Periscope (arcade game)
Arcade flyer for Sega's version of Periscope.
|Developer(s)||Nakamura Manufacturing Co.|
March 1968 (Sega, single-player version)
Periscope[a] is an electromechanical shooting gallery arcade game. Two different companies independently developed and released the game: Nakamura Manufacturing Co. (initially as Torpedo Launcher) and Sega Enterprises, Ltd. Masaya Nakamura claims it to be the first arcade game he built, with his company claiming a release in Japan as early as 1965. Sega's version of Periscope is the company's first produced arcade game, released in Japan in 1966.
Periscope popularized the US$0.25 cost per play of arcade games in the United States. Its success surprised Sega, leading to Sega's further manufacture of eight to ten new arcade games a year for the next few years. Periscope performed well in locations that would not have normally hosted coin-operated machines at the time, such as malls and department stores. The game's success has been referred to as a turning point in the industry.
Periscope is a shooting gallery game, simulating a submarine attacking warships. It is designed with a backdrop representing the ocean, upon which cardboard cutouts of ships hanging from chains are moved horizontally. Players look through a periscope to direct and fire torpedoes, which are represented by lines of colored lights and by electronic sound effects. Each play has five torpedoes that can be launched. One cabinet model supports up to three players and one supports one player.
In a 1977 interview, Masaya Nakamura of Nakamura Manufacturing Co., later known as Namco, claimed that Periscope is the first amusement device that he built. Namco states that its Japanese release of the game was in 1965. Initially known as Torpedo Launcher, the game is featured as Periscope in the April 1967 issue of Cashbox, with Nakamura offering direct import assistance to distributors. It has been speculated that the original version built by Namco may have been a custom model for department store rooftops, a year prior to the mass-produced model. It has also been speculated that Namco may have licensed the game to Sega; Nakamura stated that he did sell some of his games to competitors.
According to former Sega CEO David Rosen, poor conditions in the US coin-op manufacturing market prompted the company's development of electromechanical games. His company, Rosen Enterprises, had just merged with Nihon Goraku Bussan to form Sega Enterprises, Ltd. the previous year, and both companies had engineers on staff. Rosen sketched out the design of Periscope personally. Released in 1966, Sega's original release of the game is a three-player cabinet. Its original price per play of ¥30 is twice the price of earlier games. As the latest in the well-received genre of torpedo shooter games, Sega demonstrated it alongside such competition as slot machines, slot racing games, and pinball games at the 23rd London Amusement Trades Exhibition (A.T.E.) show in December and at the Hotel Equipment Exhibition in Paris in October 1967. The popular three-player cabinet drew in Fr500 (approximately US$100 then and equivalent to $811 in 2019) per day at the Paris show, which was sparsely attended.
At the time, Periscope's large cabinet was cost-prohibitive for international export, but its popularity among distributors flying in to see the game prompted Sega to develop a smaller model for the worldwide market.
Prototype location testing of a new, smaller single-player version of Periscope occurred in Asia and Europe, and distributors were still enthusiastic about its performance, according to Rosen. In full production by March 1968 and distributed internationally, the smaller single-player cabinet measures 6 feet (1.8 m) deep and more than 4 feet (1.2 m) wide, which is still larger and heavier than most games of the time. Furthermore, Japan's high export tax made it more expensive than most coin-op games at the time, costing distributors US$1,295 (equivalent to $10,506 in 2019) per single-player cabinet while the average game cost $695-795. Enthusiastic distributors complained of the expensive but popular machine's overall low profit, so Sega suggested charging a premium price of 25 cents per play (equivalent to $2 in 2019).
Reception and legacy
Periscope became a surprise success for Sega. It performed well in larger locations such as malls and department stores, which normally did not host coin-operated arcade games, but became a preferred location due to the machine's size and impracticality at a streetside location. As a result of Periscope's success, Sega created between eight and ten games a year for the next two years, and exported all of them.
The game was successful in Japan, and then in the US and Europe. The game's success helped to set the trend of a quarter dollar coin per play for premium games, which became the US market standard for all arcade games since then. According to Rosen, "If you talk to the old timers in the industry, they will tell you that The Periscope was a turning point in the industry." He said Periscope showed Sega it "could design acceptable games" and prompted the company's business of designing and exporting original games, including to the United States. Sega upgraded its subsequent game development to utilize the latest technology, with Rosen mentioning, "We were doing lots of things that hadn't been done before, like adding sound and special effects." Periscope also sparked competition from traditional Chicago arcade manufacturers. The success of Periscope led to American distributors turning to Japan for new arcade games, which in turn encouraged competition from Chicago manufacturers. The game's periscope viewer cabinet design was later adopted by several arcade video games, including Midway's Sea Wolf (1976) and Atari's Battlezone (1980).
Retrospectively, Ken Horowitz praised Periscope's impressive features for its time and points out its importance in Sega's history. According to Horowitz, "Large, bulky, and loud, it was an amazing sight to behold for the first time. Periscope attracted a great deal of attention from customers, but it also made waves with distributors, and it was incredibly successful for Sega. It may not be widely discussed today, but most Sega fans are aware of Periscope and the role it played in Sega's history." Luke Plunkett of Kotaku stated that Periscope "set Sega on a path of electronic arcade gaming it's still on to this day". According to Eddie Adlum, publisher of RePlay, "People came into these arcades just to play that game. I would say that in my time, Periscope is one of the great successful novelty machines."
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