Looking back 20 years ago to 1990, a video game company by the name of SNK teamed up with ALPHA DENSHI (ADK) to develop a video game console. That console was made for arcades, yet at the same time was completely compatible for home use. It was called the “NEOGEO,” meaning “new land,” and owns a significant chapter in the annals of 1990s video game history.
This article was written to commemorate the mighty NEOGEO’s 20th anniversary, and also to reflect on the impact and success it has garnered through the years.
First of all, in order to distinguish between arcade and home consoles, I’d like to touch a bit on the Multi Video System (MVS).
Just as the name suggests, the MVS is capable of holding 6 ROM cartridges at once, and players are able to select any one of those 6 games to play. This was relatively uncommon back then (as most would eventually hold 4 ROM cartridges).
The MVS offered all kinds of features, but two of the most important features to shop owners were its “low cost” and “compact size.”
A typical arcade machine back then would cost about 200,000 yen, but ROM cartridges for the NEOGEO were available for quite a bargain at tens of thousands yen each. This dramatic difference in price was a big deal to small business owners. And being able to put multiple cartridges in a single machine was also very popular with such owners, as it eliminated the need to take up space with a lot of bulky machines.
Due to its size advantage, the MVS was not limited to video arcades, as it began to pop up in many bookstores, candy shops, and supermarkets as well. The diverse selection of titles and space-saving merits offered by the MVS not only lead to successful sales, but also played a significant role in garnering strong support for lease development. This greatly reduced the financial risks associated with installing game machines, and eliminated some of the hurdles posed to operators by the required mechanical knowledge. In this manner, the MVS’s roots were firmly planted throughout the country.
The “small arcades” deeply rooted in every corner of Japan began to grow more popular, primarily with the younger crowd. This was not only a commercial success, but contributed to the overall growth of the arcade industry.