Fans band together to help save Mikado, one of the purest shrines to old-school gaming left in Japan.

Even in the modern video game era, where home console specs have reached dizzying heights, there’s still something special about the sense of community that comes from visiting an arcade, grabbing the controls, and being able to look your human opponent in the eyes or high-five your co-op buddy. Luckily, you can still find arcades in Japan, and while some are owned by major game publishers like Sega and Taito, one of the best is the independent Mikado.

Located across the street from Takadanobaba Station in downtown Tokyo, Mikado has taken on legendary status as a haven for retro games in the fighting and shooting genres, and regularly hosts tournaments and competitions that bring crowds of competitors and spectators. Unfortunately, a non-essential business that relies on people spending time indoors in close proximity and taking turns touching the same joysticks and buttons isn’t exactly an attractive entertainment option during the coronavirus pandemic.

As a result, Mikado owner Minoru Ikeda says revenue has dropped by between 50 and 70 percent at the chain, which has a second branch in Tokyo’s Ikebukuro neighborhood. The timing is especially bad, because Mikado was already in the process of preparations to expand to a second Takadanobaba location and also to partner with regional entertainment centers in Hiroshima and Osaka in order to share its love of old-school coin-op gaming beyond Tokyo.

▼ Minoru Ikeda

As a small independent chain, Mikado can only hold out for so long under the current conditions. Ikeda says that at this rate, within a few months he’ll be forced to close the arcade for good, bringing a sad end to a storied chapter of video gaming history. So before it comes to that, he’s asking for Mikado’s loyal customers and game fans in general to help save the arcade with a campaign on Japanese crowdfunding website Campfire.

The campaign, which kicked off on Saturday, has 11 reward tiers, ranging from 500 to 1,000,000 yen (US$4.70-US$9,350). Rewards on the low end are messages of thanks, in both written and personalized video form, but at the 5,000-yen mark Mikado starts offering free plays of specific games at the arcade. Ikeda even sweetens the deals with discounts. For example, the standard price for arcade games in Japan is 100 yen, but a 5,000-yen reward tier offers 60 plays of Guilty Gear Xrd Rev 2, meaning 10 plays are on the house. Many tiers also offer entry of the backer’s choice to future Mikado-hosted tournaments.

▼ Mikado’s Ikebukuro branch

The project is seeking 20 million yen, which will also be used for renovations such as adding enclosed smoking booths to comply with Tokyo’s new anti-smoking ordinances. Or, more accurately, the campaign was seeking 20 million yen, as in less than two days it already shot past its goal and, as of this writing, has raised more than 25 million yen (US$233,650) from 2,329 backers.

Still, with the end of the coronavirus pandemic still a hazy point in the future, the campaign is continuing on for another 28 days.

“I realize this is a selfish request,” says Ikeda in the campaign announcement, “but for the future of arcade culture, and in order to see the smiles of our customers again once things get back to normal, I humbly ask for your support,” and if you’d like to help secure Mikado’s future, maybe so that you can one day hold your wedding reception there, the crowdfunding page can be found here.

Source: Campfire via Hachima Kiko
Images: Campfire
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Follow Casey on Twitter, where he dropped plenty of coins into Mikado’s Battle Gears 2 machine.