Can arcades make a comeback?

2013-02-16 14.06.36

Having been born in the early 70’s, I am a child of the 80’s. One of the best parts of being a child of the 80’s was living through the boom (and later bust) of the arcades. Whether it was going to Godfather’s Pizza and playing a handful of arcade games or Chuck E. Cheese with dozens of games or getting dropped off at an arcade in a mall while my parents went shopping, the fun in plugging quarters in for hours can never be re-lived.

Or can it? In the last year, two arcades have popped up in the Twin Cities. Rusty Quarters, in South Minneapolis, opened last year and has an impressive list of arcade cabinets available for play at $0.50 per play.

Zap-Arcade, located in Jordan, almost an hour from the Twin Cities (but only 15-20 minutes from where I live in the suburbs) also opened last year and has a unique pricing model. You can buy a day pass for $5.00 or family pass for $15.00 and play all of the games for as long as you want to stay. They also have monthly plans available.

The kids had a blast, but they didn’t know better. Zap Arcade has two floors, with 12 cabinets one each floor. I was disappointed with the games available. They had three “A” games available – Pac-Man (a re-issue, which featured about 8 different ways to play Pac-Man or Ms. Pac-Man), Space Invaders, and Galaga (which wasn’t working). They had a few “B” titles – Double Dragon, Araknoid, X-Men, Zaxxon, and Raiden. The rest were third tier titles which few people would remember from the hey day of the 80’s. All the games were on free play, though there were times you had to grab an employee to open up the cabinet to add more credits.

The price was right – for two hours of entertainment for a family of 4, it was far cheaper than going to a movie and the kids had a blast. I was worried that Jack, who is only seven, would get frustrated, but he was happy to bounce from game to game trying different things and didn’t get frustrated.

I was happy to see the place was busy. We got there fairly early after opening, and more people and families filled the place up quickly over the course of the two hours we were there. Hopefully they will be stay busy over time giving them some revenue to buy even more cabinets. We’ll definitely be back.

If you, like me, are nostalgic for arcades, The Verge has a great look back on the rise and fall of the arcade industry.

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