Dealing with Maintenance and Broken Equipment in a LAN Center

Gaming peripherals are a big headache when running a game center.

You would think that after all of this time operating eBash we would have everything figured out right?  Wrong.  There are still some things that continue to rear their ugly head and this week I am really struggling with one of them.

We have always fought a battle trying to maintain our gaming peripherals.  A peripheral is a device that plugs into our computers and consoles such as headsets, keyboards, mice, controllers, etc.  Some of these items we really nailed down after years of trial-and-error.  Things like our Saitek Eclipse keyboards and our Logitech MX-518 mice.  Those things are rock solid and we RARELY have to replace or repair them.

While winning a battle on one front, we are totally losing the war on many others.  PC headsets have always been a problem.  We have tried many different avenues.  We partnered with Turtle Beach at one point and put $150 headsets in every seat that they sold to us at $50 each for us to be exclusive with their company.  It didn’t take long before they started showing up broken and we had to send batches of them back for repair/replacement.

We tried the $2 cheap-o headsets (which is what we currently use).  There is no warranty and honestly it almost isn’t worth trying to ship and maintain equipment through warranties anyway.  If we can get 3 months from a $6 headset then we feel we are coming out “ahead”…hehehe.

For the Xbox stations we don’t even provide Xbox LIVE headsets anymore.  We tried renting them out for $1 or $2 and they still just showed up broken or walked out the door.  I actually found a source from Hong Kong to buy them for $3.10 each including shipping which is a great deal.  We buy them and then sell them for $5 each which has seemed to work the best.  We make a little on the headset and the players are responsible for not losing or breaking them.  As a matter-of-fact… I need to order more now so off to eBay I go…. $3.10 Xbox LIVE Headsets.

One of our employees actually caught a kid eating the stick at one point like a person nervously chewing their fingernails. Yuck.

Which brings us to my biggest headache right now.  Xbox 360 controllers.  While the PC headsets and Xbox LIVE headsets can be somewhat of a luxury, the controller is necessary to be able to play the games so we almost have to include them without an extra charge.  As you can see from the picture on the left these suckers take all kinds of INTENTIONAL abuse.

About 4 months ago we started working with John over at 360tuneup.com to repair our controllers.  He is able to replace broken RB and LB buttons, solder on new stick sensors, put on new joysticks, repair shorted wires and just about anything.  We have I believe 12 of them in the store he has repaired.  One of them is the picture on the left that didn’t even make it 3 months before being eaten.

I want to figure out how to charge for peripherals just like the bowling alley charges for shoe rental or the skating rink charges for skate rental.  If you are a pro bowler or skater you bring your own equipment.  Those of us who are not pro are just as happy to use the rental equipment, but we pay a SEPARATE price for those items which is different from the facility rental.

Why can’t we figure out a way to do this more effectively?  The problem for us is that on a busy Friday and Saturday we will see over 200 players in-and-out of the store.  Many times we have 80+ players in the store at one time.  It just isn’t easy to keep track of handing out all of these items.

I am leaning towards putting super generic equipment on every station.  Just like rental skates at the skating rink they won’t be top-0f-the-line.  You aren’t probably going to win your bowling league or dominate the shoot-the-duck competition while skating with rental equipment.   If you are a picky player and you think the joystick is making you lean to the left or is always pushing up, then you can rent a high-end controller OR better yet bring your own from home.

The same with PC headsets I think maybe?  We can keep putting the $2 units out there, but also have a nicer option available to rent for $5.   We will have to put some extensions for the sound and USB ports from the PC cases down to the tabletop so that players are not always pulling and pushing on the actual computer and pulling them off the wall.

I am always up for suggestions, so if any of you readers out there have some ideas I would love to hear them!

10 thoughts on “Dealing with Maintenance and Broken Equipment in a LAN Center

  1. This is probably unrealistically expensive but what about an alarm system like what the have at clothing stores. So that way people cant just walk out.

    • You are right, those systems are very expensive. Even a used system from a store that closed down will cost a few thousand. I knew a game center that used them and you would be surprised how people have figured out how to trick/fake them out anyway.

  2. i dont see why people like to break things that belong to your company. i mean,u guys are nice enough to supply games and consoles and stuff like that, so why break it? i know an accident happens on occasion, but why destroy it on purpose?

  3. we went the cheap way, buying some of the cheapest headsets/mice/keyboards we can get, mice and keyboards last around 4-5 months, headsets maybe 2. mic will last one week if we’re lucky.

    Seems people just dont care when its not their own things.

  4. We do have the same issues here. For keyboard and mice i went through Microsoft X3 & X4. When i’ve bought headsets 4 years ago.. i went through sennheiser PC151.
    I still have 10 out of 40 wich are still working… but i intend to change the broken ones… most of the time it’s just the mic who’s broken..

    For the alarm system: i will not go though this… but the cheepiest way would be to you anti-theft stickers installed INSIDE the controllers. And a door type detector on the way out (not directly at the cafe doors..)

  5. I am just starting planning out my business for a lan center. My fiance Brought up this same question, i told her and our other business partner, we make documents that they must sign the day they come in. Bringing the original Copy to a bank and getting it notarized, this way the document looks legal and it says you know if you break it you buy it kind of thing. And they probably wont break them. And I will probably talk to a lawyer about how that will hold up in court if they wont pay take them to court and make them buy 4-5 replacements instead of paying a partial for the broken equipment.

  6. Monthly memberships get free rentals. And non mems get the basic generic. If someone rents something it should be attached to their account. If they don’t return it by bar code scanner or something they cannot rent another piece of equipment until returned.

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