In the heyday of Ms. Pac Man in 1981, close to $7 billion worth of quarters were spent playing arcade video games, double the amount made by the music and movie industries combined, according to Mary Fujihara, marketing director for Atari Games Corp. Now the arcade games are making less than either industry. Last year, arcades made an estimated $2.1 billion, only a third of what they grossed in 1981. "It's still a multibillion-dollar industry, but the figures have dwindled to about 30 percent of what they were in '81," Fujihara said.
Staying fresh and one step ahead of the home video game industry has forced the arcades to liven up. At most establishments, Top 40 music can be heard between the zips and zaps of fast-paced games with laser lights. Some of the most popular games have even brought a new level of competition to the arcades, as the regulars can be seen hanging out at Cyberball or Street Fighter II, challenging any taker who happens by, monopolizing the game for hours.
PHOTO; CAPTION:1. GLOBE STAFF PHOTO/JANET KNOTT / Youths test their skills at Fun and Games in Framingham. Fewer people are visiting arcades, and it shows: Industry profits today are 30 percent of what they were in 1981.(COLOR) 2. GLOBE STAFF PHOTO/JANET KNOTT / A gigantic bug hovers over the players at the Fun and Games arcade in Framingham.