I’m not sure how clear it is from the blog, but for the record, I live in the United Kingdom. Given that much of the arcade Golden Age was centered around the USA, we were very much the poorer cousins of arcade related activity both back in the 80s and indeed today. Many arcade releases never made it over here, especially from some of the smaller manufacturers, and those games that were distributed on these shores were in much smaller numbers.
To give you an idea of just how barren the arcade scene is over here, I’d estimate that there are no more than a dozen known upright Missile Command machines over here in collectors’ hands. That’s not to say there aren’t more out there somewhere, but I’d be very surprised if more than 20 exist anywhere in the UK today. For you arcade enthusiasts residing in the USA, this must sound completely incomprehensible.
But what we’ve not had over here is our equivalent of a Funspot or Galloping Ghost Arcade – a place you can go to play a good number of classic arcade cabinets under one roof. Even the ‘Barcade’ phenomenon hasn’t really made traction over here, but look hard enough and you will find a smattering of classic cabinets and pinball around to play. But if you want a one stop arcade packed to the rafters with an abundance of arcade cabinets, you either rely on the hospitality of other collectors, willing to set up a social meet, or go along to one of the larger retro events that take place around the country every once in a while, where a lineup of machines might be available for the public to play.
I guess we’ve all been guilty of making the excuse that “those bloody Americans have are hoarding all the classic arcade cabinets!”.
But this all changed recently. Arcade Club in Bury, near Manchester, is the brainchild of Andy Palmer. Andy has been collecting classic arcade cabs for over 20 years now – his current tally is (wait for it) an astonishing 300+ machines. And what better way to properly house such a huge collection, than to open the doors on a large warehouse space for the general public to visit, grab a pint or two and play them!
Whatever your expectations when visiting Arcade Club for the first time, you are almost certainly going to be very impressed indeed. It is clear from the moment you walk into the room that Andy has a solid grasp on what people want to see, and the passion he has for his business shines through – both in terms of the volume and variety of cabinets, but also their condition. Entering the main arcade area, you are greeted with this sight:
What is even more impressive, is you’ll be hard pushed to find a game in the whole place not working – keeping hundreds of old arcade machines working takes some effort (heck I can barely manage my modest collection). Walking further into the arcade you will find a great selection of pinball machines across the back wall:
Turn around and walk down the middle area of the arcade, and you’ll find the classics section. This is made up of games from the early 80s era ‘The Golden Age’ if you will:
There’s more. Lots more. name the cab and it’s probably here. Much of my visit was spent in this section, and really sums up Arcade Club – everything is here under one roof.
Moving on (there’s more!). A good selection of modern-day drivers can be found in the top corner, including a beautiful Outrun Deluxe:
And then this. Andy has collected together a variety of Japanese candy cabs housing bullet hell shooters and fighting games. Very impressive indeed:
Some really obscure stuff can be found in this section:
The bar area doesn’t escape the influx of arcade cabinets. So grab a pint, settle down and play some of these classics:
Since visiting Arcade Club a few months back, Andy has taken on more space, and opened up another floor area in the building, just for adults. As well as more arcade cabinets, the space plays host to several gaming tournaments, with LAN setups and consoles spread across the room.
I’ve taken those images from Arcade Club’s Twitter feed. Rather than me try to describe what’s there, take a look at this video uploaded by the splendid chaps from Ten Pence Arcade podcast:
Andy was kind enough to show me round the storage areas of his business. I snapped a few rarities waiting to be restored and pushed out to the floor:
You need spares? Arcade Club has spares!
Here’s a quick walk-through of the whole place, which gives you an idea of what’s there:
So there you go. Arcade Club is a huge classic arcade candy store. You’ll be back several times! If you live here in the UK, you need to make the effort to get there and check it out. Andy is constantly improving the lineup, with new cabinets being added all the time.
You’ll pay an admission fee – adults £10, kids £5 – but the good news is that all games are set to free play and you can stay and play as long as you like. The fully stocked bar (food is available too) means you can have a break and chat and socialize with other gamers.
Many thanks to Andy for the impromptu tour, and in a wider sense for making this great place happen for the UK community. Do go and support Arcade Club, it really is very impressive and deserves every success.
I’ll be at Arcade Club again next weekend, to witness the UK reveal of the Sky Skipper project cabinet – I wrote about that here – a full report on proceedings will be coming soon on Arcade Blogger, together with some updated pics of the arcade (I might even use my flash this time if you’re lucky).
See you next week.