In just a few years’ time Arcade1Up has managed to make a name for itself with a collection of DIY, IKEA-like arcade cabinets perfect for retro gaming collectors with limited space. The company is now targeting board game fans too with its new Infinity Game Table that lets players crowd around a giant touchscreen to play digitised versions of popular game night staples like Monopoly, Scrabble, and Yahtzee.
The Infinity Game Table isn’t the first attempt to marry classic board games with modern technology. Once board games started appearing on single user devices like smartphones and tablets, moving that digital experience to a larger screen to accommodate multiple players at the same time became the next logical step. Even with robust chat solutions and online multiplayer, board games are most enjoyable when you’re sitting next to an opponent and can trash talk them in real life.
The challenges with these big screen digital board game solutions are that they’re usually expensive, and often created by a small startup with no guarantee that the company will still be around in a year’s time, supporting their product. That often also complicates their ability to get actual games onto the table, as publishers don’t necessarily want their board games associated with a company that might not make it.
That’s what makes the Infinity Game Table different. It’s not only got a well-established company behind it that’s been successfully churning out video game hardware for a few years now, but also one that’s experienced with licensing titles. For the Infinity Game Table, Arcade1Up has partnered with several board game publishers, including Hasbro, which means at launch it will ship with close to 50 games, including iconic titles like Monopoly, Battleship, Operation, Trouble, Sorry, Candyland, Hungry Hippos, and Trivial Pursuit, as well as popular games from smaller publishers like Ticket to Ride and Pandemic.
The Infinity Game Table will also include several single-player games and activities including Solitaire, colouring books, chess, and checkers that can be played against a computer, and even digital puzzles that guarantee you’ll never end up losing a single piece. You also don’t necessarily have to use the screen as a standalone table. The metal legs are easily removable so the Infinity Game Table can be placed on the floor, or on a larger dining room table. If you end up playing where a power outlet isn’t easily accessible, a battery will also be available for $US79 ($110) that provides anywhere between three to five hours of playtime depending on how processor intensive the game itself is.
Having the virtual game board and each player’s accessories (like tokens, cards, or tiles) on a single shared screen does pose some unique gameplay challenges. Letting another player see your Scrabble letter tiles, for example, could put you at a disadvantage, so the Infinity Game Table will include several solutions when privacy is required, such as the ability to leave tiles flipped over until a player’s hand is physically covering their tile rack, or physical privacy barriers that can be placed directly on the screen. Arcade1Up is also planning a potential second-screen solution where the Infinity Game Table works alongside each player’s smartphone or tablet to display sensitive game play items.
But moving all of the gameplay onto a giant shared touchscreen also has some advantages. At the start of a game players (up to six will be allowed, depending on the game) register their location around the screen, and as play progresses the game board automatically rotates to face whomever’s turn is next. The table also has built-in rumble features to add extra impact to animations and in-game effects, such as when a destroyer in Battleship takes a hit.
The Infinity Game Table runs on Android and in addition to the large number of games included out of the box, Arcade1Up will operate a private and curated online store allowing new board games to be purchased if the included lineup starts to get boring — and not necessarily just A-list titles. The company is encouraging smaller developers to reach out as well to contribute to the Infinity, given how smaller companies have become so dominant in the board game industry.
In a time when most of us are stuck at home and responsibly social distancing, built-in Wi-Fi also allows the table to remotely connect to other tables for online multiplayer, so board game night can continue, even if your friends aren’t able to actually come over.
But that’s assuming all of your friends are willing to spend $700 for the 24-inch version of the Infinity Game Table, or $981 for the 32-inch version, which both feature 1080p resolutions. It’s a lot of money to spend for games that are probably already piled up in a basement closet, but that’s also part of the appeal of this thing. It comes with a virtual closet full of games that are automatically setup and ready to play in just seconds, and there’ll never be a missing piece.
Arcade1Up is going the crowdfunding route for the Infinity Game Table, and early Kickstarter backers will also receive Days of Wonder’s Ticket to Ride, and Z-Man Games’ Pandemic included for free along with the Hasbro lineup. There’s always a risk with any crowdfunded product that unforeseen manufacturing and production hiccups could delay delivery, or as we’ve seen in many cases, result in a product never seeing the light of day. But Arcade1Up already has a proven track record with its arcade cabinets, and presumably already understands the ins and outs of successfully getting products into consumers’ hands.