How the Collapse of the Soviet Union Led to One Amazing Arcade Game

The collapse of the Soviet Union wasn't just a generation-defining moment that led to the end of the Cold War and disintegration of one of the largest communist states in the world, it also helped launch one of the great arcade fighting games.

Virtua Fighter 2 helped redefine what arcade games could look like when it hit in 1994, but it wouldn't have been possible if the USSR hadn't collapsed, Sega's Yu Suzuki said during a talk at the Game Developers Conference today.

Suzuki said he pushed the current state of graphics as far as he could with Virtua Fighter, but that military simulations had a level of 3D graphics not yet available to the private sector.

"Military simulation companies were the only ones with that technology," he said.

Suzuki visited GE Aerospace in the U.S. to see if he could use their technology for Virtua Fighter 2, but they told him it wasn't available for anyone outside of the military.

But then the Soviet Union dissolved, he said, and the military technology they were using had to be combined with private simulator companies.

When he first approached a flight simulation company about getting their technology he was told that it would cost Sega in the billions, but getting the chips dropped the cost to the millions. The president of Sega, however, didn't want to spend that much. Eventually, Suzuki said, the company was able to mass produce the chip for Virtua Fighter 2 arcade machines, dropping the cost to about $50 a pop.