Back when the Xbox 360 launched, Xbox Live Arcade was a very different thing than it was today. Sure, you had some early original hits, like Geometry Wars: Retro Evolved and Uno, but you also had early emulated contributions like Smash TV, Joust, and Pac-Man. Over time, the emulated stuff--even the ones that offered upgraded graphics modes and other "remake" options--sort of fell by the wayside in favor of original content. With a new avatar-focused space called Game Room, Microsoft appears to be looking for a new way to bring this classic content to players.
The whole thing almost sounds like a more-focused PlayStation Home, where your Xbox 360 avatars can, as the release puts it, explore and trick out a game room by arranging virtual arcade cabinets, decorate the room with themes, and apply animated icons from classic games. What sort of games? The only specific games mentioned are Asteroids Deluxe and Centipede, both of which have already appeared as Xbox Live Arcade releases. Other companies listed as supporting Game Room include Activision, Intellivision, and Konami. With the inclusion of Activision and Intellivision--two companies with no meaningful ties to the arcade business--it seems safe to assume that classic consoles will also be represented. In fact, in the released screenshots of the service, you can see Pitfall! running as well as arcade-style cabinets with Intellivision artwork on them. I'm pretty sure there's a Scramble machine in there, too, which would make sense as it's a Konami game that has also appeared on XBLA.
Game Room, which is being developed by Krome Studios, will run in some form on both Xbox 360 and the PC. The games are sold separately, with different prices depending on how you want to play. Buying a game for use on both the 360 and PC will run 400 point (five bucks), while buying a game for only one platform is 240 points (three bucks). If you want to just play a game once, you can "drop in some quarters" and play any game once for 40 points, which rolls out to 50 cents. Uh... not to get all picky here, but these old-ass arcade games were a quarter originally. Not two. An arcade that tried to charge me 50 cents to play Missile Command or something wouldn't be some kind of new-fangled Shangri-La. It'd be just about the worst arcade ever. Sure, Street Fighter Alpha 2 or something? Yeah, I'll pay two to start, one to continue on that. You might even be able to convince me that Dragon's Lair is a dollar per play. But let's not get carried away here.
On the social side of things, you'll be able to visit your friends' arcades and play their games for free, though the "try before you buy" language in the release makes this sound like a way to play demo versions of the games. Still, that sounds like a better way to evaluate some of these things than spending 50 cents to find out that you're still awful at Battlezone or something.
With weekly releases of new-old games, Microsoft claims that Game Room will support over 1,000 games within three years of its launch. At some point, this whole thing starts to sound like legalized emulation on a grand scale, which is pretty interesting. In addition, the games will all get online leaderboards and achievements, and these additions will work across the two platforms.
Game Room is due out this Spring and will launch as a free download. As a dude who doesn't really care about Avatars, the whole "virtual arcade" shell seems totally needless. But as a dude who likes old-ass arcade games and online leaderboards, I'm down.
A trailer has also been released, which shows the logos of several other games. Here's a list:
- Finalizer - Super Transformation
- Super Cobra
- Lunar Lander
- Armor Battle
- Space Hawk
- Sub Hunt
- Red Baron
- Shao-Lin's Road
- Asteroids Deluxe
- Space Armada
- Mountain Madness: Super Pro Skiing
- Crystal Castles
- RealSports Tennis
- Star Raiders
- Road Fighter
- Sea Battle
- Yars' Revenge