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The Ultracade is a commercial multi-game arcade unit that plays classic games using emulation. Unlike other solutions (MAME cabinet, etc), the Ultracade is 100 percent legal, and can be used "on location" to make money. There are several other similar units that come with licensed games, (but those licenses do not extend to commercial use).

The Ultracade comes in an upright dedicated cabinet with a 27" monitor. This is a standard black modern day generic cabinet with a large "Ultracade" sticker used as sideart. The control panel features two 8-Way joysticks and 12 buttons in the standard Streetfighter 2 configuration.

Inside the Ultracade is a custom "Graphite" PC that runs a custom operating system, a nice front end, and the emulators that play the games themselves. It has been rumored (and it is very likely), that the Ultracade people did not write their own emulator, but merely ported MAME to their own operating system. This rumor is backed up by the fact that every Ultracade game is supported by MAME.

The Ultracade ships with 16 games pre-installed. The owner can then set the game to play any 8 of those titles at once. The front end can only show 8 at a time, but I am not sure if this was to keep the player interface clean, or if it was a ploy to sell more Ultracade units. Either way, the operator picks 8 games (which he can change at any time in the setup menu), and then the players can select from those 8. The player menu adapts itself to what is popular, and moves the biggest money makers to the top of the list, while the games no one plays will fall to the bottom.

Titles that ship with the Ultracade

You can purchase more games for your Ultracade unit in the form of game packs. These come on CD-ROM and each one comes with about 8 games. They are currently priced at $249 USD (yipes). There are 8 different game packs available. Check the Ultracade website for exact details (www.ultracade.com). There are 8 different game packs available.

The new games are installed by putting the CD-ROM into the computer, and accessing the setup menu (I believe they are custom made for your machines serial number, which makes copying useless).

Titles available for an additional charge

Now for my own personal opinion on all this. I think this is a great commercial product, but it is far too expensive (and crippled) for home use. These machines are priced at $2999 (USD) as of the time of this writing. That is a hefty price tag for a home game. But this is one of the best money makers you can buy to put out in the real world. It will pay for itself in a year in any decent location. Most of the gamepacks are not worth buying (remember you can only display 8 games at a time), except for the Midway/Williams one (which has Robotron 2084, Defender, and several other must have games). My suggested selection for maximum earnings is Robotron 2084, Asteroids, Defender, Joust, 1942, Ghouls n Ghosts, Strider, and Commando. That configuration only uses the pre-installed games and the Midway/Williams pack.

Update

The latest Ultracade units that I have encountered supported selecting all installed games from the menu, not just 8 of them. The company has unfortunately gone out of business, so there will be no more Ultracade units shipped.

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