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Burning Ranger
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"Bar Arcades (or Arcade Bars)" , posted Thu 19 Dec 22:37post reply

So, what do folks around the Cafe think of "Bar Arcades" or "Arcade Bars"? These are, as the names suggest, bars that are also arcades. These aren't places like Dave & Buster's or Chuck-E-Cheeses. Usually, these bars focus on having a large collection of old-school games. Probably the best example I know of is Barcade in NYC and Philadelphia. The one in Brooklyn has a nice selection of classic arcade games. Here in DC, there's a place called Atlas Arcade that not only has arcade games (including MK2 and SF2') but also an NES and SNES (clone systems) at the bar counter itself.

I'm asking of course because as I think about my future goals (normal in the run-up to the new year), I'm considering going into this business and opening my own Bar Arcade.

So, all this being said...I have two questions for y'all:

- What's your opinion on Bar Arcades?
- If you ran your own Bar Arcade, what games would you put in it? Would you focus on classic mainstream games or would you consider niche titles? I'd like to imagine having a Daytona Cabinet in my arcade...and perhaps a mix of classic and modern fighters (maybe KOF'98 and Super/Ultra SF IV).






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Maou
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"Re(1):Bar Arcades (or Arcade Bars)" , posted Fri 20 Dec 00:14:post reply

quote:
I'm considering going into this business and opening my own Bar Arcade.
This is a very Cafe thing to do, excellent! It all depends on your skill! what you want to do with the bar. A lot of these American barcades seem like a fun idea but the games are largely aimed at the hip clientele that really never graduated beyond the 8-bit era, so you end with a lot of shitty boring games. It's fun to have Pacman and Galaga and maybe SF II in your barcade, but it gets old fast for the serious and non-serious alike, I suspect. Better to balance it out with a range of stuff, from stuff for the indie lightweights as well as the serious street fighters. I haven't been, but Karasu can probably tell you about Portland's Ground Kontrol, who seem to have gotten it right. I mean, they have Justice Gakuen, for god's sake!





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[this message was edited by Maou on Fri 20 Dec 01:36]

karasu99
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"Re(2):All About Ground Kontrol" , posted Fri 20 Dec 03:06post reply

quote:
I'm considering going into this business and opening my own Bar Arcade.

This is a very Cafe thing to do, excellent! It all depends on your skill! what you want to do with the bar. A lot of these American barcades seem like a fun idea but the games are largely aimed at the hip clientele that really never graduated beyond the 8-bit era, so you end with a lot of shitty boring games. It's fun to have Pacman and Galaga and maybe SF II in your barcade, but it gets old fast for the serious and non-serious alike, I suspect. Better to balance it out with a range of stuff, from stuff for the indie lightweights as well as the serious street fighters. I haven't been, but Karasu can probably tell you about Portland's Ground Kontrol, who seem to have gotten it right. I mean, they have Justice Gakuen, for god's sake!


It's funny that you mentioned Ground Kontrol since I've been mulling a megapost in reply to Burning Ranger on just that subject, both because I think it's an interesting example of the 'New Old Arcade' and because I've recently been mulling a similar venture. Regarding the latter, I'll just explain briefly: Portland has a big West/East divide physically, and GK is on the West, while I'm on the East, so I've been thinking there's real need potentially for a similar joint out around my neighborhood. Likely as not my plans will come to nothing since A) I'm pretty fond of my current job, B) I haven't a clue as to how to start or run a bar, and C) I'm probably completely wrong in my assessment for such a need (AKA, I want to not have to drive all the way to GK to play the games I want to play, and for all I know there's nobody who feels the same way). Burning Ranger, I'd be real curious to hear many other specifics as to where you'd open such a place in my old haunt of DC, as well as what audience you'd target and so on.

So! With that out of the way, I can go into my thoughts on Ground Kontrol itself and BarCades in general, which seem to be a little bit of a thing, not just in Portland. Ground Kontrol is a pretty great place and I visit it pretty regularly, mostly during their early hours when it's not as packed as it gets during prime time (which seems to be anytime after 7pm). The crowd it attracts is what gets called hipsters, but to clarify since the term gets applied pretty broadly to whomever the speaker doesn't like or is judgmental about: 20ish to early 30ish, even split between genders for the most part, largely of the new fashionable 'dork/nerd/geek' crowd, and very boozy (in fact all the machines have drink holders installed on them or on small stands next to the machines and after... 6pm I think? it's 21 and older-- they card at the door like a club). Slightly upscale food is prepared and served, tending toward trendy takes on hot dogs, fries, and nachos with video game themed names. There are daily food specials and they have regular events-- DJ's, bands, trivia nights, comedy nights, and so on. They rent the place out for parties pretty regularly, and at least once a month they hold a 'free play' night, where they charge a cover at the door ($5) and you play all you want-- this is when the place gets so packed you can barely move through it. It's super loud inside, since they pipe game sound effects at incredible volume over the sound system when a DJ isn't playing (in fact that might be the one disappointing point of GK-- that they don't let the natural buzz of the machines speak for themselves in creating the auditory atmosphere). GK's located at the edge of Portland's Chinatown, in an area filled with trendy art galleries, small music venues, and even a toy/art gallery/shoe store (Compound Gallery) where Nobi and I went to see a Terada Katsuya show a few years back.

In terms of games, the mix has changed quite a bit since I first moved here and found the place back in 2006. At first there was a huge emphasis on late 70's to early 90's arcade games, with Street Fighter II being a late game for their selection-- it was mostly of the pre NES era of things, and from what I know of the owners it was as much a venture intended to restore and preserve the machines of that era (and the arcade culture that went with them) as it was to open a bar/arcade mix and attract lots of new people to play the games. Over time though that's gradually changed to the mix of games they have now. First of all, it's very heavily pinball-weighted, since I think pinball attracts a crowd who would never consider playing video games. In fact, fully half of the second floor is filled with pinball. Second, games from much more recent times have crept into the mix, in addition to multi-play cabinets, like the Capcom one and the shooter one. They've gotten rid of plenty of games with larger footprints like Star Wars arcade and Outrun since space is at a premium. The emphasis is still pretty low on fighting games, even though their list might make you think otherwise-- most of the ones they list are one choice in a multi-play or are just not there when you arrive since they don't update the list very well. I'm always impressed that they keep the machines working so well given the amount of booze flowing through the place on an average night, although the Third Strike machine invariably has some manner of match-breaking damage to one or both sets of controls. Brand new games almost never show up (Pac Man Championship 4-player being an exception). I once asked the owner if they planned to get KOF13 when it came out-- his answer was that for the cost of bringing it in, they could get 4 or 5 older games and completely restore them, so no.

I think the mix doesn't include more fighters since a pretty big draw to their normal crowd seems to be 'LOL ARCADE GAMEZ' like Maou said rather than any sort of nostalgic connection to anything, and I think fighters naturally attract a more serious group of people, which I've yet to meet more than a few of in Portland (I played this one crazy white-haired guy on Third Strike once who had a lot of the old fire once encountered at arcade fighting games, complete with wide stance and beet-red face). I'm not sure if that's the same in DC or anywhere else, but the direction SF's Southtown went in makes me think the fighting game only model might not draw enough of a crowd to maintain a business. Likewise, pre-NES arcade games are unlikely to maintain a constant draw rather than a mix. It's an interesting subject to think of since at their peak arcades had a certain vibrant ecosystem that was (for a few decades at least) pretty self-maintaining, since old games naturally got moved along (or in the case of both CPS era and the very oldest stuff, even converted into a new game) which kept things new and fresh all the time. Why keep Asteroids around for example, when Tempest has come out? These days no matter how vibrant an arcade is, it's all at its root a museum, and even I can only play so much Dig Dug, sadly. Unfortunately things will never be as fresh and constantly new and exciting as back in the 80's or 90's.

As an aside, I should mention that there are several other arcade type places in the Portland area: Stryker's, Ultrazone (no link since their games mostly stink), and the most old-school of them all, Wunderland, a chain of 1920's era penny arcades that also have a pile of sadly mostly unmaintained arcade games of a dazzling variety of ages and countries of origin. I once played a Japanese Golgo 13 shooter there, weirdly enough. Plus Wunderland is cheap-- most machines are set to 25 cents, whereas at Ground Kontrol even lousy Dr. Mario is 50 cents.

As another aside, Ground Kontrol's bathroom recently got quite a bit of (positive) attention, and with good reason!

Hmm, that's a whole lot of words and I'm not sure I got to a point there or if I'm capable of getting to one now, har har I guess the bottom line is, I think it's got a ton of potential. I think that the booze aspect is important since the margin on alcohol can be pretty high comparatively to things like food and games. Please keep us updated about your plans Burning Ranger! I visit DC at least a few times a year (I'll be there in January in fact) and I'd love to have an arcade bar as a place to make a pilgrimage to.






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"Re(1):Bar Arcades (or Arcade Bars)" , posted Fri 20 Dec 05:55post reply

I myself would go for a lot of mainstream stuff, but I'd stick a few oddities in for a variety of reasons. Although it pains me to say it, one of those multicabs might be a good idea.

You should keep in touch with me, Burning Ranger, I'd be potentially interested in providing some stuff to you or helping out if you're really going to go through with this, although I may be leaving the country soonish... keep me posted!





Burning Ranger
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"Re(2):Bar Arcades (or Arcade Bars)" , posted Fri 20 Dec 11:05post reply

quote:
I myself would go for a lot of mainstream stuff, but I'd stick a few oddities in for a variety of reasons. Although it pains me to say it, one of those multicabs might be a good idea.

You should keep in touch with me, Burning Ranger, I'd be potentially interested in providing some stuff to you or helping out if you're really going to go through with this, although I may be leaving the country soonish... keep me posted!



I absolutely will, RF! Are you still in Baltimore? I still remember buying that classic NES poster from you. I'd want some of that "flair" in my bar.






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Ishmael
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"Re(2):Bar Arcades (or Arcade Bars)" , posted Fri 20 Dec 12:14post reply

Does your area have enough people to support a bar arcade? What sort of clientele were you hoping to attract? Bars are a difficult business to run and one of the big problems they face is remaining relevant. For something like a sports bar all they have to do is prominently feature the local sports franchise. But how would a bar arcade stay interesting since, as Karasu noted, they are essentially museums? Will you be setting up near a university or some other area where you can expect a large turn-over in clientele on a regular basis? Or do you have some other plans for how to keep the place fresh six months after it opens or two years after it opens? Much like a music bar that has to constantly book new acts an arcade bar would have to find a constant source of sustenance.

I would be interested to know how the successful bar arcades have solved this problem. The only examples I know of first-hand are the bar arcades that were in my area that, as far as I can tell, did not think about this problem and quickly died like fish out of water.

Good luck and keep us posted!





Maou
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"Re(2):Bar Arcades (or Arcade Bars)" , posted Fri 20 Dec 12:49:post reply

quote:
I may be leaving the country soonish

Rugal appears to be escaping to the Galuga archipelago at last, but with his power, you'd have a fearsome collection, BR.

DC is a tough nut to crack since unlike worldly New York or somewhat artsy SF or Portland, DC's "default city culture" appears to be quite boring and its main inhabitants are policy people, despite the good museums. Like, who else is there that would go? Maybe there's a more diverse crowd and interest set in the collective mass of the suburbs, so you could go for a SoCal arcade approach.

I guess what I'm saying is that I want to play Ikaruga all night with bourbon in hand...outside of my house.





人間はいつも私を驚かせてくれる。不思議なものだな、人間という存在は...

[this message was edited by Maou on Fri 20 Dec 12:53]

Burning Ranger
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"Re(3):Bar Arcades (or Arcade Bars)" , posted Sat 21 Dec 00:12post reply

quote:
All these questions...


First, thank you everyone for your feedback. It's always great to kick around ideas with Cafe patrons. You're all the best! Winnars are all you!

Right now I'm in a very preliminary stage of considering the bar arcade idea--somewhere after "Wouldn't it be cool to run a bar/arcade?" but before "Okay, I'm gonna do it!" I guess the "bar arcade" idea is also driven by a "pre-mid life crisis." A friend of mine went through this a while back and he ended up leaving a DC Think Tank job to setting up his own comic book store. That's pretty inspiring for me, as I myself am sort of a salaryman.

Whether I go through with it or not will depend on some some key turning points in late 2014/2015. In the most ideal scenario, I'll head towards academia and my destiny will go from there. If that doesn't happen, then I'll certainly explore the bar arcade thing a little further.

TL;DR: I'm only thinking about this right now but, who knows, it all depends...

Anyway, your feedback has been great and I want to continue this discussion!

On Location: So I live in the Washington DC area, which is also home to a growing population of young professionals. Therein lies a market for bars. Yet at the same time, I realize there are a lot to compete with.

On the other hand, DC doesn't have an arcade scene at all. I know a few existed in the past (I really wish I was around to experience Golden Dome). When the MagFest video game con comes to town every January, it's free-to-play arcade is usually well attended. I also know that there's a slight resurgence of old-school arcades. Last month, I visited Yestercades in Redbank NJ, and they had a decent play-by-the-hour business model.

Only one place in DC has the "bar arcade" feel, and that's Atlas Arcade on H. Street--which isn't very accessible despite being an up and coming part of town. Right now, I'm thinking I would set up shop on my home turf in Northern Virginia--either Arlington or Alexandria as they have large populations of young people.

On Direction: Very valid points about keeping the place fresh. I really like the model established by Barcade--an old school arcade based in a dive bar. I wouldn't want my place too divey though, but I don't want the shiny obnoxiousness of a sports bar. Maybe a Bristish-style pub or a Mexican-themed hacienda bar... I'd also want to add some video game decor/nostalgia like the old NES posters or ads for old arcade games...

I primarily want to focus on two things: games and beer. I'm a big fan of craft beer so I want to make a point of being a place where you can buy all sorts of craft beer (including DC-based craft brews). I know there's some details to be worked out on getting the beer, but I think offering a diverse catalog would be a big draw. Heck, I'll even consider stocking Natty Boh and PBR for the hipsters. Or, maybe this place could be an "Arcade Brewpub" where we make our own beer on site?

As for games--in addition to a mix of old-school and new-classic (KOF, Daytona, SFIV, etc) arcade cabs, I think I'd like to set up bar-top TVs with NES/SNES's...or maybe a STEAM box with controller-based games... or maybe even a Saturn *GASP* with a copy of Burning Rangers...

TL;DR Part II- There may be a market in DC... Also, too many ideas!!!






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karasu99
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"Re(4):Bar Arcades (or Arcade Bars)" , posted Sat 21 Dec 00:37post reply

quote:
(I really wish I was around to experience Golden Dome)

That place was incredible! My roommate and I used to spend time when we should have been doing classwork and attending class most of our free time there when I was in college. I hadn't heard of it for years but I assume it's long gone, huh? I want to hope that its old geodesic dome building is still there but I'm sure it was demolished and replaced by a Taco Bell or more parking spaces.

Your plans sound like good ones! I'm sure there's room for a new place in DC but I guess it's all down to how you all it, eh?






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"Re(5):Bar Arcades (or Arcade Bars)" , posted Sat 21 Dec 04:36post reply

I'm no expert on bar business, but as a gamer and someone who frequents the college bars more often than his liver would like, here's my two cents.

Classic arcades make a great hook to bring in curiosity seekers, but you'd have to figure out a way to keep non-gamers coming back week in and week out. I don't think a gamer population alone would be enough to financially sustain a bar. The bar would have to offer something substantial to keep patrons returning, such as a good variety of drinks or good bartenders. From my own experience, $2 drink specials on saturday nights plus good bartenders kept me coming back. Arcades make a good gimmick, but if that's the only weapon in your arsenal, you'll be quickly outgunned by your competitors.

If you do go ahead with this venture, best of luck!





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"Re(5):Bar Arcades (or Arcade Bars)" , posted Sat 21 Dec 06:58post reply

quote:

That place was incredible! My roommate and I used to spend time when we should have been doing classwork and attending class most of our free time there when I was in college. I hadn't heard of it for years but I assume it's long gone, huh? I want to hope that its old geodesic dome building is still there but I'm sure it was demolished and replaced by a Taco Bell or more parking spaces.



it's gone. It actually collapsed...





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"Re(6):Bar Arcades (or Arcade Bars)" , posted Sun 22 Dec 05:51post reply

quote:
it's gone. It actually collapsed...


Now that's the proper way to go out of business!





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"Re(7):Bar Arcades (or Arcade Bars)" , posted Sun 22 Dec 06:44post reply

Although I don't have much advice towards the opening of an establishment like this I have seen many people try to open similar venues and have some thoughts. There are 2 successful venues fairly near me that operate quite differently from each other.

1.Gameworks - Used to be owned by Sega I believe, they are something akin to Dave & Busters but not as disappointing to me. They have a big selection of dedicated cabs, mostly newer. Ticket redemption/UFO catcher games are also abundant. Sega was kind enough to leave their goodies there when they left. Afterburner Climax, House of the Dead 4 deluxe, and the AMAAAZING OutRun 2 SP deluxe cab are all there.

They run on a credit card system where you charge it with money and swipe to play. This detachment winds up making people spend more money than they mean to usually. They have a full menu and bar and are open until the bar closes.

It became the go to place for fighting game players for a while and hosted a handful of tournaments. I played KoFXII, Tekken 6BR, and Tatsunoko Vs Capcom there when they came out, all on Japanese style cabs. They also have Sangokushi Taisen 4 player set up, strangely.

2.Galloping Ghost Arcade - To me this is the benchmark of what arcades were and should be. They have a huge selection of games you can see listed on their site, focusing on the classic era and spanning up until the late 90's/early 00's. In my experience the upkeep has been very consistent. It has the spirit of the arcades I frequented as a kid, down to the crowded aisles & carpeted floors.

They also operate on late hours but they do not serve alcohol. The major difference is that you pay a flat fee on entry and all the games are on free play. They've done a lot of work on many cabs to fit as much as they can on the floor. Some have toggle switches that store a 2nd game, usually in the same series. I imagine that knowing your way around the backside of an arcade machine is important/tasking these days.



Both of these places seem to have been successful in the recent years. I guess I mainly just ended up saying what I like about them but I hope this helps you a bit with your decision.





karasu99
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"Re(7):Bar Arcades (or Arcade Bars)" , posted Sun 22 Dec 08:59post reply

quote:
it's gone. It actually collapsed...

Now that's the proper way to go out of business!


Wow, I had always thought it was in bad shape, but... wow! Somehow though it seems strangely appropriate.






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Burning Ranger
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"Re(7):Bar Arcades (or Arcade Bars)" , posted Wed 25 Dec 23:45post reply

quote:
it's gone. It actually collapsed...

Now that's the proper way to go out of business!



Is that the Golden Dome in Maryland, or the one in DC? The one I was talking about was in downtown DC. It closed a while back and became part of a fancy restaurant. What I know of the place comes from this article: http://www.washingtonpost.com/lifestyle/magazine/homespun-dc-places-lost-to-condos-and-burger-chains/2013/10/17/f065ac16-1a42-11e3-82ef-a059e54c49d0_story.html






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"Re(8):Bar Arcades (or Arcade Bars)" , posted Fri 27 Dec 03:42post reply

Sometimes I wish that the mmcafe was a real-life place, where real people could walk in, order a nice cup of coffee, and grumble about the current state of video games while having allocated bar space to set up devices on to play games/watch match videos of Karnov's Revenge.





karasu99
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"Re(8):Bar Arcades (or Arcade Bars)" , posted Fri 27 Dec 05:10post reply

quote:
it's gone. It actually collapsed...

Now that's the proper way to go out of business!


Is that the Golden Dome in Maryland, or the one in DC? The one I was talking about was in downtown DC. It closed a while back and became part of a fancy restaurant. What I know of the place comes from this article: http://www.washingtonpost.com/lifestyle/magazine/homespun-dc-places-lost-to-condos-and-burger-chains/2013/10/17/f065ac16-1a42-11e3-82ef-a059e54c49d0_story.html



Wow, I hadn't realized there was more than one so close to each other! No, the one I was recalling was the one in Greenbelt, Maryland, just outside the Beltway Plaza mall. It was a huge place inside a geodesic dome (sadly I can't seem to find any photos online) that had all ages of machines from the late 70's onward. They also had just about every fighting game as it came out in the early 90's, no matter how lame or obscure.






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red falcon
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"Re(9):Bar Arcades (or Arcade Bars)" , posted Fri 27 Dec 11:01post reply

quote:
it's gone. It actually collapsed...

Now that's the proper way to go out of business!


Is that the Golden Dome in Maryland, or the one in DC? The one I was talking about was in downtown DC. It closed a while back and became part of a fancy restaurant. What I know of the place comes from this article: http://www.washingtonpost.com/lifestyle/magazine/homespun-dc-places-lost-to-condos-and-burger-chains/2013/10/17/f065ac16-1a42-11e3-82ef-a059e54c49d0_story.html


Wow, I hadn't realized there was more than one so close to each other! No, the one I was recalling was the one in Greenbelt, Maryland, just outside the Beltway Plaza mall. It was a huge place inside a geodesic dome (sadly I can't seem to find any photos online) that had all ages of machines from the late 70's onward. They also had just about every fighting game as it came out in the early 90's, no matter how lame or obscure.

This was the one I was thinking of, too. I looked online to see if anyone else mentioned the collapse, and I couldn't find anything, SO, lesson is: Don't necessarily believe what other people who used to go there tell you what happened to it when you're reminiscing. (I was told it collapsed about 4 years ago... apparently there was some kind of collapse at the mall in the 60's, perhaps urban myths have bled together?)





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"Re(10):Bar Arcades (or Arcade Bars)" , posted Thu 1 May 11:55post reply

Brief update here... I visited Barcade in Philadelphia last weekend. I can confidently say that it is better than the one in Brooklyn. Not only did it seem more spacious, they also had a Daytona USA machine that was in surprisingly good condition. No VS fighting games there, but they did have a Final Fight machine.






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