Morro Bay High School Student William Krause at the controls of Dragon’s Lair game in the Morro Bay Arcade. Krause is the current champion, and has his name posted on the machine.
September 13, 1983
When I was was in the prime demographic for video games they were not very good. Electronic pinball machines were more reliable than the ones with dials but they did not give the wonderful shaking feeling when you made a high score. Pong, Asteroids, Defender, Pac-Man all pushed to the front of the arcade when I still spent my quarters on games not parking meters. Things changed rapidly after I graduated high school. Video games exploded in the early 1980′s but by 1983 video arcades were beginning to fade as home units came on the market. Why empty your pockets when you can play all day at home? Kids from an earlier era hung out at the pool hall.
Quoting the story by Tim Ryan published over a month after the photos were made on October 21, 1983:
Games aren’t what they used to be
Asteroids has been shot down. Eliminator all but forgotten and Pong ancient history.
In the flickering world of video game popularity, even favorites like the 2-year old Pac-Man are becoming endangered species.
The video arcade industry, which electrified adults and kids alike since its boom in 1980, is losing juice.
Arcade owners in San Luis Obispo County declined to talk in specifics about profits or losses. But most agreed that video game playing this summer, for several reasons, is less than they expected.
And what hurts the big boys filters down the the little guys, said Al Martini, who owns three arcades in this county.
Experts in the video game industry say the slump may be due to the increase in home video game sets, several blockbuster movies, the lack of challenging new games and the city ordinances that limit the number of games in arcades.
Almost no business has grown faster in the past few years than the video game industry. Sales of Arcade video game machines grew from $50 million in 1978 to about $900 million in 1982.
But a softening market and higher retail costs have resulted from increased competition. This year almost every major manufacturer of home and arcade video games, including Bally, Coleco and Atari have reported profits far less than anticipated.
In fact, Atari, owned by Warner Communications Inc., is moving its video game manufacturing plant overseas to save production costs.
The story went on to cite the expense of the units, about $2,500 to $5,000 for the advanced laser disc machines. That is 10,000 quarters before the machine is paid off.
The hot new game was the expensive but technically advanced Dragon’s Lair. But the downside was it cost 50 cents to play. If you never played, a sappy looking knight named Dirk the Daring must search the castle to rescue Princess Daphne from the Dragon. The game was new because there were 38 possible situations requiring up to 200 decisions depending on the player’s choices. The new laser disc technology contained 22 minutes of animation and cost $1 million to produce. A complete game took about 6 minutes of playing time.
I’ll wait for the pinball machine.
Photos were by Wayne Nicholls