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Why Are Arcade Machines So Big?

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We have seen a number of people asking the question “Why are arcade machines so big?”. Of course that question is especially pertinent because we now have technology that allows us to play video games from our tiny phones or video game consoles. 

We are writing this article to answer this question and other questions that you might have about arcade machines. 

Why are arcade machines so big? Arcade machines are big because they have a lot of components and the technology of their generation required much more space to fit those components in. Arcade machines had to have their own video screen which in and of itself was quite heavy so that also made the arcade machine large. 

It is also important to remember that “supercomputers” of that generation often took up entire rooms to have the processing speed and memory way worse than what we have on tiny phones or tablets today.  As technology has quickly advanced the size of the computers and related devices have shrunk substantially. 

Modern arcade machines don’t have to be as large as they are but they are made that way so they fit into our preconceived notions of how big an arcade machine should be. If you pick up a reproduction arcade machine and an original one you will be able to tell the difference between the two quite easily. 

The older machine simply required far more hardware to work properly than machines do today. 

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If you have a game room (or want one) you have to check out this classic arcade game console that attaches directly to your TV.

This machine has classic arcade controls but hooks directly up to your big-screen TV so you can easily move it (even if you don’t have a dedicated game room).

Oh, and did I mention that it has 5,000 games built in that you can play anytime you like?!?!

Arcade machine history

Arcade machines date back to the early 1900s when penny arcades were popular and arcade machines were often mechanical and required no electricity at all. As pinball machines and other electronic amusement arcades became popular the video arcade style machines that we know and love were produced. 

These old school machines had heavy screens inside of them to play the video game on so that required a large cabinet to hold it up. The large cabinet was also needed to make it where the game was played while standing up. 

Many people believe the cabinet was designed for standing up since that is what people were used to doing with a pinball machine as well. 

Over the years technology has advanced to where a large cabinet is no longer required. You can even buy a gamepad type system that has joysticks and buttons that will connect to your flat panel TV and allow you to play hundreds or thousands of games without needing the big bulky cabinet. 

A system like that can be found on Amazon here if you want to see what I am talking about. 

Modern Arcade Games

Of course despite the fact that video games have advanced to not need the cabinet anymore there are still many new arcade games that are being produced in cabinets. One of the most popular types of new arcades are those made by Arcade1up.  

These machines are normally slightly smaller than what the original cabinet was but they are also considerably cheaper than those cabinets were. Arcade1up has a variety of different games available on their cabinets including

Arcade1up also has countertop units that are smaller as well. 

They aren’t the only company making arcade cabinets either. You can find a variety of different machines on the market that have THOUSANDS of games on each arcade machine! This is in stark contrast to the incredibly heavy games of the 80s that only have a single game on them! 

Why has weight and size  decreased in newer machines?

I kind of mentioned it already but the main reason that newer arcade cabinets are lighter is simply the advancement that technology has had over the last two or three decades. 

I remember as a kid we used to have a 32 inch TV that weighed over 100 pounds! We thought we were awesome having such a large TV in the house. Then my grandparents got a new TV and it was a 75 inch TV that sat on the floor and had to have weighed 400-500 pounds! 

We knew that they were rich because they had such a large heavy TV lol. TVs now are 50-60 pounds for that same size TV! 

As technology has advanced the weight and size of the tech continues to get smaller and smaller. This means that arcade cabinets that are made today are much lighter and could be much smaller than their original counterparts. This is simply due to the advancements in technology over the years. 

Technology has reached a point where machines that we can hold in our hands are far more powerful than technology of entire governments from 50-60 years ago! 

This is the main reason that new machines are lighter and can be smaller than the originals. 

Another reason that newer machines are lighter is that the cabinets aren’t made with as good of wood as most of the originals. The cheap Arcade1Up machines work great but they can’t withstand the kind of abuse that many of the arcade machines from years ago stood up to. 

Are new arcade machines better than originals?

This question is really a matter of personal preference. Many people like the ability to easily move the lighter smaller machines from today while others like the fact that you can have thousands of games on one machine rather than just one game. 

Whether this makes newer arcade machines better or not is certainly up for debate. 

Many people (myself included) like the look and the feel of the original games. There is nothing quite like putting your quarter in the pac man game and going to town! Playing it in high defination or on a remade machine just doesn’t quite feel the same. 

That isn’t to say that new machines are bad. I love the fact that new machines are being made and that the next generation is getting interested in the games of the past, however to me nothing will ever quite measure up to the original machines and games on them. 


Arcade machines from the past were quite heavy because of the heavy monitor and other old heavy technology that they had inside them. 

The newer arcades are much lighter than their original counterparts and some of them even have the same original games. These newer systems are great for people who are just getting into the hobby but for many people there is nothing quite like owning the original machines. 

If you are interested in seeing a direct comparison between the smaller and lighter machines and the originals then you will want to check out these videos below.