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Can a Gaming Cafe be Successful?

Cliff posted more than 8 years ago | from the depends-on-the-local-market dept.


droidlev asks: "For years I've been toying around with the idea of opening up a medium sized gaming cafe in the Chicago suburbs. I have already taken care of the issue on how to make money during the day, when our younger market is in school, However, the question of whether or not a place like this can be successful, still remains. I've seen plenty of undermanned and poorly planned places in the area (and on the East Coast) like this go under in six months. What is your opinion? What ideas and thoughts do you have that could help a place, like the one I'm proposing, succeed? Do you have gaming cafes in your area that are successful? What unique techniques have they implemented?"

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Yes we have one. (4, Interesting)

TheZorch (925979) | more than 8 years ago | (#15892933)

Springfield Mall in Fairfax County (not far from the Franconia/Springfield Metro Station), Virginia has a cyber cafe which also offers gaming on PCs and game consoles and its doing really well. They also have WiFi for people who bring in their own laptops. I'd say go for it!

Re:Yes we have one. (5, Informative)

kindlekoma (994806) | more than 8 years ago | (#15893051)

There's also one here in sunny Portland, OR. It's called backspace ( www.backspace.bz ). They have just celebrated their 3 year anniversary of gamingness. I think the trick that Backspace has pulled is that it's in a very swanky area of downtown Portland, and they've fused a cyber cafe with a full-fledged art gallery, and chill out area. They've got a lot to offer in the way of neo-entertainment. Modern art, coffee, free wi-fi, comfy chairs, chess and other board games, pool, and a slew of PC games with either an internet or LAN option for play. It should also be mentioned that their location in downtown provides them with a maximum amount of both, business traffic in the daytime, and lots of people in the evening that are within walking distance that want to get out of their tiny apartments. I don't know how you'd convince a bunch of suburbanites to leave their tract housing developments to play games. But, I think a key is to offer diversity and appeal to professionals looking for a convienient and chic place to have meetings, as well as gamers looking to come out of their caves. Good luck!

Re:Yes we have one. (5, Insightful)

Orangejesus (898961) | more than 8 years ago | (#15893072)

you have to understand that most people don't go to gaming cafes for the games perse, they go for the social interaction, they go to play with their friends and be able to yell at them, they go to hang out with people with similar intrests. I have a better PC than the local place I go to game at and so do most of my friends, but it's easier to spend a few bucks and just go to the gaming place down the street than drag a bunch of computers around and fool with networking them and making sure everyone has the same version of what we want to play and working cd keys and ect. the gaming place I go to is open 24/7 and after 5 hours is free, (5 an hour) So it's pretty common for us to just go and set up shop and do an overnight there playing till the wee hours of the morning. When I was on break from college one summer about 6 of us litterally lived up there for almost a week straight sleeping on the couches and ordering pizza. I mean we probably didn't smell very good by the end of the week but it still ranks as one of the most fun times i've ever had. The key to a good gaming place is to make it somewhere that people just want to go to hang out and escape and not be bugged. I don't know how long this place will last but it's been open for over 5 years now and it's just a small 10 computer place in a small town. the key is that the owner is a cool guy, he lets people play sometimes if they are a little short or he'll let them owe him and ect. people like him people like the others who play there, people keep coming back and the place stays full all the time.

Re:Yes we have one. (4, Informative)

DarkMantle (784415) | more than 8 years ago | (#15893075)

There's a place in town here (Cambridge Ontario Canada) That does fairly well (open for a year now) They use memberships for people that want to play regularly to make most of their rent. They also have food/drink there (pop and chips kind of stuff) and gamer and geek T-Shirts as well (similar to Think Geek [thinkgeek.com] ). The WiFi is cool, secure it though so you can control who's on it better. There's another one in London Ontario that has a "Internet Cafe" in the front, so people can check email and surf the web. Then the back room is the gamer room. Combine the front Internet cafe style with a bit of a real cafe (watch out for the licensing if you're selling food/drink you make there) with a few tables at it so people can grab a coffee and do a quick email check on their own laptop/PDA while there would be a neat idea as well. Best advice is to look at the area and ask what is needed. Maybe hang out near the local EB Games for a day or two and ask people as they're leaving/entering if they'd fill out a 5 question survey about it. You may be able to avoid the mistakes the other places made.

Re:Yes we have one. (1)

brap999 (778802) | more than 8 years ago | (#15893080)

I know people that work in upper management at Springfield mall, and I've been told they are one top money producers in the mall, surprisingly. Even when the kids are in school, if I go to the mall on my lunch break, there are usually people in it. Hell, the place doesn't even stay open late like alot of gamin cafes. I'm pretty sure it runs on mall time, which means it closes fairly early at night.

Are there any left? (1)

mrbcs (737902) | more than 8 years ago | (#15892934)

Personally, I've seen some neat places, but none of them seem to survive any more than a couple years. Good luck, I don't know what you'd have to do to be profitable.

Re:Are there any left? (0)

Anonymous Coward | more than 8 years ago | (#15892982)

Personally, I've seen some neat places, but none of them seem to survive any more than a couple years. Good luck, I don't know what you'd have to do to be profitable.

Around here (Seattle) Wizards of the Coast died off and any small gaming shop (the was one on the Ave till recently) have closed up. The poster should learn from this and forget doing it.

Re:Are there any left? (2, Informative)

0racle (667029) | more than 8 years ago | (#15893163)

In places other then the US and Canada, they seem to do very well.

Chicago... (1)

Danimoth (852665) | more than 8 years ago | (#15892935)

I know of a pretty sizable place on the north side, by Old Orchard thats been around for a few years, they seem to keep pretty busy. I was in there not too long ago and World of Warcraft seemed to be a popular choice, its a social game so it works well I guess.

Re:Chicago... (1)

Gablar (971731) | more than 8 years ago | (#15892964)

I've always wish a place like this existed near my town in Puerto Rico, but even when I lived in the US places like internet cafe's will go under in no time. I think that a place that holds frequent tournaments with decent prices it should do well. Another thing is that the place shouldnt be designed as a big room full of PC's. The place should have other areas where people can socialize and drink while watching games or tournaments on big screen TV's.

Re:Chicago... (2, Insightful)

beheaderaswp (549877) | more than 8 years ago | (#15893043)

RE: Old Orchard

It's also right across Lawler Ave from Niles North High School.

Regarding the demographics in that area, there's a lot of money to the north, and it's standard suburbia south into Chicago proper. The kids from Niles North have more money than brains (I went there- I can say it!). And Old Orchard is a hangout for most young people from the Chicago border north past Wilmette.

The location at Old Orchard is exceptional, and one of the few locations I'd see working for this kind of thing in Chicago.

Sadly though, the person doing this is going to probably fail. There's very little chance a "cyber-gaming cafe" is going to make it. A better shot would be a high quality coffee/cafe type thing, with some computers and gaming thrown in. Make sure it's got the three keys to retail success: "location, location, location!".

I've seen maybe 30 venture of this type around the country. One is still in operation. It's a business that reproduces a non social activity in a social setting. People can game at home... eventually they stop hanging out at the parlor and go home- but the business still has a lease.

Research? (4, Insightful)

Jrabbit05 (943335) | more than 8 years ago | (#15892937)

I know that the Dining and Gaming combined nicely and has several locations. I've done some light research on this topic and what you'll need is a way to be able to get rid of most of the stuff if it doesn't work out. Leasing equipment untill your making enough profit to satisfy your tastes. http://www.daveandbusters.com/ [daveandbusters.com]

Re:Research? (1)

iwsnet (946715) | more than 8 years ago | (#15893029)

I haven't been to gaming cafes but I have seen a lot of Internet cafes. I'm sure they both work on the same premise of charging customers by the hour and minutes. Maybe you can try something that has a monthly fee, although that could lead to people hogging the machines. I don't think these businesses are all that profitable so don't expect to make a fortune. Good luck!

Re:Research? (0)

Anonymous Coward | more than 8 years ago | (#15893207)

Dave and Busters is an arcade that serves alcohol at night, which is a large part of it's appeal. An arcade has games you can't play on a console or computer, while an internet cafe with just gaming PCs doesn't offer anyone anything they couldn't already have at home.

No. (-1, Troll)

Chalex (71702) | more than 8 years ago | (#15892938)

Can a Gaming Cafe be Successful?
Do you have gaming cafes in your area that are successful?
Next question, please.

We have a place locally that works well (1)

vwpau227 (462957) | more than 8 years ago | (#15892940)

We have a place locally in the Cambridge, Ontario, Canada area that works well. I think the key is to keep the gamers happy. One great idea the plllace has is a membership system, which I think encourages people to keep coming back. Good luck! http://www.thefragshop.com/ [thefragshop.com]

wwtdd (5, Informative)

antiphoton (821735) | more than 8 years ago | (#15892941)

I live in Brisbane, Australia, and gaming cafe's are quite popular in the major cities. I know of at least four around inner city brisbane that have been open for years and are quite successful. From my observations their main revenue intake is based around these key concepts: 1. Location 2. Word of mouth Location is imperical, and you need to strike deals/lan nights to get word of mouth generation. Setting up shop near a school (preferably private school) can sometimes make this type of business a success, as i've seen in Brisbane. If you start all nighters and events it will generate a decent amount of friends telling other friends and so on to bring in business and customers. Anyway, these are just a few suggestions i'm guessing you already know about, hope it helps. PS: If you have the room, get a pool table!

Re:wwtdd (0)

Anonymous Coward | more than 8 years ago | (#15892997)


I can't tell what word you're going for there. Empirical (based on experiment) makes no sense in that context. Nor does imperial. Imperative, maybe, if you also missed out the word "good", but it's quite a stretch.

Re:wwtdd (1)

Andrew Kismet (955764) | more than 8 years ago | (#15893227)


Re:wwtdd (2, Interesting)

Anonymous Coward | more than 8 years ago | (#15893004)

The school / pool table sounds like a great combination. Schools would get the non-sports kids to drop by as soon as the bell rings.

If the computers could be rigged with bill accepters, it would make your job of keeping track much easier.

The pool table gives the non-gamers a place to hang too, and the gamers a place to relax between games.

Due to the target customers, it seems designed to be a disaster... kids dont make money.

This is something I've always wanted to do too, but never seemed like it had a good revenue potential... :)


Thieves (0)

Anonymous Coward | more than 8 years ago | (#15892943)

Just make sure you lock the computers. Literally lock them and make sure that the 5 1/4 slots can't be easily pulled out. I have a friend who used to steal ram from the lan cafes/PC gaming places.

Bargain shopping (1)

Sporkinum (655143) | more than 8 years ago | (#15892945)

Buy one for pennies on the dollar after it goes under. That seemed to work here.

Re:Bargain shopping (1)

rolfwind (528248) | more than 8 years ago | (#15893007)

2 in my area went under this year. Can't say I have any insights to say why, but honestly, with wifi spots all over tha place and PCs as cheap as they are, I can't say there is any reason to go to a gaming cafe.

This was the same situation with arcades 7-10 years ago - by that timeo, most consoles were pushing almost as good graphics as the arcade - so either the arcade had to buy newer games at X,000 a pop to keep customeors or go under. Several dedicated arcades in my area went under (including 2 in malls) and since then, there just aren't any, anymore. The last one in my area died just 2 months ago (and it was the only game in town for years now). All the arcade games are at a bar, bowling alley, etcetea and they tend to be older than me.

I think you are trying to enter a business that is well served at home. One word of advice, food and drink always sells. Be it fresh or packaged, coffee, soda, etcetera. Whatever you are allowed to sell. Many of the gaming places I have seen are barren of any food/drink and let people slip to next door to get there fix. That's a mistake. My local billard place smartend up and after years of nothing but billiards, have a bunch of candy/drinks near the central counter.

Re:Bargain shopping (3, Insightful)

Daschu (994813) | more than 8 years ago | (#15893095)

Just make sure that you're not price-gouging your snacks and beverages. Do not price anything higher than it could typically be found in a vending machine or convience store. You won't sell very much AND your customers (particularly kids) will dispise you. Actually, if its possible, see if you can undercut local snack options even by just a little bit. It could go a long way to developing a trust between you and your hungry customers.

Also, I've only ever been to a gaming cafe once, but I recall that they had some sort of tab system. They had software that tracked users login times so that accurate bills would be. An unlimited monthly plan would probably kill you, but do offer some sort of membership discount. A couple free hours at sign-up and discounted hourly rates help. And as far as the tab concept goes, have some sort of system that instills trust into the customers by allowing them to play for a few hours without having to pay until the next time they come in. Say that after you pay for 10 hours, you're allowed up to 5 hours of unpaid time. After they play for 5 hours without paying, then you kick them off.

Basically, you want to have rigid rules to combat cheating/stealing, but in those rules, allow some flexibility so that your customers trust you and don't feel like you only care about them for their money.

Tron (0)

Anonymous Coward | more than 8 years ago | (#15892948)

"Do you have gaming cafes in your area that are successful? What unique techniques have they implemented?""

Were's Flynn when you need him?

college project (1)

qsqueeq (586979) | more than 8 years ago | (#15892949)

this was my final management project in college. only about seven years ago. the idea was also to incorporate private rooms for work or for conferences etc. safe to say that i still don't have the money for it.

Learn Visual Basic (-1, Offtopic)

cyranoVR (518628) | more than 8 years ago | (#15892953)

There are a ton of commercial utilities and add-ons for MS Access (check out Access Advisor at your local bookstore), but most of those are just VB apps or ActiveX controls that just do what you could do yourself with a little Visual Basic. Once you have got the basics down from some online tutorials, Access Cookbook [oreilly.com] by Kurt Getz is a great investment.

MS Access has a large community online, especially comp.databases.ms-access [oreilly.com] . Google is your friend - just about everything you'll ever want to do has already been done and has VB code examples online.

Here is a thread that has code demonstrating how to dump the contents of an Access database as DDL into text files:

comp.databases.ms-access: Exporting jet table metadata as text? [google.com]

PS - If you are impatient with the limitations of VBA (aka "VB Classic"), there are Microsoft Office interop libraries that will let you automate Access Databases in .NET.

Re:Learn Visual Basic (1)

rgbscan (321794) | more than 8 years ago | (#15892994)

ummm... this was for the ms access thread right? also on the front page? good info though.

Re:Learn Visual Basic (1)

Ricken (797341) | more than 8 years ago | (#15893020)

I'm guessing you were aiming for the Microsoft Access article, close but no cigar

go back, take a left at the coffee shop and there you have it: http://ask.slashdot.org/article.pl?sid=06/08/12/02 11234 [slashdot.org]

What kind of games? (5, Informative)

Enoxice (993945) | more than 8 years ago | (#15892955)

You didn't specify what kind of games your cafe would feature. I assume you mean computer games (WoW, CS:S, et al). There is a place in my area that does very well in that market, but only because of variety.

I'd recommend offering something aside from computer games. Set up some tables for Magic: The Gathering, D&D, Battletech, Warhammer, etc so you aren't only catering to the "I don't have broadband" market. This way you'll become a social gathering place for geeks. You may even consider starting a card/miniature trading deal in your shop where you buy things from your customers and sell them back.

That's my advice. But, then again, I have NO business sense.

Won't work (0, Troll)

NineNine (235196) | more than 8 years ago | (#15892957)

I don't see what the point is. PC's are dirt cheap. Internet connections are slowly getting cheaper. Hell, the game I play almost 24/7 (see sig) requires only a browser. I can play it on a Pentium 1 with dial up just fine. What are you offering that the average personal doesn't already have?

Vacation Area (1)

dunc78 (583090) | more than 8 years ago | (#15893059)

The parent is asking what I was thinking, though I think most people are looking for more of a game then a Pentium I over dialup can provide. What are you going to offer that most people don't have, seeing as most have fairly fast computers with broad band connections? I have seem gaming cafes that have been open for a couple years at vacation areas. Kids want to play at these locations, but parents are not willing to invest in high speed internet at a vacation house. Maybe even offer the kids a "plug" for their laptops, as most places I have seen require using the "business" computers.

Re:Won't work (0)

Anonymous Coward | more than 8 years ago | (#15893090)

I dunno... Maybe the ability to play games that the average computer cant. Just try to play any modern NON FLASH game on one of the cheap PC's. It hurts.

Value added. (4, Insightful)

F34nor (321515) | more than 8 years ago | (#15892958)

The key to anything is adding value to a commodity. PCs are a crappy commodity even with mods.

Why should I use your facility rather than a crappy one. Are you going to have hot chicks offering massage? How about a place to smoke while you play? Good DJs beat matching to the action? Red velvet? What?

Take it from me nothing is worse than just another fucking cubicle.

As Bender would say: (1)

rts008 (812749) | more than 8 years ago | (#15893165)

Hookers, and Blackjack...

yeah (0)

Anonymous Coward | more than 8 years ago | (#15892963)

yes they can be succesfull. You have to be business minded though. You wont make much money just allowing people to play games. I mean you could get a group to come have pre set up LAN parties. However affordable game playing is hard to imagine. But sell the crap they need/want ie caffine sugar light fare (hot dogs pre made sandwichs) you could really start to turn a profit in my opinion. Put some lower powerd PCs near the front in a lighted area for web access/email checking. Place the business in an area with decent traffic mall near a mall or movie theater. there is one i have been to a few times in the Dallas area called shadowlan. I think they almost have it down, but no food. You got to feed people if you want them to pay you instead of dragging PCs to a LAN party somewhere else.

LAN Parties (0)

Anonymous Coward | more than 8 years ago | (#15892966)

I think that the best way to attract and retain customers would be to host some LAN parties for some of the popular games. You could also offer the place to rent for private parties as well.

No, here's why (4, Insightful)

Monkelectric (546685) | more than 8 years ago | (#15892967)

Anyone who can afford your services is too busy making money to actually go to your shop. Your only chance is to appeal to people who have lots of money and lots of time. IE: Near a very expensive university.

Re:No, here's why (0)

Anonymous Coward | more than 8 years ago | (#15893164)

where students most assuredly don't need to go to a place to play online games, nor would want to. a homework/studying oriented coffee shop in a U town is pretty much a sure bet, however.

Perhaps elsewhere... (2, Informative)

IANAAC (692242) | more than 8 years ago | (#15892970)

meaning another country, yes. I live in the Chicago area (Chicago proper) and internet access is pervasive. I'm not just talking about in the home. I'm talking about other places that offer free internet access in addition to beverages and food.

Good luck, but currently, I don't think it's a viable business plan.

In Schaumburg (1)

Hangin10 (704729) | more than 8 years ago | (#15892976)

In Schaumburg, Zactec on, I think it's on Schaumburg road has been going strong for years. I've never been in there, but I'm told it's smokey and people steal mouse balls.

It can work, but you're going to, as you said, need incentive for non-gamers to go, as well as kids who may already do as much gaming as they need with a big screen TV, 3 friends and XBox Live.

Smoke! Smoke! Are you smokin' yet? Obligatory Family Guy reference. Anyway, it's possible. I don't have the money to go. That's another issue in itself. Us gamers are lazy slobs... Do you really expect us to pay?

Re:In Schaumburg (1)

smthngcrprt726 (994828) | more than 8 years ago | (#15893319)

solution to the stealing the mouse balls - get a laser mouse instead

depends on how you do it (3, Insightful)

grapeape (137008) | more than 8 years ago | (#15892978)

I had entertained that idea myself for a while but after going to ones outside my immediate area but within driving distance one thing I observed was that while they all mostly started out great with good staff, top of the line machines, local advertising, a pleasant atmosphere and a good selection of games, within a year or so most are pits with low staffing, unkept facilities, outdated machines and poor selection of games. I dont know if their budgets run out, or if they just found that the majority didnt care about the latest and greatest so it wasnt worth the investment. One theory is that those that are hardcore games already have systems as good or better at home

I did find a few things I would do differently, for one I would like to see a bank of printers, scanners, etc so that during certain hours (maybe school hours and few after that, the machines could actually be used for study, business etc. I also thought of adding a gamestop type game exchange with maybe a points program for time rented and maybe tournaments and contests (monthly high score, etc). Another idea would be to have certain nights that are 18+ and special events on a monthly basis. For rental time I wanted to use a keycard system like gemstar to keep track of time and charges. I had also thought about working out an advertising/sales deal with a local vendor to help with equipment costs.

I wrote an entire business plan but then got a job offer I couldnt pass up and just kind of threw it aside for now. I belive "cyber cafe's" are viable here but they need more of a hook than just "PC's for rent".

Re:depends on how you do it (1)

brainzzz (994803) | more than 8 years ago | (#15893024)

In Huntsville, AL there's a gaming/card shop that I've been going to since I was 6. Main reason it's been successful is that there's no other place in town like it. Front room has comics, cards, anime, manga, and toys. Back room has food and computers, with alot of tables for anything you want to do. Has a good location right next to a major movie theater. Alot of tournament and LAN events. So it's alot of factors that'll make or break you.

in the 80's they were called arcades (3, Informative)

mark_lybarger (199098) | more than 8 years ago | (#15892981)

and the more successfull ones were built around other businesses as an additional attraction. a local pizza/sub shope would have a game room where i could throw away a roll of quarters from the paper route income. the laundry houses also had a few video game machines. i don't recall standalone game rooms (the malls had 'um but i never frequented these places) that were successfull.

today, places are starting to incorporate wifi access as part of their extended business plan. most panera bread stores have free wifi access. so, i go to panera bread for coffee. i hear the starbucks has wifi, but you have to be part of some expensive plan to use them. i've never gone that route.

so, to answer your quetsions, no, there are no gaming houses that are successfull around here, and more creative business establishments would use something like that as an attraction to compliment their other business.

In 06.... (2, Interesting)

mpapet (761907) | more than 8 years ago | (#15893329)

The parent post is right. And add to that: in 06 I don't see why you *must* pay rent on a retail location. Your target audience isn't the young gamer. It's an older crowd that remembers having fun playing games before they went to work.

Here's the order of events as I see it.
1. Go to *every* place that has people sitting down, even for a few minutes. Coffee, bars... nightclubs.
2. Corner the head-honcho and tell her you will bring the PC's for a game night and you want a cut of the business that night. Talk to somebody that books nightclubs to figure out what the nightclub is used to paying.
3. If you get enough enthusiastic yes's then step 4.
4. Lease PC's and LCD's
5. Advertise, Advertise Advertise!
6. Run game nights.
7. Profit?

your success lies in ten words.. (0)

Anonymous Coward | more than 8 years ago | (#15892984)

fat single 35 year old's living in their parents basement..

wait...they'd be able to afford their own computer and internet connection.. ...shoot..

An Idea (2, Informative)

Digz (90264) | more than 8 years ago | (#15892987)

A very successful one around me - which was open for years, but has recently closed (I think mostly due to new developments in the area) - incorporated a slightly esoteric menu (vegan items and so forth) with a coffee bar and gaming den.

Think Different (1)

dwhittington (577769) | more than 8 years ago | (#15892992)

I have seen a number of gaming cafes around the states and would suggest that a signifcant overhaul to the business model is needed to establish a viable business in this area. Dont mistake this as a negative approach, but rather an opportunity to enter this space as a differentiator. I would give these conventional gaming cafes 6mos-1year to survive. Some I have seen here in Houston, TX make me wonder why they are still around as they look like fronts for "other" illegal activity. Again, an opportunity to refine the concept and move forward.

Tough Sell (1)

Jherek Carnelian (831679) | more than 8 years ago | (#15893005)

You would be competing with PCs in the home (both the PC part and the home part). So you would need to offer services and features that kids can't get at home. Thinking up a list of such things is going to take more effort than I'm willing to put into a slashdot post.

But, let me give you an example from a different culture and a tangentially related service.

In Korea, at least in South Korea, kids live at home until marriage. That makes it really difficult for kids and even young adults to get any nookie time away from the stern and extremely conservative eye of the previous generation.

Consequently, afternoon and evening rentals of small "party rooms" have become fairly popular. They call them "bangs" there, as in "karaoke-bang" or "dvd-bang." They are rooms in restraunts or clubs which you rent out for a group to do things like karaoke, dvd watching, or eat a nice meal plus whatever else you feel like - with no worry that your parents are watching your every move, be it clumsy or suave.

I'm not suggesting you get set up to rent out "gaming-bangs" (although I'm not suggesting otherwise either) - I'm just using them as an example of how human nature wants what it wants and it will find a way. If you can figure out what people want from group gaming or what they want from something that can be easily related to gaming, and that they can't easily get elsewhere, then you have a shot at success.

Re:Tough Sell (1)

darkera (805654) | more than 8 years ago | (#15893040)

Lets not forget the occasional, albeit elusive, gang-bangs. ... I'm sorry.

Re:Tough Sell (1)

Daengbo (523424) | more than 8 years ago | (#15893288)

I'm not in Seoul, but here in rural Korea, kids prefer playing games in "PC bangs" to playing them at home (even though they have computers there) because there is a certain social aspect to the PC bang and it makes LAN parties simple -- just get a bunch of friends from school together and head over to the game room to play StarCraft together.

For about US$1 an hour, I can't see how the places make money, but apparently they do. There is no shortage of kids waiting to play after school.

It may work, it may not. (3, Insightful)

vbwilliams (968304) | more than 8 years ago | (#15893009)

If you don't have something that people can't get at home, it's not worth the trouble.

We had one place that was successful in my area quite a few years back because they could provide a large amount of internet bandwidth for a relatively low cost compared to consumer prices. However, when DSL and eventually cable modem caught on, that market was done.

If this is strictly a gaming cafe, in the age of oodles of bandwidth everywhere, if you cannot support numerous tournaments with worthwhile prizes (that people will potentially play all day or two straight days to get), it won't work.

As other posters suggested, if you combine food/coffee with the gaming, you may be onto something. But a gaming-only cafe, I think that idea was done 6-8 years ago and then it was done. When corporate-level bandwidth started to be available in homes at commodity prices, that was the end of that. You can now play in numerous online tourneys and still get very good prizes and whatnot...and from my perspective that's what a good portion of the people will go to a cafe and play for. When I played, I played for cash or prizes worth over $300 USD. That was the only way I could justify paying to get into a place and then wasting a day or two with the possibility I might get eliminated before I got the chance to earn a top 3 spot (which were the only payouts in a cafe tourney).

Aside from what I just said, if you live in a major metro area, it might work. I would imagine Chicago would be a decent place to try this because of all the bandwidth there and managed hosting of all kinds. I know Hurricane Electric will rent out completely furnished computer labs and such expressly designed for gaming. You pay a deposit to the provider, charge the people to come in and play, etc etc. If you plan it right, you can make money.

Cafe experiences (3, Interesting)

originalnih (709470) | more than 8 years ago | (#15893015)

Well, I don't have any. But some close friends of mine just opened a gaming cafe in a town small enough not to have one yet. They put the cash in and got decent hardware while spending minimal amounts on the decor, just enough to clean it up. Against my advice they franchised some software to manage it but the franchisor gave them a lot of help along the way. In this case the fees were paid off within the first three months but the quality of the setup was sometimes suspect (VMware virtual machine on linux running Windows NT running TurboSquidNT as the gateway. WTF?). I don't see how you couldn't do all the work yourself just a easily however. The hours are long! It's hard, monotonous work and you don't get a lot of time to focus on your own gaming, but the cash is coming in and they're making a lot of money. They're focusing on return customers and keeping them happy, doing things like all-night lock-ins to keep it interesting. As for around here, there are dozens, literally dozens of crap quality net cafes in the area, but they're always full, mostly of the local asian population. The moral: study the area you're opening. Are the cafes full? When are they full? What's the rent like? Is the area safe to hang out in? Is the cafe presentable? Work your ass off and it'll all work out just fine.

Re:Cafe experiences (2, Informative)

originalnih (709470) | more than 8 years ago | (#15893034)

Sorry, here's the same post again with the paragraphs put back in.

Well, I don't have any. But some close friends of mine just opened a gaming cafe in a town small enough not to have one yet.

They put the cash in and got decent hardware while spending minimal amounts on the decor, just enough to clean it up.

Against my advice they franchised some software to manage it but the franchisor gave them a lot of help along the way. In this case the fees were paid off within the first three months but the quality of the setup was sometimes suspect (VMware virtual machine on linux running Windows NT running TurboSquidNT as the gateway. WTF?). I don't see how you couldn't do all the work yourself just a easily however.

The hours are long! It's hard, monotonous work and you don't get a lot of time to focus on your own gaming, but the cash is coming in and they're making a lot of money.

They're focusing on return customers and keeping them happy, doing things like all-night lock-ins to keep it interesting.

As for around here, there are dozens, literally dozens of crap quality net cafes in the area, but they're always full, mostly of the local asian population.

The moral: study the area you're opening. Are the cafes full? When are they full? What's the rent like? Is the area safe to hang out in? Is the cafe presentable? Work your ass off and it'll all work out just fine.

if it does start up... (1)

surfbass (994805) | more than 8 years ago | (#15893025)

post it on slashdot. that should give it a lot of traffic if it's in a major city. My honest opinion is that most people don't need to go to a gaming cafe, they have their own machines. you should make it a normal cafe, with some decent gaming rigs as a side. maybe even putting it in a college town where there is not much else to do. try and make it the hangout place for all the geeks that just got off work/class

They don't seem to make money (1)

InnerParty (753801) | more than 8 years ago | (#15893038)

I have seen many gaming cafes spring up and then disappear within typically two years in the Seattle area. I also personally know of one guy that owned a shopping mall in southern Washington and gave a gaming cafe a try in one of the empty mall spaces. He hired a very knowledgable admin to run the place and it still didn't make money despite the fact that the shop didn't have to pay rent for the space. He closed shop and then had 25-30 computers sitting in his garage collecting dust. Not knowing what to do with them, he hired me to set up a gaming LAN at his house for when his friends and family come over. While setting up the computers, I found the admin's resume on one of the hard drives. Seems he was looking for a real job while the cafe went in the tank. I think I'd avoid starting a gaming cafe like the plague....I've never seen one survive.

Re:They don't seem to make money (1)

King_TJ (85913) | more than 8 years ago | (#15893299)

Personally, I think the whole concept might need an advertising boost to give it some more "cool factor" with the general public. I know here in St. Louis, MO - we've got a couple really good and successful LAN gaming events that happen on a regular basis (EG. Laclede's LAN), and people pay upwards of $20 per person entry fees to play all night at them in many cases. (And you've got to remember, you have to haul all your own equipment to these things, and tear it all back down when you leave, too.) So certainly, there are some people out there willing to spend a little money on this as a form of weekend entertainment.

The problem is, you need to draw in a lot more than the 200 or so "regulars" who attend LAN gaming parties like these.... Otherwise, you just won't be able to make it.

How many additional customers can you attract, even if you do supply all the hardware and software? I'm not sure. I think quite a few, if you could get local radio stations to promote it with live remotes and giveaways, get the big gaming stores to let you put stacks of flyers (with discount coupons of some sort, probably) on their counters, and so on.

We've had a few cyber/gaming cafes here that ran for a year or two, lost a bunch of money, and closed up. But I never saw one do squat for advertising beyond "word of mouth". Furthermore, they were always in rather bad parts of the city - so it was common to see some drugged-out bum sitting up against a wall in the winter months and so on. Not really the clientele you want to draw in.

Personally, I don't think a shopping mall setting would do much for me either, though. That just feels a little too commercialized and "stagnant". For starters, a mall is going to close no later than what, 9PM? And this type of place needs to provide late night entertainment, at least on weekends. I think this would do best near a college or university, in a stand-alone building (so a lot of noise wouldn't bother other tenants), in a somewhat affluent neighborhood.

No, it will probably fail (1)

gozu (541069) | more than 8 years ago | (#15893039)

There used to be a gaming cafe near my home. They closed a few months ago and were replaced by a barbershop. I say don't risk it.

They Can Work (5, Interesting)

KagatoLNX (141673) | more than 8 years ago | (#15893044)

Well, I run one [geekerz.us] along with two other guys. The place will eventually make money but its not exactly a cash cow here (although it may get better after some of our competition goes under).

A lot of people chimed in mentioning that computers and net access are cheap. Well, that's true. I would also mention that, at a hypothetical $5.00 / hour (we're cheaper due to being in small town USA), it takes quite a while to catch up with a computer, games, maintenance, and internet access.

For people who either just browse the net or people who play games maybe five or six hours per week, it's much less trouble and cost effective to go to a place like this. I dare say that most people fall into that more casual group--especially when you consider they also divide their time with home consoles. We also have a nightly and weekly open-pass rate that keeps the place hopping when we would otherwise be slow.

There are other mitigating factors too. Maybe they don't trust their roommates. Maybe they're traveling. Maybe they really just want to avoid their parents. Maybe they skateboard in the area and just want to buy a drink someplace cool. All of these people fill in the gaps that are left by hardcore gamers just buying their own computer.

Some advice, don't go it alone. We have three people that own / work the place (only open after 5pm) and we couldn't really do it with less (and bona fide employees are expensive). Also, plan to replace your computers. If you don't you'll run out of money just when the business is taking off. Also, don't forget the three most important things to a business: location, location, and location. Finally, keep in mind that some games aren't licensed for cafe usage without special arrangements. Most notable is Valve Software (for which we have a cafe license). Also, don't pirate Windows. It's just stupid (and *will* get you shut down when the competition kindly turns you in).

Re:They Can Work (2, Insightful)

Breakfast Pants (323698) | more than 8 years ago | (#15893111)

Change the name. While geek is a badge of pride for many, you are basically limiting yourself to just the hardcore geek by using that name.

You think? (4, Insightful)

Anonymous Coward | more than 8 years ago | (#15893046)

I know you're envisioning a non-stop LAN party like you have with your friends, but (at least in the USA) it's probably not going to go down like that.

You're probably going to need to cater to teens. Teens are less likely to have their own computers, or their usage is restricted by their parents. They're also a lot more social-- they want to get out of the house and they have time to kill. Conversely adults are more likely to be able to afford their own gaming rigs, and (more importantly) they tend to want to be left alone-- they'd rather play in the comfort of home than hanging around a gaming cafe-- especially if it's filled with packs of teenagers (kind of a catch 22...)

The downside, of course, is that you'll be spending a lot of time playing babysitter. You'll be constantly monitoring for theft and vandalism, telling them not to smoke in front, maybe even breaking up a fight or two. You're going to get a lot of attitude. Did I mention the theft and vandalism? Things are going to go missing and you're going to have no idea how they pulled it off. Things are going to be broken for no reason at all. Ever seen an arcade machine in pristine condition? For that matter, ever seen an arcade bathroom? That's what yours will look like every night too...

Chicago Suburbs. (0)

Anonymous Coward | more than 8 years ago | (#15893049)

You are not the only one. I have thought this for the Chicago northern burbs for many years, starting around 1995. Never did it pan out, and as much fun as it seems, it just wasn't a feasable business plan. Though there are some around the area, they attract the wrong crowds, creating trouble. I know of some already in pretty much all the large burbs already as well.

Console games! (2, Interesting)

Sartak (589317) | more than 8 years ago | (#15893050)

I recommend console games in addition to PC games. I long for the past days of four-player free-for-all GoldenEye 64.

Two here in chattanooga (1)

akijikan (994811) | more than 8 years ago | (#15893053)

We've had a couple here that have been around for about 5+ years. They both offer PC gaming as well as consoles. Another aspect to both is that they offer food/drink. One actually offers cuban sandwiches (the family who opened it is Cuban). The other has more of a coffee-shop thing going on. I think the ultimate would be if you would combine it with a bar. Esepcially if you're near a college campus.

Laundry (5, Interesting)

dredknight (994814) | more than 8 years ago | (#15893060)

I know a guy that has a successul gaming business. He offers a laundry feature. So people can clean their clothes while they purchase \ play games. This is a great idea considering alot of gamers need to clean their clothes anyways. btw I'm an evil genius.

You could be the exception, but... (1, Interesting)

Anonymous Coward | more than 8 years ago | (#15893064)

I had two friends out of college try it and they had to shut down after a year or so. They were smart CompSci grads, wrote a lot of their own software to run the place keeping costs down, but in the end it just wasn't profitable.

You said several of these places existed in your area, but shut down. Why didn't you go? and if they were poorly run, maybe it was because they weren't bringing in enough money to hire enough qualified help to make the business model viable.

Location (1)

novastar123 (540269) | more than 8 years ago | (#15893065)

Location is probably one of the most important factors
when starting a business like this,
We had one start up in my town about a year ago, they had good ideas,
Not only computer gaming, but also xbox's, ps2's, older console games,
board games, d&d/MTG tables, and they actually sold food.
But they went under in less than 6 months, why you ask?
Location. They were on the corner of 2 very busy streets, in a bad area.
Also, their parking lot was across said very busy streets, so not only did
you need to worry about being in said bad area, you also needed to worry
about getting ran over while walking to your car.

some suggestions... (1)

jpardey (569633) | more than 8 years ago | (#15893068)

These may or may not be useful, but anyway...

Have two sections, one for gamers and one for people who just want to surf the internet.
Have a few consoles and screens linked together for tournaments, when it would be hard for the players to gather the necessary cables and screens to one house.
Get the newest and most anticipated games right away. Sell them for a small loss (depending on regulations, but I was thinking of console games) when fewer people are interested.
Sell food and pop. Maybe set up the equipment so that food can be eaten at the computers.
The people going are probably going for the social setting, not the games. Put speakers on stands towards the player so that he can talk to others and hear, rather than using headphones, but still can be heard over the noise.
Have regular tournaments for prizes (such as 100 free hours or such) as publicity.

Portland, Oregon has one. (-1, Redundant)

Anonymous Coward | more than 8 years ago | (#15893077)

It's called Backspace [backspace.bz] . Besides PC and XBox gaming they also have, free wifi, pool, food/drinks and an art gallery. One of the employees told me they're opening an alcohol bar/performance art space next door as well. They have a very diverse clientele and dedicated staff. I heard of some others but haven't been to them. Backspace is the oldest as far as I know, they started out as competitors to our now defunct net cafe. (We fell apart cause the owner ended up in Jail in another state, which kind of killed our ability to move any money out to empoyees or suppliers.)

There were a few in the Kansas City area (2, Interesting)

miyako (632510) | more than 8 years ago | (#15893085)

There have been a few in the Kansas City area where I live, one is still fairly successfull, the other was doing well but was shut down due to the owner getting ill.
There were also a few that failed. There were some things I noticed about what made the successfull ones successfull, and the unsuccessfull ones fail. The biggest thing was that the ones that were around for a while didn't focus just on PC games. Both of them offered (for free) space for running table top games, sold CCGs, table top books and accessories, sold PC hardware, rented time on machines to play PC games, and had a couple of TVs set up for console gaming (also for free).
They didn't focus on selling stuff as much as they focused on a place for gamers to hang out, and just happened to sell anything that one might need for gaming. Part of that was also keeping the stores fairly kid friendly. This meant keeping the older gamers from cursing loudly, as well as turning down the gore factor on games with such options. This made parents feel better about letting their kids hang out there, and the kids usually spent a good amount of money.

I've been a Grunt... (0)

Anonymous Coward | more than 8 years ago | (#15893089)

at a game center that's almost on it's 4th year. I'll tell you straight up game center's barely break even. the only way we remain in the black is by doing stuff in the back.(pc repair, data processing)

The Mob (0, Troll)

Cutter7 (962545) | more than 8 years ago | (#15893105)

If you plan on having Coin-operated type games, (even using a card reading system) you will be meeting a "Rep" from a certain "trade Association", In small town USA its no problem, but in the Chicago area those folks still have a presence. Oh, and if you plan on playing any kind of music for your customers, you will be meeting a "Rep" from another "Trade Asscociation," (this Association will Legally extort you). Both will demand $$, and you may want to bake that into your budget. Good Luck

Money can be made, and maybe you can too (1)

kieran42 (891306) | more than 8 years ago | (#15893109)

I had a roommate who worked at an Internet café for a year or so, one of the only long lasting ones in Toronto. While it was among the best, it certainly wasn't a cash cow by any means.

This has led me to believe that some of the smaller, out of the way 'net cafés that never seem to go under are in another business altogether: money laundering. It seems to be an ideal situation, all revenues are based on rental which is impossible to quantify at the end of the month. It's also a relatively obscure business model as far as police are concerned... even among us /.ers few can fathom what kind of market there really is in the business.

Then again, I could be wrong. Just one possible explanation!

Maybe (2, Interesting)

akjl99 (994816) | more than 8 years ago | (#15893113)

I'm from chicago and I know 4 different owners and two of them I supplied them the computers. 3 of the 4 went out of business in under 2 years. Not to be a pessimist but you really need to know what your doing. It's a big investment. It's not a matter a buying a bunch of cheap gaming systems a fractional t1 and think flocks of teens are going to come. The major cost is supporting those PC's especially if you allow your patrons to smoke like most cyber pc's. You have crazy sofware costs involved, but the biggest problem is unlike the past but today 90% of people have access to broad band internet and they want to use there computer since most likely it will be better then the cyber cafe. I know of at least 15 cyber cafe's in the chicagoland area ranging from 5 PC's to 60+ and half or 3/4 are korean owned and of those half have gone out of business. It's a very tough market. You need to market to schools run tournements get sponsorship and try to atract a few pro gamers. Most pro gamers are not going to be caught dead at a cyber cafe, why would they use inferior machines that aren't customized to there needs and why would they bother with the noise and distractions. Another problem with many cyber cafes that I've seen is you lose alot of females and older like 40+ crowd because cyber cafes are so overwhelmed with teenagers playing counter strike at the highest volume possible and being very obnoxious. I actually visited korea last year and I can't believe how much money they make especially for what they charge. You can play for .50 to a dollar and hour on a full T1 sometimes a T3 and the cafes are so nice and they bring you food and everything. These cafes are packed and run 24 hours. Hope this helps and good luck you'll most likely need it.

Read about this guy's experience (4, Informative)

Supercrunch (797557) | more than 8 years ago | (#15893122)

A good article from Slate about a guy and his failed coffeeshop business. [slate.com] Not quite the same, I realize, but still very insightful.

Re:Read about this guy's experience (2, Insightful)

Ticklemonster (736987) | more than 8 years ago | (#15893199)

Well duh, look what he was doing. If you want to have a cyber cafe, don't get all bent out of shape with the cafe part until you get off the ground. Stick with good service, and plenty of fun. Hey, do you have a swat team or an armed forces base in town? City and county police or sheriff's dept? Hit them up with the idea of having computers they can rent to use for practicing team work, then subtly hint that sheriff Joe Blob said his good old boys can take on the local city cops, then have competition nights! Yep, they'll bring in their spouses and friends, who will consume mass quantities of imbibables. Or how about if there is a local collage with a digital arts class? Get with the teacher about 3d design, maybe have them make maps or something for extra credit. Computer sciences? Mods and new game types. It's there, you just have to be inventive. I want to do this in Rome, Ga, but I'm just too afraid of biting off more than I can handle, myself. One of these days, maybe... but good luck to anyone who tries this.

Sour Grapes Man. (1)

zippthorne (748122) | more than 8 years ago | (#15893325)

Don't listen to the naysayers. People who've tried and failed and given up. Of course they're going to say it's impossible. It might be impossible, but they're not the people to ask. Especially in a business that has had some successes already.

Their failure wasn't that their chosen business was simply no good. It was that their business plan wasn't very good and they simply didn't have what it takes to run a successful business. The fact is that most small businesses fail within a couple of years. And most successful entrepreneurs have a few failures under their belts before finally "making it."

The slate guy learned a valuable lesson: He learned how not to run a coffee shop. He also learned how to almost ruin his marriage because of it. But he applied the lesson by giving up. I think he made the right decision. He clearly couldn't hack it by his own admission. But if he'd tried again a couple more times, I'd think that was the right decision. He'd clearly have the perserverance to eventually succeed.

If the naysayers convince you to evaluate your business plan more critically, or change it in some way, that's fine. There're always details that could escape you if you don't consult enough resources. If they convince you not to even bother then you're not an entrepreneur. Be content working for someone else.

We can't tell you (1)

Turn-X Alphonse (789240) | more than 8 years ago | (#15893123)

We can't tell you if it will do wlel in your area or not. You need to go around the local area and ask people, get their thoughts and opinions. Remember you have to offer something extra and make it worth everyones time being there if they do think it's a good idea. The following things I'd say would help.

Make a GOOD cup of coffee and tea. Charge reasonable prices and make it so people want to come to you for coffee over places like Starbucks. Once they're in the door impulse buying will take over more often than not.
Good food goes great with good coffee. Take a lesson from Arthur Dent and learn to make a good sandwich. They're easy to eat, rather cheap to make and they arn't too messy. Just what you need while playing.
Don't have uber loud music. Every place I see like this has loud techno music playing.. Just don't do it. Think of it more as a coffee bar than a gaming joint. If you make it a peaceful place it'll attract all ages, if you make it a noisey place only kids will come.
Chairs : Good chairs = less pain = will sit there longer = will pay more money
Set up some good custom loyality schemes as well. Give them a card and say like for every 5 hours they get half an hour free or offer a 10% discount or whatever. It gives people a reason to stay a bit longer and buy more stuff/time.

Last and by no means least. Set up a good community, make sure the place has a good vibe to it and people will call others there just to hang out. Don't shun them, welcome them even if they're only there to sit and have a drink.

Hard but not impossible (1)

!anygood (992878) | more than 8 years ago | (#15893138)

The only gaming cafe I've ever seen stay open for more then two years in Chicago is at Old Orchard Mall . I believe that is in Evanston. You may want to think of: 1. who are your customers? 2. what do they want? 3. where are they? 4. how do they get to you? 1. Your customers are generally (without doing a external survey) 12 - 26 y.o. males with extra income. 2. They want to go "out" ( as in out of the house) to some place local and either play mmporg games or shoot em ups. 3. relatively rich neighborhoods Naperville, schaumburg, Kennelworth, Wheeling , Wilmette, Oak Park 4. being in a mall with buss transportation or even better Metra/"L" seems to be a mainstay for kids who will plunk their allowance into your pocket. Also, Most of the gaming cafes that I've seen (only 3) have been relatively dark with reflective windows. So that customers inside can be as dorky as they want in private. The machines that I seen at the gaming cafe are no joke at least $2000. err a "friend of mine" has gone to one because the video card was bad ass and the connection rocks. He had a big WoW raid and I wanted to turn the resolution up and not be lagged to death. It was far beyond what he could afford at the time.

No (1)

MSTCrow5429 (642744) | more than 8 years ago | (#15893145)

There was a gaming cafe up in Concord, NH. It died a slow, horrible death. So I'm going to say no, not unless gaming computers grow in price to thousands of thousands of dollars, or the food at the cafe is Michelin rated and free.

Uh, no, they generally can't. (5, Informative)

fthiess (669981) | more than 8 years ago | (#15893147)

I started and ran my own cybercafe/game center for 3 years, so I have some experience with this subject. It was GREAT fun! Financially it always made enough money to get all the bills paid, with a little (really little) left over as salary for me. That doesn't mean it was profitable, though: unless you like charity, you need to be looking at whether a business will be profitable in an economic sense, not just an accounting sense, and that means you need to take into account not just what a reasonable salary for yourself is, but little things like depreciation of your assets (so you can afford upgrades), your cost of capital (even if it's your own money), and a reasonable return on investment (compared to what you would earn on the money if you didn't put it into a game center). After having looked at my experience in the business every way I could think of, I'm firmly of the belief that there is just no way to make money on this type of business unless you have a very special set of circumstances. Consequently, I closed my place down a couple of months ago.

I like to think of the real problem game centers have in terms of system dynamics: a game center draws customers from within a limited geographic radius (about 10 miles, or maybe 15 km, in my case). Within that radius there are a limited number of people who will be interested in what you offer. In the early days business grows exponentially, but NOT because of any kind of growth in the number of potential customers--it's just that more and more of your fixed number of potential customers are finding out about you. At some point you reach saturation, and that where the system dynamics comes into play: you are in a fight between the number of potential customers in your area that are leaving (graduated, moved away, bought their own computer, ran out of money, lost interest, etc.) versus the number of new potential customers that are being created (moved in, got old enough mom would let them play, etc.). Basically, there are many more paths for customers to leave then there are for them to arrive in your pool of "potentials", so it's a loosing proposition.

Yes, there are things you can do to change the coefficients of some of the terms in the basic equation: you can try to bring in more adults, you can add more games more frequently, do more advertising, etc. What I've seen, though--and I've validated the basic model with several other (former) game center owners--is that if you do everything right business is good for about a year and a half, then it peaks and falls off to much lower level. Revenues can remain stable after that point, but at a level that is WAY below the peak--and that generally means you don't have the profits you need to upgrade machines, buy new games, etc. When you stop being able to upgrade and add new games, you enter the final part of the curve when business falls off further from the already-low plateau it was at, and then you're dead (in terms of the business).

Tweak the situation a little bit and the timing of when you hit the inflection points on the curve will shift forward or backward some, but the basic shape of the curve doesn't change--that's why I say that this really isn't a viable business.

Oh, those "special circumstances" I mentioned, that would make it viable? They DO exist, but are rare: for example, you don't pay for most or even any of your games (a popular strategy in developing countries, and unfortunately used much more frequently than you might think even in the developed world!); you're setting up business in a community where there's nothing else for kids to do; you find other uses for the floorspace and computers that you can make money on when people aren't playing games (computer classes, for example). Even if these or similar factors apply in your case, though, they usually only make the difference between surviving and not--I've never seen a case where they are enough to actually get things to the point where the business is financially attractive to be in.

Yes, all of the above doom-and-gloom is from my limited perspective, but like I said, I have talked to a number of other owners of similar businesses, and, after we got done with our discussions, I haven't found any game center owners who disagreed with me in any fundemental way. Even the game centers that everyone thought were doing well (like mine, actually) were only doing well in a very limited accounting sense--I have yet to hear of a single one that had stable economic profits (in the sense mentioned above of including salaries, depreciation, cost of capital, and return on investment). My business lasted three years and could have continued for another three without new outside investment if I didn't pull the plug, but when you look at how much money I had in the bank before I opened and compare it to how much I had after I closed, it's obvious it was a looser. . . and mine was actually bringing in a lot more revenue than most of my competitors within the same metropolitan area (I was in a very high-income part of the city, right next to a movie theater, had a webhosting business on the side that made use of the game center infrastructure, and to the south of my place there were lots of million-dollar homes, but no movie theaters or other entertainment options for 40 or 50 miles).

Would I do it again? Yes, but not for financial gain. If you need the money, my advise is to look for something else to invest in! If you have other motivations, though, all this goes out the window. It's hard to beat a business where your customers can't wait to come in, have big smiles on their faces when they leave, and you can play games with them any time you want.

Don't think of the PCs as an asset (1)

Rix (54095) | more than 8 years ago | (#15893148)

They're a consumable, especially if you intend to sell the place for gaming. You'll have to keep them fairly up to date, otherwise there'll be no point. The question is whether or not you can bring enough revenue in to support that, which I doubt is possible in North America.

Cyber Cafes are successful. (3, Informative)

kahrytan (913147) | more than 8 years ago | (#15893150)

In Hampton Roads Virginia [wikipedia.org] (Southeast Virginia), there is a cyber cafe that has been in business for years. I'm not sure how long but at least 5-10 years. I would imagine the most expensive part of Cyber Cafe startup is the Tier line and being able to pay for it on monthly basis.

Check out Website CyberCafe [webcitycybercafe.com] . They have webcams and photos of the place to see how they got it setup. Webcams are live so you can also see how busy it is with a 1.6 million population.

Look into SMARTLaunch (1)

donkstuff (719846) | more than 8 years ago | (#15893171)

I recommend looking into software called 'Smart Launch' for managing the client computers. This includes accounts, profiles, access to content, time/money on each account, rates, etc.

A number of cybercafe's and LAN centers that I have been to use SmartLaunch, and all have had some success with it.

suggestions (2, Interesting)

akjl99 (994816) | more than 8 years ago | (#15893184)

I posted earlier why it's tough to open one, but some suggestions that will help you are the following: 1. Have a payment system where patrons prepay not pay after like there done in many korean cyber cafe. 2. If your going to be selling cooked food make sure you get a food establishment license or else the Chicago Department of Revenue or Department of Public Health can and will come after you. 3. Limit the noise, get high quality headphones 4. Offer patrons to bring there own PC's and charge them internet connection only something reasonable like $1 an hour. Your selling your T1 and the social experience to these customers 5. Offer tournaments lock in style. Offer tournements where customer prepays and plays over night for a reasonable fee. Offer prizes from sponsors or money. 6. Don't ignore senior citizens and females. Senior citizens may be your bread and butter during the day and non school hours, don't ignore females since they represent half the population. To get both enforce conduct code limit smoking to smoking section only, and limit profanity and shouting. 7. Offer hardware/training classes during the day or early mornings. 8. Run a secondary business like PC repair, PC sales, webhost and webdesign etc... 9. Target schools and other organizations, give them a discount 10. Get good chairs like previous posts. 11. Maintain PC's all time. Any minute a PC is down is losing you money. 12. Offer wifi service, at an extreme discount like .50 an hour or free with purchase of food or prepay internet card. 13. Market, Market, Market, so many cyber cafe's fail because they cater to only certain people and they expect people to be able to find them. Build a website, run ads and coupons, create a referrel program get as many people don't be content. 14. Make sure you have the capital to sustain your operation. I've seen so many cyber cafes that last only 6 months because there undercapitalized. 15. Realize your running a business so go easy on those comps to your friends and family or so called friends. That's just a few that came to the top of my head, I have more. If you need help with web site and online marketing you can email me at alink@estoreware.com my company specializes in that we're based in chicago. Good Luck!!!

They can be successful (1)

zratchet (761806) | more than 8 years ago | (#15893187)

There are 3 here in Austin, TX and they're good. I mainly go to one though...

Things that they do/have that impress me

1) Internet access, not just games
2) Wide variety of games (not just FPS, MMO's, RPG's, and strategy too)
3) Consoles and Retro games
4) Tech Support/Computer Repair
5) Events (both gaming (they had World Cyber Games stuff) and game dev (3D User Group, IGDA Chapter, IGDA Indie SIG (my group) )
6) Sponsor outside events
7) Pretty cheap + offer discounts - hourly rates + day passes.

As a gamer in that area... (1)

Gravemind123 (981612) | more than 8 years ago | (#15893228)

I would say the number one issue is that laptops generally suck for gaming, so you need to provide computers or consoles for people at a reasonable price. Although some people have laptops that can handle gaming, most cannot, or the owner does not like playing the games on the laptop. One important thing is not charging for WiFi, people will not come if they have to pay for internet. It would also be good if you had tournaments for different games with entry fees and prizes, that is a great incentive to get people. I do not know about how to get customers during the day, but since you say you have a way, I guess you're covered there. If you ever do open one in the subarbs, you would know that I would come!

Lock those systems down etc (1)

afroloop (603664) | more than 8 years ago | (#15893241)

When I was in college I worked a Office Depot and would always get punks coming into the store and messing up the computers (that was Windows 3.1 days). Anyhow, learn how to lock those systems down tight or there will be lots of admin you'll need to do.

The pool table is a good idea.

Having good computers would be a big plus as a lot of people just can't afford computers today that need 650W power supplies and 500$ video cards and a couple of gigs of RAM so if you have that they could play some of the newer games with lots of the eye candy turned on. If you could get some Lan Parties going that would be cool, maybe some cash prize competitions every once in awhile for individuals or teams of players.

Maybe have a wall of computers that are for checking email and Myspace and the web and not for gaming (that could save you some money by not having to buy all really high end systems).

Sell lots of variety of energy drinks :)

Make it a gaming bar not a gaming cafe (0)

Anonymous Coward | more than 8 years ago | (#15893247)

The best gaming place i've been is a gaming bar. Get people in for a beer and some death matches works well there. Make sure you have comfy chairs, headsets for teamspeak, good keyboards/mice. Promotions are always good, the place here had the local rock station hosting a gaming night (like they usually do at random bar X around town), and have gotten a few tournaments sponsored by game companies. Colleges near by are a definite must, and be open late, 5-2, not 9-5.

Masturbatory Comment (0)

Anonymous Coward | more than 8 years ago | (#15893257)

Seeing how most people have viewed (and enjoyed) Internet porn, I would recommend a room for pornographic viewing. Considering how your gaming cafe would have high powered machines and broadband Internet, this would be the perfect use of your equipment. Plus, it might keep some pervs out of the local libraries. Hope this helps.

Around here... (0)

Anonymous Coward | more than 8 years ago | (#15893272)

In the Phoenix, Arizona area, there are a few... not exactly gaming _cafes_, but a chain of small businesses called "The Front" who basically offer computers with installed games for around $4 an hour (They also sell paintballing supplies. Go fig.). The main draw seems to be mostly as a continous LAN party. On Saturdays the place is loaded with teenagers and young 20's types playing mostly FPS and a few RTSs. A few will also play WoW, Diablo 2, etc, but the emphasis is on LAN competition. It seems to be doing great business. I've personally had many good times playing LAN CS with friends and random people we meet at the location. While it offers little in way of extra offerings or amenities, the draw seems to come from human to human interaction in LAN games. In game chatting is rarely used, and a ton of yelling and cursing (disallowed by managment, of course) can be constantly heard, along with softer whispers of strategy here or there. Excellent placement next to a pizza joint and a few carry out resturants helps too.

These guys have been around for a couple years. (1)

Short Circuit (52384) | more than 8 years ago | (#15893280)

Why don't you drop them [theultimat...rience.com] a line?

One more idea (1)

afroloop (603664) | more than 8 years ago | (#15893282)

I recently got the Dell 30" display and it's awesome. It might be a cool idea to have a couple of extra "pimped" systems with the Dell 30" to play on with SLI and all that jazz. I'll tell ya, Counter Strike Source at 2560X1600 looks pretty great (as does WoW)! Maybe you could charge a few extra bucks to play on the really nice systems and it could be a thing that gets people to come into your shop to see the boutique machines. Maybe even have a little spec sheet next to the computer talking about all of the parts that are on it, what type of RAM, what speed, what type of HDD and if it's RAID or not, the video cards and how much memory they have, etc. This could get people to come in and talk about your stuff and then stick around to do some gaming and buy some drinks and so forth.

For a sucessful business... (1)

Wiarumas (919682) | more than 8 years ago | (#15893286)

if you want to profitable you have to sell beer and ice cream at this gaming cafe... this devastating duo will ensure your success.

I ran one (4, Informative)

Onetrack (765809) | more than 8 years ago | (#15893291)

The best thing you can do is get affiliated with Igames.org, you get a wealth of information and ideas + support from hundreds of exhisting owners.
I ran my centre, Capture The Frag here in a small town ~80,000 with 2 other pc and 1 xbox center and we did alright, surviving about 15 months.

What ends up killing you is the price of the games, the stupid licensing from companies like valve and the cost of supporting your hardware/upgrading and making sure the machines are maintained.

Get a license for Deep Freeze, it'll be your best friend.

We made a good deal of $ but it mostly went to advertising and paying for the property lease plus games, remember you're not buying 1, you're buying however many games for however many comps you have.

In the end, after about 15 months, i got sick of working 100 hours a week for no pay, its SO much more than just hooking some comps into a hub and going.

Location location location (1)

Stargoat (658863) | more than 8 years ago | (#15893297)

Find some place that has LOTS of traffic and a market that can support such a store. Crystal Lake or Gurnee is not going to cut it, nor any place west of Randall or south of US 30. You need to find someplace with foot traffic, where kids can come and visit after school, but some place close enough to keep adults in the place. Perhaps near a Community College might do.

It doesn't matter how well you manage your place, if customers aren't walking in, you're screwed.

It works (0)

Anonymous Coward | more than 8 years ago | (#15893305)

I happen to work at Howie's Game Shack (howies.com), where we have over 250 computers and 45 xboxes. I certiantly can't go into details, but when done right it does work.

Interview GenCon (1)

70Bang (805280) | more than 8 years ago | (#15893306)

GenCon is going on right now - one of the few 'round the clock events held.

Were you here, you could likely either post a message of some type (e.g., cards with an email address -- a throwaway because of a spam magnet) or interview people at random

(I don't go SouthWest of there during May (Indy500) two weeks ago (Brickyard 400), the F1, or Gen Con. I was born without the racing gene and I won't say anything about GenCon. The state fair is going on this weekend and I love riding on the tram (the tractors all run biodiesel) and could spend all day watching the people. The missus gets bored of that quite fast.

Maybe...? (1, Insightful)

Anonymous Coward | more than 8 years ago | (#15893337)

To draw customers, you should have promotions like game competition nights with prizes for winners and drawings for anyone that shows. It will draw customers, but make sure that you still maintain a profit margin. Or you COULD try an alternative focus, perhaps offering food and drinks and offering admission to the gaming facilities as an amenity this allows you to possibly maintain some business flow while most of the gaming community might be preoccupied with work or school.

A couple thoughts from me.
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