Pacific Mall arcade axed, gamers feel betrayed

Scotiabank Theatre OttawaJune is the month of one change after another for Cineplex, and some of these cause gamers to frown upon the company.

Playscape at Pacific Mall, launched by Cineplex, has grown to become one of the most prestigious arcades in the Greater Toronto Area and even Canada. It opened in 2010 and featured great games such as DJMax, PercussionFreaks 8thMix (the English version of DrumMania), Super Street Fighter IV, Initial D 4, Wangam Midnight and the iconic In The Groove 2. The arcade was mentioned by Toronto-based animator Domics in his viral “Dance Dance Revolution” video, which peaked at nearly 30,000 views in a single day and a total of over 3 million views since it was uploaded.

Unfortunately, this momentum failed to be maintained over time, with one arcadegoer reporting that Playscape started to die down as recently as March 2015. The main issues reported in October 2015 were PercussionFreaks being occasionally unavailable and the four Wangam Midnight cabinets being in so-so condition, with intermittent card reader issues. Cineplex has a hit-or-miss history of properly maintaining its games, and as Dance Dance North contributor Venny reports, nearly all of the games that made Playscape great have now gone AWOL on this day.

“So Playscape in Pacific Mall was replaced with FUNtime”, explains Venny. Pictures of the new logo and mascot show Kanlala the polar bear, in a similar vein as the Chuck E. Cheese mouse. Cineplex Starburst is now hiring for those wishing to wear the mascot costume, notably with this recommendation: “Fluency in the Chinese language would be considered an asset”. Cineplex’s answer to Chuck E. Cheese’s is a low-profile launch, with the job postings and Venny’s report being the only news of what could be a massive new play for the entertainment company.

The Disneyfication of Playscape, however, did not go without harsh criticism from the gaming community. Thumbsy writes: “Blimey. I remember when I was there back in 2010, I remember there being a DDR Extreme, a ParaParaParadise and whatnot, everything seemed pretty great. Shame to see what it has become now.” Venny was even more appalled: “Still owned by Cineplex though so don’t expect much. Used to be good. F*** Cineplex, F*** Playdium. It’s all gone. As expected, it’s s***. [Awesome games] are all gone. Four of the six Wangan cabs are gone as well.”

FUNtime’s launch comes just before the expected opening of The Rec Room, a Cineplex brand designed to compete against Dave & Buster’s, at the South Edmonton Common this summer. Toronto and Calgary will open locations in the first half of 2017 in Roundhouse Park and near the Dearfoot Trail, respectively. Also anticipated this month is the launch of DanceDanceRevolution A in USA. It would be wise for Cineplex to embrace the existing gaming community instead of alienating it. There is a miniature Xscape arcade nearby at Cineplex Markham & VIP, but aside from Pac-Man, the game selection is lacking.

These brands, along with Playdium and WorldGaming, consist of Cineplex’s moves to enter the gaming industry. The company would do well to take cues from its top-rated arcades, including Cineplex Barrhaven and Cineplex Laval, and listen to feedback from gamers to determine what would consist of their dream arcade. It should also study other successful companies, including Dave & Buster’s and Round1 USA, to see some of the traits that make an arcade a fun and pleasant atmosphere to visit.

July 12, 2016 update: a few pictures of FUNtime here and there have been posted on Pacific Mall’s Facebook page.