Dave & Buster’s Has Giant iPhone App Arcade Machines. Why?

I’ve never been to a Dave & Buster’s. I like the idea of a Chuck E. Cheese (or Showbiz Pizza) for grownups. It’s certainly a great idea that stands alone, save for hipster bowling alleys. But being a vegan who doesn’t drink alcohol, it’s not really my scene – much as I love video games.

Dave & Buster’s isn’t shy about advertising, and I’ve seen my fair share of commercials for their restaurant/pleasure palace. Something I’ve noticed as a trend in them, which is rather disturbing: They often advertise arcade versions of video games that are under a buck on my phone.

It started with Doodle Jump, the first game I bought for my iPhone 3Gs back in 2009. And it was old news then. Then I saw it taking up the full screen on a 2012 Dave & Buster’s commercial. Look, you can play it on a giant screen for what I assume is a monetary fee! And people are supposed to be drawn to that?

If you’re unfamiliar, here’s the essence of Doodle Jump on iPhone: Some alien that a bored/talentless child drew hops up platforms, and you tilt your phone to jostle him left or right until he falls and dies. That’s it. So what does the arcade version do? It gives you a 42-inch screen and a joystick that only moves left or right. The graphics don’t look any better, though I assume they’ve been increased in resolution. I assume a scoreboard is included, too, so…yay?


But wait, there’s more! This is no isolated incident. From the restaurant’s website and viewing its commercials, I can tell you Subway Surfers, Temple Run, Cut The Rope, and even motherloving Candy Crush Saga have all been or are currently playable at a Dave & Buster’s near you! There’s even a Flappy Bird ripoff that dispenses tickets based on how far you get!

Again, let me remind you that these are all games that you can play on your phone. And with the exception of Doodle Jump and Cut the Rope, they’re all absolutely free. They were designed for a touchscreen with no buttons or joysticks, as opposed to say Pac-Man or Tetris, which are cheap gaming apps but benefit from and originated in arcades.

As kids, we went to arcades because they offered superior technology to what we could play at home. Double Dragon looked amazing compared to the NES port. Centipede was nothing without the trackball featured in the cabinet. As home consoles caught up, arcades tried to compensate with giant guns or fake cars accouterments, but by then the writing was on the wall. And now the idea is to entice us to fork over money/tokens to play the same games that are currently playable (and optimized) in our pocket? Really…?


Now, I’m not opposed to arcade versions of apps. When I was in Japan last year, I saw an arcade cabinet for Groove Coaster, a rhythm game I’d purchased for my iPhone years before and rarely played. Adding a cool joystick, bumping up the graphics, offering new songs, and having headphones to blast the music into all greatly enhanced the experience. I ended up plunking several hundred yen into it and then reinstalled the mobile version and played a bunch of it.

Is Subway Surfers as enhanced over the one on my wife’s phone, which she plays every now and then when she’s bored? If you’re asking people to plop down money just for a single turn, it damn sure better be. Not only that, it needs to be appealing to watch – yet another thing the iOS versions weren’t designed to do.

The boyfriend doesn't seem too interested in this screengrab from an official commercial.

Free booze & a payday can’t make this actor give a damn about Giant Candy Crush Saga in a D&B commercial.

Feel free to drop a comment if you have some experience with these D&B app/arcade crossovers. Maybe I’m being too critical.


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