Revisiting my earlier post on the documentary on 100 yen arcades in Japan, I found myself relegating a lot of my own personal experience to my interpretation of the artefact and how my time in the country informed my viewing experience. This is obviously a somewhat limited perspective to approach it with as I only spent a limited amount of time there. In re-evaluating my own experience, in my earlier life I did spend plenty of time in arcades in my own hometown. However, after it having closed down some time ago, that is only a distant memory. One which is more closely associated with my childhood. Nowadays, in terms of co-operative gaming, it is usually playing splitscreen games on home gaming consoles and board games. Nowadays, in order to attend an arcade, I’d have to travel to Sydney which is a pretty long trip for something so seemingly casual.
Comparatively, in Japan, it remains such a bustling scene with many devoted players willing to spend large amounts of money on arcade machines. According to Takiguchi, 2016, the arcade industry hauls in 450 billion yen a year,” which equates to nearly 6 billion AUD. This is from 5,772 licensed arcades in Japan alongside 10,297 smaller gaming spaces located in malls and other consumer areas. Compared against Australia, we now have only 18 of the once popular Timezone arcades, with the odd cinema and tenpin bowling place having a few arcade machines in them. I think this largely stems from the obvious difference between our nations as demonstrated in the documentary.
While they were specifically referencing America in contrast, what they stated is just as relevant. Tokyo, and Japan more generally, is more densely populated. As a result, it made it easier for youth through to older fans to meet at video arcades in order to play gaming units recreationally. Being that the arcades were usually far closer to travel to makes it easier for younger people to frequent them as well. In Australia it would require you to be able to travel to these places which was usually a more arduous procedure.
In my research on the phenomenon I’ve found some interesting things about video arcades that the documentary didn’t touch on. A more recent article from website Kotaku reports on an arcade game that was seeing lineups when it was released earlier this year. One of the interesting parts about this was the fact that the game, Kantai Collection, began as a free to play game that then spread outwards to anime, manga, and a soon to be released movie. This is the kind of extended franchising that doesn’t really get rivalled in the western world outside of major movie franchises which may see merchandising and video games spun off from the film. However, these are almost always aimed at children and not nearly to the same extent as what is seen in Japan.
Extending on from the material in the documentary, a recent article by The Verge also explores how Japanese arcades remain just as popular as ever in Japan. Citing innovation, variety, and also offering something for everyone, the reasons given as to why the Arcade remains so popular in Japan in the documentary remain as true as ever. Given my own time within them, and the amount of money I dropped on Taiko No Tatsujin, I can certainly attest to that.