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Philippines’ Malls got it all

For most of the western world, the thought of a thriving arcade is nothing more than a fond memory to more experienced gamers and nothing more than just a tale told to the younger gamers. To some Tekken players, the existence of a thriving arcade scene is a legend of the “promised land” that supposedly exists in Korea and Japan. The thought of 6 to 10 Tekken machines filling every arcade is nothing less than a dream come true to many western Tekken players. Although it’s a very westernized country, this certainly isn’t the case in the Philippines. It doesn’t have 6 machines in every arcade, but it’s close enough.

While malls are very well known in western countries, with everyone having their specific mall that’s 1 to 15 miles away from them, the Philippines takes the mall experience to a whole different level. Within half a mile radius of my home near Manila, I have 4 malls and another mall about a mile away on another street. Malls in the Philippines have effectively become the center for general social activity and shopping. Movies, food, groceries, clothes, toys, internet cafes… everything can be found in a mall. If you ask for where you can find something, it’s almost guaranteed to be in a mall and you’ll be told so. Even the car parts store and tire shop are in the mall. Naturally, along with everything else you’ll ever need, these malls also contain the bustling arcade scene of Metro Manila.

There are 3 to 4 major corporations that own almost all of the malls in the Philippines, but in general Time Zone is the arcade company that you’ll find in any mall. For Australian readers, this is indeed the same Time Zone that you find in your country as well. A typical Time Zone arcade in Metro Manila will have 3 Tekken machines with smaller branches having only one machine and the Time Zone in Glorietta 4 in Makati having 5 machines. When Tekken 6 first came out, the games were roughly 20-22 pesos or 47-52 cents with today’s exchange rate. Today, the games are typically about 15-18 pesos, depending on which location you go to. Although some would think it’s easier to just go to someone’s house to play, with most people not driving and malls being right next to train stations, malls are still the general gathering place to play Tekken.

The Metro Manila Tekken scene isn’t as active as it used to be, but it still has plenty of active players. At its peak, there are over 80 active players associated with the local teams in Metro Manila. The main days to play are Friday and Saturday. Friday is when people meet at Glorietta 4 to play casual matches and Saturday everyone meets at Megamall or Glorietta 4 for Team Battles, with other people coming to watch or play casual games. About 3 years ago there were 3 primary locations for gathering to play, but this has shrunk to 2 locations: Megamall and Glorietta 4. The third location was Trinoma, but people stopped playing here for reasons I was never told. Part of the reason Megamall and Glorietta 4 are the remaining 2 malls is that they’re very centralized with respect to most players whereas Trinoma is at the very northern end of the train line and other malls not being near the train line at all.

With so many people playing, and even with the current amount of players, the ranks achieved in the arcade are much higher than most countries. The current highest rank is a Raksasa, with 1 Yaksa and 3 Raijin ranks following. The majority of the active community are always locked in death matches for ranks between Warrior and Savior, which is all of the yellow and orange ranks. Death matches take priority over casual matches on the machines, much like Japan and Korea. The death matches are typically locked between 2 people, although sometimes people will rotate players with the same rank so 3 to 4 people will be death matching at once.

Even with the community being smaller than it used to be, there’s still about 20 active players that play regularly with Team Battles bringing that number up to 30 or 40 when team members are called to play. A combination of death matches and team battles keep the scene alive and keeps people competitive. Although the community is relatively small right now, it’s expected to skyrocket to its former size, if not bigger, when Tekken Tag Tournament 2 is released.

*Without having gone to all of the other regions of the Philippines myself, this article doesn’t necessarily represent smaller and more suburban areas in regions far from Metro Manila.






12 responses to “Philippines’ Malls got it all”

  1. Islaw

    JT! I’m a casual player of TriNoma, maybe(maybe) one of the reasons why they stopped playing there is because almost all of the Joysticks and buttons are always broken. It pisses me off sometimes because in the middle of a deathmatch/team battle either 1,2,3,4 will lose then comes back then lose then comes back again and we were forced to lose intentionally because of the buttons are inconsistent and unpredictable when will it lose or come back. Well, I should ask my team members who are playing there since the start of the Tekken 6 era for more possible major reasons why people started not playing there.

  2. Centaur of Gravity

    Sounds awesome!
    Im from germany and as you said, arcades pretty much dont exist here. I live near one of the biggest arcade centers in germany and it only has one tekken 6 machine that is poorly maintained. And it doesnt even work via gamecards, only cash and its very expensive at that too.
    This is pretty much the reason why a tekken 6 arcade scene doesnt exist here at all and I imagine it to be similar in other european countries.
    Thats why we are stuck with online play or offline events. The latter are very rare.

  3. Battz

    Hey there JT. Great article. That pretty much sums up the Manila Scene. But what about areas that are far away from the Capital? Like Bataan and Olongapo? Hope you get a chance. If you’re curious about the Bataan scene send me an e-mail. 😀 It would be great to have a session with a NorCal player.

    1. JTchinoy

      By far away, I meant everything not near Metro Manila. I’m certain this article doesn’t properly represent places like Bacolod, Palawan, Catanduanes, and Mindoro, which are the only other places I’ve been to. Pretty sure other places more than an hour ride from Manila won’t have a similar scene either.

      My personal guess is Cebu would have the next most active scene, but I haven’t been there in 10 years so I don’t know. 🙂

      1. Battz

        Well so far our scene is basically my Tekken Team searching all over Bataan for Tekken Players then inviting them to go over to our headquarters for a few casual matches until they feel like going home or resting. We don’t have death matches since everyone plays on one console or they other (rumor has it that the new mall being built here is gonna have a Quantum or Timezone in it. Hooray for us). But what we do have are best of *insert number here* matches where we save the match replays and upload them youtube. 😛 We have different types of playstyles here. We have people who play like the people you described in your previous article who emphasize turtling and punishing. We also have people who go all out and keep on attacking until you give up.

        But seriously though. I’d love to have a match with you someday before me and my bro’s go back to SoCal. 😛


    Hey JT. im planning to go back to the Philippines in the next 3 months or sumthing for a month and I know im going to spend a lot of time in the arcades. Is there any arcade “rules” that I shuld know about.? Lwould i know if its ur turn.. do u put down a coin or sumthing?

    1. JTchinoy

      There are coin lines or card lines, depending on which arcade you go to. If you’re in Manila, you’ll most likely be playing in a Time Zone with game cards. You have to put your coin/card on the side that you’re waiting for, so you don’t just play when either player gets up. You can put your card in the middle, but if there’s other people waiting you should pick a side. Be careful to keep track of your card, since a lot of people have similar cards and can get them mixed up. People typically play 2-4 games before getting up.
      Like anywhere else, you should say good game or give a thumbs up to be nice or if you enjoyed the match in general.

  5. boknoy69

    good article

  6. garyoak99

    Do the machines take peso coins or tokens?

    1. JTchinoy

      Tokens or card swipes, depending on the arcade. I believe it’s 5 pesos per token and 3 tokens per game in most arcades that still use tokens over card swipes.

      Strangely the Philippines doesn’t use any system that automatically takes coins or bills. Well, none that I’ve seen in any bank, mall, or any other public location.

  7. Mr-Taxi-

    This is great information for me, as I plan on moving to Manilla in the very near future. I was wondering if the Arcade’s had a square-gate or if they were 8 way?

    1. JTchinoy

      Square gates. They’re the same sticks you see in other Tekken 6 machines around the world, excluding Korea.