Starting and Running a Video Game LAN Center Lounge: What Other Products Can we Offer and the Importance of Keeping it Fresh

Here is the latest video from our weekly Twitchcast.  This week we cover:

– Besides consoles and PCs, what other entertainment products can a center offer?
– The importance of keeping things new and fresh in existing centers.
– The core of ggCircuit, together we are greater than the sum of our parts.
– Linking game accounts in ggCircuit
– Center Spotlight:  OverZone Extreme LAN House from Brazil, South America
– ggCircuit Fall 2015 season recap
– Grand Prize drawing winner!

Video Game Center Spotlight: Elite Zone – Fayetteville, NC

Elite Zone from Fayetteville, NC is unique only serving customers 18+ years old.  There are many of us that envy stores who limit their age.  Although the younger demographic is quite a bit of our income here at eBash I know that the kids also require a ton more management and can cause most of our headaches.  They have been open just over a year and are in the tough period before their second years is finished.

Elite Zone from Fayetteville, NC is unique only serving customers 18+ years old.

Here is what owner John Larson had to say about his center:

In one “tweet” describe your center (140 characters or less).
Elite Zone offers adult gamers of all types a unique experience to play and/or compete with their favorite games in a social atmosphere.

Why did you get into the video game center business?
I had seen in my travels a few LAN centers and knew that Fayetteville, NC had nothing like that here.  With Fort Bragg, there are lots of troops looking for something to do.  I read somewhere that the Army calls this new generation, “the XBOX” generation.  My center also offers financing as an alternative to renting to own of Computers, TVs and Game Systems.

What is one of the sweetest events you have had at your center?
Our first CoD4 tournament was a blast, we had just grown from 15 xboxes to 22 xboxes.  Monster Energy Drinks and Gamer Grub really helped with the prizes.

Any example of a tough situation you have been able to overcome?
We have been open a little over a year.  I have become over zealous at hiring people at times.  Staff is very important.  Trying to squeeze 41 stations in 1200 sqft has been tough also.

The Elite Zone Storefront

Name some other game centers you steal ideas from.

After I opened I was told about GamePad in VA, I called them and asked a few questions.  I joined iGames and have seen a few centers.  I have stolen most of my ideas from active members of iGames on the forums.

What is a guilty pleasure game that you play?
People are shocked to find that I am not a gamer.  I tell them it would be like a crack head selling crack.  I started a myspace and facebook page to do marketing for the game center and I play a few facebook games.  To kill time on the overnighters, I played farm town, farmville and cafe world with my wife.  Now I kill facebook time playing Knights of Camelot.

Some quick facts about Elite Zone:
Owner: John Larson
Age: 44
City/State: Fayetteville, North Carolina
Store Hours: 11 am – Midnight (overnighter on Friday night)
Date Opened: April 1st, 2009
Area Population (County): 300k
Cost to Play: $3 for 1 hour & $10 for 4 hours (Day Passes $15)

Top 5 games played at your center: Console: MW2, MW2, Halo 3, Left 4 Dead 2, CodWaW (nazi zombies) – did I mention MW2?  Also the GuitarHero games see some action.  PC:  WoW and Eve see lots of action here.  A few folks are playing APB, which seems like they enjoy.

Photo Courtesy of Fayetteville Feed

What type of music do you play at your center: I keep the radio on Rock 103, which I also advertise on.

Internet Feed: Dual t-1 (Fiber Optic almost here!)
PCs: 10
Xbox 360: 31
PS3: 0
Wii: 0

Thanks John for allowing me to feature you as this week’s Game Center Spotlight!  If you own a game center and would like for me to feature you just drop me a comment or email!

Video Game Center Spotlight: Crazy Penguins – Rockford, IL

Crazy Penguins Video Game Center

Crazy Penguins Video Game Center - Rockford, IL

After 3 days of being as sick as I can ever remember I am glad to be back with this Friday’s Video Game Center Spotlight feature.  I have known Eric Osar for almost 3 years and had the pleasure of visiting his store on a trip last winter.  I still remember when he first contacted me and wanted to come down to visit our store and check our our brand new location in Bloomington, IN.  He is a radical thinker in our industry and has a very unique style of center.

Eric is very opinionated and isn’t afraid to share what is on his mind with other game center owners, customers or other industry professionals.  He is extremely active in the iGames forums with nearly 3000 posts to date.

The one thing that sticks out in my mind that makes Crazy Penguins drastically different from other game centers is that they charge a facility fee.  Instead of logging customers in-and-out of consoles or tracking their unique time on a PC each person is logged in manually when they enter the center.  As soon as you are in the building and playing your time is running.  This works extremely well for Eric and his group since they also offer pool tables for players.

Here is a video I shot of Crazy Penguins about a year ago and this was obviously before they started moving almost entirely to PS3 systems instead of Xbox 360.  Once again Eric steps out of the boundary of game center comfort and leaves the RROD at the door.  However this will give everyone a good general idea of his store layout and some of his sweet concepts.

I hit Eric up earlier this week for some questions and facts about his center:

In one “tweet” describe your center (140 characters or less).
A high energy gaming facility that focuses on creating a fun, safe and affordable environment for teens and young adults.

Why did you get into the video game center business?
Our community saw a pattern of increasing crime with teens and young adults.  I believe that one of the strongest contributing factors to this is a lack of affordable and engaging activities for this demographic.  Our family wanted to find a way to help provide a safe and affordable atmosphere that enabled teens and young adults to choose to stay out of trouble.

What is one of the sweetest events you have had at your center?
Our annual Monster New Years Eve Party is always one of our most exciting events and really embodies what Crazy Penguins Gaming is all about.  There is nothing better than having 70+ guest from age ranges of 13-53 having fun gaming, staying out of trouble and bringing in the new year together.

Any example of a tough situation you have been able to overcome?
Our original landlord wound up declaring bankrupcy and Amcore Bank repossessed the building.  Amcore decided to ignore our lease and attempt to recover some of their losses from our business, which created huge financial and legal pressures on our young GC that was trying to focus on helping our community.

Name some other game centers you steal ideas from.
I would say many of our ideas are original, but there are certainly many centers around the country that have lended strong input to our business practices.  NetFragz and eBash are certainly two of the contributing centers who shared their opinions that have helped us shape some of our ideas.

What is a guilty pleasure game that you play?
World of Warcraft.  Always a die hard Unreal Tournament fan.

Some quick facts on your center:

Owner: Eric Osar
Age: 34
Center Facebook: N/A
City/State: Rockford, IL (about 1.5 hours west of Chicago)
Store Hours: M-Th 3PM-2AM, F 3PM-3AM, Sat 12PM-3AM, Sun 12PM-2AM.
Date Opened: 4/27/2007
Area Population (County): Winnebego (2008) 300,252

Cost to Play:
$1.50 an hour + $5 admission fee
Top 5 games played at your center: Call of Duty MW2, Left 4 Dead 2, World of Warcraft, MAG, FIFA 10
What type of music do you play at your center: Techno

Internet Feed:
Dual T1s+DSL
PCs: 21
Xbox 360: 28
PS3: 22
Wii: 3
Billiards: 6

Thanks Eric for spending the time to share some of the details about your center and keep up the good work!

Video Game Center Spotlight: NetFragz – Fontana, CA

NetFragz Video Game Center

NetFragz Video Game Center - Fontana, CA

Each Friday I am going to spotlight a Video Game Center here in the United States.  To kick off the series I contacted Jon Simmons from Netfragz in Fontana, California.  For those of us who are geographically challenged this is about 45 minutes east of Los Angeles.

Netfragz is a great center to use as the guinea pig for this column because they are arguably the most successful center here in the United States.  Some centers are bigger or have been around longer but there are none that I can think of which runs a more financially profitable operation.  Surely profit is the best measure of success? 🙂

Netfragz is open 24/7/365 so they can easily answer the question, “What are your hours?”, with a quick “We never close!”  Other centers that benchmark Jon have tried this unsuccessfully in other areas but NetFragz never falters.  Like most center the weekends are the busiest times, but one thing that makes Netfragz unique is that they are constant throughout the week also.

Jon is extremely active inside of the forums at  iGames is a international organization of Video Game Centers (Sometimes called LAN Centers) that has thousands of members in over 20 countries.  Jon has over 6000 posts in the forums and is daily giving advice and suggestions to both new and existing centers.

Here is an inteview with owner Jon Simmons asking some basic and fun questions about NetFragz:

NetFragz Video Game Center

NetFragz is open 24/7/365 and has over 60 systems

In one “tweet” describe your center (140 characters or less).
“A 24/7/365 SoCal gaming center focused primarily on PC’s.”

Why did you get into the video game center business?
“I love gaming, computers, and business… so it was the perfect answer for a life profession.  I first heard about the concept from an old coworker.  I initially doubted its viability due to people playing from home (or at work like we did).  But when he took me to a place called NetGames back in the day, I realized the social interaction and playing with friends made it a huge success, and was something seldom available in most home settings.  As my employer started to go under and I was out of a computer programming job, I finally made my move.”

What is one of the sweetest events you have had at your center?
“The funnest event for me was an all nighter where everyone, including our previous pro CS team, played the BF1942 beta.  Another nice event was NetFragz being part of the XFX Challenge Tour, and seeing our employee, Mikeytux, win a spot on the bus.”

NetFragz Video Game Center

Having fun playing CS at NetFragz!

Any example of a tough situation you have been able to overcome?
“One of the more difficult things about owning your own business is that “the buck stops here”, and when problems arise (and MANY do), you need to find a solution one way or another.  Roof leaks, some moron actually firebombing a competitor, servers going down, some very nasty viruses, theft and robberies, vandalism and tagging, a couple fights over the years, tons of hardware and software problems… there is always something to contend with!  LOL.  So I’ll just say I’m happy I’ve overcome all the problems so far.  =)”

Name some other game centers you steal ideas from.
“Most of my “stolen” ideas are in the console arena since I’m not a console gamer myself.  I added consoles after seeing some success at a place in Canada (name escapes me ATM), and I also had a great idea from Crazy Penguins Gaming when it came to placing the wider GamePod chairs in pairs so it doesn’t use up TOO much space and people can still move in and out.  On the PC side I tend to do things like I would want them done as a gamer myself, but I’ve often exchanged ideas with Euphnet over the years.  I get some good game license management input from Martin at Xtreme Gaming CyberCafe as well as from others.”

What is a guilty pleasure game that you play?
“Well I’m really enjoying Battlefield Bad Company 2 beta right now after a few months of not playing anything.  Loved COD4, but the lack of dedicated servers in CODMW2 killed it for me.”

Some quick facts on Netfragz:
Owner: Jon Simmons
Age: 40
Center Website:
Center Facebook:
City/State: Fontana, CA (45 mins east of Los Angeles)
Store Hours: 24/7/365
Date Opened: June 2002
Area Population (County): 2,060,950

Cost to Play: $3/hr, 4 hrs for $10, 10 hrs for $20
Top 5 games played at your center: COD Modern Warfare 2, World of Warcraft, Left4Dead 2, Heroes of Newerth, DotA
What type of music do you play at your center: Electronica (trance, drum n bass)

Internet Feed: 50/20mbps FIOS
PCs: 47
Xbox 360: 13
PS3: 0
Wii: 1