Namco Looks Into Arcade-Restaurant Hybrid

By David Radd

Posted January 4, 2013

Namco Bandai's arcade arm Namco Entertainment is looking into an upscale entertainment restaurant in the U.S. Described as a "restaurant-centered, destination entertainment concept", it will possibly be the first in a chain of similar locations.

"It's no secret that we've been exploring a number of new business models and noodling the future of Out-of-Home entertainment for several years now, and our current planning does include an ‘upscale' restaurant with ‘entertainment elements'," David Bishop, executive vice president and chief operating officer of Namco Entertainment Inc., told Polygon. "And yes, we've been working with an established American restaurateur, as well as some other really talented external professionals, to develop the concept!"

Codenamed Level 256, a reference to the last levels of the original Pac-Man and Dig Dug arcade games, the restaurant is being developed in partnership with a veteran Kansas City restaurateur. Chicago is being looked at as the location of the first restaurant, but no plans are set for an opening.

"We hope to be able to announce something soon," he added. "The project is still in a relatively early stage of development."

Namco Entertainment has nearly 20,000 commercial games, rides, attractions and automated equipment in nearly 1,000 locations in North America and the Caribbean. Even if you've never been in one of their arcades, you've probably seen a system owned and operated by them as they place games in theaters, restaurants and bowling alleys around the U.S.

"The ability to increase the dwell time of patrons (and their spend) that all restaurateurs want to achieve, can be accomplished by adding gaming," said Kevin Williams, founder of the Digital Out-of-Home Interactive Entertainment Network Association. "Be this a pool table or shuffleboard, video games, or new immersive attractions."

"We have seen an explosion of Gamebar-style taverns spring-up across the States, facilities that marry classic arcade cabinets in a highly social brew pub environment," he added. "The popularity of what has been coined 'social-tainment' is a fundamental component of the draw of video amusement (playing while an audience cheering you on). Club concepts like Insert(s) Coin - Interactive Nightlife has added the DJ / nightclub atmosphere to the mix, classic arcade titles, intense competition and a bar proving a heady mix. A number of established restaurant chains have been undertaking secret projects to experiment adding a ‘gaming-mix' to their facility brand."

"The Digital Out-of-Home Entertainment (DOE) sector is in assurgency from the malaise seen in the traditional arcade scene. The new development in the technology has seen an increase in the presentation of a gaming experience which is unique to an out of home approach." concluded Williams.



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