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September 30, 2009 7:05 AM   Subscribe

Looking for some historical information on Dragon's Lair, the arcade game.

1.) What was the cost in 1983 dollars of a Dragon's Lair cabinet, compared to a standard game?

1a.) If you know the answer, is there anywhere that you can cite this information from?

2.) Is there any way I can find sales information on the game? How many cabinets shipped?

3.) Wikipedia says: "The original laserdisc players shipped with the game (Pioneer LD-V1000 or PR-7820) often failed. Although the players were of good quality, the game imposed unusually high strain: Laserdisc players were designed primarily for playing movies, in which the laser assembly would gradually move across the disc as the data was read linearly. However Dragon's Lair required seeking different animation sequences on the disc every few seconds as dictated by gameplay. The high amount of seeking, coupled with the length of time the unit was required to operate, could result in failure of the laserdisc player after a relatively short time. This was compounded by the game's popularity. As a result, the laserdisc player often had to be repaired or replaced." There is no citation for this. Can anyone cite this info?

4.) Why was there such a long delay between the release of the first and second dragon's lair games?
posted by orville sash to Sports, Hobbies, & Recreation (18 answers total) 3 users marked this as a favorite
What kind of research have you done already? I'd hate to tell you to talk to an academic librarian, only to find that you've already done that.

1.) You ought to be able to find a library with 1983 copies of Amusement Business magazine. It's a place to start, anyway.

3.) No citation, but here's some anecdotal data: I spent a lot of time in arcades in the '80s, and I saw quite a few out-of-order Dragon's Lair machines.
posted by box at 7:10 AM on September 30, 2009

1) At my arcade it was 50 cents. I remember it because it was the first 50 cent game I played and it was a big decision, but I don't have an information source to cite (1a).
posted by sharkfu at 7:12 AM on September 30, 2009

I've mostly done online research. I'm heading to the library for this one today, but I was hoping I could get some quick help from the MeFites before I did.
posted by orville sash at 7:13 AM on September 30, 2009

And to clarify: For questions #1, I meant the cost of purchasing the game, not the cost to play.
posted by orville sash at 7:16 AM on September 30, 2009

orville sash: "And to clarify: For questions #1, I meant the cost of purchasing the game, not the cost to play."

Ah, sorry. Missed the cabinet part.
posted by sharkfu at 7:36 AM on September 30, 2009

Have you tried asking on this forum devoted to the game?

KLOV's page for Dragon's Lair contains links to the brochures and manuals.

The reason for the delay is because the game was hardly a success. It was expensive to play ($1.00 when everything else was $0.25), gameplay was poor because it wasn't really a game, more of an interactive movie with lousy response time, and because while the game was often used in attract mode to draw kids into the arcade, the quality problem meant it was turned off more than arcade operators were happy with.

The delay between I and II was probably due to the release of Space Ace, another Disney laserdisc game, in the intervening time.
posted by Pastabagel at 7:41 AM on September 30, 2009

You can see some of the promotional flyers sent to arcade operators here. No price information (you can assume it was thousands of dollars), but you see how these kinds of games were sold to operators back then.
posted by Pastabagel at 7:48 AM on September 30, 2009

Here is what the angry video game nerd thought of the NES version.
posted by Mastercheddaar at 7:50 AM on September 30, 2009

Why was there such a long delay between the release of the first and second dragon's lair games?

The Video Game Explosion (Greenwood, 2008) reports it was shelved due to a crash in arcade profits in 1984, and that interest in laserdisc games had waned due to improvements in more reliable graphics technologies by the time a recovery started.

Sounds like it was a hard sell.
posted by ryanshepard at 8:07 AM on September 30, 2009

Sorry - looks like the Google Books links aren't working. The first link should point to pg. 139, the second to pg. 101. Both are available via the preview.
posted by ryanshepard at 8:11 AM on September 30, 2009

One of the people who worked on the video for the game is a member here. Maybe he'll pipe-up.
posted by Good Brain at 8:28 AM on September 30, 2009

From the 11/30/83 Washington Post ("Lasers in the Arcade; Video Games Come of Age With the Latest Technology", pg. B1)

"Worse yet, although the play-life of the new laser games is no longer than the predisc kind (18 to 24 months is normal), they are nearly twice as expensive: "We're riding on a horse we can't get off of," says [Andrew] Loewinger. Keeping clientele means keeping up with technology, and "we end up putting all our money back into machines." Your average Pac-Man rig will run about $2,300, whereas Dragon's Lair costs around $4,000 ...

Loewinger worked for National Coin Machine, a DC-area firm that sold video games to arcades.
posted by ryanshepard at 9:01 AM on September 30, 2009

Wow. Good work. Thanks everyone for all your help!
posted by orville sash at 9:04 AM on September 30, 2009

From the 8/8/83 Entertainment ("Mini-Movies Make the Scene", pg. 79)

"Dragon's Lair is the brainchild of California computer consultant Rick Dyer, 29, who turned to Don Bluth, a veteran animator who broke from Disney Studios in 1979, to create the cartoon narrative. Bluth invested $1.2 million to join Dyer as a partner along with a nearly bankrupt video-game manufacturer, Cinematronics. So far 7,500 games have been ordered by arcades at $4,000 each ..."
posted by ryanshepard at 9:07 AM on September 30, 2009

Pastabagel, Dragon's Lair and Space Ace were not affiliated with Disney. The animation was done by Don Bluth Studios, creators of the animated films The Secret of NIMH, An American Tail and The Land Before Time.
posted by Matt Arnold at 9:09 AM on September 30, 2009

New York Times, 1/20/84 ("Video Arcades' New Hope", pg. D1)

"Manufacturers and arcade owners, like movie studios, also pray for box-office hits. The best-selling arcade game in history, Ms. Pac-Man, sold more than 100,000 machines. Dragon's Lair sold about 8,500. Laser disk games, such as Dragon's Lair, cost operators about $4,000, while ordinary games such as Ms. Pac-Man sell for about $2,500."
posted by ryanshepard at 9:12 AM on September 30, 2009

You'll find lots more info scattered throughout this article. Doing the math, it looks like about 11,000 cabinets were sold.
posted by shinybeast at 9:20 AM on September 30, 2009

The reason for the delay is because the game was hardly a success.

Actually, it sounds like it generated a lot of money for arcades at a time when the market had started to slump:

"[Dragon's Lair] has been such a hit - grossing $14-million (U.S.) since [it's] debut in July - that Coleco Industries Inc. of Hartford, Conn., recently paid a eported $2-million (U.S.) for his home video game rights." - Globe and Mail, 11/11/83

"Dragon's Lair ... created a sensation when it was introduced last month. Arcade operators say the lines at the machines have been long, even though Dragon's Lair is the first game to cost 50 cents a play. "Sales are up so far that filling sales orders is just impossible right now," said Tom Campbell, marketing director for the game's manufacturer, Cinematronics of El Cajon, Calif." - Associated Press, 8/19/83

"Video games had begun to outgross movies, and when Bluth got an offer to produce one, he couldn't refuse. Nor, suddenly, could the public: Dragon's Lair, released in July, is already No. 1 on Video Games magazine's top-earner list, outdrawing even Atari's coin-gobbling but unlaserized Star Wars." - Washington Post, 11/30/83

Looks like market factors and changes in technology were to blame.
posted by ryanshepard at 9:26 AM on September 30, 2009

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