By Natalie Hope McDonald
In some areas, younger customers are visiting vintage-style, adults-only arcades for gaming, drinks and food. For example, at EightyTwo in Los Angeles, Scott Davids has been reliving his childhood along with pal Noah Sutcliffe. The co-founders, both in their 30s, opened the West Coast barcade two years ago to bring the vibe of the classic arcade experience of their youth into Downtown LA’s trendy Arts District.
“Our most popular games are the multi-player games where groups of friends can get together and play,” Davids said.
The sprawling venue, which is named for the year many consider to be the “golden age” of video games, has walls adorned with graffiti created by local street artists. Inside, it’s sleek thanks to polished concrete floors and exposed beams that tie into the district’s industrial history. Ms. Pac-Man, Street Fighter and Missile Command beckon the masses, along with a slew of other games. The attraction includes two rooms spanning 2,000 square feet and an outdoor patio and garden.
“Gaming today is focused on having a personal experience on your own device (game console, phone, etc.),” said Davids, “so it’s a fun thing when you are out in a social environment cooperating or challenging others in person.”
The owners wanted to create a unique space that celebrates video game culture in a sophisticated, modern way, a place where people 21 and up can be found drinking signature cocktails and listening to DJs spinning while taking their turn at a coin-op game.
“In terms of gaming at EightyTwo,” Davids said, “some come for the nostalgia to see and play games from their past and others come to experience our collection of games for the first time. People these days are used to stimulus at all times, so combining the social gaming experience with the music, food, and bar programming at EightyTwo is a recipe for a great night out.”
Inside Barcade Culture
According to Bloomberg News, these hybrid “barcades” are fast becoming appealing to a generation reared on Atari and Nintendo, and who may be looking for a bit more from their nights out. Home game systems and smart phones don’t quite compare to the socializing that comes from old-school coin-op.
At Joystick Gamebar in Atlanta, a mix of drinks, snacks and classic arcade games attract night owls to the LEED-certified space on the Edgewood Corridor. All of the games here come from the 70s, 80s and 90s, including a rare Dolly Parton pinball game, Centipede, Donkey Kong and Mortal Kombat.
“Some of our more popular games are Galaga (a classic that is as simple, fun and addictive as Candy Crush), Hydro Thunder (head-to-head driving games are perfect for dates or friendly rivalries) and Mortal Kombat II (kill, murder and destroy!),” said Brandon Ley, co-owner and video game enthusiast.
He said that while classic arcade games can be a draw for millennials and Gen-Xers alike, they aren’t the only customers showing interest in barcades.
“We are proud to have every demographic and age group come into Joystick to play the games,” said Johnny Martinez, co-owner. Unlike some of the more adult destinations, Joystick also offers daylight game time where families are welcome.
“We’ve hosted birthday parties for 7-year-olds and 40-year-olds,” he said, “Plus, gaming isn’t a new phenomenon. Even before electricity, people would gather to bowl or play horseshoes …or whatever it was. It is a natural fit for nightlife because it gives people a fun way to interact with friends and strangers in a way they don’t normally. Interactive entertainment is something that will never go out of style.”
Jay Scanland, route manager at Onesource Amusements in Grand Prairie, Texas, said that Jurassic Park is a sure attention getter this year – it’s been showing success ever since the movie franchise relaunched widely in theatres. Bob Boals, executive vice president of Betson Enterprises in Carlstadt, N.J., agreed, adding that other popular coin-op games this season include Raw Thrills and Moto GP.
“Both are well received by patrons and income is very high,” he said.
Top redemption games, said Boals, are Wizard of Oz from Elaut, Monster Extreme from Benchmark, Tower Of Tickets, Grand Piano Keys and Quick Drop from Baytek, Down the Clown and Ghostbuster from Ice, Spongebob from Andamiro and Fishbowl Frenzy from Team Play.
“We have already seen some new video games from Raw Thrills that will be introduced at IAAPA that look great,” said Boals. The same is true for Baytek, LAI and Team Play.
“The licensed games are very popular as long as the content is good,” he explained. “The name is still only as good as the game. Players might play the game once for the title but will continue to play based on how good the game is.”
Movie franchises can certainly add appeal to games, such as the case with Lord of the Rings and Star Wars. “It really is a great time for customers as there is so much great product to choose from,” said Boals. “IAAPA looks like it will be a great success since so many new games will be introduced.”