Arcade cabinets, once a luxury reserved for the hallowed halls of retro arcades, are now living room fixtures alongside next-gen consoles. Some of these home systems, like iiRcade’s Bartop cabinet, actually take up just about the same amount of space as the behemoth PlayStation 5.
iiRcade is a small, indie operation that started in 2018 when, as the company explains on its website, a handful of people got together and decided to “make a dent in the universe of gaming.” Since then, the company’s put together an impressive lineup of arcade products, with a focus on modernizing the at-home arcade experience.
Following a successful Kickstarter campaign, iiRcade has released its flagship cabinets online: a low-profile Bartop edition and a larger stand-up cabinet. Both come equipped with a 19-inch LCD display and an array of buttons and joysticks for two players.
As if the hardware weren’t impressive enough, iiRcade has also created a digital marketplace where you can purchase retro games and newer indie games. Did we mention the cabinets are getting glowing reviews, too? It might only be March, but this just shot right to the top of our holiday wish list.
The arcade experience, reimagined — Home arcade cabinets aren’t exactly a new market — both indies and bigger names like Sega have been pumping them out for years. iiRcade takes cues from many of these nostalgia-driven cabinets, especially in its products’ look and feel. The Sanwa-style buttons and joysticks are particularly important to that classic arcade experience.
Where iiRcade diverges is in the games it offers. Most arcade cabinets come with a pre-installed set of games, all of which are usually classics steeped in nostalgia. iiRcade has a full digital marketplace, with new games being added all the time — and some of them are relatively new indie hits. The 2018 hit roguelike Dead Cells is available on the platform, for example, and its developers have mapped the game’s controls to match the joystick / buttons combo.
More of this please — The market for video games has expanded exponentially in the last decade or so — but the vast majority of innovation has been limited to behemoths like Sony, Microsoft, and, of course, Nintendo.
That tide seems to be changing, finally. Indie developers are finding much more success in creating and marketing gaming systems that deviate from the mainstream in both hardware and software offerings. Panic’s hand-crank-wielding Playdate handheld, for example, has generated a fair amount of hype since its announcement last year.
Indie gaming systems are ready to enjoy their moment in the spotlight. For that, we’re infinitely grateful.