Does Dave and Busters still do unlimited play?

Dave and Buster’s, the popular restaurant and arcade chain, has long offered unlimited play packages at its locations across the United States. This allows customers to pay one flat fee for unlimited access to the arcade games during their visit. However, in recent years there have been some changes to the unlimited play offerings at Dave and Buster’s locations.

The History of Unlimited Play at Dave and Buster’s

When Dave and Buster’s first opened in 1982, the concept was to provide a full restaurant and bar experience alongside a large arcade. In the early days, most games were coin-operated, meaning customers had to pay per play. In the 1990s, the chain began offering an All You Can Play Power Card that provided unlimited access to games for a fixed price during each visit.

This unlimited play option proved extremely popular, especially with families and arcade enthusiasts. It allowed customers to enjoy the arcade games without having to continually feed coins into machines. The Power Card gave access to most midway-style games, but did not include simulators, bowling, or ticket redemption games.

For many years, the Unlimited Power Card was a standard offering at all Dave and Buster’s locations. Customers could choose to pay for the card on each visit, or purchase an annual membership. It became a central part of the Dave and Buster’s experience.

Changes to Unlimited Play in Recent Years

In 2016, Dave and Buster’s quietly changed its Unlimited Play policy. Whereas the Power Card previously granted unlimited access to all midway-style games, new restrictions were placed on certain new games.

Specifically, games that were part of the “WIN” category, many of them latest simulator-style games like Jurassic Park River Adventure and Star Wars Battle Pod, were excluded from Unlimited Play packages. This meant customers had to pay additional fees per play to access these games, even with an active Power Card.

Guests complained that many of their favorite games now required additional payments despite having paid for Unlimited Play. This diminished some of the value proposition around the Power Card and membership packages.

Dave and Buster’s also began testing a new multitiered program in some locations that broke Unlimited Play into several packages. The highest “Unlimited PLAY All Games” tier was the most expensive and the only option that included the WIN games. Lower tiers like “Unlimited PLAY Almost All Games” excluded the newest games.

The changes were not implemented uniformly across all locations, causing confusion for guests visiting different Dave and Buster’s arcades.

Current Unlimited Play Options at Dave and Buster’s

As of 2023, Unlimited Play at Dave and Buster’s continues to have restrictions and varies between locations. Here are some of the current Unlimited Play options available:

  • Unlimited PLAY All Games – The highest tier that includes all games, typically $19.99-$24.99 per person per day.
  • Unlimited PLAY Almost All Games – Excludes WIN/new release games, typically $14.99-$19.99 per person per day.
  • Half-Price Games Play – 50% off all games per play, no unlimited option.

The three-tier program is now in place at most Dave and Buster’s locations. Some arcades still offer the traditional Power Card for unlimited access to non-WIN games. Prices can fluctuate based on whether it is a weekday or weekend visit.

It’s important to read the fine print when purchasing Unlimited Play to know which games are included. Typically the most popular new release simulator games require additional payment. This has frustrated some Dave and Buster’s fans who remember the days when Unlimited Play meant truly unlimited game access.

Why Dave and Buster’s Changed Their Unlimited Play Program

According to Dave and Buster’s management, the changes to Unlimited Play were aimed at maximizing revenue while still providing value to customers.

Some of the reasons behind the shift away from traditional unlimited play include:

  • High cost of new simulators – New VR and 4D simulator games cost over $100,000 each to acquire. This prompted Dave and Buster’s to add surcharges for unlimited access to these games to recoup costs sooner.
  • Preventing long waits – The new games have limited capacity. Allowing Unlimited Play members to occupy the games all day led to long wait times, so paid play was added to encourage turnover.
  • Increasing revenue – Obviously the move opened up new revenue streams for Dave and Buster’s and reduced the potential of Unlimited Play packages cannibalizing per-play purchases.

While the reasoning makes business sense, customers have accused the company of bait-and-switch tactics in how Unlimited Play was promoted and then restricted. Guests feel short-changed paying for unlimited access but still having to pay additional fees.

Customer Response to the Changes

The response from Dave and Buster’s customers has been quite negative overall. Here are some of the common complaints about the Unlimited Play changes:

  • More nickel-and-diming – Customers feel Unlimited Play used to provide good value, whereas now they are nickeled-and-dimed for every game.
  • False advertising – Many guests indicated Unlimited Play was promoted by staff as having no restrictions, only to find out popular new games required add-on fees.
  • Confusing packages – With different packages and policies between locations, it’s hard for customers to know what is included with each Unlimited Play tier.
  • Not a good value – For frequent guests who mainly came for the arcade games, the new packages simply aren’t as good of a deal.

Reviews and complaints about the new Unlimited Play policies became common across social media, review sites like Yelp, and Dave and Buster’s guest surveys. There is a clear feeling of disappointment from once-loyal customers.

Many customers say the new Unlimited Play structure has deterred them from visiting as often or purchasing the higher-tier packages. The change damaged the brand’s reputation for some guests.

How Unlimited Play Compares at Other Arcades

To understand Dave and Buster’s Unlimited Play changes better, it’s helpful to look at unlimited play policies at other major arcade chains.

Chuck E. Cheese

Chuck E. Cheese offers an All You Can Play pass that includes all games except ticket redemption games like cranes. These are comparable to Dave and Buster’s WIN games. All You Can Play prices range from $5.99-$12.99 per hour depending on location and time.

Round1 Bowling & Amusement

Round1 offers two unlimited play options:

  • 2 Hour Pass – $12.50, includes access to all amusement games only.
  • 2 Hour Extreme Pass – $25.00, includes access to all games plus bowling, billiards, karaoke, and darts.

Round1 excludes only a small number of deluxe games like Mario Kart DX from the unlimited play packages.

Main Event Entertainment

Main Event offers Unlimited Play Bands that provide unlimited access to all games, bowling, laser tag, and rock climbing. The prices are tiered based on age, ranging from $14.99-$26.99 per day.

Main Event has not placed restrictions on their Unlimited Play like Dave and Buster’s, keeping the offering very straightforward for guests.

Should You Still Get Unlimited Play at Dave and Buster’s?

Given the changes to Unlimited Play over the past few years, is it still worth purchasing for your visits to Dave and Buster’s?

Here are some things to consider when deciding on Unlimited Play for your next Dave and Buster’s trip:

  • How often do you visit? If you go frequently, the highest Unlimited Play package may still provide enough value to justify the price.
  • Which games do you play? If you mainly play crane and redemption games, Unlimited Play likely won’t be worth it. But for arcade-lovers, it still grants access to hundreds of games.
  • Are you going on a weekend? Unlimited Play prices are higher on Fri-Sun, so packages may not offer as much value.
  • How many people are with you? For large groups including kids, Unlimited Play can still pay for itself quickly.

For many guests, Unlimited Play retains enough value, especially when visiting with kids. But heavy users of the new WIN games will find better value sticking to paid plays. It’s best to review the prices and fine print at your local Dave and Buster’s to know what the packages include.

The Future of Unlimited Play at Dave and Buster’s

It remains to be seen whether Dave and Buster’s will again adjust or restrict its Unlimited Play packages in the future. The company is clearly interested in maximizing revenue from high-demand simulator games.

Some possible future directions for Unlimited Play include:

  • A la carte paid add-ons – Unlimited Play could become a base package, then guests pay per play for new games they want to access.
  • Tiered time packages – Play periods could beTiered like 1 hour, 3 hours, all-day, etc. This may appeal to guests not planning to stay long.
  • Premium memberships – Top-tier packages could provide true unlimited access for a premium annual fee aimed at loyal guests.

Arcade companies must balance value and profits when structuring unlimited play programs. Dave and Buster’s has leaned more heavily on monetizing new games, to the dislike of many patrons. It remains to be seen if the brand will rethink its current program based on customer feedback.


Dave and Buster’s was once synonymous with unlimited arcade play. But changes in recent years have restricted the Unlimited Play Power Card, especially for newer simulator games. This has led to confusion and frustration from customers. Competitors like Main Event have more straightforward unlimited play without these restrictions.

Dave and Buster’s Unlimited Play can still provide value depending on your frequency of visits, game preferences, and party size. But it’s important to understand exactly which games are included with each package. While no longer truly unlimited, the program still has its benefits for frequent arcade-goers. But Dave and Buster’s may need to reevaluate their current Unlimited Play structure to restore some customer faith in the brand.

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