Free Play Opens Beta Tests In a Week

When Free Play Denton opens late next week, people will walk into a small building on West Hickory Street and be greeted by 60 retro arcade games, eight pinball machines, and a growler bar with 52 craft beers on tap.

Bright neon lights will illuminate the dark room and 1980s music will bounce throughout the arcade. After paying $5, people can play a variety of games, which will be rotated monthly, such as Ms. Pac-Man, King & Balloon, and Galaga. The $5 will last all day and attendees can come and go as they please.

Corey Hyden, the president of Free Play, said their goal is to recreate the retro 1980s feel.
“We just want that original experience,” Hyden said. “[We want] to capture that magic the programmer wanted back in the 80s.”

Free Play started in 2015. They also have locations in Richardson, which has 100 games, and Arlington, which has 140 games. These locations are different from Denton because they each have kitchens and more games, which justify the $10 price, as well as fewer beer taps.

The Denton location is shooting for a Miami Vice theme and party atmosphere.

Richard Tregilgas, the Chief Operating Officer, said the change in concept was the most difficult aspect of putting a Free Play in Denton. He said the process with the city was smooth in terms of getting a permit for the business.

“Being able to open up cool unusual arcades is what we are all about,” Tregilgas said. “We thought Denton was a perfect market and hopefully people will appreciate our fun unique take on retro arcade games.”

Free Play is scheduled to open after their beta tests on June 18 and 19. The first day of tests will have 50 people and the second will have 100. The idea is to have playtests, receive feedback, and fix any issues before doors actually open.

A Facebook post by Free Play Denton stated, “This is your chance to check out our all-new arcade and give us feedback before we open to the public.”

When the doors officially open, Hyden expects the line to stretch out the door.

“People love the original games as they existed,” Hyden said. “As long as we stay true to that, people will continue wanting to play them.”

Tregilgas said Free Play will give students in the area the opportunity to try retro games and offer others a sense of nostalgia.

“Anyone can come in and be transported to a different time and a different world,” Tregilgas said. 

As for the price, Tregilgas said it is a value because entertainment has gotten expensive these days. He continued to say Free Play is a business endeavor, but at the same time, he wants to share these games with people.

The location was previously home to Taps and Caps, and the arcade’s neighbor will be Hanabi Ramen.

“We are really excited to be in Denton,” Hyden said. “I think it's a match made in heaven. We really like where we are at in Denton. Some people say this is a cursed building because it had so many businesses open and close. We are not too worried about it.”