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Can a Gaming Cafe be Successful? 345

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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Can a Gaming Cafe be Successful?

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  • Yes we have one. (Score:5, Interesting)

    by TheZorch ( 925979 ) <thezorch@gmail. c o m> on Friday August 11, 2006 @11:19PM (#15892933) Homepage
    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. (Score:5, Informative)

      by kindlekoma ( 994806 ) on Friday August 11, 2006 @11:50PM (#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!
      • by Cromac ( 610264 ) on Saturday August 12, 2006 @01:50AM (#15893368)
        In other words it sounds like they aren't trying to cater to the teenage/kid market, they want middle/upper middle class adults as their clients. That probably reduces a lot of the problems other gaming cafes deal with and lets them charge more for similar services, and offer other more expensive services. Kind of a modern replacment for the old local bar people used to go to after work.
      • There used to be a second cafe in Portland right next to Portland State. I don't know if they're still around, but five or so years ago they seemed to be doing okay.
    • by Orangejesus ( 898961 ) on Friday August 11, 2006 @11:56PM (#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. (Score:5, Informative)

      by DarkMantle ( 784415 ) on Friday August 11, 2006 @11:57PM (#15893075) Homepage
      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.
      • Maybe hang out near the local EB Games for a day or two...

        That would be a good idea, just make sure to ask the store if it's OK to perform the survey near their store. That way you aren't upsetting them etc...

        Another idea along those lines, is to see if you can partner up with the local EBgames and such to do some tourneys and get the store to offer some prizes. As well as work out a volume deal for games. But if everyone is going to the cafe to game nstead of buying new games they could get annoy

    • Re:Yes we have one. (Score:3, Interesting)

      by enbody ( 472304 )
      Add East Lansing, Michigan (home of Michigan State University) to the list with http://www.fragcenter.com/ [fragcenter.com]. They have been in business for three years. They also repair PCs. As a parent of a teenager one feature I've noticed is that they give out free playing time for good grades -- quite a bit of free time.
    • Re:Yes we have one. (Score:3, Interesting)

      by CastrTroy ( 595695 )
      When I was a kid, a local rental shop started charging by the half hour for kids to play the consoles like Neo Geo and Super Nes. It gave them a lot of nice advertising, as people would come into the shop just to watch people play, and often decide to rent a game, or rent one of the systems. I remember them doing quite well, although they did close eventually. The store was always full, and they sold a lot of stuff that people really wanted, like those hard cases that rental games came it. It was much b
  • Research? (Score:4, Insightful)

    by Jrabbit05 ( 943335 ) on Friday August 11, 2006 @11:22PM (#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]
  • 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 (Score:5, Informative)

    by antiphoton ( 821735 ) on Friday August 11, 2006 @11:23PM (#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 (Score:2, Interesting)

      by Anonymous Coward
      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 goo
  • Buy one for pennies on the dollar after it goes under. That seemed to work here.
    • 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 mall
      • by Daschu ( 994813 )
        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 ha
        • Re:Bargain shopping (Score:4, Interesting)

          by drsquare ( 530038 ) on Saturday August 12, 2006 @02:36AM (#15893450)
          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.

          Every bar, restaurant, cinema and stadium in the world disagrees with you. People will pay for convenience.

          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.

          99% of your business will depend on the price and how good the service is. A WoW addict doesn't care about trust or how much money the owner is making, they just want to play the game.
          • Yeah, but I ("we") despise every bar, cinema, and stadium in the world. It annoys me to no end how they jack up prices. And I spend less because of it. The guy is talking about a gaming bar, where probably most people won't just have excess money. I'm sure they would really appreciate well-priced food & drink, buy more because of it, and come more often.

            If you knew a bar that had tasty food and snacks for a reasonable price, would you go there more often than other bars? I sure would! If there was
            • Let me ask you something. Do you work for the minimum wage? If yes, well, skip to the next paragraph. If not, you're just as sick as the bars/restaurants you're criticising. How dare you charge for your services as much as someone would pay?

              It's impossible to say what would be best for this gaming cafe without knowing the costs and the proposed prices for the computer time and a bunch of other stuff, but let's have a look at this cinema example.

              Suppose there is a cinema which can take 100 people, they're al
            • I have a sick feeling that maybe bars, restaurants,etc. have maximized their profits, but it's downright sick

              It's called capitalism. If you don't like it you can a) move to a country with a centralized economy, or b) start your own bar/restaurant/etc. where the "sick" practice of maximizing profits isn't your primary goal. Good luck staying in business.

          • Every bar, restaurant, cinema and stadium in the world disagrees with you

            Well, I can't speak for stadia, but let's look at the other three:

            People go to these to drink and be sociable. They expect a bit of mark-up on the drinks to cover the cost of running the establishment. In the last couple of years, most of the pubs in my area have started really gauging the price of crisps. They were about 100% marked up over supermarket prices, which seemed a bit steep. Now they are at about 200%. The resul
  • What kind of games? (Score:5, Informative)

    by Enoxice ( 993945 ) on Friday August 11, 2006 @11:26PM (#15892955) Journal
    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.
    • You may even consider starting a card/miniature trading deal in your shop where you buy things from your customers and sell them back.

      Or at least have a pinboard somewhere for people to put up notes about stuff they want to sell. You won't make money from the deals directly, but if you become a known trading hub, people will get used to dropping by for new deals. Add another pinboard for people looking for groups to play with, and a third for convention dates and the like. Information brings in people, an
    • by sabinm ( 447146 )
      Yes, set up the Dungeon master table far away... preferably in the dungeon. Require a separate entrance and a dress code. Cheetos food coloring must be washed off the mouth area before you attempt to engage in social interaction with female surface dwellers. No shouting "Excelsior!" no comments like 'she just turned you down with 9999 hit points direct damage!'

      If you want to lose money, make a common area for all gamers in one place. Let's face it. Gamers occupy serveral differnt rungs on the food chai
  • Value added. (Score:5, Insightful)

    by F34nor ( 321515 ) * on Friday August 11, 2006 @11:27PM (#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.
  • No, here's why (Score:5, Insightful)

    by Monkelectric ( 546685 ) <slashdot@mon k e l e c t r i c . com> on Friday August 11, 2006 @11:30PM (#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.
  • Perhaps elsewhere... (Score:3, Informative)

    by IANAAC ( 692242 ) on Friday August 11, 2006 @11:30PM (#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.

  • by grapeape ( 137008 ) <mpope7@kWELTYc.rr.com minus author> on Friday August 11, 2006 @11:33PM (#15892978) Homepage
    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".
    • The real problem is what you said in your first paragraph: those that are hardcore gamers already have systems as good or better at home. Simply providing a place with PCs doesn't really add value over top of what most gamers can do for free by meeting up at each other's homes.

      But there are a lot of things you could do to add compelling features that go beyond what gamers can typically provide for themselves. You just have to put yourself in the mind of a gamer.

      Gamers tend to be a picky sort. Each gamer
  • by mark_lybarger ( 199098 ) on Friday August 11, 2006 @11:33PM (#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.... (Score:3, Interesting)

      by mpapet ( 761907 )
      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. T
  • An Idea (Score:2, Informative)

    by Digz ( 90264 )
    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.
  • 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
  • by vbwilliams ( 968304 ) on Friday August 11, 2006 @11:39PM (#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 (Score:2, Interesting)

    by originalnih ( 709470 )
    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 linu
  • 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 (Score:5, Interesting)

    by KagatoLNX ( 141673 ) <kagato@@@souja...net> on Friday August 11, 2006 @11:48PM (#15893044) Homepage
    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).
    • 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.
    • Also, plan to replace your computers.

      I've always knew this was going to be costly, but I'm curious to how often you change computers or upgrade parts. Once every 6 months? Once a year? More? Less?

      Also, when it comes to upgrading or replacing computers, do you replace the entire computer or upgrade certain key parts. The only things I see the is necessary to replace/upgrade is the video card and CPU. Changing the CPU usually means changing the motherboard too. RAM needs to be increased, but I would assume le
      • Re:They Can Work (Score:3, Informative)

        by moonbender ( 547943 )
        I assume you'll need to replace certain parts which are used by the customers frequently: mouse and keyboard in particular, headphones, too. Maybe even the display, although a regular cleaning might do. People tend to treat stuff badly when it's not their own. Fortunately none of these is particularly expensive.
        • One thing I would suggest is to have a premium account where, for a small monthly fee, a user could have their own keyboard and mouse that no one else would use which would be stored on the premises. It wouldn't take too much space, and it would stop the hard-core crowd from complaining that the previous user did something to the keyboard / mouse. You could also allow them to use a better keyboard / mouse combo than standard users. Since they would 'own' it (or actually own it; let them pay a fee up-fron
    • by cbreaker ( 561297 ) on Saturday August 12, 2006 @03:31AM (#15893528) Journal
      There's a lot of times when I'd like to be able to play a game of CS:S with some friends that don't even have PC's capable of running the game but would have a blast in a 6v6 LAN friends game. Or, perhaps I want to go and meet some fellow game players that I might find online later on. Maybe my PC is broken, and I want to play some games.

      It's like a rebirth of the video arcade, but it's more captivating.

      Some things that a game spot should avoid:

      - Ruthless monitoring of the players. If you have the game police watching everyone and barking every time someone does something you don't like, it will keep people away REAL fast. Make sure you have a supply of keyboards and mice. They're cheap. Don't worry about them so much.

      - Tailoring to the very young kids. While families might visit a gaming center once in awhile, you don't want to alienate your core customer group by forcing them to be proper little gentlemen because sometimes a young kid might play. Some ediquite is a good idea, but be too strict and you'll drive them right away.

      - Limiting internet usage. Don't limit internet usage. Sure, you could block porn sites, but don't block everything else.

      A game cafe should have a method of quickly regenerating a PC to "defaults" and should have a couple machines on stand-by. If you don't have to worry about users screwing up Windows, you don't have to be the PC Nanny.

      You should also provide stations for people that want to bring in their own PC's. You could charge the same amount of money, but let people use their own equipment. If I am going to go to someplace like this for a bunch of hours with some friends, I want to bring my own PC, my own LCD screen, and my own keyboard+mouse.

      I've been to places that break all these suggestions and I'll never go back. It would have been great if they weren't so strict. I mean, gamers want to hang out, play some games, yell at each other, and have fun. Let them do that and you could be successful.
  • You think? (Score:4, Insightful)

    by Anonymous Coward on Friday August 11, 2006 @11:48PM (#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...
  • Console games! (Score:2, Interesting)

    by Sartak ( 589317 )
    I recommend console games in addition to PC games. I long for the past days of four-player free-for-all GoldenEye 64.
    • And if you're offering console games, make sure you have a decent projector. I was amazed the difference between crowding in front of a (relatively large) television, and sitting in front of a projected screen. It makes for a better spectator sport too, which encourages more people in.
  • Laundry (Score:5, Interesting)

    by dredknight ( 994814 ) on Friday August 11, 2006 @11:54PM (#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.
  • by miyako ( 632510 ) <miyakoNO@SPAMgmail.com> on Saturday August 12, 2006 @12:00AM (#15893085) Homepage Journal
    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.
  • Maybe (Score:2, Interesting)

    by akjl99 ( 994816 )
    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 th
  • by Supercrunch ( 797557 ) on Saturday August 12, 2006 @12:11AM (#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.
    • 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 night
    • 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. An
  • 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 ofte
    • 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.

      Taking this a step further, look at baguettes and pitta pockets rather than just two-slices-of-bread. It's easier to eat things with one hand and without mess if they are not open at the back.

  • 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.
  • by fthiess ( 669981 ) on Saturday August 12, 2006 @12:21AM (#15893147) Homepage
    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

    • 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!)

      This makes me wonder if there are any legitimate, license sharing solutions for gaming stores such as this. Let's say you have 30 stations, but you know that maybe only a maximum of six stations are ever going to play Starcraft (yeah, I'm old school), so you buy six copies of Starcraft with the intention of in

      • As a matter of fact, there are legitimate licensing solutions--they just don't cover all the most popular games, at least not yet.

        The best license management system out there, bar none, is Valve's "Steam" ( http://steampowered.com/ [steampowered.com]) system. Most people are familiar with this is the basis for their internet-based software distribution model, but there is actually a special version of Steam that is available for use ("required" actually, if you're licensed) by game centers. This "cafe" version of Steam solv
  • 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.
    • You can, of course, sell off the machines periodically. If you upgrade every six months, then your old machines (with the exception of keyboards and mice) will still be pretty good. When I was into the gaming scene, my machine was mainly constructed from bits that the hard-core gamers had sold on after upgrading (and there were other, even more casual, people who had machines built from things I'd upgraded).

      You can even spin this to your advantage by giving first purchase rights to your most regular cu

  • by kahrytan ( 913147 ) on Saturday August 12, 2006 @12:21AM (#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.
  • suggestions (Score:2, Interesting)

    by akjl99 ( 994816 )
    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 inte
  • I ran one (Score:4, Informative)

    by Onetrack ( 765809 ) on Saturday August 12, 2006 @01:08AM (#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.
    • Re:I ran one (Score:3, Interesting)

      by TheRaven64 ( 641858 )
      Just wondering, did you try approaching any of the game publishers for a discount? You could sell it to them as a try-before-you-buy scheme. People come into your cafe, play the game, decide they want to play it at home and buy a copy; you can even sell copies in-store. You mentioned lgames.org. Since they represent a significant amount of buying power, they might be in a good position to negotiate a steep discount on games.
  • 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.
  • 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
  • Prepay *sweaty clap* Prepay *sweaty clap* Prepay...

    I've helped start up a major internet cafe and has been running for six plus years. It's the place the national news uses for any "computer" related shots.

    Two things brought success to the place, prepay (the on going success story) customers. Take the money and run, there is no need for debt recovering, when people split for "emergency reasons" they aren't leaving you in the lurch. Second is get some known gamers off the forum and employ them for a mo

  • Palo Alto has a place called Neotte [yelp.com]. This is a tea bar with WiFi and a power strip at every table. Everybody there is on a laptop. The tea is about $4, and they have a modest selection of bakery items. It's the next notch up from Starbucks.

    Perhaps a upscale gamer cafe where you bring your own laptop...

  • In Shanghai, Beijing, and every city across China, you walk into one of the many i-cafe's and they are full of people playing games. Although many are dark, strange places where social disfunctionality reigns, they do killer business providing the youth with a gaming atmosphere that they seem to enjoy. The reason they enjoy it is because there are many people in the same place playing games, creating an "exiting" atmosphere...

    One has to wonder about the long term social consequences of an entire generation
  • by Harmonious Botch ( 921977 ) on Saturday August 12, 2006 @03:28AM (#15893525) Homepage Journal
    Disclaimer: I've never been in a gaming cafe. But I've run a small business for 20 years, so the following advice is mostly about the business side of it.

    1) Your job is NOT running your cafe. Your job is improving it. Owning a small business is a red queen affair: you have to be constantly improving just to stay even with the competition. Do every job in your cafe just long enough to know how to do it well. ( This will be anything from doing taxes to fixing hubs to cleaning the toilet. ) Then DELEGATE.

    2) Your territory does not end at the door. OK, legally maybe it does, but you must treat the area immediately around your business as your territory. Clean up trash, cover grafitti ( immediately ), get rid of panhandlers. If something goes wrong immediately outside your business, it is not your fault, but it is your responsibility.
    Get to know your neighbors. They can be helpful, or they can hurt you. ( This is especially important in your case, for many of them may initially view your clientele as troublemakers )
    Join your local business association. Get to know your local cops.

    3) You may have drug dealers and hookers of both sexes trying to use your place as a base of operations. Get rid of them. Not only do they give the cops a reason to cause you problems, but they will be competing for your customers' money.

    4) Decide exactly what your business is. Yes, it sounds silly, but many owners don't really know what line of work they are in. In your case, you are not just in the business of offering games. As several posters have noted, most people can get that at home. You have to offer them an experience that they can't get at home.
    A) Coffee and food will help. It does not have to be great food + coffee, but decent and reliably so. ( which many people don't have at home because they are too busy playing games. )
    B) Have at least one hot babe working for you. ( Most gamers don't have one of those at home ) It helps if she is not an idiot, too.
    C) Create a social scene ( most gamers don't have that at home, either ) This means catering to women. Keep them happy, and they will hang around, and then the guys will hang around too. Find out what kind of games women prefer. Have plenty of them. Keep the bathrooms clean.
    D) Have a clear statement of expected behavior ( no smoking, no fighting, no booze, etc - whatever rules you think will do best ) Be very, very clear about what standards you expect of your customers, and then stick to them. Be prepared to explain why those particular rules are important to you. A large number of gamers play games because they find the rest of the world to be confusing, irrational, and hypocritical. Very few of them have a social environment that makes sense at home. E) Keep asking yourself 'What can I do for my customers that they can't get at home?"
  • by cheros ( 223479 ) on Saturday August 12, 2006 @04:46AM (#15893645)
    As any business knows, cash is king. Planning is essential to make it through the years.

    Your principle problem will come from having to pay bills and not having money for it. You get money by (a) your original investment: be careful of what is known as "the cost of capital" - anything you borrow will have to go back (b) paying customers: whatever your target audience is, be ready to shift this as fashions change - this can be almost seasonal.. (c) whatever franchise you manage to get going local businesses may be interested in banner advertising on your default logon screens.

    You spend money by running the business (read: pay your bills, staff, live AND set aside enough for maintenance and equipment/business refresh - the cycle of that depends on what you want to do and how destructive our clients are :-). Don't try to be everything at once, that means you're spending before you earn which is worth avoiding. Get the basics up first - systems, chairs, premises, backup, etc. Leave the fancy stuff - flashy decoration, huge advertising, costly extra features - until you can pay them from income, that way you keep your borrowing as low as possible. Borrowing costs interest which is money that doesn't work for you.

    The equation is simple: if you get your income (including future planning) to rise above your spend and you have about 3 months running costs in the bank you have a winner. As a matter of fact, if you have a winner of that scale you should pump some of your profits in doing it again elsewhere and create a chain but NEVER try to continue a business after it shows not to work where you you put it. You'll know that in 3 months or so (so you know what your potential loss is before you do this).

    Ultimately, if you've got 3 shops doing this with profit you have in principle something that you can sell on for quite a bit more, but let's tackle that when you get there :-).

    Oh, and try to avoid personal risk, companies can be set up with 'limited liability' but some companies want your shirt/house as guarantee - be careful because it can be used on a succesful business to take it over. The bankis by NO means your friend. They may help you, but they're a business too. The more you can avoid external money the better it is, and if you do get a loan, make sure it's one you can clear ASAP without penalties. Try and stay debtfree where possible, that's the stuff that will keep you awake at night.

    Good luck - starting a business is a nervous enterprise but it's also very rewarding when it all starts to tick.

    = CH =
  • have a room in your house with broadband and internet and games. Have it as a private members club. Employee's get free access. Then if you make a loss in Business, you save personaly :O).

    Seen few very sound idea's mentioned in the thread:

    Run after 5pm with few mates - means keep your day job and lower risk and more fun.

    Run a laundry business in conjunction - people have a lot of dead time at laundry places.

    Thats a key point - combine with another business that will compliment in some way. Another poin
  • I don't know what lessons can be applied to the U.S., but FWIW, game cafes are big business in Japan. In addition to computers with games and broadband connections, they typically feature large libraries of manga, CD's and DVD's, plus various types of fast food and complimentary drinks. There is often a subset of computer carels that are basically fully enclosed cubicles with lockable doors, where privacy is assured, and really big, luxurious reclining seats that people would be comfortable spending the n
  • by Anonymous Coward
    in six months, on the East Coast (Boston). How about that? So, I know plently of what not to do

    1. Put the cafe in a building that is not protected by the National Landmark Act. This will keep you out of conflict when you try and comply with the Americans with Disabilities Act.
    2. Put the cafe somewhere you can get cable, or satellite TV. (Of course make sure that you've go a fat LAN to boot)
    3. If you're going to sell food or drink:
    a. Sell it behind a counter, or in a vending machine. Selling food out in
  • I have a few words to say.

    1. think "category killer" (ie Wal-Mart, Target, Dick's Sporting, Starbucks)
    2. think "xbox 360 + HD tv" (ie Microsoft)
    3. think "convenience of sitting at home and playing great looking massively multiplayer games": (ie couch potato)
    4. think "out of business in 6 months"

    I own a small retail business in a small town. Whatever you "plan" for overhead, double it and you will be close. Have you run a breakeven analysis, so you know what the minimum usage needs to be JUST TO COVER RENT
  • I ran a non-gaming cybercafe for 3 years, and, around the same time, someone else started a cybercafe that was mainly about gaming. I never got rich, but we lasted longer than the gaming cafe.

    One problem is simply per-hour income. For the vision to work, you need people to spend hours per week in front of one of your computers, and the hours they have available will be the same as other people's. Their total spend per month on doing this is limited. So you are going to be lucky to be very get a couple of d

  • I have already taken care of the issue on how to make money during the day, when our younger market is in school ..

    That depends on how and who you get to run it. You *can* make money the thing is it may not be as much as you think. Given the nature of the technology your outgoings can be as much if not more than your incomings. Rent + rates + services + cost of hardware + software licenses + Internet connectivity can add up to a lot.

    However, the question of whether or not a place like this can be succe

  • It REALLY depends on which burb you're talking about and I wish you would have clarified. There is basically room for one cafe per suburb. If there's another established one there, don't even bother. What usually happens is the people who play there the most are good friends with the people who work there. Then their friends hook them up with free hours. You must be VERY careful in how you handle that. Clamp down too tight and your core customers who spend all their time there with their employee frie
  • Q: What makes people go to an internet cafe / arcade?
    A: They have hardware that many people don't have at home.

    The bottom line is: analyze whether or not you can provide a service, at the location you choose, that people cannot access already in the comfort of their own basements.

    I live in Winnipeg, Canada. The last internet cafe closed 4 months ago, and the last arcade closed 2 weeks ago. You are thinking about entering a dying industry. Tread carefully because you likely cannot win.
  • by MongooseCN ( 139203 ) on Saturday August 12, 2006 @11:34AM (#15894351) Homepage
    I feel my center is succefful (http://www.theqwerty.com). I have been in business for two years. I've been able to pay my bills and make a little money for myself. It's also a fun business. How you measure "success" depends on you though. You probably won't get rich running a gaming center. You also have to be able to deal with kids and bad parents. Lots of parents will try and use you as a cheap babysitting service. Then you have the kids who have never been displined by their parents, so you get to deal with all their problems. Luckily, I have a lot of good kids in my store that make up for the bad ones.

    No one can tell you if your future game center will be successful or not. It depends too much on you, the owner. How you can manage stress, details and time. How good you are at securing business deals and contracts. How good you are at advertising, marketting, promoting and spreading the word around. How well you can manage customers and keep them happy... There's so much involved that depends on you that only you will know. As an entrepreneur, the only thing you can do is dive in and take the risk to find out.

God helps them that themselves. -- Benjamin Franklin, "Poor Richard's Almanac"