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Page last updated at 11:07 GMT, Saturday, 20 August 2011 12:07 UK

Is it the end of the arcade game?

A man playing Pac Man
Home versions are now available of old arcade classics like Pac Man

When you think of classic video games, chances are that an early arcade title will be in there somewhere, be it Pong, Space Invaders or Pac Man.

It is around 40 years since the first digital arcade machines appeared. But in recent years they have suffered badly due to the popularity of personal consoles like the Xbox and PlayStation.

Today gaming emporiums are few and far between. Yet the industry is clinging on.

The arcade story really began in 1920s with the first amusement park shooting galleries and ball toss games. In the 1930s coin-operated games were introduced but it wasn't until 1972 when Pong was released that arcade games became fully electronic.

For almost two decades, the arcade was the primary port of call for eager gamers.

But by the rot sent in in the 1980s when home computers from the likes of Commodore and Atari and consoles by Sega and Nintendo took over the market.

In the US, 42% of all adults now have a games console at home.

The arcade industry has responded by coming together to work up a comeback plan.

In July, a special conference in London was organised by manufacturers and designers, in an attempt to re-invigorate their flagging business.

David Young, CEO of BMIGaming.com, believes the arcades have a lot to answer for when it comes to their own demise.

"The problem with the industry is they were pumping out title after title after title. Some of them were hits but a lot of them were not," he said.

"I think the mentality from the 1980s has now poured over to this generation but the problem is they haven't updated the hardware. They haven't updated anything really other than perhaps a bigger screen and a bigger cabinet."

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Patrick Michael, head of research and development for Sega Amusements Europe, understands the pressures amusement parks and arcade halls are under to keep gamers coming through their doors.

"Home games consoles now have reached a high level and we are constantly battling to give the player something they can't have at home," he said.

"Going forwards the biggest trend is going to be 3D. Sega is pioneering 3D without glasses, that is very important for an arcade environment."

Other executives of firms that design amusements are equally optimistic about the ability of arcade gaming to evolve. Ernest Yale , CEO of Triotech Amusements, also believes the industry can survive if it takes advantage of new technology.

An arcade dance mat
New games are making gaming more active and social

"The next wave is interactivity," he said. "Right now you sit in the cinema but what if - for part of the movie - people started to interact with the action?

"You would have, let's say, a bad guy movie and you can shoot at the guys on the screen or you can have a space movie where you could control some of the objects on the screen."

The prospects for arcade gaming are far from bleak. Indeed, in some parts of the world, the gaming market is already booming thanks to technological developments and investment.

Kalpesh Shah designs amusements for theme parks in India where he says the industry has seen growth of 15% in the past few years.

"India is a country where everybody loves to dance and the industry has identified this as a very niche market," he explained.

Mr Shah believes these new games have benefits that go beyond pure entertainment. He says new games could have health benefits too.

"I think with those numbers and those games coming in, we feel that they'll be doing a little bit of a workout with their entertainment."

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