It had been 4 years since we opened our Evansville location as a franchise store when we finally opened another locations in Charleston, IL in November of last year. This was something new we are trying, with two great guys from the Charleston area who own the store completely and just pay us a monthly fee to use the eBash name and piggyback on all of our events and marketing programs. They are doing really good, December ramped up very nicely for them and the future is looking bright. We are in talks with 3 other prospective owners around this US to start new stores with this same program in 2013.
Toward the end of last year I found out that my long-time friend in the industry, Eric Osar, was shutting down his game center (Crazy Penguins Gaming) at the end of the year. Within that same week I also saw a post that a gaming center I had visited before I started eBash over in Indianapolis had closed down and the owner, Bill Noel, was looking to sell the store and equipment.
The timing was not by chance for these events. I had finished meeting with my accountant a week before and he and I agreed that either I had to start expanding eBash again or I needed to go out and get another job completely. It wasn’t fair to my family for me to live on the salary of a single store manager especially with our third child on the way in April. It is hard to watch my fellow Rose-Hulman graduates work their way into 6 figure salaries, but I doubt any of them love their jobs as much as I do.
So I called Eric and asked what he thought about having me take over their store, basically buying him out. We have been working on the details for the past 3 weeks and are very close to finalizing the deal. I have at the same time been talking with Bill about doing the same thing with his center, (Netheads), over in Carmel, IN. Again, a few details remain but we are also close to finalizing the deal.
If/When all of this happens, it appears that by the end of this month we will own 3 stores again and the Charleston, IL store will give us 4 total under the eBash banner. The Evansville store struggled a few years ago and the previous owner had to quickly sell the assets to get out of financial obligations. The new owners admittedly do not know anything about running a game center, they just had kids who loved going to the store. I have thought about offering to take back over the operation of that store also and bail them out of a bad situation, which would give us 5 stores total.
The reason that this prospect is so exciting is that FINALLY we will be able to do so many things that we have wanted over the years but just did not have enough locations. My list of things we will be pursuing in 2013:
- Summer Camp Programs – Netheads has started a summer program for players to learn basic video game design. They have a solid curriculum that teaches design on a computer that gives them the ability to create their own game during the week and compile and play test it using Xbox controllers plugged into the USB ports of the computer. We want to expand this into after-school programs and extend the offerings to adults with classes in Photoshop, Word Press Design and even some corporate training.
- High School Gaming Events – With 5 stores in those locations we will reach about 50 area high schools. I want those schools to put together teams to represent their schools in different games and we will host leagues and tournaments for those players. These kind of events creates extremely level playing fields between teams because of the geographic restrictions of playing with teammates all from the same high school.
- Sponsorship deals and promotions – These 5 stores in the past have served over 100,000 gamers in their locations. The store locations themselves can reach a potential 4,000,000 people with almost half a million of them being our demographic of ages 13-24 and who love gaming and technology.
- Bigger tournaments and leagues – With 5 stores, we can offer a $1000 payout or higher tournament almost every weekend for different games. Not only can we offer larger payouts, but we can attract 5 times as many teams because gamers won’t have to travel. Each store can attract 8 teams of 4 or 5 players, bringing up to 200 gamers together for a tournament that takes place at their local game center.
- Weekly lock-ins with events – We run lock-ins every single Friday and Saturday at our Terre Haute and Charleston stores now. However by adding 2 or 3 more locations doing the same thing will give us the ability to run Black Ops 2 or Halo 4 FFA events during the night on Friday nights, or maybe Madden 13 or League of Legends events on Saturday night for the 16+ crowd. How about a Minecraft contest that runs for 10 hours during one of the lock-ins on our private servers? With an average of 50 players per lock-in, that gives us over 250 players each lock-in to split up and run events. Which store is best overall? Which gamer is best overall? Video Game Olympics?
There are still plenty of “t”s to cross and “i”s to dot before it is all final, but we are getting close enough that I felt like sharing a little bit of what is going on right now so that everyone else can start getting as excited as I am for “2013: The Year of eBash! 🙂