Monday, December 3, 2012
The new Dave & Buster’s is a video game haven, sports bar destination
Imagine watching the Cowboys on a 130" screen.
DALLAS Dave & Buster’s, which is celebrating 30 years in business this year, debuted a new look for the franchise beginning here in Dallas. The new store, which opened December 2 at 9450 North Central Expressway, will replace the aging Walnut Hill location that has been around since the '80s.
“We are very excited,” Dave & Buster’s president Dolf Berle told us when we visited the new location on Thursday. “We do very well in Frisco and Arlington, but this is the flagship Dallas store that we hope will set the tone for the brand going forward.” This store marks the debut of a new food menu, new games, and a new sports bar area, geared both to families and adults. “We’re sort of looking at not only the family fun environment, but also what we call the ‘play together young adults’ as the two key focuses in terms of guests here.”
The most evident change as soon as you walk in the new store is how much more open it feels compared to past locations. It is now easier to see the individual elements of the store, from its midway packed with about 120 games, its billiards room, and its sizable dining room.
“Historically we’ve been ‘Eat, drink and play,’” Berle said. “Now it’s ‘Eat, drink, play and watch.’” Large HD TVs are peppered throughout the building, with three 130″ screens easily visible in the sports bar. Also in the sports bar area is a prize wheel, which incorporates prize winning into the sports watching experience.
“When you’re watching the Cowboys, for example, if they do something that’s noteworthy on the field, there’s a big wheel that gets spun, and people win prizes by virtue of what happened in the game. So it makes it interactive, which we think is fun,” Berle said.
There are also three “FUNction” meeting rooms available for rental, which can provide a high-class environment for business meetings or a more lighthearted environment for birthday parties. Multiple rooms can be rented if you need extra space.
For me, personally, a place like this is going to live or die by its game selection. That’s not true of everybody (plenty of people, I’m sure, will be perfectly happy with the huge screens showing sports and a room to play pool in), but I care about the arcade.
I put the old Walnut Hill D&B location on my list of the Five Best Arcades in Dallas, and this new location trumps the old one. Not only is everything much easier to get to (previously, games were spread out across two separate midways, making it harder to find what you wanted to play — or the child that ran off when you weren’t looking), but I think the selection, while mostly similar, is at least a tiny bit better than it was before.
Many of the games I talked about previously in my Dallas arcades feature are still around. Guitar Hero, Time Crisis, that crazy game where you bet on virtual horse races? All of that stuff is still here. Pac-Man Battle Royale is still pretty great with a group, and there are many games that are designed purely to give you a lot of tickets very quickly. There are still some huge bummers for long-time arcade fans, (The marketing executive giving me a tour pointed at one of the new Frogger machines and said, “Frogger’s a classic!” No, this Frogger that they have is not a classic. It’s a mockery of a classic.) but overall its a better selection than many of the alternatives these days.
Some genres are completely neglected (I don’t recall seeing any fighting games, any NBA Jam-esque sports games, or any classic Midway releases), but there are at least a few old gems. I was pretty excited to stumble onto a Mad Dog McCree machine, and Daytona USA is still going strong, apparently. There is also a Nintendo cabinet with the classic Mario Bros., Donkey Kong and Donkey Kong Jr., as well as a Namco machine with classic Pac-Man.
The bizarre trend of porting tablet and phone games to arcades is still in effect. Fruit Ninja and Infinity Blade FX were both present, as was a new Doodle Jump Cabinet and Temple Run, which I confess I didn’t even know existed in arcade form. While fun, and perfect for the short-burst arcade design, it felt weird paying money to play Temple Run while it’s free to play on the iPad. But hey, at least I got tickets out of it.
It’s not going to satisfy the 80s kid in you (well, unless that '80s kid was really into Skee Ball and nothing else), but there’s a pretty good selection of family friendly games available, and the possible ticket prizes can get pretty high in quality. (Though I’d personally rather not spend hours of time and tons of money winning a copy of Assassin’s Creed III when instead I could just, you know, go home and play Assassin’s Creed III.) I really like the new look of Dave & Buster’s, and wouldn’t mind going back.
While this Dallas store is the new model for the franchise moving forward, the franchise is capable of squeezing into a smaller space. “The majority of our historical chain is over 50,000 square feet,” Berle told us. “Very large buildings. This one is 45,000, and it is in the same vein as what we built in Orlando and also in Braintree Massachusetts.
“In smaller cities, we are building a 25,000 square foot model. The best representations of those are in Oklahoma City and more recently Orland Park outside Chicago. So we have been able to compress the size of the building but retain the power of the midway and also economize in terms of space efficiency versus the old days. So we’re convinced it’s as good or better an experience, but it is in a more economically tighter box.”
This will be the 60th store in the chain, which employs 8,000 people. “Our expectation is to grow five [stores] next year, and then six to eight each year thereafter. And we’re all lined up for next year already.” The next new store will be in Boise, Idaho on January 14.
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