By Seth Daniel
If the Space Invaders have gotten the evil upper hand in one’s life, then it’s time to get back in the game and meet three guys based in Everett who bring old video games back to life.
Video games have long been big business, but restoring old video games is not only a good business, but loads of fun for the three business partners who have landed in Everett.
Bit Fest is located in the thriving Norman Street brewery area, and keeps a warehouse and workshop in one of the industrial buildings. The three owners, Gideon Coltof, Rob Hall and Joshua Allan, bring old video games back to life right in the workshop and then transport them out to events – usually at festivals and local breweries.
“We have a huge collection of restored games in Everett,” said Coltof, who has made the business his full-time effort. “We house and restore all of our games there. Bit Fest coordinates pop up arcades mostly in breweries. It’s beer and arcade games. It doesn’t get better than that.”
The trio has old arcade favorites like Space Invaders, The Simpsons, Galaga, Pac-Man, Mortal Kombat and loads of other machines that long gave way to the home video systems, and now, the Internet-based gaming platforms that most players prefer.
However, within a niche audience, Bit Fest is steadfast.
“There’s a certain nostalgia people get walking up to these machines,” said Coltof. “They remember them. They remember how they feel. A big part of this is the experience. You can get a version of most of these games on a phone or an iPad, but it isn’t the same experience.”
Hall said there are serious differences between the new versions and the versions that many grew up playing. For instance, the Space Invaders games use a mirror technology to project its display – giving a view that is very unique and cannot be replicated by modern technology.
“Pac Man actually has a four-way joystick and the modern games have an 8-way joystick, which is totally different,” he said. “It’s just not the same. It’s the subtleties you lose when you have the newer versions.”
Coltof and Hall said they started the idea when hearing about such things in a Facebook group about arcade games. About 10 years ago, someone in New York City began doing the same thing. The three business partners loved the old arcade games and all three had an engineering and electronics background. So, they decided to bring the idea to Boston and see what happened.
The first event they did was at a brewery in Somerville in December 2014, and from there it really took off.
“It was one event and it blew the doors off,” Coltof said. “We found that there definitely was a lot of pent up demand for old arcade games and beer.”
Shortly after, they developed a relationship with the popular Night Shift Brewery in Everett and started doing pop-up arcades in the brewery – calling them a ‘Bit Fest.’ Within a year, they had done 10 events and were on the path to doing more.
Last September they decided to take out space for a warehouse on Norman Street.
Now, Bit Fest is expanding the idea to a brick and mortar establishment, known as Bit Bar. That venture is slated to open in Salem in June, though they will still keep their headquarters in Everett.
“We’re getting it off the ground right now and we hope to open Bit Bar in June,” said Hall.
Coltof said opening up the business and experiencing quick growth in an exciting area of Greater Boston like Everett’s Norman Street has been such a surprise. However, they’re ready to keep the momentum going.
“It’s been a process and a lot of fun,” he said. “Bit Fest is a huge undertaking, but so worth it. We’re really ready now to get to the next stage of it.”