Arcade machine

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Donkey Kong , standard arcade case
Cocktail table
Sit-in housing
Bartop case

An arcade machine is a device on which the user can play arcade games for a coin .

The machine ( Coin-Ops ) usually consists of a screen unit, a control panel with joystick and buttons , a coin unit and a built-in circuit board on which the video game is stored. The hardware of the device is usually exactly matched to the game running on it. Some machines also have a built-in light gun , steering wheels or control levers - for example in flight or car racing simulations - or a connected screen of varying size.


The most common three are:

  • Standard housing ("upright cabinet"), about 1.80 meters high and 65 cm wide
  • "Mini cabinets" or "Cabarets" (slightly smaller versions)
  • Tables ("Cocktail") for 2 players who sit opposite each other; Image is rotated as required.

There are also:

  • Space-saving wall devices (so-called “wall mounter”), the dimensions of which were based on European gaming machines
  • "Sit-In" (for sitting down, e.g. racing simulations)
  • "Sit-Down" (to advance, mainly by Japanese companies)
  • "Walk-In" (to sit down, but for several players, e.g. Galaxian 3)
  • "Bartop" or "Countertop" (for setting up on tables or counters)

There are special housing shapes for special games, e.g. B. Gauntlet for 4 players or sports games (e.g. skis with poles and foot housings).

External elements (artwork)

There are mostly special artistic decorations, especially for the respective game ("dedicated"). These include in particular:

  • Marquee (rectangular sign above the monitor, mostly backlit)
  • Bezel (border of the monitor, often with instructions)
  • Control panel (control panel, usually with joystick and buttons)
  • Side art (painting on the side of the case)

Universal housings were often used, especially for older games.



The heart of the machine is located next to the monitor: the circuit board (s), including the PCB (“printed circuit board”). See also arcade system . The processors (CPU) and the games on ROMs are located on it . Usually 2 or 3 boards were used, which are on top of each other. The lower one is often the motherboard for the processor or processors, the others are responsible for the sound and the graphics.

In the golden era of arcade games , one or more 8-bit processors such as the Z80 were usually used; instead of ROMs, rewritable EPROMs were usually used to import updates if necessary (which was usually rare because of the high effort). In addition, from the beginning of the 1980s "custom ICs" were increasingly being used, on the one hand to reduce the number of components on the circuit board, and on the other hand to make copying the games more difficult. These ICs were either pure logic modules or special microcontrollers with an integrated ROM that could only be read out again with great effort. Nevertheless, many original games could also be obtained as “bootlegs”, ie copies that were in turn built on standard components. One such early game is the well-known Galaga from the Japanese company Namco (which was also licensed by the US company Midway), which was built on a large number of special chips with typically four-digit numbers. Among other things, this was simulated as a Galag with freely available TTL modules, whereby the software supplied differed only very slightly.

Via DIP switches can stand the various settings, in particular the level of difficulty and the number of coins that change.

For an example see Irem M-62 .


As a rule, an arcade machine has a monitor, usually with a line frequency of only 15.75 kHz. This can be aligned vertically or horizontally. The early games still had vector graphics , a little later they switched to the now common raster graphics . The screen resolution of the classic games of the 1980s was often 256 × 256 or 240 × 256 pixels .

In racing games in particular, there are devices with two or more monitors.

JAMMA standard

In the early years , the manufacturers each used their own method with which the game boards in the machine were connected. It wasn't until 1986 that people began to agree on a standard that precisely defined the connection: JAMMA . The JAMMA standard took until around 1988 to assert itself and is still used today.


An ArcadeStick, here for the Sega Dreamcast

With the MAME software , the hardware of older machines can be emulated on a PC . There are other emulators for various operating systems and platforms.

However, these emulations can only guarantee correctness to a certain extent. This is why there are also numerous projects that reverse-engineer old PCBs on FPGAs to recreate the games even more precisely.


Most arcade machines are designed to be modular, like game consoles, that is, the hardware remains the same and the games can be exchanged. The best-known hardware platforms include Capcom Play System 1 and 2 (CPS1, CPS2), Neo Geo from SNK and Segas SYSTEM 16.

Some people remodel arcade machines. The arcade ROM, on which the actual game is located, is expanded - instead a PC with the MAME software is installed and connected to the machine hardware via an interface. This has the advantage that you can not only play one game at a time on an original arcade machine, but all the games that the current MAME version currently supports. Another possibility in this direction is to build a machine from scratch, which can be completely tailored to your own needs.

Since such a machine is intended to secure income for the operator - usually from 50 cents to 1 to 2 euros per game - it must have extraordinary qualities.

In Germany , most video slot machines are located in pubs and arcades . Arcade machines are not slot machines (“one-armed bandits”) that usually have roulette , poker or Las Vegas in their logo.

Polyplay , the only arcade machine in the GDR

From March 5, 1985, video game machines were no longer allowed to be set up in public places in the Federal Republic of Germany. From then on, arcade machines were only to be found in amusement arcades or amusement parks. This regulation existed until the introduction of the new Youth Protection Act on July 26, 2002. Since then, devices that are classified by the USK as6+ ” can be set up again anywhere. In the former GDR , however, the Polyplay Arcade machine was released around 1986 and a. set up in FDGB holiday homes and public facilities.

Web links

See also

  • MAK / Supergun , multi-arcade console, allows the use of a television