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Social Gaming Goes Old School

Stevanie Wazna-Blank | July 16, 2013 | Story Tech World

Everyone has a smart phone today with thousands of free games at a finger’s touch, but the original dinosaurs of gaming are making a comeback thanks to the new rental company All You Can Arcade.

For a Netflix style monthly subscription, All You Can Arcade rents out classic arcade games for $75 a month per game. Think of those big bulky cabinets where as a kid you played Mortal Kombat at the pizza parlor. They’ll be set to free play—so you won’t have to choose between an extra life and doing your laundry. Members can choose up to three games at a time with no pickup or delivery fees.

The company launched last weekend in Santa Clara at California Extreme, the arcade industry’s largest convention. At the convention, the company announced thirty titles (out of their total of over one hundred and fifty).

Games include the likes of Galaga, The Simpsons, Street Fighter 2, Ms. Pacman and the entertainingly descriptive Bad Dudes, in which, “President Ronnie has been kidnapped and it’s up to you to save him. Take control over characters Blade and Striker and battle your way through stealthy ninjas, killer mob bosses and vicious guard dogs in this side scrolling beat em up thriller. If you beat the game, you get to have burgers with the president. Are you a bad enough dude to handle it?

According to Co-Founder and CEO Seth Peterson it makes sense that his “scrappy start-up” would launch in the Bay Area because of our rich tradition in the arcade industry. Atari had its headquarters in Sunnyvale, EA (Electronic Arts) has its in Redwood City and Zynga is located in San Francisco. Based out of Antioch, CA and providing service from San Jose to Santa Rosa, All You Can Arcade also serves the Sacramento area—with plans to go national.

Although Peterson recognizes that the arcade industry has been decimated in recent years, he says the cabinets didn’t just disappear—they’ve been collected and stored. Many arcade operators still have unprofitable games taking up space. All You Can Arcade plans to be the middleman between the owners and customers. An operator can take a photo of his or her game and post it to All You Can Arcade’s website and through geo-tagging, a customer can enter their zip code and see what games are available within their vicinity for delivery. With a 75% pay out to the arcade operators, All You Can Arcade keeps only 25% of these rentals.

Because the company won’t be relying on a constant stream of quarters, Peterson foresees that it will be a financial success. “With the arcade industry now consisting of either exorbitant event rentals (at $200-$300 a night) or coin operated arcades in which the profits are split 50/50 between the arcade operator and the business establishment, profit is either infrequent or barely $10 a month”, according to Peterson. Although he admits they’re taking a risk, he says that the response so far has been positive and he had people signing up on the spot during the convention.

“Instead of people vegging out in front of the TV, they can play an arcade game together. They get excited and there’s more social energy. More and more friends will want to come over and experience the magic of playing these games again after 10-15 years”, says Peterson.

P.S. Old school electronic entertainment must be in the air because SFGate recently unearthed photos from 1976, when Atari installed a cabinet containing six arcade games on the BART platform at Powell Station, including Pong, Le Mans, and Tank. Now wouldn’t bringing those back be better than another strike?

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