Column #433 Is the DARTSLIVE concept viable in the United States (or even Hong Kong)?

Wednesday, June 13, 2012
Column 433
Is the DARTSLIVE concept viable in the United States (or even Hong Kong)?

Today’s offering was posted recently by somebody named “Ducks” at The Website That Shall Not Be Named. It’s provocative and worth a read. It raises the question: despite the attractiveness, to some, of the lights and sounds and Internet connectivity of the DARTSLIVE concept (and the imprimatur of respected players like Paul Lim and Robert Heckman) is the concept viable in the expansive US market where young people are simply different than their counterparts in Hong Kong where the DARTSLIVE concept was born?

Is it even viable in Hong Kong over the long term?

I don’t know. I just don’t.

I also don’t know Ducks and have no way to contact him. I hope he will not object to my sharing his thoughts in this space.

Dartoid
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Wow, over 2,000 new card carrying DARTSLIVE members per month in Hong Kong. This may be true, but let’s look more closely at what kind of place Hong Kong is.

I went to the DARTSLIVE Hong Kong site and counted the places that carry DARTSLIVE boards on Hong Kong Island and Kowloon peninsula which is across the harbor from Hong Kong. I stopped counting after I got to 100. Bear in mind that many of these establishments may only have 1 or 2 boards. Next I checked a map. I discovered that these establishments are located in an area I estimate to be maybe 6 miles by 6 miles in size. I didn’t even bother to go to the Phoenix site and count the places with Phoenix boards. Phoenix has pretty much replaced Arachnid in Asia.

Kowloon’s population is a little over 2 million, with a population density of 43,000 people per square kilometer. It was known for having the highest population density on earth. The Kowloon peninsula has an area of 18.1 square miles. To get an idea of the scale, imagine taking everyone in Houston, Texas and putting them into a 4.25 mile by 4.25 mile box. Next, scatter over 60 dart bars in that box.

Now make another box a half mile wide by 5 miles long, and put over 60 dart bars in this box. Put 1 million people in and around this box. This fairly approximates the situation on Hong Kong island.

Give everyone an apartment smaller than your garage.
Make the city a place where the driving force for young people is getting ahead by working hard. There’s no professional baseball, football, basketball, or big time college sports, only Happy Valley and the Rugby Sevens.

Make the climate hot and humid year round.

Make car ownership too expensive except for the very rich (the only car I ever rode in on my trips to Hong Kong other than taxis was a Rolls).

The sun goes down around 6:00 pm year round so you really can’t go out and enjoy the outdoors after work, even in the summers.

What is there to do? Go out on the town with friends! Shop? Movies? Shop? Dance? Go clubbing? Drink? Drink in dart bars? Ah hah!

Here’s a side note on car ownership. I live just outside Taipei, Taiwan, which has a metropolitan area of about 5 million people, with nowhere near the density of Hong Kong. Parking spaces are not included when you buy an apartment here. You have to buy or rent a space in your building. Parking spaces in my apartment building are now worth over 1 million New Taiwan dollars. That’s over 30,000 US dollars. A space. That’s it. Two white stripes and a number on the floor. Well, actually, the price includes one remote control for the garage door. And on top of that, in many buildings there is a monthly maintenance fee for the garage that can start at $70 and go to well over $100 US. It’s even more in Taipei city, just across the river. Imagine what a parking space must cost in Hong Kong. Sorry for the diversion.

Before we get all excited about how DARTSLIVE is going to change everything, we need to look at some Taiwan history too. Here in Taipei, after steel-tip darts had pretty much died, Arachnid and Medalist came in several years ago and did pretty well.

There was a great Medalist bar in a beautiful building downtown in a great location. It did well for a couple years, but it just couldn’t survive. I went in several times, but it was clear. Less and less people were going, and a lot of younger people were not drinking that much. Arachnid had a couple beautiful bars, but I saw numbers in those bars drying up too.

One phenomenon in Taiwan is local young people don’t drink a lot, at least not compared to Americans and most certainly not British young people. I don’t know about Hong Kong, but in Taipei, non-drinkers, or light drinkers is a real problem for darts bars. A lot of young people here go out, but are not really sure what they want to do outside of shopping and clubbing with friends. They’re looking for a good time and DARTSLIVE came in with a good business model and has captured a lot of people.

Last October a second iDarts flagship bar opened in downtown Taipei, but it didn’t survive. I don’t know why, but I’m curious to ask, as it was in a prime location, and was previously a very successful Arachnid bar. If the DARTSLIVE iDarts concept and business plan is so good, why did the second iDarts bar close? Why hasn’t a second one been reopened? There’s probably a simple reason. I guess I should ask.

It should be interesting. Can the DARTSLIVE concept pan out?

Can it do better than Medalist and Arachnid did?
Yes, there is growth here. In addition to DARTSLIVE, Phoenix is growing. But I still have some doubts…

A pool hall in Taipei has put in over 6 Phoenix boards. I went in last month on a Saturday around 7:00 pm and I was the ONLY customer there. A few weeks before that on a Saturday, I went in and was one of three customers at 9:00 pm. There have been 6 boards since 2011, and the boss sponsors a team. He has borrowed the DARTSLIVE idea of having staff that can play darts. His full time bartenders always wear their darts shirts, have their darts, and can show people how to play. I think one problem is that the place still looks like a pool hall. It doesn’t look or feel like a “club” or “lounge”, which is what hip youngsters want in Taipei.

In my observations the busiest soft tip joints here are the ones with the coolest, hippest decor and atmosphere. They don’t look or feel like bars. Think of the clubs you’ve seen in Scarface or Miami Vice (guess I’m revealing my age here). Dark and neon, but without the mirror balls.

That’s the feeling you want here in Taipei.

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Dartoid
Author of the column that since 1995 has been featured by Bull’s Eye News, the American Darts Organization’s (ADO) Double Eagle and numerous other darts publications and websites around the globe.
Dartoid

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