This morning, CNN reports that Japanese video game maker Taito will rerelease the all-time classic Space Invaders -- from the accompanying photograph, apparently the somewhat less classic color version -- to the United States in an arcade enclosure. Taito plans to sell the units through Namco, which retains U.S. distribution outlets, for a reported 300,000 yen. That's 24 million rupiahs. Seriously, though, it's a chunk of change. Approximately US$2,800. Immediately, you must be thinking, as I was, that Taito's marketing people have lost their pachinko balls; or they're shipping the units through Thailand, where the pressboard arcade enclosures are stuffed with special, organically grown all-natural "padding" and then ferried along to North America.
However, after a bit of a rethink, it's evident that the rather inflated 300,000 yen retail price of the units must have something to do with that mysterious entity known as the EULA -- the end-user license agreement. After all, game or no, Space Invaders is software; it's protected by copyright; Japan and the United States cooperate well on matters of use and infringement; ergo, US$2,800 is likely targeted at operations that lease the machines to arcades, bars, what have you, and in addition to covering the, what?, 3,000 yen cost to manufacture, Taito's asking price includes an all-you-can-eat "performance" licensing arrangement. Buy a box and it's yours to do with as you will, reasonably speaking, including reselling the unit itself or selling use of the software on an individual "performance" basis -- i.e., half dollar a game for truants and nostalgic drunks alike.
This leads me to think that amidst the raft of console game software littering my apartment there are several dozen EULAs written specifically for the single, noncommercial user. Handy is the Crimson Skies case (martin blank, dogfight, ranked #299 in the world; EXO ATMOSPHERIC, if you're out there, I'm coming after you, very slowly) with documentation intact. No EULA. Manual, two months free Xbox Live offer, pamphlet advertisement for upcoming games, white piece of card stock with inventory control patch affixed. No EULA. Most of the PC kits do have the requisite EULA, printed on a flysheet, in the installer software, or both. But not so the console titles. Am I free to set up shop leasing my console games out sans prohibitive licensing agreement?
Perhaps the more salient question, will vending machine companies, and private establishments, fork over US$2,800 in hopes that a revival game -- eight colors or no -- will generate enough revenue to justify the per-unit cost? In my experience, though the death knell has been rung a hundred times for PC games and that segment of the industry has yet to die, video arcades really are on their way out and bars are quite overtaken by the ubiquitous networked trivia decks. Is Taito hanging their bet on the resurgence of interest in classic consoles, the 2600, the Intellivision, etc. -- rediscovered through online auctions, scrap sales and also by budget-priced, multi-game discs reworked for modern consoles? Will it pay off? Perhaps, but for my part I think, at least stateside, Taito may discover their niche is a bit too deep and buried; for old time's sake the units may take in a dollar or two per customer; and then the novelty wears off.