Microsoft’s Game Room: The Arcade Reborn?

By  |  Thursday, January 7, 2010 at 4:59 pm

With the Game Room, Microsoft’s hoping to capture the old magic of video game arcades, minus the stale air, sugar highs and wasted quarters.

I got some questions answered on service, which will be available on Windows and Xbox Live this spring. Here are the important details (if you’re a retro game nerd):

-30 games will be available at launch, including Centipede, Lunar Lander and Night Driver (full list here), from arcade systems as well as the Atari 2600 and Intellivision. Microsoft says it’ll release 7 new games per week after launch.

-Games cost $3 each for either Xbox Live or Windows, and $5 if you want the luxury of playing on both. The arcade itself is open to any level of Xbox Live (no Gold subscription necessary).

-Unlike some of the classic games Microsoft released earlier this year, these are straight emulators with no boosts in resolution or graphics. Unfortunately, that means if there’s any overlap, you’ll have to pay for the Game Room titles again.

-Players build their own virtual arcades, with cabinets that mimic the hulking monstrosities of yesteryear. As your arcade grows, you get new rooms or entire new floors that can be decorated differently. But you don’t navigate these with an avatar — the camera simply slides between each room and cabinet.

-Other players can visit your arcade, and they’ll earn free play tokens based on how many games you have. They can also demo any game once, or can pay 40 Xbox Live points (50 cents) for extra plays.

-Downer: You can’t directly play against another player online (so no head-to-head in Combat). Instead, online multiplayer consists of high score or other challenges you send to your friends. Two-player games will work locally.

The service seems promising, and I particularly like all the ways Microsoft will give players to try games. It’s like we’re getting allowance all over again.

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