We’re Betting The Future Of The Arcade Industry On CNG

CNG Fillup

Starting a business is always a gamble. Sometimes it pays off and sometimes it doesn’t. When we came up with the idea of renting out classic arcade games by the month, we knew that getting them to and from our customer’s locations would be a pretty large component of our costs. With gas prices continue their steady climb to $5 per gallon, we’re fortunate in that we’ve been insulated from these increases by an early bet on natural gas. We think that there are a lot of benefits to adopting the technology and while we don’t know whether or not there’s enough demand for it to go mainstream, this particular gamble has paid off for us.

There are really three key benefits to natural gas technology. The first is that it’s a very green friendly technology. I don’t want to go too environmental with this post, but we think that everyone has a certain responsibility to help protect the environment. Every time we rescue a game or old CRT from the dump, it feels good to know that someone will get to use it a bit longer before it ends up being recycled. I’d be willing to bet that we spend more on used parts then we do on new materials. When CNG powers an engine the exhaust is basically water. It’s fun when we go to get smog checked because the techs always say that it’s the cleanest reading that they’ve ever seen. The lack of soot also benefits our truck in that it provides less wear and tear on our engine and will ultimately allow us to go a lot farther then we could on a diesel or gas.

The second major benefit to natural gas is the carpool lane :) Because the state of California wants to encourage drivers to reduce pollution they’ll allow you to drive in the carpool lane solo as an incentive. If you have a long daily commute, this alone is reason enough to consider a CNG vehicle. Not every vehicle qualifies, but with as much driving as we do, it saves a lot of time on the road and allows us to fix games instead.

Of course the biggest benefit is the cost involved. We get about 14.5 miles to the gallon in our truck. Not great, but not so bad for a work horse either. According to GasBuddy.com, the average price of fuel in Antioch runs about $4.00. Currently we’re paying $2.59 per gallon for CNG at the local station in Concord. This means that we would have to get 23 MPG with a regular gas vehicle before we’d be better off paying for regular gas. With a liftgate and a couple of arcades in the back, we think this would be a hard number to hit. If you compare the $2.05 that we pay in Ripon, it boosts our MPG (miles per gasoline gallon) to over 28 MPG.

This isn’t to say that CNG doesn’t have it’s downsides. The first CNG vehicle that we bought had been converted from gasoline to CNG. This made it very unique. Ultimately when the computer unit inside the van died, the entire car was worthless over the failure of a silly microchip that you can’t find. Even finding a mechanic to work on CNG can be a challenge. There’s only a handful of them that are qualified to work on them and the only one we actually trust to work on ours is in Fresno (6 hours of driving) There’s also the issue of finding gas stations that support CNG. We had to spend one night sleeping in the freezing cold, at the airport in Lake Tahoe because their pumps froze up and they couldn’t get a technician to service them. Another time we missed a TV interview because the pumps were down and we didn’t have enough fuel to get to another station. There was also the time that we had to pass up a $50 Stargate game in Paradise California because it was 10 miles too far from the last CNG station. In order for CNG to have a robust future, they need to expand the network of fueling stations beyond Los Angeles and the Bay Area and into something more national. Every time I see the suggestion box at Costco, I always tell them that they should add CNG refill stations. The adoption by a national chain would do more to propel the technology forward than any incentives that the government gives for carpooling or to keep the prices low.

Overall the pros outweigh the cons and while higher gas prices could ultimately put pressure on our margins, we think that we can maintain our low price point for our arcade rentals for a very long time, thanks in part to the savings that we get from CNG.

Leave a comment

Our Spidey Sense Is Tingling

Unrestored game

Every time we pickup a new game, it’s always an adventure. We never quite know what we’re in store for, but the first 24 hours after we have a game is a critical window in determining whether it will be fixed or if it will end up at the back of the queue with the rest of our games that need restorations. Tonight we scored a sweet Spiderman game and I’m optimistic that we can restore the game and have it in the hands of one of our customers within our 24 hour time window. Join us live on the blog as we update our progress and write a bit more about what we’ve done to help bring life back into this game.

old control panel

T-Minus 2130 hours – We’ve only just started and have already run into our first roadblock. I always like to start with the control panel. Rebuilding one sounds easy in theory, but it’s almost always the most time intensive part of the process. On our Spidey it has the original artwork that was installed at the factory, but as you can see mother nature hasn’t been so kind. The glue that they used to put it on has bubbled up from being exposed to heat and there are several places where there are noticeable tears in the artwork. Before we got the game, it looks like another collector tried to paint the exposed wood black to try and cover up the defects, but it’s still pretty bad. Since we picked up some repro art in a bulk buy, we’re going to go ahead and install it instead. It has a few subtle deficiencies compared to the original, but it will look much cleaner overall. You’ll also notice that the control panel is missing it’s plexiglass overlay. For home use, this isn’t as important, but since this Spidey is going back into service, we need something sturdy to protect it and will be making a new one for it. Before we can do any of this though, we have to strip the control panel of the joysticks and buttons so that we can peel off the old overlay. Unfortunately, the original joysticks are very rusty. We’re going to try and see if we can refurbish them because they originals feel really smooth thanks to the rubber grommets that they used in the sticks.

rusty grommet

One of the sticks won’t let us take it off because the metal on the grommet has rusted to the joystick. This will take some time, but luckily we have a really harsh corrosive acid that we keep in the shop for just these situations. This acid is so intense that it pretty much destroys metal, rust, teeth and anything else if you let it soak overnight. We won’t tell you the name of this particular chemical, but trust us it works ;) We’ll check on it in the morning to see if we can save the stick or if we’ll have to dig into our inventory for another joystick.

do the dew

T-minus 930 hours – So our attempts to rescue the joystick have fallen flat. Unfortunately, this guy is stuck on there, so we’re going to have to bolt cut the stick and salvage as many of the parts as we can. Now that we have the control panel clear the next step is to strip off the old sticker and prepare our plexiglass overlay.

plexi

In order to make our plexi we use a Dremmel to cut the plastic. We’ve experiemented with a lot of ways to do this and while the Dremmel does take a little while to do the job and usually goes through at least one blade per project, the heat from the saw causes the plastic to melt instead of crack. A lot of alternative methods end up cracking the plexi and very few things are more frustrating then to spend a couple of hours and $50 in materials only to see it fall apart right before you’re done. We’ll still need to drill our button holes, but so far so good.

plexi cut

T-minus 630 – The next step in our restoration is to address the water damage that the cab has experienced. In the industry we call this particular cab a particle board cab. In order to fix it we’re going to have to flip the game on it’s back. Arcade games hate to be flipped upside down, so we like to do this before we troubleshoot the guts.

particle board

As you can see from the photo this Spiderman lost it’s legs at some point. While that’s not a big deal if it just sits in your basement, it becomes a big deal when said basement floods and the cab soaks up a gallon of water or so. The wood is so damaged that it flakes off in our hands. This will only get worse over time and leaves really gross particle board flakes on our customer’s carpet if we don’t seal it up. In order to stop the decay, we must first sand down the damaged area. After that we need to seal it. We used fiberglass resin to do this and it’s very effective. The particle board sucks up the resin and when it dries it creates at linoleum strength surface that can handle the rigors of being moved from one member’s location to another without breaking down. After applying the resin we’ll need to wait for it to dry, so now is a goo time to go back to working on the control panel.

particle board resin

Leave a comment

Ask All You Can Arcade: Does Buying Arcade Games In Bulk Make Them Cheaper?

Game Storage

Periodically we get questions from readers that relate to the arcade industry. Whether you’re looking for arcade repair tips or want to know what it’s like to be an arcade operator, we hope that this column helps to provide answers to your arcade and pinball related questions. To kick off our new Q&A series on the blog, we thought that we’d address the topic of buying arcade games on the cheap. If you have your own question for the All You Can Arcade staff, feel free to contact us at the following link

Contact us here

Today’s question is does buying arcade games in bulk make them cheaper?

Our answer, undoubtedly! In our experience the market for arcade games in a binary one. What we mean by that is that games will either go for very cheap or very expensive, but almost never anywhere in between. Part of the reason for the binary nature of arcade game sales is the fact that individual titles have a huge impact on the value of a game.

Take our Tron for example. It’s considered one of the most collectible games by collectors. Not only did they make a great movie from the 80s, but they made a remake more recently. In the game, they built four different mini-games for you to play. The cabinet itself uses an innovative flight stick that is hard to replicate on MAMEs and mutlicades. Just looking at it glow from the blacklight can leave you speechless. Because of these reasons, if someone is a Tron fan and really wants that game, the supply is extremely limited. As a casual arcade fan, they likely don’t have the skills to repair a broken game and because they are only interested in that particular title, they either have to wait for years to find one or go up in price. If you wait long enough, you tend to be willing to bid even more for a title. If we tried to purchase an individual copy of Tron, we never would have been able to add it to our library of games, but when we bought out Tron we only ended up paying $200 for it, because it was part of a bulk lot of games.

The operator who sold it to us had a couple of really good games, but he had some less than spectacular ones as well. He certainly could have pieced out the Tron, but because he was in need of space, lived in a geographically remote area and needed a large sum of money, he was willing to throw that game into the mix, in order to entice operators like ourselves to make the long drive for the games. Ultimately, our Tron needed a little bit of work, but when you have a lot of games to work on, fixing them gets to be easy. Instead of searching the internet for a specific title, we were looking for any games at the $200 price level. From our perspective, we may have overpaid for our Sly Spy that was included in the lot, but we got a fantastic deal on Tron, Asteroids, etc. etc. etc.

Ultimately we’ve found that buying in bulk gives you access to the lower end of the binary market. Typically prices will be 75% – 80% lower in bulk then what you would expect to spend for an individual title. Even our Sly Spy has managed to catch a $300 bid since we purchased it, but we like keeping it on hand because Data East made Karnov their unofficial mascot and included advertisements for Karnov in the game. We think that there would be something special about owning every game that Karnov makes an appearance in and already have several available for rent on our website. Whether you’re buying broken games or working ones, paying in bulk also limits the number of qualified bidders on a lot. There are a lot of people who have $1,000 that there willing to spend for a game, but there aren’t that many who are willing to put down $5,000 plus storage for a hobby. Less bidders mean better deals for operators who have the cash. Hopefully, this helps to answer this question from one of our readers. Feel free to submit your own questions and we’ll be happy to answer them on our blog.

Leave a comment

Void If Removed

void

Leave a comment

The Definitive List Of All Medium Resolution Games

NBA Showtime

Most arcade games were made before high definition took over our living rooms. As a result, you actually need a standard resolution monitor to play 90% of the arcade games. While there were a handful of games that used vector monitors (black and white) and even a few that used color vector monitors (Tempest anyone?) the vast bulk of monitors that you come across in the arcade industry tend to be plain old vanilla standard raster games. The one weird exception are the medium resolution games.

Back in the day, a medium resolution monitor was the HDTV of the arcade world. Instead of the standard 640 x 480 lines of color, it gave game developers access to 800 x 600. The first game to use this format was called Winners Circle and while it was made in 1981, we wouldn’t actually see the medium resolution become popular until the late 90s and early 2000s.

Since these games tend to be a little funky, we’ve put together a list of every medium resolution game that was ever made. Whether you’re looking for a monitor that you can steal for a game that your currently have or you simply want to watch out for games that are becoming increasingly hard to find parts for, this list should help.

18 Wheeler: American Pro Trucker
720 Degrees
Air Inferno
A.P.B.
Arm Champs
Arm Champs II
Assassin
Battle Vision
Behind Enemy Lines
Bio Freaks
Bloody Roar 3
B.O.T.S.S.: Battle of the Solar System
Bottom Of The Ninth
Bonanza Bros.
Bullet
California Speed
Carnival King
Championship Sprint
Code One Dispatch
Confidential Mission
Cool Riders
Counter Force
Crack Down
Cruis’n Exotica
Cruis’n USA
Cruis’n World
Cyber Troopers Virtual On: Oratorio Tangram
Cyber Troopers: Virtual On
Cycle Warriors
Dark Silhouette: Silent Scope 2
Daytona USA
Daytona USA 2: Battle On The Edge
Daytona USA 2: Power Edition
Dead or Alive
Dead or Alive 2
Demolish Fist
Desert Tank
Desert War
Dirt Devils
Dolphin Blue
Dunk Star
Dynamic Country Club
Dynamite Cop
F-Zero AX
Fighting Fantasy
Fighting Vipers
Fighting Vipers 2
Gain Ground
Gauntlet Dark Legacy
Gauntlet Legends
Get Bass
Golden Tee Fore Complete
Golden Tee Fore! 2005
Golgo 13
Gradius IV – Fukkatsu
Grudge Match
GTI Club
Gulf Storm
Gulf War II
Gun Blade
Gun Barl
Gun Bullet
Hard Drivin’
Harley Davidson & L.A. Riders
Hole Land
Horror Story
Host Invaders
Hot Rod
House of the Dead
Hydro Thunder
In The Groove
Indy 500
Jumping Pop
Jurassic Park III
Keisatsukan Shinjuku 24ji
Keisatsukan Shinjuku 24ji 2
Last Bronx
Lethal Enforcers II: Gunfighters
Lost World: Jurassic Park
MACE – The Dark Age
Magical Date – Sotsugyo Kokuhaku Daisakusen
Magical Truck Adventure
Manx TT
Manx TT Superbike Twin
Metal Maniax
MoCap Boxing
MoCap Golf
Moon Quake
Motor Raid
Namco System 246
NARC
NBA Showtime – NBA On NBC
Ninja Assault
NFL Blitz
NFL Blitz ’99
NFL Blitz 2000
NFL Blitz 2000 Gold Edition
Offroad Thunder
Otomedius
Paperboy
Para Para Paradise
Pilot Kids
Play By Play
Police 24/7
Police 911
Popn Music Animelo
Power Smash
Project Justice
Prop Cycle
Quiz Ghost Hunter
Quiz Mekurumeku Story
Race On
Racing Jam
Rail Chase 2
Red Hawk
Ribbit
Rolling eX.tre.me
San Francisco Rush
San Francisco Rush The Rock – Alcatraz Edition
Scud Race
Scramble Spirits
Sega Hikaru
Sega NAOMI system
Sega Naomi2
Sega Rally Championship
Sega Rally 2 Championship
Sega Touring Car Championship
Shikikami No Shiro
Silent Scope
Silent Scope EX
Sky Target
Smack Down
Solar Assault
Sonic Blast Man
Sonic Championship
Sonic The Fighters
Sports Fishing
Spike Out
Sports Jam
Star Trek Voyager
Star Wars Arcade
Star Wars Trilogy Arcade
Steel Talons
Street Slam
Super Masters
Super Sprint
Taito GNET System
Tekken Tag Tournament
Terraburst
The Grid
The Last Starfighter
The Ocean Hunter
The Typing of the Dead
Toadwars
Tokyo Bus Tour
Toobin’
Top Skater
Up Scope
Vampire Night
Vapor TRX
Virtua Cop
virtua Cop 2
Virtua Fighter
Virtua Fighter 2
Virtua Fighter 2.1
Virtua Fighter 3
Virtua Fighter 3 Team Battle
Virtua Fighter Evolution
Virtua NBA
Virtua Racing
Virtua Striker
Virtua Striker 3
Virtua Striker 2000
Virtua Tennis
Virtua Tennis 2
Virtual Combat
War: Final Assault
War Gods
Warrior Blade: Rastan Saga Episode III
Warzaid
Whizz
Wild Riders
Winding Heat
Wing War
Winner Circle WWF Royal
World Series 99
World Trophy Soccer
Zero Gunner
Zero Gunner 2
Zero Point
Zombie Revenge

Leave a comment

Arcade Monitor Troubleshooting – Horizontal Collapse Issue AKA The Northern Lights

Northern Lights Monitor Troubleshooting

With so many games, we come across a lot of different monitor issues. Typically, there are usually about a half a dozen things that could be wrong and once you start to recognize the symptoms, it makes it much easier to figure out where to begin.

Usually, when someone says that they have horizontal collapse, they really have vertical collapse, but their monitor is mounted vertically in their arcade cabinet so it makes it look like a single vertical line. While your game may appear to be horizontally challenged, it’s really an issue with your vertical circuit. Horizontal collapse is actually very rare to come across.

In the case of the monitor above though, you’ll see that it really is the horizontal part of the picture, that is failing. The effect makes it look a bit like the Northern Lights. Lots of pretty colors streaming down the line and you can see them dance. It’s very pretty, but not very good for playing a video game, unless you’re very easy to entertain.

After poking around a bit on our chassis, we realized that this particular tube had been swapped into a G07 frame, but the tube was originally from a 19″ K7000. The improper pairing of the chassis with the wrong tube caused the horizontal circuit to fail, because the horizontal yoke wire wasn’t going into the correct spot.

The solution was easy enough to solve. We took our G07 Frame and Chassis and put a G07 tube in it instead. Once we paired our K7000 tube with a working K7000 chassis, we now had two working monitors and no sign of horizontal collapse on either one.

While this may seem like an unlikely mistake to make, with so many spare chassis floating around out there, we have to imagine that others are running into the same problem. Hopefully the photo above helps you to recognize this particular symptom and can point you in the right direction for getting you monitor working again.

Leave a comment

Ambient Sound Effects From Arcades Of History Past

speaker

Want to add some arcade flavor to your next party or get together? We think the best way to do it is by renting one of our classic arcade games by the month, but for those of you who want to take it a step further, you can play ambient sounds from the ghosts of arcade’s past at your next event.

The Arcade Ambience Project is an attempt to captures the dings, zaps and ayyyyyyyukkkens from bustling arcades. On the project’s web page, you can stream or download an audio recording of various arcades in action. What’s neat about the project is that they have multiple audio feeds depending on the era that you’re trying to replicate. Click on the 90′s link and you can hear players dueling it out on Mortal Kombat, Teenage Mutant Ninja Turtles and The Simpsons. Click on the link from 1983 and all of a sudden you’re transported to an arcade that plays sounds from Space Invaders, Pacman and Galaga.

While white noise from an arcade may not be as relaxing as listening to a recording of the rain or the beach, it’s still a neat way to add a little bit of atmosphere to a party. Whether you own an actually arcade and want to make it sound busy or you just have a couple of a games and want to add more sounds, the site is a great resource for arcade white noise.

Leave a comment

Arcade Games From Magic Mountain Hit The Auction Block

PCB Raid

Having grown up in Southern California, I have many fond memories of hanging out at Magic Mountain having the thrill of my life. The roller coasters held most of my attention, but in the back of the park they had an arcade where you could play all kinds of classic titles.

As times have changed, so has the park and when Magic Mountain axed the games, they fell onto the auction block in Covina, CA. In total there are 25 games up for sale. Most of the early bids are people hoping to snipe a game for $10, but we don’t think anything will go that cheap since Covina is so close to Los Angeles. You never know though, this could be your opportunity to get an entire game for cheap. None of the games would be considered grails in the industry, but there are a few games that we’d love to have.

The Super Bikes are a lot of fun to play. Because you get to ride on top of the joystick, it creates an experience that can’t be replicated on the consoles. The Lost World deluxe cockpit also looks awesome, although it would be tough to move a beast that size.

There will be a preview of the arcades on Tuesday March 18th, 2014. The auction ends on March 19th at 8pm.

Update – Looks like they are having trouble catching a bid on this one, so they’ve extended the auction to April 8th, 2014 at 7pm.

Leave a comment

Everything You Wanted To Know About Monitor Convergence But Were Afraid To Ask

Convergence Tool

One of the most useful resources in the arcade community is the excellent Arcade Repair Tips video and podcast series. In it they help explain everything from the basics to the more complicated repairs that you’ll run into when fixing a game. Their latest post covers monitor convergence and is a must read for anyone who wants to do a tube swap.

In order to display the image on a monitor properly, the chassis has to be tuned into monitor that it is attached to. This is primarily done through a big copper coil called the yoke, but there are also things like convergence rings and convergence strips that can impact the image that you get. A monitor that is out of convergence will typically display double images and the colors will look like the are tie dye and will pool in certain areas.

In their blog post, the Arcade Repair Tips crew dives into an in depth discussion on the differences between static and dynamic convergence.

“The first thing to note is that there are actually TWO types of convergence you need to adjust: static and dynamic. The first is static and is the easiest. This is where you use the convergence “rings” on the yoke. Using the game’s test screen, you have it display a grid pattern. Then, using two of the rings, you adjust the red and blue vertical lines until they overlap one another. Then you adjust the red and blue horizontal lines until they overlap. Once this is done, you adjust the rings in order to get the red and blue to overlap the green lines. The manual describes this very well and also has illustrations. This process is actually much simpler than most people think but it can be a little intimidating at first. Once done, you can use a marker to mark all of the rings for reference.

Next is the tricky part: dynamic convergence. Whereas “static” convergence covers mostly the inner area of the monitor/screen image, dynamic convergence covers the outer area, particular the edges. For example, if you had white text running across the entire monitor, you might notice that while the letters at the center of the screen look fine, the letters on the far left and right looked “ghosted” with shades of red, blue and green above and below. This is dynamic convergence that needs adjusting.”

Even the most experienced arcade techs can have trouble with convergence, so if you can’t get the hang of it don’t be too discouraged. We’ve got a special tool that we use to help align the colors (pictured above), but even with the extra help, it’s not always easy to line things up. Good luck with your own convergence issues and thanks to Arcade Repair Tips for helping to better explain what it’s all about.

Leave a comment

Craft Beer Meet The 80s – Warped Brewing Company Launches Arcade Brew Pub

8 bit home

One of the cool things about running a video game company is that you end up with the best customers. When we first learned that Sebastopol was going to get it’s own arcade themed craft brewery we couldn’t have been more excited. When they tapped us to help provide games, we were ecstatic. Over the last decade, the barcade has been one of the most successful areas of the arcade industry.

Stirrer

Started by innovative entrepreneurs everywhere and legitimized by the adoption of corporate chains like Dave and Busters, it’s been a bright spot for the industry, during an otherwise bleak period. Instead of relying on income from the games, restaurants and pubs can use them as a way to entertain guests and attract customers. This makes the games more valuable than the income stream that the quarters can bring in.

Brew Operations

Warped Brewing Company has taken the barcade concept and has adopted it to work with the craft beers that they specialize in. With names like Orbital Outage, Pixelated Porter and The Crash of 83′, their beers have been tailor made for arcade fans everywhere.

Mario Artwork

The early reviews have come in and the critics seem impressed as well. That Beer Nerd gave their very first brew, three and half out of five gorillas.

Brew Pub

The company has set up a Facebook page where you can keep track of what’s going on. They also hold a high score contest where if you can top the leaderboard, you’ll get to pick the next game that they rent from us. You can also subscribe to their Bottom of the Bottle podcast for beer enthusiasts. We’re glad to see more locations where arcade fans can play games. If you’re ever in the Sebastopol area, we encourage you to check it out and to play a few games.

Leave a comment