13 Elements to a good arcade

What follows is a brief explanation of the 13 essential elements that are needed to have a good arcade. Of course, this is not a guide to operating a successful arcade, since I have no background running a business, just what I think would make a good arcade. Enough of my ranting, on with the list!

#1 Good selection of newer games

This one is a given. You just can't have a good arcade without the latest and greatest games. This is one of the most important things to draw people into your arcade.

#2 A few older games

Why do almost all arcades have a couple of old machines laying around in the back? Two reasons. Firstly, they are cheap. A game like Ms. Pac-Man can be had for less than $500 and some older "classics" can be had for even less than that. Secondly, the older customers will inevitably throw a few quarters in them just for the nostalgia.

#3 Some pinball machines

Pinball machines have been in arcades for almost a million years. These give people who have very little interest in video games something to do, as well as giving the hardcore gamers something to do in between gaming sessions.

#4 No ticket system

Yeah, I know. Everybody loves the ticket system. It generates a ton of money for the arcade and it's almost expected that every arcade should have them. In almost all the arcades I've ever been in, the ticket system has been abandoned. In the one arcade that it remains, the best prize I can win is a cellular phone full of candy. The ticket system was a good idea to generate revenue, but there are other areas that are easier to maintain that can generate just as much revenue if they are run properly.

#5 Darkened room

This is one of the most important parts of the atmosphere. The room should have very subdued lighting. Almost to the point that the monitors are producing more light than the fixtures. This accomplishes two things: it makes the room look cool, and it makes the games themselves easier to focus on. This is just one of the little things that can make a huge difference in the way people look at your arcade.

#6 Volume of machines

The volume of the machines should be both loud enough so that the people playing can hear what's going on, and quiet enough so they do not split their eardrums during a gaming session. A happy medium can be reached with such a small amount of effort that it really irritates me when the sound is nowhere near an acceptable level. This is one of the easiest things to maintain, and one of the most essential.

#7 Tournaments with prizes

Part of playing games is being competitive, and gamers love to show off their skills to their peers. Tournaments provide two key benefits for gamers: they get to show off their skills, and they socialize. Charge a nominal entrance fee and provide a relatively inexpensive prize (like a tee shirt or an arcade gift certificate) and this can potentially become a moderately sized and continuous source of income, as well as give the "regulars" something different to do.

#8 Sell snacks

To keep people in your arcade, you have to keep them fed. Gamers do not eat healthy food at an arcade, even when it is offered. There are three types of "food" that should be offered at an arcade: quick snacks(chips, candy, candy bars, etc.), "stadium food" (nachos, pizza, hot dogs, etc), and soft-drinks (Yeah, I know. Not actually food. But they provide caffeine and sugar, which is gamer fuel).

#9 Provide a diversion from gaming

This is perhaps the most overlooked facet of running an arcade. Even the most hardcore of gamer will want to take a break from non-stop gaming once in a while, or will just have the urge to do something just a little different. There is a whole list of activities that can provide this diversion, that I could write an entire article describing them all and their benefits. Here is a non-definitive list: air hockey, pool, mini-golf, and laser tag. Of course you don?t have to provide all these diversions, but a few of these would certainly be adequate.

#10 Rotate new games often

This is probably the most expensive part of running an arcade, but can be crucial to its survival. People simply will not continue to patronize an arcade if the selection of games remains stagnant. Proprietors must keep track of trends in games and adjust their stock accordingly.

#11 Keep games fixed

This is something that nobody should have to be told, but if a game breaks, fix it. Customers can't play a broken machine, and it reflects poorly on the arcade if the majority of the games in there are in disrepair. It is expected that some of the games will be "Out of Order" for whatever reason, but as long as the problems are addressed and corrected in a reasonable amount of time (less than a week) this is not an issue.

#12 Keep plenty of open space

Wide open aisles are not essential. However, they provide spectators someplace to stand while they are watching someone else play a game, and they allow machines to be placed a few feet apart so that they aren't a distraction to the people playing the game next to it.

#13 Quarters vs. Tokens

This is one of those points that could go either way since they both have good and bad aspects. Quarters are good because anyone can just walk in off the street and throw some quarters in your machine for a quick game. Tokens, however, allow for "sales." Offering tokens for a discounted rate can bring more people in, and gets them to stay longer.

There you have it. These are the elements that, if applied, would make an arcade that I would like to go to. I don't know if it would be a successful one or not, but until I open one up, we may never know.