- Sometimes unfairly ignored (partly because it lacks a public RSS feed!), Alex Kierkegaard's Insomnia.ac blends reviews of new Japanese arcade machines with direct, sometimes caustic editorials on a variety of gaming subjects, and Alex pinged me to point out his relatively recent editorial on 'Arcade Culture', which starts out with a Baudrillard quote and spirals rapidly off from there.

Now, remember, Alex lives in Japan, where the arcade scene is still putting out a fair amount of new titles, and his opening gambit is provocative, to say the least: "The starting point of this essay then -- and make of it what you will -- is the observation that games released in the arcades are of a much higher quality, on average, than games released for the home console market."

He continues: "In other words, if you decided to walk into an arcade today blindfolded, and spend the evening playing the first game you bumped into (having taken off the blindfold first, yeah), chances are you'd have a lot more fun than if you spent the same amount of time playing something picked at random off the shelves of your local game retailer."

Even if he does needlessly trash the rest of the game biz, Kierkegaard's slightly crazed views seem almost Utopian: "So this is how the arcades work: a highly competitive and transparent environment, experienced players, no magazines, no clueless reviewers, practically non-existent marketing budgets -- and what do you get? Good games and players who are capable of appreciating them."

Well, here's the problem, in my view - a lot of new arcade games, particularly Japanese fighting games and shooters, are tuned for the ultra-hardcore gamer. The game developers and distributors are interested in extracting tens of dollars each from a few punters, not a couple of bucks each from lots of punters. This means that the arcade scene is, and will remain, gloriously insular. So it's a niche of a niche - albeit one that produces some genuinely interesting and complex gameplay. But that doesn't make it any better than casual DS games or XBLA titles or, say, Halo 3 - just different.