The Business of Play: iOS games move from the tablet to the arcade
Gamers of a certain age will remember the thrill of discovering that they were suddenly able to bring their favorite coin-operated arcade games home with them to play in the comfort of their own bedrooms, thanks to the introduction of gaming consoles like the Atari 2600 and Nintendo's legendary line of consoles. For $20 or $30 a pop, anyone with access to a television could play Pac-Man, Space Invaders or Missile Command without ever having to step foot in an arcade.
As it happens, the pipe flows both ways.
In 2011, research conducted by Google indicated that 87% of tablet owners surveyed used their hardware to play games. In contrast, only 74% of the same demographic used their tablets for productivity tasks such as sending email. With such a large built-in audience, it was only a matter of time before someone figured out a way to capitalize on the popularity of tablet-based gaming without using a tablet. Thanks to a Canadian company Adrenaline Amusements, gamers no longer require access to a tablet in order to play tablet-based games.
Headquartered in Montreal, Quebec, the company has only been in operation since 2010, but has managed to have a tremendous impact on the state of coin-operated entertainment, thanks to the technology they’ve brought into play. The company’s Touch FX system makes it possible to translate the game mechanics previously associated with low-cost tablet games from into an immersive, pay-per-use experience.
One of the first hurdles that Adrenaline Amusements had to surmount was the fact that tablets are pretty fragile pieces of hardware. To ensure that their Touch FX game kiosks could survive the pounding of excited gamers, the company decided that relying on capacitative touch displays of the sort currently seen in tablets like the third generation iPad, would have to be replaced with something more robust.
The company’s Touch FX hardware leverages resistive touchscreen technology similar to what's used by Samsung and Microsoft for their Surface 2.0 Interface project. infrared cameras located along the perimeter of the display register a player’s gestures as they interact with the game. The 46” screen is placed in a custom made cabinet and covered with a sheet of tempered glass to provide it with an additional layer of protection.
Adrenaline Amusements offers a number of configurations of their Touch FX hardware, with one, two or three 46-inch screens. The multi-screen devices can be set up to allow for single game multiplayer action, or offer a different game on each screen.
Since introducing Touch FX in 2010, Adrenaline Amusements has focused on bringing well-established properties to the platform instead of games created specifically for use with their hardware. Fruit Ninja, Flight Control and Infinity Blade, which have all been best sellers in the iTunes App Store, are all currently available for installation on Touch FX hardware. By opting to forego titles unique to the platform in favor of offering well-known properties, Adrenaline Amusements has in a single stroke figured out a way to draw in three distinct audiences with one product: gamers who have already played the games on their iPad and want to try them on a larger scale for novelty’s sake, those who own Android, Windows or Playbook tablets and haven’t had the opportunity to play any of these games as they’re exclusive to Apple hardware, and arcade aficionados looking for something new and different to pump their loose change into.
At $8,465 for a single-screen Touch FX system, and two- and three-screen units coming in at $16,929 and $22,935 respectively, the technology isn’t cheap. But by putting a new spin on games that many consumers already know and love, Adrenaline Amusements may have found a way to draw gamers back into the gaming parlors of their (or maybe their parents') youth. At the same time, the machines have undeniable appeal to casual gamers who have gotten their start with these familiar titles on tablet devices.
Either way, we’d call that a win.