Saturday, March 26, 2011

Location, Location,Location!

Location can be key for the location of an arcade. It can literally make or break your business. For this week, I am going to skip over discussing what people in the arcade business have been saying about my posts on starting an arcade as well as some great tips they have provided for starting an arcade to cover the issue of location. Next week I will get back to the valuable input I have recieved from arcade operators.

Take a look at the picture on the left. What is it? a closed roadway? Vacant lot? A condemned park? No, it is actually part of a rather large Family Entertainment Center (FEC) known as Party Time. This FEC was located in Charlestown, NH on Routes 11 and 12. This location has been closed for a couple years now and has been for sale. Party Time started off at an asking price of $500,000 and is now down to an asking price of $389,000. So why is this a bad location? Aren't "Routes" usually fairly busy roads?

The key from what I've seen and heard to location generally involves foot traffic by potential customers. If you have a lot of foot traffic, this will help with your business. Think about Mall arcades. The location of a Mall arcade could make or break you. Get a nice spot with a lot of foot traffic on the main strip right around some of the children stores or near the teenage food court hang out and you will have your customers almost forced to walk by you (or children begging parents to stop in). Get stuck in the infamous back dead corner next to "Knives, Knives, Knives" and you might find fewer people visiting your establishment. Now lets get back to Party Time on Routes 11 and 12. Yes these are busy routes, but the section that Party Time was located was mainly a section traveled by commercial vehicles or people with a set destination such as to and from work. This is because this area was in between two towns. So, to summarize, being located on a busy street is not always ideal. You have to examine the type of street and the average vehicle that passes by your establishment.

Does this mean Main Street, USA is the ideal location? Not always. You have to look and study the location, survey the local people, and even interview the people walking by your possible future location to find out who they are. Are they parents? Single workers? Gamers? Try and get a good feel for what your possible future customers may want. This is key for helping you choose your location. Opening an FEC in a college town with rows of bars may not be a good location choice.

Now, some arcades do manage to do well in what may be considered a poor location. This is due to the offerings of the arcade and the build up of a community. People, hardcore gamers to be more exact, are willing to travel to play specific arcade games. If you cater to a specific hardcore audience, such as Bemani gamers, you could potentially survive in an of the beaten path location. Thanks to online communities like, you can advertise your location to the right audience. This can be very tricky and all possibilities need to be weighed. You may have a horde of people willing to travel out of state to visit your establishment, but how often are they going to do this? Is it enough to keep your business going? These are tricky questions with some major gambles, but again we have to analyze the arcade type you are trying to open. Think about opening a Japanese arcade on Main Street, USA. How many people that walk by are going to stop by to play Pop'n Music or Espgaluda? How much more expensive is your rent in this location in comparison to the rent near an industrial park? Are your bread and butter customers still having to travel from all around, regardless?

I really do not have definite answers this time, but rather have provided some questions and tips for choosing a location. Remember to first examine what type of arcade you want to open up. Then take a look at who your customers will be. Are they adults who enjoy frosty brews? Are they families looking for some inexpensive play time with their kids because they had to cancel their vacation due to the current economic climate? Are they hardcore gamers who will travel to any location, regardless of how far off the beaten path it is? Or are you going for the summer vacation crowd? Before committing to a lease or buying a piece of property do your research. Survey the area around the property you're interested in. Find out what the people like. What they want. Then decide if your business model can survive in this location.

2600 out


  1. "Before committing to a lease or buying a piece of property do your research. Survey the area around the property you're interested in. Find out what the people like. What they want. Then decide if your business model can survive in this location." - definitely sound advice.

    Look at places that remain open: many arcades in Seaside Heights do well because they are small and cater to a family crowd as well as the occasional barcrawlers - think a lower-scale Dave and Buster's. 8 on the Break does fine, because it's near a huge population center (New York City) and caters to three niches: Bemani fans, fighting game fans, and pinball fans.

    Honestly in terms of location Funspot has the best I can think of: it is a popular vacation spot (FEC crowd), has a ton of retro games (a niche crowd that will travel there...and may anyway due to it being a vacation spot in the first place), and can operate as an FEC in a somewhat remote area year-round to get a bit of extra money to handle costs. It also doesn't hurt that they have bowling, and a bar, and bingo, all of which solidify that off-season business.

    In terms of arcade showroom/sellers, Richie Knucklez has the right idea - not too far from a major city, but far enough to not have the huge costs it would take to run in the city itself. It's not an awfully long drive and he has a huge pool of potential customers before you even factor in internet sales.

  2. Beach arcades are a completely different breed. They need to make their income in short bursts. They have a small window to pull in a large amount of cash to cover year round expenses and fees. Even though some places stay open year round, the winter time is harsh business wise. Other factors as owning the land/spot, town assistance (monthly leasing during summer hours), and anything else to help a summer town thrive could help out. I do not know how much help these areas tend to get.

    For Funspot it is tough. The classic arcade games bring in very little revenue. The only way it can survive is because the American Classic Arcade Museum is just that, a non profit museum. Funspot also suffers from being a decent ways off from Weirs Beach. The big advantage Funspot has is that he houses a large FEC and bingo hall. Gary Vincent, ACAM curator also had a section added to their site about what some of the other hot spots are in the area. This helps bring people because it allows husbands to convince their significant other that the trip is worth it. Drive 8 hours to play arcade games is hard to convince a significant other. Mention about the cog rail, the lake, and nightly riverboat dinners and that trip just might happen.