One of the arcade industry’s dirty little secrets is that the games weren’t always designed for the end consumer. Often times the publishers would engineer the games so that they would be more appealing to the operators who they were selling them to. All of those random obstacles that come out of nowhere the first time you play a level are what we like to call quarter suckers. Most games are impossible to beat on one quarter because they wanted to turn the machines over faster, so that operators could serve more customers.
In our Motorace USA instruction manual, they even put insert in a little comedy with this gem of a quote.
“How far the player gets can indicate whether game settings are bringing you a satisfactory return on your investment! You’ll want to pay particular attention to players’ reception of the game for this reason: it takes about two minutes to get from LA to Vegas. We’ve found that two minute games both satisfy players and also keep the quarters flowing.”
I’m not sure about you, but I wouldn’t call 2 minutes “satisfying”, so we’ve put all of our games onto free play and when there is a continue option we enable it in the game. This lets you actually beat games that would have cost a fortune to get to the end of, in an actual arcade.
Before letting any game go out for the first time, we like to give it a quarter sucker test. We play for about 15 – 30 minutes and then count all the credits that we spent trying to beat the game. Out of all of the games in our collection, Teenage Mutant Ninja Turtles currently sits at the top of our list, but we’re almost finished restoring our Gauntlet and we hear that the Atari classic may give TMNT a run for its money. Curiously enough the Simpsons, which is a very similar game doesn’t seem to have quite as many booby traps so it’s lower on the quarter sucking rankings. All of these games have an advantage over other games in that they support four players at once.
My personal quarter sucker when I was growing up, was the game Spy Hunter. Without a doubt, I spent over $75 on that game, even before considering 30 years of inflation. The memories were worth every quarter spent.