Dave & Buster's (NASDAQ:PLAY) isn't a name that folks would consider a major player in mobile gaming. That may change soon, however, if any of the apps that it rolled out earlier this month begin to take off.
Yes, you can now play some of the more popular arcade games from the "eatertainment" chain on your tablet or smartphone. Big Bass Wheel -- where you spin a huge wheel in the mouth of a giant bass for points -- and the speed-tapping Speed of Light are among the Dave & Buster's branded mobile apps that are now available-for-free apps on Android and iOS devices.
It's a move that makes perfect sense. Dave & Buster's may pride itself on its food and drinks, but a little more than half of its revenue comes from the arcade games and other amusements offered at the mammoth-sized locations. Mobile gaming is hot, even if the gamers themselves are pretty fickle as they move from one hot title to the next. Why wouldn't D&B cash in as an industry-leading brand in high-tech arcades?
It gets better. The patrons at Dave & Buster's spend money to play games that they use to amass tickets that they can trade in for redemption prizes. We're not talking about toy soldiers or plastic spider rings. (This isn't Chuck E. Cheese.) Dave & Buster's offers real prizes that both adults and children can appreciate.
With that in mind, the game changer here is that folks can collect points on the new mobile apps that can be traded in for in-store redemption prizes. That's right... Dave & Buster's has just pushed out free apps that dispense real prizes.
It's not perfect, of course. The games may be free, but you're limited to exchanging no more than 100 tickets a day to your Dave & Buster's card per app. Like most "free" games, there are in-game purchases to enhance the gameplay that can add up in real money if you're not careful.
Finally, there's the fun factor to consider. Spinning a Price is Right-ish wheel for points in a buzzing arcade with nearby friends cheering you on is a blast. Swiping across your iPhone screen in a dentist's waiting room? Not so fun.
However, Dave & Buster's is doing a pretty neat thing here. It's putting out games that have real-world consequences. The apps will promote in-store visits. All of this justifies the growing chain tapping Xbox co-creator Kevin Bachus to be its senior vice president of entertainment and games strategy three years ago.
Dave & Buster's is raising the bar on the convergence of mobile gaming and physical retail. If it becomes a thing -- and it probably will -- remember that it started with spinning a wheel for points in the mouth of a really big fish.