Is Arcade Gaming Making a Comeback with the Help of Superhero-themed Games?

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It seems like everywhere you look these days, you see gamers. Gaming is no longer reserved to those selected few that are obsessed with technology or sci-fi gameplay: online gaming took everything by storm, making multiplayer online battle arena and RPG games like Dota, League of Legends and World of Warcraft extremely popular – so much that they have invaded pop culture as well. Yet gaming existed long before that. It all started at the humble – and highly social – amusement arcades that teenagers flooded on Friday nights to play Pac-Man (1980) and Street Fighter (1987). Granted, the coin-operated machines lost some of their appeal with the emergence of home-based consoles and PC-based gaming and were mainly preferred for games that required elaborate controls, largely inaccessible to home players, such as dance platform games. But it seems that there is something on the move in the arcade gaming industry lately – a feel of a comeback, as arcade games are slowly yet steadily increasing the numbers of people they attract. But how do Spider-Man and the rest of his superhero buddies feature in all of that?

Image Source: Pexels

Marvel’s Midas Touch: How Superheroes Turn Everything to Gold

We are undoubtedly living in the era of superheroes: especially with the advent of Marvel’s Expanded Cinematic Universe that started with Iron Man in 2008, the superheroes industry has seen unprecedented success over the last decade, with superhero films, video games and other related entertainment products becoming frontrunners in their respective markets. Last year, superhero movies once again ruled the box office (along with much-anticipated animated films like Finding Dory – but we had that one coming), with Captain America: Civil War grossing over $1.1 billion, becoming the box office champion of 2016 and earning a place among the 12 highest-grossing films of all time.

Image Source: Statista

It seems that everything touched with the superhero brand becomes an instant hit – although some of these success stories are more prosperous than others. Merchandise based primarily on superhero films includes anything and everything, ranging from t-shirts and figurines, to home accessories and food – there is even a DC Comics superheroes Café in Marina Bay Sands Singapore that serves an exclusively superhero-inspired menu, with menu suggestions like “Batman’s epic Dark Knight charcoal-black-bun burger”, The Flash Lightning Linguine, or “just desserts” from the Joker. Studios also partner up with other major players to mutually benefit from the hype surrounding upcoming movies, such the recent collaboration between Marvel and New Balance that produced a new, limited edition sneaker themed after the latest Spider-Man: Homecoming movie that just opened in theatres.

A Perfect Match: Superheroes and Video Games

Superheroes are certainly no strangers to all kinds of video games. Since arcade games appeared, some of the most popular titles in the 1990s included X-Men, Marvel Superheroes vs. Street Fighter by Capcom and, of course, Spider-Man: The Arcade Game. Tellingly, except for their own exclusive games, superheroes have made fleeting appearances elsewhere in online games to increase appeal and attract audiences. For example, online slots regularly feature superhero themes for elements such as scatters and wilds, which as online sources explains in a slot strategy article, are items related to bonus features or winning combinations out of the ordinary – no wonder that out-of-this-world superhumans were chosen as a preferred design. But now it seems that they may be credited with giving a boost to arcade gaming, too. Dave & Buster’s, the popular North American restaurant and entertainment chain has announced an arcade game exclusive to its stores that is themed after the new Spider-Man: Homecoming movie. A promo video shows Spidey moving through New York in his signature swinging way, collecting tokens as he moves along. The final battle for successful players is against evil super-villain, the Vulture – who is also the villain in this instalment of the Spider-Man series.

Image Source: Spiderman: Homecoming via Facebook

This Spider-Man arcade game is probably tapping into the resurgence of arcade chains lately. A mix of nostalgia for old favourites like Space Invaders and Mortal Kombat might account for this, along with the old-school sense of victory when you beat a game record and get to type your name into the machine’s top players. Add that to the fact that arcade gaming is a social experience in the traditional sense, including hanging out with friends, eating, drinking, and even meeting new people, and you get a winning combination that may have suffered some drawbacks, but is far from dead. Interestingly, the upcoming PLAY Expo Manchester in October 2017, one of the biggest events for video games, will feature over 120 arcade games – another sign that retro gaming is here to stay!

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