Arcade1Up has been creating nostalgia for years now, replicating the arcade machines of our youth with incredible accuracy. The latest machines, announced during CES 2023 last month, included three different takes on classic Pac-Man machines, the iconic Mortal Kombat 2 machine with Raiden on the side – you know, the one Ellie mentions in that one episode of The Last Of Us – and the Infinity Game Board, a new portable version of the Infinity Game Table.
We sat down with Cyrus Rosenberg, senior licensing director for Arcade1Up, to talk about the concepts behind these machines, balancing the family-friendly tightrope, where the company is looking in the future, and more.
MMORPG: Part of the CES lineup was three different Pac-Man machines, each with its own unique look based on classic arcade machines from the time period. When you have three different machines all themed around the same group of games, is that hard to navigate from a marketing standpoint? How do you present those in a way where all three of them seem to stand on their own?
Cyrus Rosenberg: It's all about personal tastes. Even though the differences may seem slight, the differences between Pac Man and that iconic artwork, Ms. Pac-Man, and Class Of '81 are stark, and we want to account for all of the original distribution of these cabinets when they originally released. If you have a memory in Massachusetts playing Class Of '81, or if you have a memory in Texas playing Pac-Man's original yellow edition, we really wanted to cater to that and every other type of audience. A core part of our business is nostalgia, and recreating an experience as close as possible, so while differences may seem slight, they don't matter any less to us.
Pertaining to the Infinity Game Board; this is basically the Infinity Table that you already have, just with the legs removed so you can put it on any table you want, is that correct?
Yes. Additionally, it's much lighter and we've increased the screen quality to a 1080p screen. The philosophy behind it was really only two things that mattered to us: one, how do we take the Infinity Game Table and make it more affordable; and two, how do we take the Infinity Game Table and make it more portable? When you're building out a new product, you're also building out a new digital ecosystem, and we want as many people to be able to join it as possible. This means the Game Board is both an entry level product for those who never bought the Table, and it's also a great companion piece. If I own the Table here, but my significant other lives across the country, I can introduce them to it when I visit, and if they get their own we play Monopoly online seamlessly.
Will the in-game store that's included with the table/board update with new software from time to time, or is that lineup locked in?
Absolutely, we try to update monthly, and we truly try to react to the market. We noticed, very organically, that Tapple started to sell out everywhere, but that doesn't mean people shouldn't be able to play it, so we just released Tapple on the table. Actually, Risk was also a new addition a couple of months ago. We're releasing titles as quickly as we can make them, and we're releasing the day and date on both the table and the board.
And you have internal developers doing that? Or are you working with outside developers to help you build those games?
Going through that lineup, we're seeing a mixture of well-known board games – Monopoly, Operation, Risk, Pandemic, as well as some original games. Is it important to you to have that mixture of well-known titles to bring people in and then original titles to get them trying something new?
Absolutely. In the most meaningful way, we do see this as a "platform." And to build a platform requires a digital diversity of games for all different tastes and for all different types of players. It's very important to us to continue to keep a consistent release calendar. We want to continue to grow an extensive library, which is going to require building very many different types of games.
Do you find the Game Table/Board to be your most family-friendly product? While there are some games not catered to kids – the casino-style games specifically – there are plenty of options that would make this enticing to parents.
That's got to be the toughest question I've had so far. There are so many different ways that people like to share our family of products. The Infinity Game Board absolutely was designed for family game night, that's at the forefront of our design philosophy. But at the same time, you know, just organically. I've seen so many people who love Pac-Man so much and are sharing it with their children and grandchildren. So yes, certainly from a design perspective the Table and Board are extremely family-friendly, but from a product perspective, I would say the entire breadth of our libraries really can be shared with family, barring a few significant exceptions.
Let's talk about one of those exceptions: the new Mortal Kombat machine. MK is certainly not for kids, but you've included games that technically could be kid-friendly like Joust, Defender, and more. Is there a quarrel with matching more mature-rated games with these family-friendly retro titles? Obviously, whether or not a child plays a game is up to the parents' discretion, but there's a weird dichotomy where we may play Ultimate Mortal Kombat 3 after waiting until the kids go to bed, but they may jump on the same machine and play PaperBoy or Bubbles.
There are so many different ways to answer that question, but the reality is, from a pure rational perspective, we've learned over time that we cannot underestimate value. By value, I mean [the] actual amount of games and content for a certain price point. As our products have grown, we started with machines with only two games, then it went to four and now these machines have 14 games on their list. It really is about bringing as much of this library to the machine as possible.
At the same time, our cabinets, as we've talked about, are ageless; you can be aged six to 66 and still find something to love. There's something to be said about growing up with the titles, where one day the child is playing Bubbles, then two years later they're playing Tapper, and then once they've hit 12 or 13 they're playing Mortal Kombat. These machines are built to last, they're basically functional furniture, so giving each one an extensive library of games is really important to us. Also, I may be a little biased here, as I grew up maybe sneaking some Teen games and some mature games as a kid, and I think I turned out okay.
What are the price points announced for these machines? We see the word Deluxe, where do these fit into the overall line?
So the Deluxe machines retail at a $499 price point, but they all still includes all of our premium features like molded coin door screw caps, riser-less design, and a recessed screen to be closer to the original cabinet. What you'll find with both these announcements and future 2023 announcements is that a pillar of our brand and a pillar of our company is to be as affordable as possible. We will make sure that these are as affordable as possible without losing quantity or quality, so this line is specifically capped at $499.
We imagine that the previous couple of years have caused that "be as affordable as possible" mantra to be a difficult task. Do you find you're turning a corner in that regard, where you're able to bring these prices down to a more affordable range right at launch, or do you still see some trouble spots in certain areas, or with machines to be announced later on?
Right now, in 2023, the world financially is still a very uncertain place, and we are not immune to that. At the same time, we have released a couple of $600 cabinets. It's always going to be a case-by-case basis. But when we ideate, at the very initial onset, absolutely every idea in 2023 is stemming from "how do we make it affordable?" So while you know nothing is locked in – we can't control shipping costs, we can't control price of materials, things like that – we are going to think "affordability first" and this $499 price point for a more premium cabinet is us writing that thesis and trying to show our fans and potential new customers alike that we will try to make this as affordable as possible.
One last question regarding a machine announced previously: how difficult was the negotiation to land Marvel vs Capcom 2?
Without beating around the bush, it was very complicated to get that title released. Licensing, as a philosophy, is built on trust, and it's kind of the same thing as the Deluxe cabinet. It's nice to say "we're releasing full replica machines," but we weren't always able to do that, we had to build the system over time. When it comes to MvC2, we'd worked with Capcom for so long, making great titles for them, and we'd worked with Marvel for so long, making great titles for them, that we thought we would continue to build to this. It took Street Fighter, Marvel Super Heroes, X-Men VS. Street Fighter, the first MvC. If all of those titles hadn't released beforehand, there's no way we would have gotten MvC2. That's not one you walk in the door with, even though, when we did walk in the door, that was the first thing we mentioned.