Welcome to part 2 of the chronicles of my journey to build my very own cocktail arcade cabinet. Now that we know how I decided on a cabinet it’s time to talk about the cabinet itself. It turns out there are more options for getting a cocktail arcade cabinet than I expected. Then once you pick one there’s a whole other set of decisions to make.
Option one, the most obvious way to get a cocktail cabinet is to find an old one and refurbish it. Since I want one that plays multiple games that would require gutting it. The monitor and controllers would work fine if they were in good enough shape (assuming it had buttons, Pac-Man and Ms. Pac-Man didn’t have anything but player one and player two buttons). Even then you end up having to drill new holes at the very least. It would have a true classic look and feel. The problem is they’re not that easy to find and they can be expensive. Plus with 30+ year old monitors it’s a bit of a hit or miss and you could still end up with having to buy a new arcade monitor (arcade CRT’s are not cheap) or replacing it with a flat screen. It’s definitely the most authentic way to go but it takes time and probably costs more.
The next option is to actually build your own cabinet. There are a lot of ways to do it, I’ve seen people take existing tables and build a topper to go on them, some people build them from the ground up from their own design. The results range from incredible to “is it supposed to look like that?”. The big problem here is, I have no ability to build something like this from scratch and I want it to have a classic look. Basically there’s just no way I could pull that off.
The most accessible and easy way to get the cabinet is to buy a new empty one. There are several companies that make new cabinets. Most of these are assemble yourself furniture and they have a wide variety of looks. After doing all the research on new cabinets I decided on a couple of must haves, 4 players and it had to be wood grained. There are a few options out there that add controllers to the side of the cabinet, eventually I went with the Rec Room Masters Xtension 4 Player Cocktail Cabinet. After reading reviews and watching a few assembly videos it seemed to be reasonably priced, high quality and have easy assembly. It supports up to a 23″ monitor and it comes both with pre-drilled controller panels and blank ones so I can play around with the design if I want (I also emailed them and they said they would throw in a couple of extra blank panels in case I screw something up). My cabinet will ship on July 11th, so I’ll have it shortly after my birthday, which should work out perfect.
Rec Room Masters will also do a custom underlay for the cabinet for $30. If you want them to design it for you it’s an extra $30. Being the almost competent Photoshop user that I am I decided to make my own. This, of course required many hours of looking at video game cabinet art. It’s not as easy as you might think to find high res images suitable for printing on something as large as the underlay will be. Once I found the images it required another several hours of trimming and cropping and careful placement. The fact that I kept changing my mind didn’t speed the process up. I’m pretty happy with the end result though and can’t wait to see it on the cabinet.