As explained in a blog post, Arcade Tournament Edition was a slight spin on id Software’s original game. It included the familiar single- and multiplayer elements, and you could even play deathmatch rounds if there were multiple cabinets. The biggest change, apart from the pay-to-play business model, was the the addition of random “instaprize” gift boxes that would dispense tokens for real-world gifts. You could also play a unique multiplayer map (an apparent rework of a Quake II map) that wasn’t available on PCs.
The cabinet itself was ultimately a glorified Windows 95 computer with a Pentium II 266MHz, custom graphics and a 3dfx Voodoo-based graphics system. You played with a custom trackball controller in place of the usual mouse and keyboard. No complete cabinets are believed to have made it to the public, and no more than 200 conversion kits for existing cabinets were likely to have reached customers. You’re part of a very small group if you played Quake in an arcade.
As such, this conversion isn’t so much a nostalgia trip as it is a way to explore a seemingly lost part of gaming history. It’s also a reminder that security measures can have the unintended consequence of preventing anyone from documenting gaming history. Arcade Tournament Edition wasn’t lost forever, but first-hand experience has been extremely difficult for the past 22 years.