Move Over PAC-MAN: Mobile Games Are a Hit in the Arcade

Insights & Best Practices

October 6, 2016


min read

Today?s arcades look nothing like those of yesteryear. Alongside more traditional pinball machines and air hockey tables there are swathes of new coin-op machines inspired by popular mobile game titles: Candy Crush, Fruit Ninja and Crossy Road, to name a few.One of the companies leading the trend of bringing mobile games to the arcade is Adrenaline Amusements, based outside of Montreal. The arcade specialist first turned Halfbrick's seminal Fruit Ninja game into a huge 46 inch touchscreen cabinet back in 2010 and hasn't turned back since.[caption id="attachment_21101" align="alignleft" width="349"]

Fruit Ninja mobile game arcade machine

Image via Adrenaline Amusements[/caption]?People didn't have the understanding of how powerful mobile branding is," says Adrenaline CEO, Francois Lachance. ?Those games had a massive load of downloads around the world. It was new branding that never existed before, and for us it was a perfect match."Adrenaline has since partnered with industry leaders like King (Candy Crush) and Hipster Whale (Crossy Road) to take some of the biggest mobile hits out of people's pockets and into the arcades. And Lachance says this new breed of machine is topping the arcade charts in terms of player numbers, with kids (and their parents) eager to play life-size versions of the titles that are already so familiar to them on their smartphones.For devs, the success of these mobile-turned-arcade games is a lesson in the power of branding.

Forging partnerships

When it comes to choosing mobile partners, Lachance says that brands are king. Mobile games have an immensely powerful global reach, and the right brand can have a huge impact in the colorful, bustling world of the family entertainment centers that most of these arcade machines call home.?I really look at how powerful the branding is on a game," Lachance says. ?Crossy Road is more than just a mobile game?it is a brand. 175 million people have played it on their phone."[caption id="attachment_21103" align="aligncenter" width="440"]

Crossy Road mobile game arcade machine

Image via Adrenaline Amusements[/caption]Lachance says he's always checking out what's new and hot in mobile games, but not every mobile hit is suitable for the arcade treatment. Brand may come first, but gameplay is equally important.When gameplay and brand come together they create a mutually beneficial relationship: the developer receives a license fee and street-level exposure, while Adrenaline's coin-op machines are likely to attract players who are already familiar with the game.

Shifting the game

[caption id="attachment_21104" align="alignright" width="349"]

Crossy Road mobile game arcade machine two player

Image via Adrenaline Amusements[/caption]Turning a mobile game into an arcade hit isn't as simple as adding a bigger screen. Adrenaline Amusements has its own in-house development team that adapts and tweaks the original gameplay so that it will work in an arcade environment.Broadly speaking, the games need to work in a short time frame and be simple enough for any player to learn right away. They must also be challenging enough to reward multiple plays?and chasing high scores and redemption tickets (that players can exchange for goodies on-site) has to be part of the appeal.With Crossy Road, for example, that meant turning it into a two-player experience and simplifying the control scheme so it controls with just one giant button per player.?We take the original and adapt it to the arcade world," Lachance says. "What we're trying to do is make a short experience a lot of fun. To do so you really need to bring the game to its simplest element."

Looking to the future

If Adrenaline's work order list is any indication, the mobile-to-arcade trend is just heating up. The company has four new machines due out November 2016?including two original titles and two based on popular mobile brands.[caption id="attachment_21106" align="aligncenter" width="349"]

Candy Crush Saga Tickets mobile game arcade machine

Image via Adrenaline Amusements[/caption]"Mobile is a medium for video games to reach people," Lachance says. "There's more people playing video games today than have been playing in the last 20 years because its reachable to everybody. When I was a kid my parents didn't play video games, and now they play Candy Crush. It's an enormous opportunity for us because those video games have a bigger reach than ever."