Recently, my May 2021 issue of Gentlemen’s Quarterly magazine arrived. I don’t subscribe to GQ magazine. The mailing label on it said “Welcome to GQ” with my full name. My wife had brought the mail in. She was wondering who the target demographic was for a magazine which seemed to be about 50% pictures of Justin Bieber with his shirt off and why I was receiving it. I genuinely don’t know why I got it. I hope I just got a free issue because I was scraped by some mailing list instead of accidentally subscribing to a fashion magazine.
I am probably in the target demographic for GQ in that it’s an aspirational magazine. Reading GQ is an indication or self-projection of status in and of itself. But being in the target demographic for weaponized marketing doesn’t mean that you choose to participate in it. I started reading the magazine for fun before bed last night as an artifact from a culture that I just don’t get exposed to.
I read a profile of actor Delroy Lindo and remembered how much I like the movie Romeo Must Die even though that movie isn’t mentioned in the profile. In full disclosure (and to make sure you don’t think I’m claiming to be immune to aspirational marketing), I think the dark pinstripe suit and purple scarf combo absolutely looks sweet as hell.
I also read a shorter profile of the “Men’s Artistic Director” for Hermès. Hermès is a fashion label that I’m aware of in the same way I know that Rolex is a watch brand that is fancy and expensive. Unlike the piece on Delroy Lindo which was genuinely interesting and gave me perspective on a set of experiences that I don’t have, this Hermès profile is brand building and advertising.
Here’s the line that caught my attention:
Arguably, the vogue for expanding a fashion brand into what is often called a lifestyle brand began with Hermès. Those Supreme ashtrays and Saint Laurent marble arcade machines have a clear predecessor.
Wait, what marble arcade machines? I couldn’t go a full issue of GQ without thinking about nerd stuff! Turns out it’s these arcade machines. According to that click-bait article, the original MSRP was 2,500 € for the model with the checkerboard sticker sides. But you’re not going to buy that one when you’re here for luxury goods. You want the one with marble sides and a marble balltop for 22,500 €. As a reminder, the standard price is 825 €.
So we’re actually looking at a Pocket model made by French company Neo Legend. This “bartop” form-factor single-player cabinet actually sells for 825 €. The luxury cabinet from a few years back is based on a commodity 680-in-one unlicensed Pandora’s Box 4s board. Neo Legend doesn’t seem to run this hardware anymore, they seem to have either updated their line to a newer Pandora’s Box board, or have built a custom front-end for a MAME launcher. The thing that drove me the crazy is that the monitor is widescreen and the software doesn’t understand this, so all the 4:3 games are stretched, even in their YouTube marketing.
What did you get for your Luxury Gaming dollar or Euro? You get a pirate JAMMA board displaying games at the wrong aspect ratio on which you can’t play Street Fighter II against your friend because it’s only got single-player controls. They do seem to actually have “Japanese Controls” so I’m hoping you get either Sanwa or Semitsu sticks and buttons.
Unsurprisingly, the Saint Laurent arcade machine is status symbol gaming, not Luxury Gaming.
Looking at who else has Search Engine Optimized their website for the term “luxury arcade” generally gets you arcades that focus on food and impossibly expensive redemption prizes. I don’t know who will ever win an X-Box of any kind from Pinheads in greater Indianapolis, but they sure do have a “Luxury Arcade”.
Luxury is something that should feel extravagant and opulent to the user. Someone who has dedicated a space in a room with a beanbag chair and a CRT with an FPGA console has more claim to the term “Luxury Gaming” than Saint Laurent. Anyone with a SCUF controller, or a PS5, or a nice OLED TV has more claim to the word. New Old Stock SNES controllers are Luxury Gaming. After market-modified PSPs with OLED screens are a luxury. This HORI RAP4-N joystick I’m going to use to play Guilty Gear -STRIVE- tomorrow is more luxurious than that heavy chunk of marble.
Luxury gaming should provide an environment that is luxurious and uncompromised. I fundamentally believe that Luxury in games means that you have dedicated any space to the hobby with appropriate hardware. If you’re going to go for a retro or arcade setup, a luxury cabinet can certainly have excellent craftmanship and finish and materials. It should have superb ergonomics rather than a miniature put it on your kitchen counter form factor. It should also have a monitor that displays the games at the correct aspect ratio.