Super Arcade in Walnut, California may be the last traditional arcade. You have your Round 1’s and your Dave And Buster’s that combine arcade games with other things, like a bar, or bowling, or karaoke. Even Next Level Games on the East Coast sells Magic The Gathering to get by. But Super Arcade marches on, propelled by the premier weekly major tournaments in fighting games: Wednesday Night Fights and The Runback. There’s also Super Smash Sundays which bring in a ton of people to play Super Smash Brothers Melee and have really helped to keep the arcade alive during lean times.
However, several blog posts of the man behind Super Arcade, Mike Watson, reveal that his financial situation is tenuous, as he hasn’t taken home any pay in months and couldn’t even get his family Christmas presents. After a situation with a former co-owner basically cleaned his arcade out of well, arcade games, Mike Watson has done his damnedest to get it restocked and make it comfortable. However, the floor could be cleaner, and so could the bathroom. The bathroom could be a lot cleaner. It could also use a new lock.
Even though Super Arcade has hosted many events, including one of the first location tests for Ultra Street Fighter 4, and is currently hosting an tournament series for PlayStation All Stars Battle Royale that is being sponsored by Sony themselves, with multiple PlayStation 4’s as rewards, the arcade needs help, or Mike Watson will be forced to shut it down. Fortunately, a Kickstarter put in place has already achieved its $44,000 goal, and may even hit the $52,000 stretch goal to earn a new sign.
I sat down with Mike Watson just before his Kickstarter cleared $44,000 to get his thoughts on the occasion.
So, is this a way to modernize the arcade, and make it a hybrid arcade, so to speak? Is this what all arcades need to do?
Well, I think creating a lounge, in a sense, is going to be attractive to new customers, and once you get the new customers they’ll be able to see what we have to offer, which will hopefully lead to them liking and enjoying playing arcade games.
So is the idea to attract people first and then figure out what they want, and adapt the game list to what’s going to be available.
Well, our new plan is to get games that appeal to a wider audience than just fighting games in general, so we’ll have something for everyone. Driving games, puzzle games, shoot-em-ups, even a physical basketball hoop for people to play with.
So for reals, Ultra Street Fighter 4? I saw it on the list on the Kickstarter.
The bad news with that is that it’s only going to be Japan release, and it’s going to use Nesica X Live.
(Nesica is a service for arcade users that requires an internet connection and authorization. It’s like DRM for Arcade games. Suffice it to say that this means Ultra will not see an arcade release in America.)
Do you have enough space for all these games you want to add? Is the space gonna change dramatically?
We have a lot of larger machines that are used as space fillers due to budgeting, but the new cabinets are modernized, clean and up to date. They’re smaller than the current cabinets, and we should double what we have here currently.
You’re gonna be offering WiFi, anything else?
Yeah, we’ll be charging $3 for WiFi, and I’m looking to implement a projector area where we can show out-of-town tournaments to people where they can hang out and watch. We might also have Lakers or Dodgers games.
I wanted to get your opinion on something. Have you seen that new space in Little Tokyo, Eighty Two?
I think that location is pretty cool, but alcohol plays a big role in allowing people to spend money, and if you’re old enough to drink, you’re old enough to remember video games. It’s kind of a nostalgia effect, and… we’re not allowed to have alcohol here.
Would you love to be able to serve alcohol?
I think how we can appeal to everyone is to make a family fun environment, but also make a competitive environment like we’ve been having for the past few years. Just bringing in more casual gamers and people looking to have fun, that’s the goal. Nothing wrong with alcohol, I’d love to be able to sell it here, but I can’t.
So what is the deal with this PlayStation All-Stars series you’re hosting? How did it come to be?
One of the people working on the patch is one of my good friends, and I’m not gonna release his name to get him in trouble, but he approached me, he knows we have a good competitive scene here, and he knows I’m always willing to give new games a chance, as long as they bring the players and be nice enough to provide a few prizes to attract more players, maybe PlayStation All-Stars will come back stronger.
With the Kickstarter sitting at 95% with 30 days to go, any final thoughts?
To be honest man, I’m just letting it all sink in. It’s becoming a reality now, and when it hits I can finally get some sleep. But once I get some rest it’s back to work, figuring out how to allocate the money very wisely to make this place last.
Thanks for your time.