Our cocktail arcade cabinet build is finally completed. I’m very pleased with how everything came together. The quality of the cabinet ended up exceeding my expectations in every way I can think of. We learned many useful things along the way.
Some of the parts that we thought were going to be fast and easy turned out to be the most difficult and/or time-consuming. We thought applying the vinyl and cutting the plexiglas would be quick and easy, but those were probably the most time-consuming part of the whole build. We thought that slotting the boards and fitting them together would be difficult, but we easily had that all worked out on the first and second days.
Parts and Labor
The total cost of the materials for the shell, buttons, joysticks, and I-PAC4 was probably somewhere in the neighborhood of $500. I had to buy the LCD monitor; that was about $150 (beware of LCD computer monitors). I had all the rest of the guts on hand already.
The labor is difficult to summarize. The two of us probably clocked in somewhere near 40 hours each working on the build over the space of about two months. Quite a bit of that time was spent trying to figure things out, redoing things we did wrong, or just plain old screwing around. With all we’ve learned along the way, I bet we could build a better cabinet in half time.
Was it Worth the Effort?
It was absolutely worth the effort. I grew up playing lots of arcade games so just having the machine sitting in my office is enough to make me happy. The cabinet has been completed for almost a month now and very few days have gone by where somebody hasn’t played with it for at least fifteen minutes.
I’ve wanted to build an arcade cabinet for at least the last ten years. I’m very glad I did; playing games on an arcade cabinet just feels so much different from playing them on a television or computer. I’m not entirely sure how to quantify the experience, though…
It very much reminds me of the difference between watching movies on a nice LCD television versus watching movies on an LCD or DLP projector. My DLP projector is pretty old. It is only an SVGA projector, and the contrast ratio is certainly not the best but watching movies on it feels a lot more like you’re sitting in a movie theater.
If you’ve been thinking about building an arcade cabinet for a long time, my advice is to start building. It was easier to build than I expected it to be and it was worth every penny. I wish I built one ten years ago!
Is it Really Finished?
I don’t know if I will ever consider the project totally finished. I think there will always be small changes to be made. For now I’m going to leave it alone.
The Next Cabinets
We’re planning to build a small 16 inch tall bar top cabinet. We have an old 14” 700MHz laptop lying around that we plan to stuff inside. It isn’t fast enough to play “modern” games from the middle of the 1990s, but it plays the classic games just fine.
After that, we’d like to build a low profile upright cabinet. We’re thinking it will be about somewhere around 18 inches deep (not counting the control panel).