THEY once enthralled the Capital’s youth, but for today’s video arcades it’s nearly game over as youngsters looking for entertainment turn to the internet and mobile phones.
Now, however, two entrepreneurs want to make one of Edinburgh’s historic districts the launch pad for a revival of arcade gaming after they announced plans for a massive, Tokyo-style complex in the Grassmarket.
IT developer Barry Cuthbertson and graphic artist Jeff Jaydee said their centre would feature 200 machines over three floors and predicted it would save classic arcade gaming from extinction.
Mr Cuthbertson, 34, said: “We are doing this because there’s nothing else like it in the UK. It’s about preservation, but it will also be a place where people can come and play these machines.”
He said he had “huge plans” for the centre, which he hopes to open in July if a fundraising drive is successful.
With £50,000 ready to invest, Mr Cuthbertson said he and his business partner hoped to raise a further £285,000 through an appeal on the Kickstarter crowd funding site.
The father-of-two revealed his Epic Arcade would offer everything from classics such as Pong, Pac-Man and Street Fighter II to early virtual reality games and pinball.
“You wouldn’t travel somewhere for 20 machines but you would go somewhere for 200 machines,” he said.
“The classic arcade is under threat. We hope the people who come to this centre will get back into these games and help preserve them for generations to come.
“This will be like the gaming centres you still get all over Japan. You’ll walk into this place and there will be lots of people you don’t know playing machines. There will be a real buzz.”
Mr Cuthbertson, originally from Blackpool and now based in Glasgow, revealed he was looking at a number of potential sites but said the Grassmarket would be ideal.
“It’s historic but it’s a vibrant area and there’s a lot happening there,” he said.
The plans have been welcomed by Grassmarket traders and leaders of the Capital’s burgeoning video games industry.
Fawns Reid, below, chair of the Greater Grassmarket Business Improvement District, said: “I’m not sure we have the footfall for a centre of that size, but it sounds like a really interesting development – certainly something to be encouraged. The preservation idea is particularly interesting.”
Bathgate games developer Colin Riley, 28, founder of Domipheus Labs, said: “Edinburgh and Scotland have a fantastic video games industry, but there isn’t really a place where people can gather and actually experience the games.
“This is somewhere which will bring the old and the young together, which is great.”
Going for a Pong
It would seem like the most basic game imagineable compared to today’s epics – but Atari’s table tennis simulator Pong is widely credited with launching an industry worth billions.
One of the first video games to reach mainstream popularity 40 years ago, Pong inspired classics from Space Invaders and Pac Man to beat-’em-ups Final Fight and Street Fighter. Edinburgh has carved out a lucrative niche in video games, with the Grand Theft Auto series developed here at Rockstar North.
Playing costs serious money
SETTING up your own video games arcade is an expensive business.
Even an older, 1980s-style arcade cabinet and game software will cost something in the region of £1900.
But the price rises significantly if the plan is to purchase a contemporary arcade game including add-on features such as enhanced sound and lighting. The Aliens Extermination Deluxe 50 cabinet – with model guns and specially lit controls and speakers – comes with a £5800 price tag.
And the two-player Aqua Race Extreme game–- which features a model speedboat, 3D wind and water spray effects, and a 46-inch high definition LCD display – will set you back nearly £28,000.