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What Is A Vintage Arcade Game?

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Have you ever owned an arcade game before, and you wanted to know what makes it vintage? Maybe you are going to buy one and you are curious what the difference is between old and vintage for an arcade game. Well, in this article we will go over everything you need to know about arcade games and what makes them vintage. 

So what is a vintage arcade game?

The main thing that makes a video game vintage is the demand for the game as well as how many games are still in working condition or available. If a game is highly sought after and there are none available, it may be considered vintage even if the game is newer than the 1970’s. 

Although the late 1970’s to mid 1980’s are known as the golden age of arcade games,  more than just the games made in this era are considered vintage. 

If you want to know more about arcade games and what makes them vintage, you will want to keep reading. You can also check out this video to see the top 25 vintage arcade games. 

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Are Arcade games still popular?

Today, not many people know much about arcade games because of the popularity and cost of video games.  The arcade games were a precursor to modern video games. An arcade game is a coin-operated entertainment machine typically installed in public businesses such as restaurants, bars and amusement parks. It is also known as a coin-operated game. Most arcade games are video games, pinball machines, electromechanical games, redemption games or merchandisers.

The late 1970s and mid 1980s is often called the golden age of arcade games. The problem is that the arcade gaming industry faced a major decline in the coming years in the Western hemisphere. The Eastern Hemisphere still has a strong arcade industry, even though most of the people in the Western Hemisphere have moved to the newer video games. 

Arcade games over the years

The first popular arcade games included early amusement park midway games such as shooting galleries, ball-toss games, and many more. The old midways provided the inspiration and atmosphere for later arcade games.

In the 1930s the first coin-operated pinball machines emerged. These machines differed from their later electronic cousins. Most pinball machines switched to using electronics both for operation and for scoring in 1977.

In 1966 Sega introduced an electro-mechanical game called Periscope. This game used lights and plastic waves to stimulate sinking ships from a submarine. It became an instant success in Japan, Europe and North America. It was the first arcade game to cost a quarter per play.

In 1967 Taito released an electro-mechanical two-player arcade game called Crown Soccer Special. It was a sports game in association with football using various electronic components.

Sega released an electro-mechanical arcade racing game called Grand Prix in the year of 1966. It had a first-person view with electronic sound, a dashboard with a racing wheel and accelerator! Probably the best part is the fact that it had a forward scrolling road projected on the screen so you felt like you were moving!

In 1969 Sega released another arcade game with a shooter and vehicle-combat stimulation. This was the first of its kind, and featured electronic sound and a moving film strip. The game was called Missile. It was also one of the first arcade games to feature a joystick with a fire button.

In 1970 Midway released a game called S.A.M.I in North America and Sega released Jet Rock.

Following the release of Pong in 1972, electronic video games gradually started replacing the electromechanical arcade games.

In 1972, Sega released an arcade game called Killer Shark, which was a first-person lightning gun shooter game.

In 1974, Nintendo released Wild Gunman, which was also a shooter game.

A racing game called F-1, developed by Namco and distributed by Atari in the year of 1976 was one of the last successful electro-mechanical arcade games ever made. 

The Galaxy Game developed in 1971 by the students at Stanford University was one of the earliest coin-operated or arcade video games of its time.


The golden age of arcade games.

During the golden age of arcade games, they entered pop culture and became a dominant cultural force.

The golden age began with the release of Space Invaders in 1978. In 1983 was the period that began a fairly steady decline in the coin-operated arcade games and soon arcade games started disappearing. This is why the golden age of arcade games happened between 1971 and 1983.

In 1971, the first arcade game machine called Computer Space was introduced.

The release of Space Invaders by Midway in North America ushered in the Golden Age. The following releases including Atari ‘s Pong and Asteroids and Namco’s Pac-Man solidified the strength of the Golden Age.

The Golden Age was a time of great technical and design creativity in the arcade games. The golden period witnessed a rapid spread of video game arcades across North America, Europe and Asia. The number of video game arcades in North America almost doubled during this period. The video game arcades started to appear in supermarkets, restaurants, liquor stores, gas stations, as well as anywhere they could pop up. The sales of arcade game machines increased significantly during this period as well. 

The market became very competitive, with the average lifespan of an arcade at that time dropped to only four to six months as the weaker arcades were forced to close. 

In the 1980s, the revenue generated from the arcade video game industry almost tripled to $2.8 billion.

The best selling arcade games of the golden age were Space Invaders and Pac-Man. The most successful arcade game companies of the period were Taito, Namco and Atari.

The decline of arcade video games

The popularity of the arcade games started declining by the late 1990s. The home consoles were the major competitor with arcades. The sprout of network gaming in the 2000s also became a factor for the decline of arcade games.

The arcade market suffered from a lack of diversity when compared to other gaming markets. The arcades lost its status as the forefront of new game releases.

Fighting games were the most attractive feature of arcades. To remain viable, arcades added other elements to complement the arcade games such as redemption games, merchandiser games, and some even adding air hockey and pool tables. 

Are arcade games still played today?

Arcade game revenues gradually increased by the end of 2002. Even though arcade games were losing popularity, the arcade industry in China was a thriving one. The spread of video games also increased in the US market by the year of 2008.

Arcade classics had started reappearing as mobile and PC games.

The arcade gaming industry has remained popular in Japan through to the present day. Japanese arcades are so unique. They offer experiences that players could not get at home. The layout of an arcade in Japan greatly differs from an arcade in America. The arcades of Japan are often multi-floor complexes. The reason for the continued popularity of arcades in Japan is due to the heavy population density and an infrastructure similar to casino facilities.

Changes in arcade games. 

  • Arcade games in this era are based on modified video game console hardware or high-end PC components.
  • Arcade games of present times have more immersive and realistic game controls than PC or console games ever could. This included specialised ambience and control accessories.
  • Arcade games have begun to experiment with virtual reality technology.
  • Arcades now use cards instead of coins or cash to operate machines.


Arcade games are still used for entertainment purposes in many parts of the world. Even though some arcade games you come across may be vintage, there will be some that are just plain junk. This is why knowing the difference between junk and vintage is very important. Now that you know what makes an arcade game vintage, you can find out if the one you are playing on is actually vintage as well.