Continuing the second part in this month?s amusement coverage, I continue to look at the innovation that separates coin-op from consumer.
Atari, a long lamented name from the American amusement industry?s history, sadly brutalized, passed from pillar to post, ?til recently sidelined as a brand label to offer failing publisher respectability was, in its heyday an innovative arcade champion. It was Atari that deployed the first force-feedback steering device with the seminal title Hard Drivin?
(1988). It would not be long before consumer peripheral manufacturers would rush to emulate this for home release.
The first trackball arcade game, Atari Football
(1978) would go on to fuel the imagination and play its part in the development of the mouse. The first 3D graphics, again from Atari, with i-Robot
(1983) would engender a new generation of visual representation, which would be emulated by other manufactures such as Namco. Though an innovative developer from the Japanese factory system, it also has to be remembered that Namco once owned the arcade division of Atari and learned much from its close links. But it is the innovation it has brought to how we play in the arcades that has shaped so much of the consumer scene.
Namco's Suzuka 8 Hours
Innovation such as Final Lap
(1987), the first multiplayer (network) driving game saw an eight-player Pole Position
; the network play element - offering multiple playing opponent experiences - would shape gaming forever. With success of Suzuka 8 Hours
in 1992, the company originated a complete motorbike interface to ride - a popular feature even today with games such as Fast and Furious: SuperBikes
But it is with unique gaming experiences that Namco shines. Galaxian 3
, first launched in 1994, took the concept of a cinema-style narrative with interactive six-player shooter theatre. In taking the humble shooting game experience, Namco added the ''Duck Pedal' and the 1995 smash Time Crisis
was born. However, not all of the company?s concepts have found worldwide reputation. The 1997 horse riding simulator Final Furlong
was a quirky game more suited to Japanese playing styles - that said the Wii may soon see a rebirth in this frenetic style of play.
The people who feel that the next-generation Nintendo Wii console represents innovation, forget that the arcade has been there first. This concept was proven first with games such as SEGA?s bizarre Pharaoh shooter The Maze of the King
(2002), Konami?s sword game Blade of Honor
(2001), or table tennis Nice Smash
(2002). How many of these coin-op games will be recycled for the consumer sector now the technology has caught up is another question.
As previously covered
in this series of SPOnG.com arcade features, the number of consumer titles that are finding a home in amusement has skyrocketed since Electronic Arts first supported Global VR's adaptation of the PGA Golf
Not all traffic has been one way - one of the untold stories of amusement evolution is that the popularity of the Sport Shooting game owes more than a passing nod to the consumer sector. For amusement the Big Buck
series of elk, deer and buffalo blasting has proven a sports bar main-stay title. At least four manufacturers have developed their own series of games based on a simple premise, while Incredible Technologies, SEGA America and Raw Thrills have tournament-connected games that offer big prize payouts for dead-eyed marksmen.
But it is the passing resemblance with the Infogrames super-successful title Deer Hunter
, by WizardWorks in 1997, that started the whole genre rolling. The idea of deer-blasting in a videogame environment was taken one step further by the ability of the amusement release to incorporate a realistic pump action shotgun, rather than frantic mouse action - and so was born an amusement success story.
Shotgun blasting coin-op action such as Atari's Qwak!
in 1974 would usher in gun interfaces and inspire Nintendo's Duck Hunt
(a name borrowed from a Sega Electro-Mechanical arcade game from the 60?s).
One of the biggest separations from amusement and consumer application is the tournament environment. Where the hurdle of legislation and feasibility has seen actual tournament gaming for money excluded from XBox LIVE and competitive console networks, arcades actually pay out top dollar 24/7 to loyal gamers. The recent Golden Tee golf World Championship in Las Vegas saw $57,000 prize pool up for grabs by the 16 of the best players - facilities having seen revenue of $1 million generated by players hoping to compete. Now say amusement isn?t profitable!
Read the first part here
About the author: Kevin Williams is founder and director of the out-of-home leisure entertainment consultancy KWP Limited. His extensive years in the global video amusement and hi-tech attractions industry includes top management and design posts, with special focus on new technology development and applications. A well-known speaker on the industry and its technology, he pens an extensive number of articles. Founder and publisher of The Stinger Report - a popular industry e-Newsletter and web-based information service.
Final Lap 2