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What’s involved in starting up a Gaming Center?

[1]This is something that I’ve personally wondered about for a while, seeing the various Gaming Centers that have been springing up in recent years. How does one go about setting one up? What’s involved in it? Moreover, once you’ve got one up and running, what’s involved in keeping it that way- and avoiding the inevitable financial pitfalls? While this is by no means meant to be a comprehensive guide, it’ll give you an idea of what to expect at each stage- and some concept of where you’ll need to start.

Before you begin, know that you’re starting a business- and a very high-risk business, at that. You’ll need to go through all the requisite steps involved in starting a business [2]– this guide isn’t going to cover that at any great length. Just know that there’s a lot of legalese to sift through, and a lot of red tape to cut your way past.  Oh, and you’re probably going to need a loan- a lot of cash is required for one of these facilities.

The Venue

First and foremost, where is your facility going to be located? There’s a lot of stuff you’re going to want to consider- proximity to schools, major train and bus routes, and other major thoroughfares- like it or not, students (both high school and college-aged) are likely to be your primary customers. If you’re closer to them, you’re already ahead of the game. It also could help to be close to a few places that serve food, like pizza- if possible, have a chat with some of the fast food outlets and convenience stores in the area and see if you can’t set up some sort of agreement with them.

The Competition

What other major gaming cafes are there in the city? Do a bit of research on this in order to figure out what you’re up against. Where are they situated? What sort of clientele do they generally attract? What sort of environments do they provide? You’ll want to make sure you aren’t too close to an already established hot-spot, or you might well be defeated before you even begin.

The Hardware

This’ll be your second biggest headache. Your rigs need to be powerful. They need to be able to run the latest and greatest games at least medium quality (though preferably high). Since an individual rig costs somewhere around $2000 to build and $4000 to buy…you’re looking at a hefty investment. Might want to see if there’s any deals you can make with hardware manufacturers to cut the price a bit- for example, only using Nvidia graphics cards, or limiting your rigs to a single brand of motherboard.

Licensing Games

And here’s your biggest headache. If you’re running a gaming center, you need games. You’ll need to install them. In many cases, you may need to purchase or license them. You need to ensure they’ll run on your systems. Moreover, you’re going to need to keep doing this in order to keep up with the top releases. If a new AAA title goes gold, you should have it installing on your servers the split second it hits the shelves.

Food and Sundry

You need to consider your rules about food and drink. Will you be providing energy drinks? Snacks? Full meals? Will you allow people to eat in front of or near their computers? Note that if you answered yes to the previous question, you’re probably going to have to replace some of your hardware at least once- and if you answered no, you might lose business to facilities that answered ‘yes.’

Membership Fees

A small consideration- what will you charge? How much are memberships? What’s your hourly rate? Daily rate? Look into what some of your competitors are charging- if you can, undercut them.

Staffing and Hours

This is a consideration for any business you’re setting up- what will your hours of operation be? Where are you going to find employees? How much are you going to pay them? How many hours will they work? What other benefits will you provide? The ability to game at your center for free is always a good perk for employment, but be careful that you don’t hire anyone who’s too lazy.

Advertising

Again, this is something you’ve gotta think about with any business. How are you going to advertise? Where? To whom? Make sure you have an original and noticeable ad campaign lined up.

Events

What do you provide that gamers can’t get at home? Do you host tournaments? Hold lock-ins? Perform draws and raffles? Give out prizes? You need to provide some sort of reason for them to come and play at your place, when they can just as easily putz about at home. Look for local interest groups and clubs and see if they can direct some of their members to your facility. Anything you can do to make people game at your center, and not in their house.

Image Credits: Netfragz.org [12]