Game over for Bugis arcade

Virtualand says it is in talks to open in another location after the Bugis Junction outlet closes. The appeal of arcades has waned, with games on tap on mobile phones and tablets.
Virtualand says it is in talks to open in another location after the Bugis Junction outlet closes. The appeal of arcades has waned, with games on tap on mobile phones and tablets.ST PHOTO: DESMOND WEE

Virtualand to exit after 18 years; IT retailer Challenger to move in

One of Singapore's biggest video- game arcades is soon to be no more, as Virtualand announced yesterday it would be shutting its 14,000 sq ft flagship outlet at Bugis Junction on Jan 3.

The Straits Times understands that both parties have come to an agreement to end Virtualand's lease after an 18-year tenancy at the shopping mall.

The arcade is in talks to move elsewhere, while its machines and staff from the Bugis Junction outlet will be redistributed to other outlets in the interim, said Ms Vivian Tan, business development manager for TKA Amusement.

The latter runs the Virtualand and Star Factory arcade chains.

There are three other Virtualand arcades - at Nex in Serangoon, Tiong Bahru Plaza and Clementi CityVibe - and two Star Factory outlets, in Century Square and Jurong Point.

A spokesman for Bugis Junction said IT retail chain Challenger will be taking over the space with a flagship store, due to open in the first half of next year.

It will complement an existing outlet at level three of the mall, added the spokesman.

Challenger said in September that its new flagship store will feature experiential elements and in-store pickup for products bought on its tech marketplace hachi.tech.

Its megastore at Funan DigitaLife Mall closed earlier this year as the building is undergoing a three-year revamp.

Singapore Polytechnic senior retail lecturer Sarah Lim said arcades have lost their draw as gaming on mobile phones and tablets has become common.

Rentals for large retail spaces as well as the purchase and maintenance costs of gaming machines also pose challenges for the operators of arcades.

"They have to keep buying new machines. Retention is low because people get bored very easily," she said.

Gamers at Bugis Junction yesterday were surprised to hear that the arcade would be shutting.

Kitchen assistant Danny Wong, 20, said he had visited the basement arcade once a week in the past year. "The next closest one is at Great World City, but the racing games there are more expensive," he added.

Student Jon Yang, 21, has enjoyed playing fighting and racing games with friends at the arcade for more than five years.

"I've been coming here since my secondary school days. It's sad that it's closing," he said.

A version of this article appeared in the print edition of The Straits Times on December 20, 2016, with the headline 'Game over for Bugis arcade'. Print Edition | Subscribe