Starting a Video Game LAN Center: How Many Stations?

Recently a thread in the private section of the lancenters.com forums prompted me to respond with the post I will share below.  In the past few weeks I have had quite a few potential new owners contact me for advice and consulting.  As we are in our 8th year of business obviously we have done something right.

The initial post was a new start-up asking if 4 PC stations were a good number to start with for their primarily console oriented center.  After many centers responded with “No way!  Don’t do that few”, “At least 10 or don’t add PCs”, etc. the poster just blew off the advice and said they wanted to start with 4 and “If they paid for themselves they would add more later”.  Ugh… no wonder our industry continues to see so much turnover.

Here was my response:

Seriously, why do so many start-ups come to the forums, ask for advice, and then still just do whatever they want.

Someone should go back and take all of those posts over the past 10 years and list our advice, then the number of months before the centers close.

Think about this scenario… 4 awesome PCs, sitting there on Friday morning… ready for 4 awesome customers to show up and play on them. Doors open, first guy in the door is a 38 year old bearded Magic the Gathering player who talks ALL OF THE TIME. He tells you all about his 4 different computers that are better than yours, talks about winning the national Pokemon tournament back in the day, then sits down at the 2nd computer in your row of 4 for the night. Booyah! One seat sold, only 3 to go.

Next walks in 3 guys who play League of Legends and are curious if you plan on holding any tournaments? They give you their ELO rankings and then sit down to play a game on the other 3 computers. They try to talk to each other around the Bearded Pokemon Master who is sitting in the middle, but then he starts talking to them about Pokemon. They roll their eyes at each other, but this dude won’t stop talking.

Next, in walks a dad with his son. He plays WoW and his son loves Minecraft. While they are waiting for a PC to open up you are stalling them trying to get them to play Xbox. The 3 LoL players are getting worked up and drop 3-4 explicit words and the dad’s eyebrows raise a bit. After playing free on the Xbox for a bit because you don’t have PC seats for them they take off and tell you they will come back another time.

Guess what? I hope you love the Bearded Pokemon Master because that is the only person you are going to see again. Word will get out about how small you are and groups of friends will never show up again.

Rule #1 – Don’t open a store with less than 40 stations. If you can’t fill 40 stations with players you shouldn’t be in this business anyway. We had a store with 36 stations in a city of 4000 population, entire county population of 10,000 and it was full every weekend.

Rule #2 – Don’t put less than 10, I wouldn’t do less than 20 of any particular system. Our main store has 54 Xbox, 34 PC and just 3 PS3 and 2 Wii for the parties and fan boys.

Rule #3 (more general rule for everything about starting a game center) – Don’t get caught up in your desire to open a game center if you can’t afford it. If you cut corners because your budget is too small then that should be a HUGE sign that something is wrong.

9 thoughts on “Starting a Video Game LAN Center: How Many Stations?

  1. Thanks for being real… Its hard to hear the truth sometimes… I have seen a lot of small business fail because they did not plan.. I visited a game center in Columbia, SC that had a total of 4 consoles and a pool table. Just image now much you would have to charge per hour to break even…

  2. I’ve been mulling over this concept over and over because I’m so burnt out with my current career. Can’t stop thinking about doing this, but like John said, I don’t know if I have the guts to put everything I have into something that may, or may not, take off.

    • I know, it is a huge leap. When I started eBash in 2004 it was a side business to my main income at the time. It took me about 2 years to figure out the business and then move to a new location where the business took off like gang-busters in 2006. The only reason I am so excited about it now is that we paid our dues in those first 2 years and have been able to overcome many obstacles along the way.

      I am actually going to be releasing a product soon that allows everyone a complete insider view into our business. 100% access to our financial numbers, check book entries, documentation, sales figures and everything. This is to give everyone like you the ability to really research the numbers and see if something like this will work for you.

      • Have you released that product yet that shows the, “financial numbers, check book entries, documentation, sales figures and everything”?
        A friend and I are looking to starting a gaming center as well.
        And also, what do you think should be a starting minimum sized sq ft gaming facility?

  3. We have a consulting and use of name agreement that the guys at our new Charleston, IL store are using along with a new company that will be opening in Texas later this year. If you send me an email and let me know your gmail account I can share the document with you. Once we have that document executed and on file I can share everything with you.

  4. Now we are actually leaning away from sharing any of our information with some recent growth and expansions. It seems to be more difficult to keep all of our stores on the same page unless they are company-owned.

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