. 

So famous and popular games cost more than their counterparts. The cost also depended on the company brand that manufactured the game like CAPCO or NAMCO made the arcade game machines cost a little bit more.

  • New or Old

The aging of the game also determined how much the games cost. Most of the arcade games depreciate just like any other game when used. But there were some games such as Defender in which its value appreciated from time to time. For example, the Defender in the ’80s cost around six thousand dollars, but now it has increased in price up to twenty-four thousand dollars. 

  • Geographical Location

In a region like Los Angeles in the 80s, arcade games cost a lot more than other cities in the states. This is because during the ’80s, mainly rich people lived in those areas of the country. So if you wanted to buy an arcade machine, it was either perceived as self-ownership or for business. This made some of the games like Pac-man, Donkey Kong, Tron, etc. cost way more than their original price.

  • Sources

Arcade machines in the 80’s also varied in prices depending on the source in which you bought it. If the sources were second hand then you were in luck. You get a good quality arcade machine for the price of six hundred dollars up to eight hundred dollars. There are also some reports that people have bought arcade games for way less, around two hundred dollars. Thus if the sources were a store then the prices could go up to eight thousand for the same game depending on the game type and the store.

  • Demand

The number of arcade games you wanted to buy determined the price of the arcade games as well. If you were looking for a collection of let’s say 5 different arcade games then the prices would drop. Thus, this was a win win situation for those who were looking to start an arcade game business. But to those who wanted a single game, the prices were higher.

  • Availability of the Game

Since arcade games were incorporated directly into the arcade machines then there was a problem when it came to satisfying the demands. Some people noticed the problem and saw it as an opportunity. They used to exploit the issue by buying the highly demanded game types such as Pac-man and hoard them until the company ran out and that’s when they would sell them. A Lot of times wealthier people were victims of this and since money wasn’t a problem for them they bought arcade games such as Pac-man for around ten thousand dollars due to its scarcity. There have even been some claims that people bought them for more than that, but there hasn’t been any recorded evidence of that.

These were some of the factors that determined the cost for arcade machines during the 80s. In summary, normal standard arcade games could shoot from two thousand five hundred dollars but others could even go more than that.

The Setup Of Arcade Games During The 80’s

During the ’80s or golden era for arcade games, the setup was super expensive. The things that you had to have to complete your setup were:

  • The Number of Arcade Games

The type of arcade business you were intending to start determined the number of arcade games you needed. Remember as was said earlier, arcade machines varied in terms of the type of games you wanted to buy. Some games cost more (Specifically the famous brands) while others cost less. So if you planned to start a small business, the minimum number of arcade machines you needed was 5 games. Thus, your budget was supposed to be around twenty-five thousand dollars back then. However, if you wanted to start a big enterprise, the minimum amount you would have to have is two hundred and fifty thousand and that’s just for the arcade games alone.

  • The Leases

A place where you could host your arcade business was important. For a normal place, the rent was about a thousand dollars back in the 80s, but if it was a large enterprise it would shoot up to five thousand dollars as you would need a much larger space. 

Can you still buy arcade machines from the 80’s?

Although there are not many arcade machines around from the 80’s anymore, there are some that are still for sale. They range in price depending upon the popularity of the machines as well as the condition of the machines. Obviously the more popular machines that are in good or perfect condition will sell for a lot more than an arcade machine from the 80’s that wasn’t very popular and barely works. If you are looking to get an arcade machine from the 80’s, one of the best places to get one would be either on ebay, craigslist, or facebook marketplace. 

Conclusion

Today arcade machines still play a big role in pop culture. Movies like pixels have all been made from game references like Pac-man, etc. Again, there are many factors that go into how much an arcade machine cost back in the 80’s. Depending on the arcade game you got, how old the machine was, the demand and availability, an arcade machine’s average cost was around $2,500.

Matt Robbs

There is nothing quite so enjoyable as bringing back memories from your childhood. We used to spend hours playing pinball in my friends basement and that really got me involved in everything retro!

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