Arcade Games Struggling to Survive at Retail

by
Posted November 30th, 2010 at 7:31 pm

The recent release of NBA Jam, and the rumor of EA Sports possibly reviving NFL Blitz, prompted some thinking on my part as to the future of arcade style games. One has to wonder if they simply are no longer viable as full retail releases. Sluggish sales of NBA Jam are the latest example of the struggles to succeed in the marketplace.

I was initially surprised by a comment made on Twitter by Stephen Totilo of Kotaku earlier today. The exchange between Totilo and John Riccitiello was more in regards to the NFL Blitz rumors, but I more focused in on his positivity towards NBA Jam.

ST: EA boss Riccitiello, happy about EA’s NBA Jam, wouldn’t tell me if EA’s doing an NFL Blitz revival: “We haven’t announced anything yet”

PP: Wonder what he means by being “happy” about NBA Jam. Sales have been very poor.

ST: He didn’t say “happy,” which is why I didn’t put it in quotes. He seemed proud of the reviews, if nothing else.

The Metacritic score for NBA Jam is 73 for PS3, 75 for the 360, and 80 for the Wii. Solid scores, particularly for an arcade game, but nothing that would make the game seem like a must-buy. Regardless it is difficult to look at NBA Jam as a success if it isn’t selling well. The Wii version sold under 50K its opening month, and all indications are the HD versions have failed to take off.

The arcade landscape is littered with series now in the graveyard. NFL Street, NFL Tour, Blitz: The League, NBA Street, NBA Ballers, FIFA Street, The BIGS, MLB Slugfest, NHL Hitz, Facebreaker…and those are just the ones off the top of my head. Many of the games were well regarded but especially in this generation they just have not been able to deliver sales, even those that release at $50 or $40. That has become more of a concern as development costs have risen to where companies are tentative to invest in fringe titles.

EA Sports BIG was shut down as a label and replaced by EA Sports Freestyle in 2008. That was a dud and has since disappeared as well. So the company has tried different tactics to spurn success in the area but have yet to find the formula.

On the other hand last year EA Sports released 3 on 3 NHL Arcade and Madden NFL Arcade. Those games were cited as having done particularly well. They released only to PSN and XBLA for $10 and $15 respectively. The price points, instant access nature for consumers, not having quite the same “expiration date”, and reduced costs such as not having to manufacture copies contributed to their success.

The more arcade style games continue to fail at retail, the more likely they are to shift to digital distribution paths which are less risky. It is difficult to say if NBA Jam has at least started poorly because consumers no longer value arcade games like they did years ago, or if damaging the brand with the NBA Elite 11 tie-in was more of a driving factor in consumer disinterest.

It however is yet another in a line of arcade games that have been disappointments and that brings into question whether NFL Blitz would work as a retail release or if it is ultimately doomed by going in that direction.

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  • Jace

    Its a little sad. On the PS2 I probably played arcade games more than sim ones. They were just fun. Now everyone over-analyzes games and picks them apart. I guess thats why I liked the arcade games you just played and had fun.

  • sheredia

    it seems to me that arcade style games are more suited for download, given the price point and instant access. i’m willing to bet if they had released nba jam as a download for $10 to $15, it would have been an instant success. i would’ve probably bought it for that price. given the economy and the unwillingness to budge on the $50 to $60 price point, gamers have to be much more selective when buying a new game.

    • http://www.facebook.com/people/Corey-Ragland/13752595 Corey Ragland

      I agree with you. I want to get NBA Jam and plan on it at some point but as a college student I don’t have $50 to spend on it right now.

  • Keith.

    EA’s arrogant enough to think a $50 NBA Jam would sell — glad to see it flop in their face. A couple more of these flops and guys like Riccotello will be out on the street where he belongs.

  • grf445

    I consider Madden to be an arcade game. In which case, not all hope is lost for arcade sports games

    • http://www.facebook.com/profile.php?id=207302423 Owen Turk

      fail

  • ea=extremelyarrogant

    hello!? nba jam is a 99 cent game goin for 30 40 50 dollars to have sold any is a success

    • sad

      That’d make sense if there were no such thing as production costs. They had to run off a bunch of packaging, manuals and etc. for the retail release.

      • ea=extremelyarrogant

        this from the same idiot who admitted he played 2 games and said he was over it lol fool

  • http://twitter.com/ajs41072 Anthony Suriano

    I remember an arcade game on PS2 called College Slam. It was basically NBA Jam with generic college players. I played the hell out of that. Also, the SSX series was fun. If NBA Jam were downloadable at $15, it’d have sold better.

  • sad

    Rented the new Jam the other day. It took 2 games with a friend of mine before we were over it. It’s worth $10 max and EA was clearly delusional thinking people were going to be happy paying full price for this piece of junk.

  • Whygen

    i seriously miss nfl street, didnt even bother picking up the nfl tour game… if they ever do make any acrade games they need to go back and play NFL Street 1 & 2 and NBA Street Vol. 3…

  • http://twitter.com/Bgamer90 Bgamer90

    Nice article pasta (wonder if you were influenced to write this from my rant on twitter lol). Arcade games are not considered “true games” anymore which I find to be sad.It’s hard to go back to sim games that are say, more than 2 or even 1 year old. Good arcade games, regardless of if they had a sequel that had more features, are still fun to go back to many (5+) years down the road since the primary focus is to make the users have fun.

    Don’t get me wrong, I love good sim games but in most cases good sim games are only good during their time. Good arcade & non-sim games on the other hand are good regardless of whether or not the game is old imo.

  • Moneymayweather

    NBA street and NFL Street series are held in the highest regard and were some of the most funnest games and easy to get into games ever. Why dont they look bringing back ? and just keep the same formula. I really liked where NFL street 3 and NBA street homecourt were heading. then they just stop making them. although NFL tour and NBA ballers choosen were the same vein they just didn’t have the same magic those other titles had. to keep you playing. an Arcade title digital form wont keep your attention like a full release they just need to capture the same magic those titles and keep one thing in mind make them fun but also keep them challenging.

  • tish

    Blitz isn’t going to fail because it’s an arcade game. It’s going to fail because EA is making it and their only focus is milking every last dollar out of consumers. If they actually made a good game at a reasonable price for once people would buy it.

    • http://pastapadre.com/ pastapadre

      I agree to an extent. Though if they can’t make a legit Blitz, and have to water it down (no late hits) then I don’t know if it will work regardless.

      • Guest

        The NFL won’t let EA do anything that gives them a bad reputation. NFL Blitz is going to be pitiful just like NFL Tour.

  • joemoedee

    NBA Jam was incredible in 1994. It’s still the only game I pre-ordered to this day, something like 74.99 on the SNES. Well worth it then.

    Gaming has evolved so much since then that a full-price release for something that up until recently was going to be given away had to hurt the total sales numbers. Also, you actually had these things called “arcades” that really pushed arcade game sales.

    $19.99? A must buy for me. It’s current price? Not so much, even with how much I’ve loved the game since the first time I dropped some quarters into the machine.

  • joemoedee

    NBA Jam was incredible in 1994. It’s still the only game I pre-ordered to this day, something like 74.99 on the SNES. Well worth it then.

    Gaming has evolved so much since then that a full-price release for something that up until recently was going to be given away had to hurt the total sales numbers. Also, you actually had these things called “arcades” that really pushed arcade game sales.

    $19.99? A must buy for me. It’s current price? Not so much, even with how much I’ve loved the game since the first time I dropped some quarters into the machine.

  • Ryder78c

    it cost to much for games i just wait tell they drop price or are used before i buy them its a waste of cash when in 3-4 months they will we $20-30 when xbox and ps2 game were expensive at $30-40, with the econmy dont expect to get high sells is dumb
    that being said i would never buy a nba jam game unless it looks like the old games and isnt 3D at all that being said i cant wait for NFL Blitz! that game will get good sells because hopefully the price on games will drop by then! nfl BLitz,NFL STREET,MLB SLUGFEST,NBA STREET vol1-3 are all good games SSX NEEDS TO RETURN THAT WAS A GOOD SNOWBOARDING GAME! SSX BLITZ & NBA STREET WERE ALL GREAT GAMES THEY NEED TO BRING COOLBOARDERS BACK TOO IM JUST NOT SURE WHO MADE IT

    • http://www.facebook.com/profile.php?id=207302423 Owen Turk

      I have a headache from attempting to read this sentence.

  • Ryder78c

    it cost to much for games i just wait tell they drop price or are used before i buy them its a waste of cash when in 3-4 months they will we $20-30 when xbox and ps2 game were expensive at $30-40, with the econmy dont expect to get high sells is dumb
    that being said i would never buy a nba jam game unless it looks like the old games and isnt 3D at all that being said i cant wait for NFL Blitz! that game will get good sells because hopefully the price on games will drop by then! nfl BLitz,NFL STREET,MLB SLUGFEST,NBA STREET vol1-3 are all good games SSX NEEDS TO RETURN THAT WAS A GOOD SNOWBOARDING GAME! SSX BLITZ & NBA STREET WERE ALL GREAT GAMES THEY NEED TO BRING COOLBOARDERS BACK TOO IM JUST NOT SURE WHO MADE IT

  • Keith.

    I used to love playing Crazy Climber in the arcade. Doesn’t mean I’d want to pay $50 for an “updated” version of it. Look how far other companies’ sports games have come (e.g., The Show, NBA2k11, Backbreaker). People aren’t stupid. At least not in this economy.

    • http://twitter.com/Bgamer90 Bgamer90

      If one’s going to have more fun with an arcadey game than a sim game, what’s the problem with him/her paying $50 for the arcadey game?

  • Game Changer

    JR is probably happy b/c it doesn’t need to sell that well to turm a profit. assuming distro and manufacturing cost are negligable then on a per unit basis then the math works out in EA’s favor when they tripled the price point at which they were selling. What they added in features and packaged good did not triple their costs, I promise you that.

    • http://pastapadre.com/ pastapadre

      That is true, but it doesn’t necessarily mean they didn’t expect more out of the sales. Especially since they were looking at it to deflect some of their Elite losses.

  • JohnZapp

    i guess the arcade generation is done. people want to see somethin new which i dont blame to but arcade games is all i played back on gamecube. goooooooood times

  • Kiris

    You forgot to mention NBA Live 06 – 10…

    • George

      Once NBA Live came out on next gen systems, the quality decreased.

  • NAW

    I always had a good time playing NBA Street homecourt (PS3).

  • http://www.facebook.com/profile.php?id=100000742254646 Toby Jaroslaw

    the reason NBA Jam isn’t selling well is because it costs so much and is really lacking in features

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  • http://twitter.com/3YardsandACloud JeffHCross

    Sports games as a whole are suffering, so it’s no shock that Arcade-style Sports games are feeling ill effects. Of course, the problems for arcade games are multipled because there’s no longer an arcade tie-in. Items like NBA Jam, NFL Blitz, and even going back to the Neo-Geo games sold for consoles because it was the same experience you could have in the arcade … but at home. Granted, NBA Jam goes far above and beyond what has ever been available in the version you’ll find in the arcade … but brand is a huge seller.

    There’s nothing to persuade a 9 year old kid (my age when NBA Jam was originally released) to beg his parents for NBA Jam rather than NBA 2k11, or, more likely, CoD Black Ops or Donkey Kong Country Returns. Not only is there practically no marketing for the title (not that I saw, at least), but it’s no longer something they’ll see in an arcade. And if they did see it in an arcade (the local Dave & Busters still has the original Blitz), it wouldn’t be an experience worth remembering.

    The EA BIG brand was built on games like SSX. I think those kinds of games would still sell. SSX is going to be more appealing, in general audiences, than a sim version of snowboarding. But NBA Jam versus NBA 2k11 … that’s not even a fair fight.

    • http://twitter.com/Bgamer90 Bgamer90

      Good post.

  • George

    NBA Street may be my favorite game of all time. The first game I got on PS2, and i played that for so long. EA should make a remake of that and sell it on the MARKETPLACE!!!!!! That would make the cost for the buyer cheaper which would increase sales. Also I hope they learn from this and put NFL Blitz on the marketplace.

    • sheredia

      and this is the reason i will never sell or trade in my ps2…….

  • Kwmiacanes

    I used to love the EA Sports BIG games. The SSX games were AWESOME! They need to come back with that game. RE-BOOT EA!!!!

  • http://pulse.yahoo.com/_PK4FOSNDLI6IR5SDORDROUSNYM Lad Lin
  • http://pulse.yahoo.com/_OYMQNCSEBARUZRAKA57WCR7FXQ John Miskovitch

    I’m not sure if digital distribution is the salvation for box office titles if games fail at retail. Sure, publishers save on logistics and retail “fees”. But with digital distribution the production and marketing costs are still the same – which accounts for the biggest part of the overall costs.

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  • Mike

    Why don’t they try to remake Cyberball? I loved that game and you don’t have to worry about an NFL license.

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