As inspiring as technology is, it is also bringing about the deaths of many of our local haunts.
Beginning with the empty shopping malls in a country that practically worships shopping, the next to go appears to be another childhood haunt for us – the arcade.
In an official announcement by Virtualand, Singaporeans learned that their flagship store at Bugis will be no more come 3 January 2017. Instead, the 15,000 sq ft space will be taken over by tech retailer Challenger.
Since the news, fans have already started sharing RIP messages on Virtualand’s Facebook page.
This does not spell the end for the machines however.
They will be distributed to other outlets while Virtualand prepares to shift into a new home. Where their new base will be, however, is still not confirmed.
Games Killing Games
For those who recall Arcadia, you’ll know that Bugis’ Virtualand wasn’t the first arcade to go.
On 23 March 2014, Arcadia had shuttered its doors for the last time.
When it first opened in 2009 at Iluma, now Bugis+, Arcadia had been known amongst gamers for its frequent gaming tournaments. Numbering among them were Singapore’s first Street Fighter IV tournament qualifiers, as well as the Melty Blood: Actress Again arcade tournament.
But when the games starting going the personal console way, the machines at Arcadia were all but abandoned. And now, Virtualand seems to be headed in the same direction.
The rise of mobile gaming technology, while a great boon to consumers, also have a hand in the death of traditional arcades in Singapore. According to senior retail lecturer at Singapore Polytechnic Sarah Lim, the rise of mobile gaming is drawing gamers away from arcades.
Fan retention at arcades is also difficult as people get bored easily, meaning that owners have to continuously expend on new machines. This compounds the already heavy financial burden of machine maintenance.
Mobile gaming used to be limited to Nintendo’s Game Boy. But since then, it has rapidly expanded into gaming consoles, smartphone apps, and now, VR tech.
Gaming on smartphones has made games even easier and cheaper to take on the road. Meanwhile, increasing literacy in IT programming and the ease of using app-building sites like Appgeyser and game-making apps like Playr, have also facilitated the rise of a series of viral games like Flappy Bird and 2048.
It certainly doesn’t help that with the plethora of free apps, the incentive for people to pay for some entertainment at arcades has lessened.
The Future Of The Arcade
The gaming industry is an ephemeral and fickle one.
The moment a better version comes out, we immediately jump ship, and no one would be able to blame us for it. Arcades aren’t exactly the cheapest way to game, not to mention that not all gamers appreciate the camaraderie (and noise) that comes with gaming in crowds.
Nevertheless, if you’re like me, exchanging long coupons strips for trinkets worth a fraction of what you actually spent would have made up a good chunk of your childhood.
Virtualand’s closing has now joined Arcadia as another melancholic note in the book of the loss of yet one more iconic Singapore sight.
But as the mobile gaming industry shows no signs of slowing down, neither is it still possible to stymie it, the powering off of this arcade probably won’t be the last one to sound out.