Arcade Club –Europe’s biggest videogame dedicated arcade!
by Arcade Editor Toby na Nakhorn
A firm believer in barcades across the US, I long wondered why no one had exploited the gaping hole in the market back here. Everyone likes beer. And who doesn’t like games? Why weren’t more people jumping onto this? Arcade Club appeared out of nowhere in 2014, with the opening statement; “Europe’s largest video and pinball arcade”. How could a dedicated videogame arcade just pop up in England and declare itself as Europe’s biggest? I wanted answers. Not only that, following BBC 2’s coverage by “Collectaholics” I knew this was something more substantial than a flash in the pan. They already had my attention.
Arcade Club is based in Bury, Manchester a family business run by Andy Palmer and his team. Andy charges £10 entry per day, and the whole arcade is set to free play once you enter. Would this “pay on the door” system, which has been successful in the US with its strong arcade culture, be viable over here?
PAY ON THE DOOR ARCADES – A RECENT UK TREND
Previous flat fee entry arcades such as the Arcade Barn in Exeter and Heart of Gaming in London had tried but fallen. Arcade Barn was the first big flat fee UK arcade, and lasted a good 5 years. They did a valiant job of donating thousands of pounds to Children in Need before closing their doors in 2012. However, from what I did see it had a minimal Facebook and Twitter presence, essential publicity for today’s market. The Heart of Gaming followed on from this using the familiar system and mainly community funded, with events run by gamers themselves. Having taken cabinets from London’s internationally known powerhouse the Trocadero, this arcade showed promise but without a more focused business plan it did not take off as it could have, and closed its doors early last year.
After these previous efforts, I was surprised to see Arcade Club on the map, especially after looking at videos which showed a considerably sized premises on their Facebook. I had big expectations.
ARCADE CLUB’s LOCATION
“Bury lies 5.5 miles (8.9 km) east of Bolton, 5.9 miles (9.5 km) west-southwest of Rochdale and 7.9 miles (12.7 km) north-northwest of Manchester”. Security on the door called us over to answer questions and direct us to the arcade. The fact that Arcade Club had dedicated security already impressed me. The building is also shared with some other businesses and a laser quest, so a quick ride up the elevator later and you come to the actual Arcade Club front desk.
The first thing that hits you is the neon and the buzz of people having fun. People were at the bar casually having drinks, relaxing on sofas playing Nintendo, or trying one of the many retro dedicated game cabinets along the wall. There was also Oculus Rift, the virtual reality headset. At £550 it’s not cheap to buy, so I was more than happy of a chance to try it for free, already covered in my entry fee.
This place is set out from exactly what I’d seen in America – A barcade! Bottled cold beer for £1.50, hotdogs and burgers for £2, muffins and various snacks even cheaper. Rock bottom prices. A nice vibe and a good place where you could have a drink to relax and socialise with friends as a local hangout – Regardless if you were gaming or not.
Although barcade’s are a fantastic concept, I was here for the arcade. Not just any arcade, but Europe’s biggest. Still sceptical and moving into the main room itself, I couldn’t believe that the claim of it being the biggest dedicated arcade was in fact true! The noise, the lights, the familiar machines I had grown up with in the 80’s and 90’s, plus a huge wave of nostalgia. Gigantic!
From Pacman to Point Blank, SEGA Rally to Samurai Showdown, Arcade Club has it all. Hosting several classic moving cabinets; I played SEGA’s Outrun, Afterburner and Super Hang On which I hadn’t seen since it was on Brighton’s Palace Pier 30 years ago.
The other plus point was the maintenance. All machines were generally good. With the sheer amount of games, I’d imagine it’s hard to keep on top of things, especially as these cabinets have long lost official spare parts support in the European market. So while there were a couple of niggles here and there, the standard was a world apart from what you’d get in a seaside arcade or bowling alley. In those locations us gamers generally expect the machines to be broken rather than working! Certainly no machines left to rot here.
Andy works closely with GAME, having set up arcade machines in some of their retro stations. He sponsors the Ten Pence Arcade Podcast by Arcade Club veterans Victor Marland and Shaun Holley. Ten Pence Arcade focuses on arcade games from the late ’70s to the mid ’90s with reviews and tips on maintaining, restoring and even building your own arcade machines.
He collaborates with Manchester Battle Arena run by Esmond Fong. (I personally believe Esmond deserves a mention himself – MBA was formed in 2011 as part of Gamerbase Manchester by Esmond’s friend Ying Kit Ma. As the Gamerbase stores started to shut down around the country, control of MBA was passed on to Esmond. Everything was paid for by Esmond and Ying, the consoles, games, monitors, chairs and venue rental with no government grants or loans. Namco and Capcom were so impressed that they ended up sponsoring their future Streetfighter and Tekken events). Namco and MBA are doing a collaboration with Arcade Club to run the pre-launch tour Tekken 7 UK Championship!
I will also start collaborations with Andy myself, at Las Vegas Arcade Soho in London. With multiple current-gen fighting game events, this is an arcade in touch with the 21st Century.
INVESTING IN THE FUTURE
Andy is not only catering to the retro and nostalgia hunters, but he understands modern arcade gamers do exist, even in Europe. From running Las Vegas Arcade Soho in London myself, I introduced him to my supplier Chris Blok and his Japanese import company Shadaloo. Andy has already taken a leap with investing in Japanese music and rhythm games like Taiko No Tatsujin, DDR. Pop’n Music and Groove Coaster. I’m really impressed at his willingness to explore new genres of games, as many owners dismiss music games when they are actually at the forefront of current arcades today across Asia, Latin and North America.
By catering to the nostalgia of arcade past, yet also to current players, Arcade Club is ensuring a future generation of gamers have the same opportunities that we did.
Check out Arcade Club and other related contributors with the links below!
Facebook (original floor): https://www.facebook.com/arcadeclubuk/
Facebook (floor 2): https://www.facebook.com/arcadeclubfloor2/
Video Tour of the club: https://www.facebook.com/arcadeclubuk/videos/1702324623366149/Ten Pence Arcade Podcast: http://tenpencearcade.co.uk/
Manchester Battle Arena: https://www.facebook.com/groups/ManchesterBattleArena/
Las Vegas Arcade Soho: https://www.facebook.com/LasVegasArcadeSoho/
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