Like almost every other industry, arcades are dealing with losses and layoffs. In a recent article, Vice asks: “When they reopen, will people still want to play games in public?” While the article paints a grim picture, there are bright spots within. It’s clear some locations won’t make it to the post-pandemic era, but that others will find ways to hold on.
The article details how the income at Paul Kermizian’s Barcade chain “trickled to zero.” Barcade was forced to furlough 90 percent of its staff and they just implemented online ordering to add to their takeout and delivery operations, which include beer sales. “It’s not much business,” he said, “but it’s getting some of our employees back to work.” Barcade was also able to successfully get a loan through the Paycheck Protection Program to help out.
The Los Angeles arcade bar Button Mash closed up before the stay-at-home order in California, and was offering takeout and delivery for a few weeks before shutting down completely. It’s currently reopened for to-go meals on the weekends. Co-owner Gabe Fowlkes said unless a business previously had a majority-focused delivery model, “the numbers just don’t add up.” That will be true, he said, as businesses like his are held to 25 or 50 percent capacity. Button Mash also received a PPP loan, but Fowlkes said it’s being advised not to use any of it yet based on the loan’s “incredibly murky and up-in-the-air rules.”
Quarter World, which has been renting out pinball machines and video games to homes, attributes its ability to stay afloat to a run of press coverage touting their changed business model.
So, what does a “post-coronavirus” arcade business look like?
“I don’t know what projections to make,” Kermizian said. “Games are actually a big part of our revenue. I have to see what the climate is – if people will want to come in and interact physically with video games and pinball machines.”
Patty Barber, general manager of Silverball Museum Arcade in Asbury Park, N.J., says they will. “I think – and so do the owners – that in times of the economy being on a downward spiral and people feeling scared and traumatized, they will look for entertainment, and we’ll still want to offer that to them.”
Added Quarter World’s director of operations Logan Bowden: “I think there’s going to be some arcades and some businesses out there that are sort of arcade-esque that aren’t gonna make it. But I mean, then again, you see people open up the beaches for one day, and it’s like spring break out there. Maybe it’ll be just like that – it’s hard to tell. All we can do now is speculate.”