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.