This is a short, as of yet heavily incomplete timeline of the evolution of Bemani in Europe during the last 15 years. It aims to shed some light on how Bemani games, specifically Beatmania cabinets, which were never officially distributed in Europe, came onto the continent and how public interest and communities rose and developed over time.
December 1997: Konami releases the original Beatmania arcade game in Japan. A few months later, the same game is also released in North America under the name „Hiphopmania“, but it sells exceptionally badly.
September 1998: Beatmania 3rd Mix is released in Japan. At least one of these cabinets somehow makes its way to Konami Europe during the following years and is later gifted to the arcade museum „For Amusement Only“ in Seligenstadt, Germany, during the 2013 Gamescom.
May (?) 1999: Beatmania Complete Mix, together with its international counterpart, Hiphopmania Complete Mix, are released. This second international release fares slightly better than the first one, although no machines are known of in Europe.
July 1999: Beatmania IIDX Substream is released in Japan, and almost immediately, a Swedish player buys one of the machines and has it shipped to his house.
August 1999: Beatmania 4th Mix is released, this time without an international version.
Despite this, at least 2 machines manage to end up in Europe, one of which
was publicly playable until at least mid-2013 at Władysławowo, Poland. [Update: This machine has returned as of 2015]
November 1999: Beatmania 5th Mix is released.
April 2000: WizardGame is founded in Moscow, Russia. They would later become the first company to import Bemani games into Europe on a commercial scale.
June 2000: Hiphopmania Complete Mix 2 is released in North America and Europe. It features a new kind of life bar that acts more like the the DDR one, probably to make it easier to pick up for players who are already familiar with the then widely popular dancing game. No numbers for how many machines were sold in Europe are available.
May 2001: Beatmania 6th Mix is released in Japan. Again, at least one cabinet manages
to make its way into Europe and is publicly displayed at a mall in Poland
until 2011 (?), when it is transferred first to an arcade distributor in Szczecin
called „Joker“, who then sells it to the PlayRight arcade museum in Ikast,
Denmark in January of 2014.
January 2002: Beatmania 7th Mix is released in Japan. One of these machines is later imported to Rome, Italy, where it stays active for the next 3 years.
June 2002: Beatmania THE FINAL is released in Japan. At least one (probably even two) machines make it to Europe, one to Belgium and one (presumably) to Poland.
The history of the machine in Belgium is backtraceable to ???
In 2012, the gaming shop „Player“ in Chenee aquires the machine and
displays it in a back room together with their line of fighting game arcades
until mid-2013, when it is sold to an anonymous bidder.
2003: Massive wave of imports of IIDX machines into Italy. From 2003 to 2004, at least 10 machines were imported into the country by one person (Andrea) who rented them out and later sold them to arcades all across Italy. By the end of 2012, all of the rental contracts had run out and Andrea retreated from the scene. One of these cabinets however stayed in Toulouse, France, even after the contract ran out in 2012.
2004: Bemafia, a west-russian community for Bemani fans, is founded.
2005 (?): A coordinator at Uppcon, a yearly gaming and anime convention at Uppsala, Sweden, buys the Substream cabinet from (?) and proceeds to upgrade it to
the then-newest version, IIDX12 HAPPY SKY.
January 2007: Konami presents Beatmania IIDX14 GOLD at ATEI 2007 in London, UK.
July 2007: The DistorteD machine is bought off of WizardGame by an arcade in northern Moscow called “Limpoland”. It stays there for the next 7 years.
September 2008: Neo Arcadia in Toulouse, France, opens. Their inventory includes a IIDX17 SIRIUS machine leased to them under a rental contract with Andrea.
October 2008: The European localization of Jubeat, called UBeat, receives a location test at Trocadero London, UK.
November 2008: Location testing for pop’n music 17 THE MOVIE takes place at Trocadero London.
January 2009: UBeat is once again displayed at the tradefair ATEI in London.
2012: Neo Arcadia upgrades their machine to IIDX18 Resort Anthem, as does the Central Park arcade in Rimini. It is at this time that Neo Arcadia one-sidedly stops their revenue share program with Andrea and essentially “steals” the cabinet from him.
June 2012: The last Uppcon ends on the 17th. All inventory is being sold, including the IIDX machine which is still running Happy Sky. A young man from the suburbs of Stockholm buys the cabinet and upgrades it to Resort Anthem.
? 2013: The cabinet in Stockholm is upgraded to IIDX19 Lincle.
August 2013: The german arcade museum “For Amusement Only” is approached by Konami officials during Gamescom Cologne and offered an old beatmania 3rd Mix cabinet for free. They decide to accept the offer and start to work on getting it ready to display.
September 2013: “For Amusement Only” displays the working 3rd Mix cabinet at their monthly opening day. It’s received exceptionally well and gets many plays during the following open days.
April 2014: HeadphoneNinja decides to sell his cabinet online. The highest bidders come from the UK and, during July, organize a transport to ship the cabinets onto the island.
August 2014: The former substream machine is installed at Astro City Southend, making it the 8th public IIDX machine in Europe.
November 2014: “J-Play Café” in Moscow, Russia, start their own webpage. Their aim is to build a public manga- and gaming-café in Moscow by the end of 2015. Amongst the coordinators are many members of Bemafia, including the owners of the garage that currently houses IIDX DistorteD and Pop’n Music FEVER.
December 2014: ArcadeStreet Paris celebrates their 3rd reopening. New machines at the location include IIDX19 Lincle, Taiko no Tatsujin 13, and Jubeat copious.
January 2015: ArcadeStreet Paris upgrades their Bemani machines to their respective latest versions, bringing the total number of ProgrammedWorld-connected arcades in Europe to 8.
March 2015: The operators of ProgrammedWorld receive a Cease-and-Desist notice from the Konami legal department, ordering them to shut down their online service for Bemani machines outside of Asia by the 8th of March. They decide to comply with the order, and the network is shut down that Sunday. During the course of the following week, all european arcade operators downgrade their Konami machines to their latest offline-compatible versions (IIDX19 Lincle, Jubeat Saucer, pop’n music 20 fantasia and DDR X/X2).
July 2015: Neo-Arcadia Toulouse closes its doors and subsequently starts selling its machines off. The “stolen” Beatmania IIDX machine makes its way to a private collector in Lille, while the current location of the pop’n music remains unknown.
August 2015: A new eSports Bar opens up in Krefeld, Germany, featuring a DDR SuperNova in their inventory list. The game is free to play, admission fee on weekends is 5€ for the night, free on weekdays.
September 2015: In the United Kingdom, IIDX, pop’n music and DDR are transferred from Astro City Southend to a new, community-run arcade in London-Islington, called VEGA. It opens its doors on the 21st of September.
October 2015: HEY STHLM opens in Stockholm, Sweden. They have a pop’n music 17 cab as well as Taiko no Tatsujin 13. A little later that month, another new arcade opens in Helsinki, called Sugoi. Its inventory includes a pop’n music 14, as well as a Beatmania IIDX 17 SIRIUS cab.
December 2015: FAST2015 takes place in Den Haag, Netherlands, for the first time. The acronym stands for “Funland Arrow Stomp Tournament” and brought more than 20 players from all over the Netherlands together to compete on a DDR SuperNova machine.
January 2016: Akedo Lille in northern France temporarily closes its doors in order to move to a new, bigger location further outside the city centre.
March 2016: Akedo Lille opens its new 200-sqm venue at Avenue de Dunkerque 289, Lambersart. The new location features the beatmania THE FINAL cabinet that used to be at PLAYER Chênee.
May 2016: DDR-Exp4 takes place in Alphen aan den Rijn. The location (“Games Guild”) now features a working DDR 1st Mix machine.
June 2016: HEY STHLM 1.5 opens, now on 2 floors, sporting more than 5 new machines, among them rarities like Jubeat and Groove Coaster.
September 2016: The Netherlands join the International Pump Festival for the first time.
October 2016: ArcadeStreet Paris closes its doors after 6 years of profitable operations. During the same month, Akedo Lille undergoes some changes and is now primarily a gaming event location, with a small arcade section next to it. Subsequently, they removed many of their cabinets such as the Beatmania THE FINAL and the Rhythm Tengoku one.
January 2017: The IIDX in Helsinki gets a long-awaited upgrade from 17 Sirius to 23 Copula.
June 2017: A new arcade opens in Zoetermeer, Netherlands. Its inventory is comprised of bits and parts of multiple people’s private collections. The arcade is called RetroPlanet and hosts a beatmania 4th Mix, as well as a Groove Coaster 3 and a Jubeat prop cabinet (later upgraded to Qubell).
July 2017: The Games Guild at Alphen aan den Rijn, Netherlands, originally only a trading card shop, opens a special room for Stepmania and ITG players. The DDR machine has been re-worked into a Stepmania cabinet by this point.
October 2017: RetroPlanet Zoetermeer is closed for restructuring, planning to re-open as the “Nationaal Videogame Museum” at another location in December.
December 2017: The National Video Game Museum in Zoetermeer, Netherlands, opens its doors. It is situated inside the central mall of Zoetermeer and features all the same machines as its predecessor, RetroPlanet. In addition, there is now a Taiko 13 machine and a Beatmania Core Remix.
January 2018: Games Guild at Alphen aan den Rijn imports a Jubeat Qubell cabinet.