GeekOpinionVideo Games

Is the Arcade Culture Really Dying in the Philippines?

So some recent discussion on one of the geeky Facebook groups that I’m on has left me both a little uncomfortable and very curious. An article entitled “Why arcades continue to survive in Japan” was published on Flipgeeks on January 25. I do have my own opinions on the matter, especially since Japan is one of the countries that I have decided to specialize in throughout the course of my MA in Literary & Cultural Studies. However, since there’s an explicit comparison between how Japan’s arcade culture continues to thrive versus how it’s “dying” or “dead” in the Philippines, I decided to turn to some of my fellow writers in WAG. A number of them possess qualities that I don’t as writers, critics, and geeks immersed in the culture in question, namely:

A.) going to the arcade is a major past time of theirs, or was a past-time of theirs before life started getting in the way

B.) they’re keenly interested in fighting games, one of the major genres that rake money in for arcades all around the world

C.) familiar in some capacity with the video game industry and how it works, either through exposure, scholarly work, or personal interest

I’ve asked them to answer this question: “Is Arcade Culture Really Dying in the Philippines?” I’ve also given them license to discuss the article that brought this question about in the first place, as a matter of discourse. You can read each of their takes below.



What’s a Geek Contributor / Resident Lunatic Surgeon

Okay, yes: the Philippine Arcade scene has seen better days. The number of people frequenting arcades have dwindled steadily in the past decade; only a few regulars remain, visiting their favorite haunts to spend their cash on the consoles. Some people blame the lack of modern arcade consoles in our arcades for the dwindling number of customers and let’s face it, it’s the simplest reason. However, I’m not writing just to agree with that opinion.

One of the many reasons that most of the games (A LOT OF GAMES THAT I WOULD PLAY) in Japan don’t make it to foreign markets because the game companies don’t port it to other languages. Why don’t they share their fun with the world, you ask? This is because the game companies don’t see it as profitable to port it to another language and remember, one of the reasons why games keep coming out is *kaching kaching* money. Unfortunately, this applies to whatever console a gamer might use in order to play video games.

People have tried to remedy this by setting up online petitions to port their favorite series to their local language, but all we can do is to pray that Japan decides that it’s going to be a good idea to port the game.

P.S. There is no reason to compare Arcade games and Mobile games. The games that are available on either platform are different from each other.


What’s a Geek Section Editor, Video Games / Resident Gundam-senpai

First of all, who the fuck wants to be Heero Yuy?!?!?! Domon Kasshu for life!

For reals though, I personally don’t have a lot of experience growing up in the arcades. I’ll be responding to this based on my experience with the fighting game community (or FGC for short). While I know that here in the Philippines, ARCADES (not the culture) are certainly not as lucrative as they used to be; I do not know the exact reason why they’re not as successful as the used to be. My best estimate for the reason would be the lack of support from arcade owners. I.e. I can count on my hand how many arcades have a Tekken 7 machine. These days, arcade owners are unwilling to get newer games. Hell I have never seen a Guilty Gear -sign- Xrd machine locally.

As evident from both my “top 10 games of last year” article and from my contributions on the “anticipated games of 2016” article, I’m pretty invested in the local FGC. So as far as the “Arcade Culture” is concerned, it’s pretty alive and well with the FGC. Most of my friends in my fighting game casuals have a lot of experience playing in the arcades back in the day. I hear a lot of stories regarding people’s exploits in the arcades. Some unsavory, such as stories of getting bullied or even threats of violence. But from what people have told me those were some fun times.

That culture still exists today. Albeit not in actual arcades anymore. The local FGC carries on the “Arcade culture” and now with less “salt”. I’ve never seen instances of bullying, for example, nor do people have to pay out of their asses for continued pay. So no, arcade culture is not dead.


Contributor for What’s A Geek / One of WAG’s Rare Pokemons

Arcades have been a large part of my life. I would say that arcade culture has come a really long way in the Philippines. They’re thriving in so far as they’re highly visible in malls and that a dedicated community exists for the variety of games offered by Quantum, Timezone and all the other operators. According to Zenius-I-Vanisher, a site which lists arcade locations around the world, we have some of the largest concentration of arcades outside of Japan in the Asia-Pacific region. Our machines aren’t the latest models available on the market, and they aren’t in the best condition. However, they are some of the cheapest per play around the region.

Their visibility as a family-friendly place of amusement is really important. I’ve lived in the United Kingdom and Ireland: arcades are all but gone there. Instead, they have gambling machines – something that is not conducive to a community environment. Plus, unlike arcades in the United States or the United Kingdom, they’re pretty easy to find and often don’t require a long drive or long journeys. In my particular niche of the music gaming community, there’s a good number of people who are dedicated enough to play weekly to keep those machines profitable for the arcades that have them. They reach out to operators and managers to offer their expertise and links to the international rhythm game community. These are the same people who play LoveLive and The Idolm@ster Cinderella Girls Starlight Stage in between credits on maimai and GuitarFreaks.

On a more personal note, I’ve even gone to Timezone in Glorietta 4 and seen and heard someone playing the song I provided vocals to on the Dance Dance Revolution machine. This is the only place outside Japan that this has happened. I don’t feel that the neon-coloured pulsing heart of arcade culture is dying or dead at all, but rather beating – as it always has, and as it will continue to do.


What’s A Geek Creative Director / Token Hoarder

Eh. As a regular arcade-goer, I think that, while we’re probably not on par with arcades in say, Japan or Korea, our arcades are still pretty much alive. From a commercial standpoint, arcades still seem to be pretty profitable; I’ve been going to arcades since I was a wee laddie in khaki shorts and one thing hasn’t changed: they’re still a place people use to distract their kids whilst mum and dad go off shopping, or have lunch, or whatever. This is probably why most arcades are 80% goofy arcade games. From my observations, as someone who goes to arcades all over the Metro, these things are always regularly occupied. True, a lot of parents resort to shoving a tablet into their kids’ hands and hope they’re distracted for the next couple of hours (shame on you, that’s not how to Parent!) a lot of kids still prefer to run around and be a bit more active (still not a good way to Parent but at least they’re moving, right…). Not to mention the multiplayer aspect of arcade games, which you can’t really get on mobile games.

(Funny story there. Just last week, I saw this little kid playing air hockey with what I’m assuming was her big brother, and she was like “SEE I’M BETTER WHEN IT’S REAL YOUR TABLET ISN’T REAL!” So I guess that’s a thing.)

So…. yeah. In that aspect at least, local arcades are still thriving. That’s always been a big part of the local arcade scene, and probably will be for some time.

Then there are the gambling machines. While we don’t really have the cash in/cash out machines that you might see in Japan or in Las Vegas, there’s a shitload of gambling machines in almost any arcade you go to. There’s horse racing, there’s slots, there’s pinball, there’s frog racing—all sorts of gambling, really. The thing about gambling machines is that their appeal isn’t how innovative its aesthetics are, it’s that they’re risk vs reward, and that’s what hooks people. I’m pretty sure that players don’t care that the pinball machine is LoTR themed: that’s just novelty. Most gambling gamers I’ve seen are in it for the skill factor, and the rewards system.

I was at an arcade some time ago where one entire wall was dedicated to cheap-ass pinball machines, where they looked like they were slapped together out of plywood and LEDs, and the sounds were cribbed from Street Fighter 2. Confused the hell out of me for a while, because I could hear Sagat yelling TIGER! TIGER! while I was poking around, and I didn’t see an SF2 cabinet anywhere. I eventually noticed the pinball machines, and while these machines looked ghetto as anything, every single machine was occupied. Between that and other observed instances of gambling gamers, I’m pretty sure glitz and ‘innovation’ isn’t that big of a factor for these guys.

On the FGC community however, I also think we’re still pretty good there. The main reason we don’t see variety is that local franchises don’t seem willing to spend on titles that aren’t ‘big’. I remember how when Tekken 6 was first announced, there was at least two to six cabinets (versus style, natch) in every major Timezone, but when KoF XIII popped, there was like, what, two cabinets that I found? (One in Megamall, one in Glorietta) I guess they prefer to play it safe with their investments. There’s no denying that arcade machines are ridiculously expensive, especially with today’s cabinets being specialized. HD monitors, card readers, not to mention the price of the boards themselves, so I’m really not surprised that we don’t see more variety. I wish that they’d be more willing to invest, but hey.

The community enjoys what they do have, though; regular group meetups in arcades for Tekken and SF enthusiasts, casual tournaments, people who just really like playing competitively, the arcade FGC is still pretty much alive. I’m not as active as I used to be, but I still see people scheduling arcade meets to test out their latest combo or setup theories, and just hang out and game. Interestingly enough, you also regularly see foreigners who actually game with the local FGers in the arcades, (cheaper than going to Japan or Korea!) so I guess online console FG hasn’t quite replaced the feel of sitting down at a cabinet.

So while our arcades aren’t as shiny or as prestigious as say, Green Arcade in Korea, we’ve still got arcades everywhere. From garage arcades to those cabinets and gambling machines shoved under escalators in malls (heads up guys, there’s a Virtua-On cabinet hidden somewhere in Starmall Crossing. Go find it!) to the bigger franchised arcades, It’s probably not as thriving as it was when we were kids, but it’s still a thing. We’ve got simulation gamers, rhythm gamers, gamblers, FGers, or people just looking to kill time. Arcade gaming’s an experience that mobile gaming can’t quite replace yet, and I think a lot of local gamers still appreciate it. Again, we’re obviously not on par with iconic game stations elsewhere in Asia, but I think for our local arcades? It’s still business as usual.


What are your thoughts on this matter? We’d love to hear them!

Pam Punzalan

29, female, not in Narnia about anything. Games, teaches, writes, reads, flails, smokes, occasionally drinks, loves cats. Answers to Kae, Pamela, Pam, Pam-Pam, Pammy, Pammeth. Pamera, and Pammu. Also part of the admin team of Girls Got Game, over at!

One thought on “Is the Arcade Culture Really Dying in the Philippines?

  • It’s not in a good place right now for light gun gamers. After Time Crisis 4 and House of the Dead 4, we haven’t seen much – if any – decent titles being picked up by arcades. Most of the newer light gun cabinets are crap movie tie-ins. It’s disheartening to see, and even more depressing to pay for a round only to realize that the gun calibration is off, the motorized kickback is disabled or broken, or P1’s gun trigger is covered in nasty so you pay for P2 but then you’re already in a bad mood and P2 has a different route in-game anyway so you suck all of a sudden and just get more pissed off and leave the arcade just wishing you’d never gone in in the first place. Arcade cabinets require maintenance, and they’re not getting the TLC they need to stay fun.

    Still, regardless of how rarely the games get cycled nowadays, children will always be allured by the flashy lights and funny sounds. Arcades themselves aren’t going anywhere anytime soon, even if the love for arcades has dwindled.


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