We'd like to think those machines that aren't being used are gathering dust, but that's an optimistic fantasy. The truth is, they've been crushed, smashed, torn to pieces and sometimes even set on fire.
This great piece by Scott Patterson takes a look at the disposal practices of arcade vendors, who when faced with a surplus of cabinets after the arcade market crashed, took drastic measures to clear storage floorspace.
Many machines were gutted for useful parts such as monitors and coin doors then had their cabinets smashed, burned or taken to a landfill. Others were left to rot in abandoned warehouses, sheds or fields.
This practice actually still continues today. Me and a friend came across an antique store a few years ago that had obtained a few trailers of early eighties machines. Thinking they had no value they left the open trailers outside and smashed up entire machines until they'd filled their dumpsters. By the time we got there, we found pieces of games such as Donkey Kong Junior and Centipede in the trash and the machines still in tact had been rained on so much they were falling apart.
While there are hobbyists who restore classic machines scattered across the country, it is commonplace for them to use several machines to complete one full restoration, trashing the rest.
Those with an interest in just what's become of the arcade games of generations past should definitely check out the full piece.
Arcade Classics: What happened to them all? [Examiner]