Reviving the Ghost

Last week an American living in Japan stumbled upon close to 100 prime condition arcade machines from the 80’s stored away and untouched in greater Tokyo. Donkey Kong, Galaxian, Street Fighter, Puzzle Fighter, Raiden 2, and Scandal Man were a few of the machines taking up two full floors. The finder of this gold mine, dubbed “The Ghost Arcade”,  has been selling them on Reddit for the past week and found buyers in the US, Brazil, France, Italy and the UK. He explained he sold to those markets first because arcade machines are rarer and therefore more expensive.


Arcades are very much alive and well in Japan but in many other countries the famous arcade of the golden age have been closed down. In February the London NAMCO Station video arcade (also known as Funland) closed down for good.  The media blamed the rise of online video games and home consoles for the fall of destination gaming.

But in the past two years that has been a sudden growth of arcades in the U.S.. Adam Pratt, who runs industry website Arcade Heroes, wrote that recently “news occasionally comes along of a place closing, but it is far outweighed by openings.”

“That’s because the geeks have inherited the earth. People who grew up on this stuff have now grown up, but they’re not really grown-ups, you know what I mean?”

In 2012, two Newton, MA residents created the Sandy Hook Arcade Center, a non-profit pop-up arcade. After the Sandy Hook Elementary tragedy, the two residents, who are also dads, decided to give Newton a place where families could come together and ‘heal and begin to move forward.” But even this arcade closed last year as the business model just did not work for the upkeep of the vintage machines.

It costs thousands to upkeep an old machine and even more to buy a brand new one. To counteract these costs, many new arcades are supplementing the machines with another form of entertainment: alcohol.

The atmosphere of arcades in the US can perhaps be considered a niche market right now but an expanding one for sure. As always, the Triangle area has kept up with trends.

McKinney, an advertising agency located just down the road form W5, created a custom beer-dispensing arcade machine for Big Boss. The Last Barfighter has characters based on different Big Boss beers and players need to fight each other for the first beer serve.  Big Boss brings the arcade machine to events and has asked for playing donations to benefit charities.

In a few weeks, the triangle will have another barcade. The Baxter will open in Chapel Hill and with more than thirty machines it will have the largest collection of machines in the area. The owners have been spending much of the past year traveling the nation procuring preserved favorites and are painting the walls with large, nostalgic murals.

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