How Much Did Arcade Machines Cost In The 80s?

How Much Did Arcade Machines Cost In The 80s?

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Are you curious about the cost of an arcade machine today versus the cost of one in the 80’s? Maybe you are just curious about the cost difference between what they used to cost and what they cost now. No matter why you are here, we are here to answer your questions!

So how much did arcade machines cost in the 80’s? 

The average cost of an arcade machine in the 80’s was around $3,000-4,000. Although some arcade machines were as expensive as $20,000 and others were as cheap as $2,000. In today’s money the $20,000 machine would cost nearly $160,000! 

We are so lucky that as time went on, companies were able to keep the prices down on the machines they were producing, and even today most arcade machines only cost a few thousand dollars to purchase. In this article we are going to take you into the world of arcade machines and what they cost and why they cost that much. 

To see how much different arcade machines are currently selling for you can click here.

If you would prefer to watch a video instead of reading the article you can do so below.

Arcade machine history

Arcade machines have been in existence for over a hundred years. They are also referred to as coin-operated machines and were first introduced in the early 1920s as a fortune-telling device or for playing music.

Today, arcade machines bring the thought of video game arcade machines because these were the most successful and popular form of the machine. For many years, these video game arcade machines were regarded as the most creative and innovative machines in the world. Even today arcade machines are still being produced and sold by a variety of manufacturers.

The arcade machines have changed a lot over time and especially since the 1970s. Sometimes they changed as simple evolutions, and sometimes as a complete revolution. 

In this article, we will look at 10 of the most important of these arcade machines in the past and their cost.

Galaxy Game (1971)

The Galaxy game was released in 1971 and was the first arcade machine to charge users for playing it. The cost of a game in this machine was 10 cents for a single game or 25 cents for 3 games. It was installed at Stanford University by the students. Although this wasn’t the first arcade machine game, it was the first arcade machine game to charge people money for the experience.

The hardware alone cost $20,000 (about $160,000 today).

Pong (1972)

Available for $3000, $4300 and $4500, Pong was available with three different versions of the arcade game. It was the first game that was developed by Atari and it brought fame and success for the company. There were even a lot of unofficial clones made of this arcade game.

The game got a lot of people obsessed so much that the prototype arcade machine which was installed in a bar near Atari’s headquarters was stuffed with so many quarters that it malfunctioned.

Space Invaders (1978)

This was the most important arcade machine game ever released. It had quite a successful run back when it was released and the revolutionary gameplay and the brand’s recognition continues even to this day.

It is the second largest-selling arcade game machine of all time. Space Invaders was also believed by a lot of people to be the game that brought around the golden age of the video games era. It also set the template for all first-person shooter games that came up after it. It sold for prices that range from $2000 to $3000 in different locations.

Pac-Man (1980)

This arcade machine was produced by Namco, and it introduced the use of mascot characters to the gaming world. The name comes from the Japanese phrase “Paku-Paku” which means to flap the mouth open and close.

Pac Man is the top selling arcade machine of all time and still remains in production to date in various formats. The cost of this arcade machine was $2400 (approximately $7000 as of now) each.

Dragon’s Lair (1983)

Released in 1983, the Dragon’s Lair was not really one of the top games. In fact, this game was considered awful. It was hard to control and really had no end. The load time was very slow and it was way more expensive to play than most other arcade games of the time. 

The animation of the game was created by Don Bluth, formerly an animator at Disney. The game, however, had a very amazing look which was its selling point. It packed a LaserDisc format which allowed a lot of possibilities and changes to the face of the arcade experience. It cost players 50 cents to play, and the hardware was sold with a starting price of $4200.

Outrun (1986)

Outrun, released in 1986 was a driving arcade machine game with a cockpit-style cabinet. While it was not the first of its kind, Outrun brought a lot of refinement to the arcade experience. This arcade machine was truly big in the 1980s and it was just very good. The cost of this arcade machine was between $3500 and $5000

Teenage Mutant Ninja Turtles (1989)

Teenage Mutant Turtles, or “TMNT”, as it was popularly called, was the best arcade machine game to get licensed. It was a very fantastic game that allowed four-player to go  head-to-head or play co-op games. While it was not the first four-player co-op arcade machine game, it set the pace for the head-to-head feature.

 It had awesome tight controls, digitised speech,and even beautiful and clear graphics. This game was at the top spot until the year 1992 when Konami released the 6-player X-Men arcade machine game. The game cost about $4000. 

Street Fighter II (1991)

Streetfighter II, released in the year 1991 is another awesome game from the past. It packed all the best concepts of fighting games and it had between 8 and 16 characters, depending upon which version of the game was purchased. With big animated casts, great music and awesome control, the Street Fighter game was the best there was at that time. The cost was about $1900 and up. 

Mortal Kombat (1992)

After the Street Fighter II arcade machine, Mortal Kombat was released in 1992. It had fully digitized characters and a graphic that was even more top of the class than its rival Street Fighter II.

With a lot of violent moves, and the legendary fatality finishes, the game got a lot of people hooked and wanting more and more. The cost of the hardware was around $2500 and up.

Dance Dance Revolution (1998)

Dance Dance Revolution was also an arcade game machine that caught on like wildfire at its release. Created by Konami, the DDR game got everybody hooked. From the old to the young, male and female, everybody wanted to dance and be the best dancer.

The game has a Guinness world record for it as well! The longest DDR Marathon lasted for 16 hours, 18minutes and 9 seconds. It was a truly captivating and addictive game that got a lot of people coming back regularly. Check out this video of the fastest feet in DDR History! 

It costs about $15,000 to $17,000 to get this arcade machine back then.


All of these arcade machines were very important to the development of modern games, and a lot of them have found their way into the more digital platforms of console, PC and mobile games. Some of these games you can still purchase today brand new, and others are still in arcades all around the world being played by thousands of people daily. 

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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