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Plugged In

Arcades making a comeback

Plugged In

Long before home consoles were a staple in every living room, game geeks looking for a fix would head down to the local mall to feed quarters into coin-op acade machines, happily wiling away the hours.

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Unfortunately, the glory days of the arcades — the 70s and 80s — are a distant memory.

You can thank the evolution of the video game industry for that. The rise of the home console fundamentally changed the way we played, just as mobile and social games are now clawing into time spent staring at the TV on the couch. But in the past few years, an unlikely resurgence has started taking shape. Arcades are once again becoming en vogue.

They've just grown up with their audience.

While the mall arcade, that dark little room jam-packed with dozens of whistling, beeping and blooping machines, is long gone, the desire to play games in a social setting hasn't faded. Today's arcades are often high-rent, enormous affairs -- and almost always come with a fully stocked bar.

Dave & Busters is leading the charge. The arcade/bar/restaurant chain boasts nearly 60 locations around the country and is on an expansion kick. Construction is underway on a new 23,645 square foot location outside of Chicago and the company is preparing for an IPO. Eventually, management believes the company could grow to as many as 150 locations around the country.

This will be the second IPO in D&B's history. The company was bought in 2006 by private investors, who took it private again. That group has since sold it to another venture firm that hopes to raise money via a stock sale to pay down debt.

Meanwhile, in New York, a regional bar that revolves around video games has proven to be a hit with folks in Manhattan and Brooklyn — and is getting ready to expand as well. Barcade opened in 2004 and quickly became the favorite watering hole of many world-class gamers. Several world record holders, including Donkey Kong champ Hank Chien, are regulars.

A Jersey City location opened earlier this year and another in Philadelphia is opening soon. Like the original, they're expected to host special events like Fünde Razor, which raises cash for the Child's Play charity, to lure in home gamers.

Things haven't been quite as robust at GameWorks, but the chain of seven high-profile arcades still boasts locations at key cities around the country, including Las Vegas and Seattle. That's a far cry from its heyday, though, when it boasted an additional 15 locations. Many of those were closed last year as part of a restructuring plan by current owner Sega (which bought out shares from the company's original investors, including Steven Spielberg's DreamWorks and Universal Pictures).

Of course, not every arcade has to be an extravagant, multi-million dollar affair. While the local mall might not have one, there are still nearly 2,500 small arcades located around the country sporting classic games like Pac Man, Donkey-Kong and Galaga. (Find one near you here.)

And several publishers are still manufacturing arcade games. Sega recently released a version of The House of the Dead 4 using a pair of 100-inch screens to make it stand out, while Capcom released an arcade version of Street Fighter IV in 2008 — a year before it brought the game to home consoles.

If you still can't find an arcade nearby and you happen to have children, you can always hit the local Chuck E. Cheese. Sure, the majority of the games are geared toward the younger crowd -- and the odds of walking out of there with some new strain of influenza are higher than any sane person would prefer -- but for arcade aficionados, there's usually still a good mix of old and new machines to catch your eye. And with 542 stores nationwide, there's probably one close by.

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