This is a stupid question that's been asked before, but... (about arcades)

Why, exactly, are arcades in Japan in more demand than ones here in America? I normally don’t care about what’s happening in Japan, but this has me intrigued.
I hear here and there about the arcade scene in japan, and it has me baffled in this particular aspect.
Crippled arcades are one of the main reasons fighting games aren’t that popular over here, and consoles are to blame for the shot to the spine.
Japan has the same technology we do in the US console-wise, I’m assuming. Why are arcades still good over there (assuming I didn’t hear bullshit)?

It always annoys me when people say it’s because of consoles. They sell tonnes of consoles in Japan and probably like them just as much as North Americans do. They also have popular big-budget console games that hog all the exposure, just like we do, so you can’t blame Halo and GTA over and over again. I’ve never been to Japan but I assume they just have a larger percentage of consumers who are willing to actually go to a place just to play arcade games.

Ultimately I think it’s just differences in culture/lifestyle and taste in games between the regions. Maybe American consumers buy into fads more easily too. Once other people stop playing fighting games and other arcade genres started dying off, it just got worse and worse until arcade owners stopped giving a damn. Less popularity -> lost interest -> less players -> less arcades. In Japan the relationship between the first two stages may not be as closely linked as it is here, and that might have been the critical difference.

This post may or may not have made sense. Who knows.

Correct. They, as a whole, enjoy gaming far more than we do. As a result, they play more games both at home and in arcades.

Wrong. Japan is pretty much one fad after another :rofl:

Seems like the fact that they have a much larger concentration of people would play in to it a bit…something not much less than half the people we have in the US (there’s at least 100 million people in Japan), condensed in to an area that’s probably 1/20th our size, maybe smaller.

Then there’s the whole culture thing, of course.


In the US, we have 27 persons per square kilometer. Japan has 335 persons per square kilometer.

That would bring a whole lot more dough to each individual arcade owner, thus keeping them in business longer AND making it seem like they were more popular.

nah. the question isn’t dumb. it’s pretty much been answered, but I’ll lay my two cents on it as well…

Compared to the USA, (I’ve been to both and am currently living in the USA now) I have seen the arcades and I honestly believe that the Japanese keep their machines in better shape. also, they have more variety, more people, and just…well, more. it’s almost like a party when you walk in over there. it’s also the games. They have a large variety of them, larger on average than we have in the US IMO. also, they have some games that we don’t get over here, or anywhere else. in some cases, it’s a good game that would most likely help out our arcades, sometimes, it isn’t. and also, in my opinion, the Japanese people seem more dedicated to their videogame playing. Americans (like the rest of the planet) have our players as well, but I think that they have more on average, despite their smaller country. I hope this little bit helped answer your question.


In addition to what’s been said, especially in regards to the population density, consider the typical Japanese household. I’ve been to a Japanese friend’s house before and it’s so tiny. There’s very little room and everything is compact, so it’ll echo throughout the house and disrupt the other people and possibly neighbors. So, it’s also out of the Japanese’s courtousy to go to an arcade where nobody will mind.

Everyone sort of nailed a little bit of it, but not the whole reason. Sorry for the long post, but you guys need a culture lesson.

Yes, it is a culture difference. Population density is one factor.

The main reason that the Japanese culture revolves around riding trains to get places and thus meeting in public to do hang out. Yes, there is driving too, but typically most Japanese people live far away from the main downtown/city area where everything happens (which is always right next to a train station). So, when you leave your house in Japan, you are out for a while. You don’t just drive/go somewhere and come back home (most esablishments don’t even have parking, and if they do, it is pay parking)–when you’re out, you’re out and when you come home you’re not going anywhere far for the rest of the day. You walk or take a bus to your nearest train station, which takes anywhere from 5 to 45 minutes depending on your closest train station, then wait for a train to take you to the nearest downtown area.

As a result, people don’t just go hang out at other people’s houses. First of all, they’re smaller, and second of all many younger people live at home with their families until a much older age than in the US (since apartments are so expensive, especially in Tokyo area). It’s a very big deal for a Japanese family to have visitors, and you definitely don’t go just to hang out and play video games for a while. As a guest in a Japanese home you’re expected to give your full attention and speak to everyone in the family. Also, people’s houses are extremely inconvenient to get to, since they’re typically far away from their closest train stations.

So, Japanese society is built around giving people places to hang out in the main area of each city near the central train station. This is why there are tons of coffee shops, karaoke bars, and drinking restaurants (which there is really no equivalent to in the US) all over town. Game centers (arcades) are just another one of those establishments–it’s just a place where you can play video games with friends or with strangers. When people play video games at home, it’s typically RPGs or adventure games which can be enjoyed by themselves. This is why it’s never a big deal when the big fighting games do not come to console, or get arcade-perfect console ports. There is no need to own a joystick, PS2, or any fighting game to play fighting games competitively in Japan. You can get all the practice you need just by playing at the arcade, and arcades with fighting games here typically carry Arcadia magazines which have more detailed move lists and strategies which are free for anybody to browse.

This is why game centers (arcades) will never die in Japan. You do not play fighting games at your house, because people do not come over to your house to hang out, you meet them in public where there will always be coffee shops, karaoke, drinking restaurants, and game centers to meet at and hang out. Additionally, even for online games, Japanese gamers typically play at Internet Cafe’s, not at their own house or apartment!

America, on the other hand, is a culture that revolves around driving and cars. In most areas you typically have to drive to get anywhere, and meeting friends at their place to hang out is pretty common practice. So, there is no point in going to an arcade to play video games, you can just do it at your friend’s house. If you haven’t noticed, the only places in America that still have typical “arcades” are places with lots of foot traffic–malls, university areas, and downtown areas. These esablishments would not be making money any other way, because the typical American would not have any reason to go to an arcade unless there is one around where he is travelling/hanging out by foot.

When the arcade scene was huge in the US, there was a distinction–the video games you could play at home were no where near as great as what you could play at an arcade. But now, games available on consoles are either arcade-perfect (to the average gamer’s eyes) or even better than that. This is why the arcade scene died in America but is still going strongly in Japan.

So, now there are very few arcades, and the truly hardcore fighting game players still in the US all meet right here on If you want a true, hardcore arcade scene that will never ever disappear, move to Japan. The future of gaming in the US is at home, which means for competitive gaming, online is the future. For fighting games, this is bad news right now because of the limitations of current technology, but hopefully when Internet 2 rolls around latency will become much less of an issue and the hardcore fighting game scene may see a revival.

This is the best, most logical explanation of this much-discussed phenomenon that I’ve ever seen. Thanks guy.

A few ideas I can think of:

1- Japanese nationalism and cultural familiarity Japanese companies have long been regarded as the best arcade game manufacturers in the world. National pride and familiarity with the cultural and historical references in the games makes these great games more approachable to Japanese players.

2- Population density Various cultural factors and the Japan’s largely unihabitable landmass (much of Japan is small, rocky islands) has lead the Japanese people to live close together. This means that an arcade will generally have more local customers than it would in the US or Europe, where people tend to live farther apart. Similar phenonmena occurs in arcade hotspots in the US like New York, New Jersey, and some densely-populated areas of California, as well as in some major cities of Latin and South America.

3- Japanese cultural affinity for mass-market technology Japan is pretty unique for its love of stuff. With a decent marketing campaign just about anything with a CPU (other than the Xbox 360, bada-bing!) can be sold in Japan, and this love of technology fuels arcade business. Compare that to the US and Europe, where people would rather just stay on the couch and play FF7 for the tenth time.

Cultural familiarity is a (small) factor. Japanese nationalism, though, is simply looking too deeply into the situation.

Actually, the reason most of Japan is uninhabitable is not because it’s “rocky” but because it is about 70% forests. And those densely populated areas in the US have MAYBE one or two arcades where people play fighting games. Japan will have 5 to 10 different ones all next to a large train station. Population is a factor, but is not the main reason.

This fuels the arcade business? Last I checked, the technology in home consoles was vastly superior to that found in most arcades.

Like most “reasons” that Americans have for the success of arcades in Japan, yours are mostly stereotypes. Misconceptions like these are why Japan is still considered so “mysterious” by Americans. It doesn’t take a sleuth to see why things are the way they are when you’ve lived in both places.

i wanna go to japan indefinitely now. i enjoy there culture so much already.

Amen. Thanks for the excellent comments.

Some Americans have the tendency to make fun of people who play video games a lot so that may be a factor too…I guess. But fubarduck>my post.


damn good post

This post should be on the front page (SRK blog).

Fubarduck ftw.

Great post. In my city (Toronto, Canada), the few remaining arcades that exist are either (a) located in areas with a high level of foot traffic (ie: Yonge/Dundas) or (b) neighborhoods with a high concentration of wealthy Asian immigrants (Pacific Mall, Metro Square). Either way, I think you really hit the nail on the head.

is nothing wrong …

is just that PC games in america is popular , people demand more PC games than arcade .

fubarduck wins