As arcades have slowly been phasing out of society in North America over the last two decades, it has been increasingly hard to find places to play Japanese arcade machines.
Round 1 is here to do us one better – to give us the entire Japanese “Game Center” treatment, complete with other facilities such as karaoke, bowling, and a bar that serves alcoholic beverages as well as food items, thus making it both the perfect place to no life and play games all day, or to meet friends and partake in drunken merriment until the early morning hours.
According to its company website, Round 1 was officially founded in Japan in 1993. The company’s owner, Masahiko Sugino, founded an establishment called Sugino Kosan back in 1980, which operated as a roller skating rink that featured arcades.
The facilities eventually expanded to include bowling and ended up becoming popular. That location ended up becoming the first Round 1, and the company expanded throughout Japan.
By the mid-2010s the company had over 100 locations in Japan and had already begun to expand to the west.
Some Japanese locations have grown to offer sports facilities, such as basketball, soccer, and batting cages, whereas the locations in the states have stuck mainly to the arcade, bowling, billiards type facilities that seek to directly compete with restaurant-entertainment joints like Dave & Busters.
Being as all that Round 1 has to offer is integrated into one giant pleasure dome (note: most, if not all Round 1 stores are not actually dome-shaped), the pricing model for partaking in any of its many facilities benefits from discounts via a membership system.
The initial card prices are $1.00 for an ordinary card, or $5.00 USD annually for the premium membership, in which you will receive a stamp card that doubles as a swipe card for the arcade machines, storing your credits.
As you purchase more credits, your card reaches higher tiers and offers additional discounts for each of the facilities offered, usually starting at $1.00 off (per $10 spent) and increasing a quarter through each of the silver, gold, and platinum tiers to cap at $2.00 off.
Following your renewal for the next year, you will start on whichever tier card you were in the previous year, but you must collect the stamps again during that year to receive the same benefits again upon your next renewal the following year.
As of the start of 2020, Round 1 currently has almost 60 locations in the US that are either open or progressed beyond the initial planning phase, in over 30 states with California having the most by far.
For Many, the Arcade at Round 1 is Supreme
Sure there are other activities available at each Round 1 that serve to nudge you and your friends in the direction of social interaction, but you can do those elsewhere. Face it, the reason you REALLY want to go to Round 1 is the arcade, and the other stuff just serves as a flame to lure the moths that are your friends and acquaintances to your gaming lair away from home.
The arcade at each location features a number of games that are otherwise exclusive to Round 1 for North American distribution that you won’t find at any other arcade, bar, amusement center, bowling alley, liquor store, or carnival anywhere in the country.
Examples include various entries in Konami’s bemani series such as Beatmania IIDX and Sound Voltex (with online E-Amuse service on official servers for ranking, other online features), as well as UFO Catchers with unique chain-exclusive prizes, and many other Japanese games in a number of genres ranging from racing games to fighting games, to light gun games, to redemption games.
While the game prices vary from game to game, members will take full advantage of not only receiving the discount based on their current membership tier but also receiving extra credits for free each time they refresh their card, based on how much of a lump sum they spend.
There is also a time play option available that will allow customers to play unlimited games for a set period of time under one pricing model, excluding new games, and games that offer prizes of any sort.