(Topic ID: 147276)

Thinking of opening a pinball arcade


By FXR

4 years ago



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  • 80 posts
  • 52 Pinsiders participating
  • Latest reply 4 years ago by VacFink
  • Topic is favorited by 12 Pinsiders

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    There are 80 posts in this topic. You are on page 2 of 2.
    #51 4 years ago
    Quoted from FXR:

    idea of sharing a space with an established place

    Try this first for a specific amount of time. This will give you an idea of how it will actually work out for you and your wife. Best thing about this is if you decide it is not for you then you can pull the games and sell them.

    One thing I may have missed in all the posts are the late night, weekend calls letting you know a game is down and needs repair. Living close to the establishment makes it a bit easier, but you can expect to receive calls at all unknown times letting you know a specific game is down and needs repair.

    #52 4 years ago

    Around here, the model seems to be more about tapping into the birthday party circuit. Places geared towards families looking for something different to do, companies looking for fun outings, etc. (There's almost no pinball in these parts, so I'm lumping in regular arcades) The places with alcohol tend to have it adjacent to the games, but closed off so that families are comfortable playing the games. Most places have some form of tokens/debit cards for playing the games, though I really like Modern Pinball's hourly rate system.

    I'm guessing the difference is that our area is known as a place to raise families rather than a place for young singles. The only barcades I can think of are a couple of Dave and Busters, and I almost never hear anyone talking about going to them. (I do hear people talking all the time about going to the regular arcades though.)

    #53 4 years ago
    Quoted from FXR:

    But luckily for us we happen to have some very good friends who have opened up a pretty successful micro brewery drinking establishment in Tempe near the college and we're likening the idea of possibly renting some space from him and maybe helping each other out getting new business. Will be meeting with them this week to talk about the pinball idea. They are interested in hearing about it. Granted their won't be big money coming in with 8 / 10 pinball machine but their won't be a huge layout either.

    Unless they are giving you some crazy deal, renting space might not be the best way to go. I've heard other people who do this a at a friend's place will often just get 100% split of the machines. It's still a good deal for the bar if you're doing leagues and tournaments, because they make much easier money from the alcohol sales.

    If you don't end up getting 100%, push for 75/25. Pins are the hardest way to earn quarters (compared to everything else: skeeball, pool tables, foosball, air hockey, video games, jukeboxes, redemption games...) by far, and require much more maintenance, care, and are really expensive upfront. 50/50 split seemed more fair back in the day when arcades were packed to the brim.

    Quoted from loren3233:

    One thing I may have missed in all the posts are the late night, weekend calls letting you know a game is down and needs repair. Living close to the establishment makes it a bit easier, but you can expect to receive calls at all unknown times letting you know a specific game is down and needs repair.

    People say this all the time, but a reasonable partner does not expect you to come fix a game at midnight. You can get to it tomorrow, or even the next day if you're out of town for the weekend.

    #54 4 years ago

    Pins are so uncommon on location, I'd find a location saw real value in adding them, and wanted an attraction, plus saw the benefits in having leagues come to their venue, etc.

    I'd never pay rent. I'd just go across the street and talk to the bar there, or one a block away. I'd keep looking till I found the most advantageous location that was going to give my business its best chances.

    #55 4 years ago

    Some friends of mine own a successful micro brewery and a pinball game and longtime passion for pins. They are considering opening a pub in town with regular hours. I have approached him about adding an arcade room. They would own some games and I would own some as well, (I haven't room at home) He is now considering buying some more games. I hope we can do it and make it work.

    #56 4 years ago
    Quoted from DefaultGen:

    Good luck, hopefully you're opening a bar because there is a market demand for a bar and pinball at the location you're looking at and not because you'd personally like to see a barcade in your town.
    Make sure you understand the demographics. There are two barcades in Raleigh, only one has partrons overflowing out the door onto the patio, and it's the one with half crap condition pins. The slower one is the one with nice pins, runs tournaments, etc. I know the CoinBox guys keep a big lineup of modern, clean, working games and most of their money comes from casual players in the bowling alley anyway, not people who visited to play pinball.

    Yet the slower of the two places makes a KILLING on their pins too. In less than a month there were so many quarters in Metallica the manager had to push them away from the door so new coins could enter... Why would they not empty the games? Well, the bar has the keys for stuck balls but they do not own the pins....

    #57 4 years ago

    First thing is get on the phone with at least 5 of the people here that have done or are doing this.

    #58 4 years ago
    Quoted from ryanwanger:

    People say this all the time, but a reasonable partner does not expect you to come fix a game at midnight. You can get to it tomorrow, or even the next day if you're out of town for the weekend.

    Absolutely but you completely miss the point.

    As a good partner and good operator you should make every attempt to get the game up and running and not wait a few days if at all possible.

    #59 4 years ago

    Listen to and read the notes from the coinbox pinball podcast.

    #60 4 years ago
    Quoted from JOESCHALL:

    Listen to and read the notes from the coinbox pinball podcast.

    It's my favorite pinball podcast, but I think operating a row of games on location and owning a bar are two entirely different things. The hard part is keeping the bar open and profitable, not keeping the games fresh and running.

    #61 4 years ago
    Quoted from FXR:

    Sure would love to be part of introducing pinball back to the masses once again but now we have to put some serious thought into this crazy ass idea.

    Maybe this suggestion might be worth considering. Maybe build a tiny house on a trailer, pack it with pins, and drive/follow interesting events that would pull the right crowd. Travel, see the country, and share your pin-hobby on weekends and summers to start.

    #62 4 years ago
    Quoted from VacFink:

    Maybe this suggestion might be worth considering. Maybe build a tiny house on a trailer, pack it with pins, and drive/follow interesting events that would pull the right crowd. Travel, see the country, and share your pin-hobby on weekends and summers to start.

    That's a pretty good idea really. Maybe not at this time in our lives but in the future for sure. Still meeting with our micro brewery friends next week about bringing in pins. He said he'd give us the space for 7 or 8 pins and it wouldn't cost us a thing. Might be a good way to learn what you can really make on pinball without breaking the bank.

    #63 4 years ago
    Quoted from loren3233:

    Absolutely but you completely miss the point.
    As a good partner and good operator you should make every attempt to get the game up and running and not wait a few days if at all possible.

    I absolutely didn't miss the point. Every time a newbie asks about opening an arcade, people come in to scare them with the "what happens when you get a call at midnight demanding you fix a pinball machine".

    I operate 15 machines, and I'm doing fixes and repairs 2 or 3 times a week (sometimes more). I do them as fast as I (reasonably) can, but you don't need to be able to drop whatever you are doing at any moment (day or night) to have a reputation for great playing pins, and outstanding service.

    I've operated machines for 5 different clients now, and not one of them has had this day or night expectation. Neither have my regular players. Although it's a lot of time, it's not that hard to come in and provide a better overall playing experience than what most people have come to expect from location pins over the last 20 years.

    #64 4 years ago

    If your games are working and playing great most of the time, people will cut you a little slack if something is down and you have to wait a few days to order new parts, for example.

    #65 4 years ago
    Quoted from KloggMonkey:

    Not as much as you would like to think.
    .25 in 1985 is .55 today.
    http://data.bls.gov/cgi-bin/cpicalc.pl?cost1=.25&year1=1985&year2=2015

    Hmmm... Not sure that holds across the board. I paid $23k for a mustang gt in 2003 but they are $33k now. But what do I know. Just seems like stuff has gone up a LOT

    #66 4 years ago

    And as a 602 local, I would definitely drop cash at this place if you opened! The only place I go to regularly right now is StarFighters Arcade in Mesa, because it's the only one worth going to... MGL and CNC don't really count. And Dave and Busters is 100% redemption.

    #67 4 years ago

    Lots of encouragement in the last few posts, thank you guys. Short of something ugly coming up which I don't foresee, I think we will have pinball in Tempe in the near future. As far as a machine going down and having to go do a repair, it's what I love to do so I doubt that will be a major issue for me. Our business's now a days are Custom embroidery and building Custom Harley Davidsons. We're both semi retired and both doing what we love. Grandpa said a long long time ago, "find a job you love to do, and you'll never work a day in your life grandson". That advice has worked for me for over 40 years. Thanks again everyone and have a wonderful Christmas, and a Blessed and Happy and healthy New Year. And a bit late, a very Happy Hanukkah.

    #68 4 years ago
    Quoted from ryanwanger:

    Every time a newbie asks about opening an arcade, people come in to scare them with the "what happens when you get a call at midnight demanding you fix a pinball machine".

    Sorry, I disagree. I also operate pins at two different locations and I am not trying to scare anyone, I am stating facts that I have dealt with. I would agree with you that there is no need to drop everything that exact minute but you should want to get the game repaired quickly instead of waiting a few days. Not only does this show your commitment but it will continue to support earnings, which any operator would want.

    #69 4 years ago
    Quoted from loren3233:

    but you should want to get the game repaired quickly instead of waiting a few days. Not only does this show your commitment but it will continue to support earnings, which any operator would want.

    Absolutely agree. Customer service is key in any business. They would hardly be down for more than a few hours unless I was away ( which is once a year for a weekend, most ever, three days ) or I did not have a part on hand that was needed. Wouldn't want it any other way. I want people to know that these are the best damn games in the state to play. Or I just wouldn't want to do it.

    #70 4 years ago

    If you build it , they will come.

    #71 4 years ago
    Quoted from KloggMonkey:

    Not as much as you would like to think.
    .25 in 1985 is .55 today.

    But pins were already .50 cents in 1981 from the factory, so really

    .50 in 1981 = $1.44 today

    #72 4 years ago

    You will make more money selling cocktails and food in a space that was once used for pool tables and arcade machines. A few dinning tables in those areas will bring in way more money than pinball ever could night in and night out. Focus on a good concept, good food, great staff and make money. Buy pins and put them in your home arcade.

    #73 4 years ago

    Coin operated amusements is very competitive in my area & sometimes cut throat. Splits of cashboxes are competitive & repair time needs to be ASAP or your gonna get a call cause other vendors are waiting to swoop in & snag the location at any opportunity. Now if you own your arcade & merely renting space some worries as an operator decrease, but other worries increase of course. As far as price per play, your average customer will stick there nose up at $1.00 per play. There is something about $1.00 that people think is like spending $5.00. Now if your running tokens at a discount you could probably get 4 tokens per play or even better card swipe system like dave & busters. With card swipe who's gonna calculate 2.9 credits per play.

    #74 4 years ago

    Make sure you budget enough to hire a hot bartender or two... You will likely attract more men there, so you want to make sure there is some eye candy.

    If you design a place with pinheads in mind, then I don't see a way for it to make enough money to justify the work. If you make the place a "scene" where young kids want to hang out, then it could work. It needs to be more of a bar/club with a pinball theme.

    #75 4 years ago

    As much as I like new games, I think for a route, system 11 and Data East games are the way to go. Half the price and the ball times are much shorter on them which will give you more revenue, in my opinion.

    #76 4 years ago
    Quoted from PinballManiac40:

    As much as I like new games, I think for a route, system 11 and Data East games are the way to go. Half the price and the ball times are much shorter on them which will give you more revenue, in my opinion.

    I just depends on who is frequenting that spot.

    You and I see Taxi as a cool game because we all have great memories playing it.

    People in their 30s are going to see Santa Claus on the side of a yellow Cabernet and think it's totally gay.

    Those same 30 year olds will see Transformers and Game of Thrones as something they know and can identify with.

    #77 4 years ago
    Quoted from vid1900:

    I just depends on who is frequenting that spot.
    You and I see Taxi as a cool game because we all have great memories playing it.
    People in their 30s are going to see Santa Claus on the side of a yellow Cabernet and think it's totally gay.
    Those same 30 year olds will see Transformers and Game of Thrones as something they know and can identify with.

    Depends though. I hold no nostalgia to pins (I'm 17), and Taxi was the first pin I fell in love with. All the other games were complex and confusing, and I didn't feel like I was accomplishing much by playing them. But once I learned the simple ruleset of Taxi I was totally hooked and played it like crazy.

    A game like GOT may draw someone to it quicker than Taxi, but I'd say it's probably less likely to hold that casual player's attention for more than one game, since they'll score 3 mil, never see a multiball or any goal achieved what-so-ever, and leave unsatisfied.

    Something like TWD is the best of both worlds. Has a theme that draws people in, and simple goals that will hold that player's interest.

    #78 4 years ago
    Quoted from WaddleJrJr:

    (I'm 17), and Taxi was the first pin I fell in love with.

    That is because at 17, you still have your love for an unadulterated Santa.

    That won't always be the case.

    Cheap_beer_(resized).jpg

    #79 4 years ago

    Spent some time at the Baxter, a newish barcade in Chapel Hill, NC this week. They have around 30 arcade cabs and 8 pins. I was there Sunday and Monday nights for a couple hours, and the place was packed both nights, despite a large percentage of the population being gone for winter break. The pins were clearly among the most popular games, almost always full. So, there are success stories out there...

    Some things I liked about this place: well-maintained machines (50 cents!), large high-score chalkboard (very cool idea, gives you something to go for and much more obvious than machine high scores), helpful staff quick to handle things like stuck balls, pingulps, good beer.

    So-so things: lots of old pinball machines repurposed as decoration and furniture. An old EM cab was a table, and a bunch of early SS backboxes and playfields on the walls. Kinda bummed me out - especially since the oldest game in the lineup was 1993. Wish these pieces were restored or at least parted for other working games! Change machine only takes singles and was super finicky even with crisp bills, and the bartender didn't have rolls, only singles for the machine. Not a big deal but don't make it hard for me to spend money...

    Anyone know how crowded this place gets when students are in town? Seems like it's doing pretty well...

    #80 4 years ago
    Quoted from vid1900:

    That is because at 17, you still have your love for an unadulterated Santa.

    That won't always be the case.

    Precisely the reason I have to re-theme a perfectly good Jokerz. At least I found a viable spare play field I can sand down and keep my original in tact.

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