[The arcade game scene is still alive in North America, and Game Set Watch asked Arcade Heroes' Adam Pratt to write up a report on last weekend's ASI 2008 event in Las Vegas, revealing just where the arcade scene is heading, even after its reported Western demise.]

For the most part, the game industry events that get most of the attention focus on what is happening in console and PC gaming.

In fact, few - even within the industry, realize that there are conventions for other sectors, including coin-operated arcade games. Arcades actually have several conventions throughout the year worldwide, including ATEI in the UK, AOU in Japan and ASI, IAAPA and the AAMA Gala in the US.

This year’s ASI (Amusement Showcase International) event was held in Las Vegas between March 27-29th. Despite their overlooked status, there are still significant amounts of new arcade machines shown for Western distribution, among a large amount of other redemption and entertainment machines.

With that being said, the most anticipated arcade title for several years, Capcom’s Street Fighter 4, did not make an appearance at the show. But many other companies were there, to demonstrate that they too have something to offer to the 3000-plus arcades in the US.

Namco

While Namco's primary focus at ASI this year was redemption (or tickets for prizes) games, they did have a couple of video games set up at their booth including the popular racing title Maximum Tune 3, with four linked units; two Mario Kart GP2 units; a couple of Pac-Man/Ms. Pac-Man/Galaga combo cabinets (including a bar-top version); and two Rockin' Bowl-A-Rama cabinets.

While not in their booth, a game that Namco has some involvement with, Wacky Races (a Mario Kart style racer with characters from the popular retro cartoon) was also on the floor.

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Wacky Races

Namco was reserved when asked about future game releases, but when approached about the possibility of seeing Xbox Live Arcade critical favorite Pac-Man C.E. debut in arcades, they suggested that they are already discussing that idea - though there are no firm commitments.

However, the company's Tekken 6 was not at the show as it appears that the game is not to be released in arcade format in the U.S. - a major disappointment if correct.

Global VR

U.S. based arcade firm Global VR has been making waves in the Western arcade industry through continued support for non-Japanese markets, and their booth demonstrated that they are not backing down from that position.

The focus at the Global VR booth was on NASCAR Racing, with ten linked cabinets that included two deluxe motion-enabled versions of the game, and on the recently arcade version of Blazing Angels - which takes stands out from its console brother by featuring a sit-down cabinet and unique controls.

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Nascar Racing

Global VR also showed two America's Army arcade cabinets, two standard Paradise Lost cabinets (a light-gun shooter based on Far Cry Instincts) and a cocktail Global VR Global Arcade Classics (a multi-game system including officially licensed titles such as Mortal Kombat, Dragon's Lair and Defender).

There was however no information on upcoming releases from Global VR, such as the recently announced Need For Speed: Carbon.

Raw Thrills

Eugene Jarvis-headed developer Raw Thrills was also at the show, exhibiting games including Big Buck Hunter Pro, the new Big Buck Hunter Pro Online and Big Buck Safari.

Raw Thrills also demonstrated a new kit version of The Fast and The Furious Tokyo Drift, in an inexpensive add-on form made to fit into old Cruisin' USA, Cruisin' World and Rush 2049 cabinets.

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Big Buck Safari

Unfortunately, there were no revelations at the show what Raw Thrills is working on next - but the firm did state that there are about 4-5 development teams working on new projects for the company, making them possibly the largest Western arcade game developer.

Sega Amusements

Sega is having a rough time at the moment in the arcades - and this was demonstrated by the fact that they had a fairly small booth tucked away from the main section of the floor with only two video games to show off - Primeval Hunt (a cross between Big Buck Hunter and Jurassic Park that features a touch screen) and Sega RaceTV.

The firm also had a couple of crane games on show, but expectations had been high from some observers for Sega to show off some new games, such as the new Sega Rally apparently in the process of being location tested in the UK.

Trio-Tech

This Canadian outfit had a small booth, but one game that attracted a lot of attention. This was UFO Stomper, which uses two projectors to create an image on the floor that one or two players can interact with - offering a variety of interesting foot controlled mini-games.

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The Fast and the Furious: Tokyo Drift

iMOtion

This relatively new developer had an arcade motion cabinet set up. The iMOtion cabinet has an electric motor motion base and a cockpit cabinet design with a flight stick controller and flat-panel LCD that slides into place. Two games were loaded into the unit - a racing title and Panzer Elite Action.

iMOtion was also demonstrating a video of their new power boat motion game, which was reminiscent of Hydro Thunder.

Conclusion

Overall ASI was a positive show for the arcade biz, despite attendance being down slightly from previous years, and some notable more 'hardcore'-styled game absences from Japanese companies.

Most of the exhibitors were showing their newest developments - with a notable concentration on new machines from Western companies creating more culturally appropriate titles for American bars and casual arcade locations - and promising more to come.