For the newcomer to arcade game collecting, the shear amount of technobabble can be a bit overwhelming at times coming from the mouths of veteran hobbyists. One of the more basic sets of terminologies one will hear, are the descriptions of different arcade game cabinet styles. The traditional arcade game cabinet was really an evolution from years of electro-mechanical game manufacturing, and other various influences of vending machines. Despite various attempts from some manufactures to create much more artistically pleasing cabinets, it is important to remember there are devices designed for commercial usage. Each design type had a specific commercial “fate” or was designed around a need to hopefully allow the operator purchasing them originally to make a profit from that target audience. As with all collectable fields, you will find from time-to-time examples that do not fit into one specific lexicon or category but overlap or are their “own thing”.
In the price guide portion of this book, you will find the listing for each know production type for a particular title of game. This does not include prototype machines, outside of the USA releases, or factory one offs. Some cabinet styles were made in very small numbers for some game titles, and as future editions (hopefully) manifest themselves any new information will be included in those updated editions.
The standard and most produced style of arcade game cabinet. Upright cabinets generally will be somewhere between 5-6 feet tall and about 2-2 ½ feet wide, generally weighting around 250 pounds. Control panels can vary in size and control layout, but usually hold no more than the capacity for up to four players. Monitor sizes usually range in the 19–25-inch size, and most cabinets will have a traditional layout consisting of coin mechanics on the bottom font, a lighted marquee on the top front of the cabinet, and an access door for maintenance on the back of the machine.
From Left to Right, An Asteroids Deluxe Upright, Cabaret, and Cocktail Cabinet (Atari, Circa 1980)
Cabaret or Mini Cabinet
Cabaret cabinets (or sometimes called Minis) are small upright cabinets designed to fit where full-sized arcade games could not fit easily. Often these cabinets contain different art elements, smaller monitors (to accommodate for their smaller size) and where often produced in much lower numbers than their full-size upright siblings. Not all manufactures made cabaret cabinets, and not all titles were available from those companies were made into cabaret cabinets. Cabaret cabinet production was mostly though roughly 1979-1984 with a few exceptions post 1984. Cabaret style cabinets are highly sought after by collectors and often are considered to be more valuable when compared to the full-size version of the same game title.
A table like arcade cabinet, allowing players to sit usually across from each other (but in some cases, next to each other) and play head-to-head. These cabinets were designed with restaurant patrons in mind, and were commonplace in the USA during the early 1980’s. Much like cabaret cabinets, not all manufactures made cocktail cabinets and not all titles were made available in this format. Despite this, most cocktail versions of games are slightly more common than the cabaret versions (if both styles were made available) with some cocktail cabinet titles having production numbers almost as plentiful as their upright versions (Pac-Man, Ms. Pac-Man). Cocktail cabinets will usually have minimal artwork when compared to the upright version of the game, will have a large top surface made of glass, and sometimes a smaller monitor. Some manufactures designed the game cabinet legs to adjust the cabinet to a higher or lower position. On average cocktail machines tend to be less valued by collectors and tend to fetch lower prices on the collector market with a few exceptions.
Trimline/Standing Cocktail Cabinet
Essentially a taller cocktail cabinet, intended to allow players to stand overtop of the game and play. Sega used the term “Trimline” for a series of standing cabinets which were mostly marketed outside the USA. Some manufactures offered optional platforms to allow cocktail cabinets to stand higher to eliminate the need for benches or stools for players.
Designed to sit on a bar top and allow casual gameplay from patrons. Arcade game titles from the original arcade manufacture’s factory are rare in this format with a few exceptions. Bartop cabinets are more common for touch screen games, casual betting devices (non pay-out casino style games), trivia games, and modern emulation multigame systems. (Left: Nintendo’s Playchoice Countertop, Circa 1988)
Somewhat of a catch-all description of a larger or more feature rich than a standard upright style cabinet. The video screen could be larger, there could be a special interactive control, control for more players at once, or specially build cabinet of an already established title for a special purpose or venue.
A term generally applied to post 1990 cabinets with large monitor screens semidetached from the control panel. These cabinets were popular with one-on-one fighting and gun shooting style game kits. These game cabinets were often not game specific but designed to house conversion kits with a few exceptions. (Right: Atari's Showcase "33" Cabinet Atari Games, 1993)
Any number of varieties of game cabinets which allowed the player to sit down in an environment intended to immerse the player into the gaming experience. Usually attempts to mimic the environment of a racecar or airplane, since this style of game cabinet is common with racing and airplane combat games. Usually large in size and produced in much lower numbers than compared to the upright cabinet style games of the same title. (Left: Mylstar’s M.A.C.H. 3 Cockpit Cabinet, Circa 1983)
Somewhat of a subset of the cockpit style game cabinet, the main difference being the simulation of the environment compared to sitting down in a faux car or airplane cabinet. The cabinet essentially surrounds the player to allow an enclosed experience but is not necessarily attempting to portray a specific vehicle or craft with the environment. Player can be sitting or standing depending on the particulars of the cabinet design. (Right: Bally-Midway’s Discs of Tron Environmental Cabinet, Circa 1984)
Cabinet style rare all over the world but even more so in the USA, these cabinets were designed to be installed directly into the wall. Not to be confused with non-video game “Wall Games” from the 1960’s and 70’s. (Right: European Phoenix Wall Mounted Cabinet, Manufacturer Unknown)
Left to Right: Sega's Standard Motorized Cabinet, The Deluxe, and a Standard Upright (Sega, 1986)
Normally a sit-down style cabinet which moves with the player’s controls. Some
cabinets will use advanced hydraulics to create an experience close to that of an amusement park ride. These games are commonly based around driving or aerial themed game titles. Cabinets will often be large and very heavy and were mostly made in very limited numbers due to their original expense. Motorized cabinets are often festooned with elaborate lighting and cabinet designs and can be difficult to keep running properly.
Despite these mentioned general categories, there will still be unique arcade game cabinets that don’t quite fall into any of the above categories at all. The unique traits of these games will be briefly described in the price guide section when deemed necessary or meaningful. These unique cabinets could include games with multiple monitors, multiple sides, unique cabinet structures, unique materials, experimental technology, or hybrid games. Some cabinets styles were manufactured exclusively for specific company franchises, stores, arcades, or movie theatres as well. (Right: Bally-Midway’s Video Game Pinball Hybrid Baby Pac-Man, Circa 1982)