Blast from the past: When Arcades used to make more money than movies did

Remember the golden age of games when arcades alone used to make money hand over fist, making about three times more money in a year than movies did? Good times. Take a trip down memory lane (or in my case, discovery lane as this was written before I was born) in this old newspaper article from the Montreal Gazette, dated July 27th 1981. Some of the fascinating info you can glean from this: Pac-Man used to make $8.1 million a week (combining all locations; remember from that convention video in ’82 it was stated that it would typically earn $4000/week at a good location); Space Invaders used to make an estimated $7.7 million per week; Stern Electronics would produce 45,000 games in 1981, up from 1,179 games produced the year before; grocery stores began bringing in games as they made more money per square foot that food did.  Of course the industry didn’t see the bubble that was forming at the time, a bubble that would burst for various reasons at the end of the following year (harsh economic conditions, industry grew a little too fast, a proverbial flood of arcade ports to home consoles, a lot of consoles and PCs-as-consoles on the market, too many clones and sub-par bootlegs on the arcade market, etc.).

You can read the article here.

I also found an article from 1983 showcasing the release of Dragon’s Lair and how that had a temporary positive effect for arcades as players crowded around the machines. Dragon’s Lair was an expensive game compared to others at the time, selling for $4,000 a unit (which according to this would be about $8500 in 2009 dollars) but it still sold very well initially. You can read that article here.

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