How to Throw Your Own Arcade Tournament

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Run Your Own Arcade Tournament


Best practices to help you organize, promote, and host a local arcade tournament.



An Arcade Tournament is a great way to draw people into your store, raise awareness about your business, and generate additional sales. When done strategically, they can help generate interest and drive traffic to your venue during traditionally slow periods by putting a new spin on things.

Here are our best tips to help you plan, market, and host a successful arcade tournament.


#1 – Plan ahead… way ahead


For any tournament its critical to start preparing 2-3 weeks in advance. Beforehand, you will have to come up with a catchy title, establish the tournament rules, decide on a format, determine the price (if any) and prizes you’ll offer, and work out how you’ll handle the registration process.

Choose the Game & Set the Rules

The games and genres involved will help determine the amount of time and space that will be required for your tournament. They will also influence how you advertise your tournament to your audience and what communities you reach out to.

Make sure the staff that will be running the event has personal experience with the gameplay and the rules. Some of your players will know the game better than your staff. Triple check all the details and make sure the rules for your tournament are visible and known by everyone before the tournament starts.


Decide on the arcade tournament format

There are generally two ways to execute an arcade tournament. Rolling High Score Competition OR dedicated tournament periods. A rolling high score is the easiest type of event to do. As people come into your arcade that day, explain to them the game and rules, record their high score and keep a running high scoreboard throughout the day. These are easy to do since they don’t interrupt normal arcade operations but have trade-offs in community building and word-of-mouth advertising.

Dedicated tournament periods are scheduled in advance and promoted heavily to get as many players as possible into your venue during those periods. Of course, there will be some disruption to your normal traffic to the chosen games as they’ll be used mainly for tournament play, but with strategic planning, the benefits should outweigh the disruption of normal arcade operations.


Pricing & Prizes

You also need to decide in advance whether there’s going to be a fee to sign-up for the event, or if players will only have to pay for their game sessions.

Keep in mind that if your tournament costs too much to enter, lower-skilled players won’t show up. Alternatively, if the prize pool is too low, your best players won’t show up.

Find sponsors if you can. Sponsors can help facilitate your tournament and will often provide prizes in exchange for some advertising.  Look around to local restaurants or other local businesses that you’re players are likely to frequent.

Custom trophies are always great prizes because they provide players a real sense of achievement and you also have an opportunity to add your own company’s branding.  It’s a great way to embed your brand into people’s hearts, minds, and homes!

You can also capture the interest of people who might not be interested in playing in the tournament but will come to your venue on the day for food and beverage deals or door prizes.  The more people you can get into your venue for the event, the more fun players will have, and the more fun people have, the more money they’ll spend.



Let’s face it: managing registrant information with a spreadsheet is time-consuming and prone to errors, and even more so for pen and paper signup. For that reason, we highly suggest having an online registration page.

Setting up online registration will have a wider reach, provide more accurate information and responses will be captured and recorded in real-time -24/7- proving you with the all the details you need from the participants.


#2 – Getting the Word Out


Use multiple marketing tactics to promote your event.  The turnout of your tournament will depend on how well you market it, so spend a good amount of time and resources on this step!

There are various tactics that you can look into. Here are some ideas:

  • Send e-mail invitations to your customers and mailing list subscribers.
  • Create a Facebook event with invitations.
  • Make a social post on your Facebook/Instagram/Twitter, and if you regularly boost your Facebook pages, spend a few dollars to get a bit more visibility into it.
  • Set up a page for the event on your website with all the details including the signup form.
  • Offer an incentive or referral bonus.  For every new referral that signs up, offer another entry in a prize draw or a free game, which you can easily do through a reliable debit card system.
  • Advertise your tournament on community sites.
  • Invite the local gaming community to jump in.
  • Try to get your event covered in the local media and the blogosphere. Reach out to journalists and influencers and share your story.
  • Put up a sign or pullup banner advertising the who, what and when of the tournament – preferably both near the register and right next to the game.
  • Leave flyers at local businesses.

Be sure to utilize both online and offline marketing methods to promote your event.


Turn your Staff into your Event Promoters

Your staff are your salespeople and evangelists to your customers. They will be key to having a successful event. Talk to your team about the goals of the tournament. Have your staff notify customers about the upcoming competition, and talk up the prizes, the game, etc.


#3 – Running the Arcade Tournament


Get everyone on the same page

During the tournament, carefully explain the rules to people beforehand, and post signs and/or handouts with the rules for them to refer to. Have staff available to watch, monitor and record the high scores.


Build a Community

There are two major components of top-notch arcade games events: the actual skill competition and the community you’re building. Building those connections between people is not only key for you as an arcade owner, but people start to show up to tournaments again because you are doing something of real value to them – you are creating a community around your game.

Try to make your event as much of a party atmosphere as possible. Bring in some snacks, offer drink specials, and encourage people to have a great time whether they’re participating or just watching the action.

Gather the emails of the spectators & participants and start to build a list of the regulars.


Document the event

Take pictures and videos at the event. Aside from giving you content and promotional materials for the future, doing so will give you the opportunity to take a closer look at how things went. Review the photos and video footage afterward and keep an eye out for things that went right and areas for improvement.

Provide photo opportunities for participants and have signage with an official hashtag for the event so they can share on social media.


#4 – Post Event’s To-Do


Share photos and recaps online

Post tournament results on social media along with an event wrap-up as a way to build buzz.  Thank everyone who attended the event, mention the people who took part, and tag individuals you know personally.

If you send out newsletters, be sure to include those photos in your next issue and include a write-up summarizing the great things that happened.

Get testimonials from the winners.  They’re likely to say great things about the tournament and your arcade simply due to the thrill of their victory, so take advantage of it.


Follow up with your staff

Round up your employees and discuss the event. What went right? What didn’t go according to plan? Take note of insights and learnings so you can apply them in your next competition.



Be creative! The tournament running experience should be fun for you as well as your players. You can create a tournament around virtually any arcade game. Consider running fun retro game tournaments in addition to current game events. Make your tournaments unique so people have a reason to come back.


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