Gaming has significantly changed over the years — what started out with two digital paddles and a pixel ball has evolved into a billion-dollar industry.
One of the biggest changes the industry has seen is the shift from gaming at an arcade to gaming in our living rooms. This one change drastically reshaped the future of the medium, simultaneously introducing us to hundreds of new titles while causing others to fade into obscurity. One arcade game earned a cult-like following in the early 2000s, pulling in crowds at local arcades around the world, but has seemly slipped off the radar over the past years.
That game is Dance Dance Revolution.
From Everything To Nothing
A few decades ago, it was impossible to walk through an arcade without seeing a circular crowd form around a Dance Dance Revolution stage. A frenetic dancing game that required quick reflexes more so than actual dancing prowess, DDR was the crown jewel of arcades. It wasn’t uncommon to see the same group of people playing the game every Saturday and Sunday — DDR had the most dedicated fans of any game around. Even casual players wanted in on the action, and thanks to various difficulty settings, they were more than welcome to partake in the fun.
It was truly the golden age for Dance Dance Revolution. The series released a new version nearly every year up until 2010. Around that time, Just Dance was released by Ubisoft. While the game was poorly reviewed, it wound up being a commercial success, selling more than 4 million copies.
Did Just Dance kill DDR?
While Just Dance may not have pulled the trigger, it certainly loaded the gun. Casual fans were likely drawn away from DDR and toward Just Dance for two reasons — privacy and accessibility. Many casual fans of DDR probably enjoyed the rhythm-based gameplay it had to offer, but felt embarrassed or nervous playing in public. After you watch some youngster rip through Paranoia Survivor Max on the highest difficulty, some people might be a bit hesitant to step on the stage and follow that act. It was also much easier to load up Just Dance on the Wii than it was to drive to an arcade.
No, Just Dance isn’t the true culprit. The disappearance of DDR can be tied almost directly to the death of the arcade. While home-based spinoffs tried their best to capture the magic of playing in the arcade, dancing on a plastic mat in your basement just wasn’t same. As arcades across America started to rapidly vanish, so too did the fervor for DDR.
Gone, But Not Forgotten
Although DDR-mania has passed, the game still has a passionate following. In fact, DDR A20 — the latest installment in the franchise — was released earlier this year. Specifically, Japan has helped keep the game alive, as arcades are a much bigger deal in that country than they are in most western locales. Tournaments are held around the world, and players can keep up with breaking news on websites such as DDRCommunity and the dedicated DDR subreddit.
While DDR will never reach the level of popularity it did decades ago, it’s great to see that its spirit lives on.
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