Dear Smartlaunch, Stop Hurting Video Game LAN eSports Centers and Arenas

So… I got this cool email from Smartlaunch today (pasted at the bottom). For those of you late to the game, in June of this year I sent Smartlaunch an email letting them know ggCircuit (my software company) will be discontinuing support of Smartlaunch on July 1.  I sent the email on June 27 and then 3 days later on June 30, Smartlaunch announced their “eSports 5.0” product.  It is posted on their “blog” which was the last post made on there the same day they announced eSports Leagues which never have started.  I did a quick screen grab of their site this morning:
smartlaunch-screen-grab

Smartlaunch Screen Grab from October 31, 2016

 
As you all know, there wasn’t anything close to being a product yet, who knows if there was actually one at that point. After months of people trying to get it, some people actually got something installed (which has to be done directly working with one guy) and it was obviously not anywhere near finished.
 
So today, on the last day of our ggLeap pioneer program, they sent the email below to let all of us know that it “has been released”.  Sounds great?  But is it is an official product that we can all run our centers with and feel good about?  
 
During this time Smartlaunch keeps signing centers up with “BIG” discounts for 1, 2 and 3 year contracts. Then nothing works right, they disappear and stop helping centers and move on to try and sell the next long contract.  I know this because the list is LONG of centers coming to us just happy that we answer the phone, reply to emails, answer FB messages, give our Skype account to them, etc.
I absolutely don’t care about competition with our own software, if I give them the courtesy of allowing them to be anywhere near our product to call them a competitor.  For those that know me, I thrive on competition.  I welcome it.  I am driven on the thought of someone out working me to the finish line.

For the 12 years I have ran my centers I firmly believe that Smartlaunch has caused our industry to be stagnant and been solely responsible for many centers closing their doors.

While that may seem like a strong statement, here are the facts to support it:
  • In 2004 when I opened eBash, Smartlaunch software license could be purchased for a one-time fee.  We paid $1,500 for our copy and not only was it promoted as no other fees in the future, we could also actively sell our license to other stores.  This was a REAL program they supported, you contacted them and said “I sold my license for 27 stations to this email address” and they would transfer them.  Crazy, they actually made the licenses a commodity and gave them value almost like a bar with a liquor license.
  • Smartlaunch then went into financial ruin.  I know more than most about what happened.  But I will keep this extremely fact based.  They went out of business.
  • All of a sudden, they are back in business again and guess what?  Now you have to pay a monthly fee for the licenses for the EXACT SAME THING YOU ALREADY BOUGHT for a one time fee.  It seems like a joke, but it wasn’t.  Because the licenses we bought outright still authenticated on boot up they were able to just shut everyone off without a monthly subscription.  How does a monthly subscription even make sense when the software runs on game center servers at the game centers?  There is no SaaS model here, and there were no new updates to justify charging monthly.
  • Up until I guess today (if we believe this is a NEW product released today) the software has been on the exact same version since I started in 2004.  Yep, 12 years of the exact same version of software being provided and still charging monthly with nothing new and worthwhile developed.
  • The software is dated and therefore it still takes tech geniuses to be able to run it.  You have to set-up a local server, understand databases, be able to write batch files and search the internet for extra solutions.  Business people cannot run LAN centers using Smartlaunch, they have to be technically savvy and spend hours with work-around solutions to get things to work correctly.
  • Here is the big one:  For all of the  years that I have been in business as a LAN center owner, Smartlaunch has NEVER been concerned with making sure their own customers are successful.  It has always been about the money.  For them centers come-and-go and is all water under the bridge.

This is why today’s email makes me so upset.  Smartlaunch doesn’t care about the centers, they just care about the fact that someone else like us (www.ggleap.com) has finally started a product that actually helps centers.  They are willing to lie to people, take their money and then literally put them out of business and move on to the next center.

To continue to break down where we are at today, let’s take a look at the main differences between our product, ggLeap, and Smartlaunch’s new product they are calling eSports 5.0 from feedback with centers that have ran it so far:

ggLeap

Smartlaunch
Cloud-based servers Yes No
Web-based admin usable anywhere Yes No
Game license management between multiple centers Yes No
Free game licenses like Battlefield 1 Yes No
Multiple center support channels Yes No
Player stat tracking in-game with leaderboards Yes (3 years) No Proof
Unique prize and redemption system Yes (3 years) No Proof
Integrated touranment bracket software Yes (3 years) No Proof
Prize support from major gaming companies Yes No
Built by LAN center owners Yes No

Currently we are moving centers over to ggLeap that have “upgraded” to Smartlaunch’s new eSports 5.0 product.  They can’t get rid of it.  It is either so genius in programming as an intentional take over of control of the machine or so completely poorly written that they forgot to make a way to uninstall it. Centers are now just formatting their PCs to get rid of the Smartlaunch product and start over from scratch!

Thanks for the Monday morning motivation Smartlaunch.  If that was not your intention, then sorry about your luck.  Just stop over-promising and under-delivering and I will leave you alone.  In the meantime you are putting my friends and good centers out of business so it is very personal for me.

I will leave everyone with the copy of the email I received today from Smartlaunch which is a desperate ploy to try and keep customers from jumping ship.

************* Email from Smartlaunch sent today, October 31 ***************

Hello

Smartlaunch eSports 5.0 has been released! eSports is experiencing explosive growth, which has made it a necessity for game centers to deliver advanced services to an increasingly sophisticated customer base.

Smartlaunch eSports 5.0 is a state-of-the-art software platform designed to deliver a complete eSports solution to Game Centers and eSports Arenas. Smartlaunch eSports 5.0 introduces a wide range of tools for day to day management of an eSports centers as well as administration tools for organization of local eSports events and participation in international competitions.

Smartlaunch eSports 5.0 comes with long awaited features such as automated game loading and patching in addition to a suite of eSports features including popular game statistics, player rankings and individual profiles for players and teams.

You can upgrade to Smartlaunch eSports 5.0 under the supervision of Smartlaunch Support. For more information and to book your installation contact me at vj@smartlaunch.com or support@smartlaunch.com.

Vinay Java
Smartlaunch
vj@smartlaunch.com

eSports Arena in Universities, Commercial Use Permits, University of California at Irvine UCI grand opening, ggLeap Software updates

Today we cover quite a bit about our software powering the launch of the University of California Irvine eSports Arena along with the big jump in colleges and universities getting into the eSports game.

So proud of our software and our team.  We are truly in the right place at the right time with something special.

 

Starting and Running a Video Game Center Lounge: Do I need Cafe Software and How Do I get Tournaments Going?

From today’s show we covered the following topics:

  1. Introduction to the weekly Twitch-cast
  2. LAN Center start-up “Question of the Week”
    1. “How important is software for a LAN Center?”
    2. How important is software in other businesses?  Stock Control?  Sales projections?  Employee management?
    3. Software is crucial for controlling PC access, but also for saving $$$ in game purchases
    4. Even as a timer, software helps track time balances as well as cash balances
    5. Credit on store accounts is CRUCIAL
    6. Useful data such as games reaching license limit, times of the day/week when it is slowest, etc.
    7. Using the right software, eBash has set-up a 100+ network of systems in two days, had 5,000+ gamers create accounts and play by the hour and tracked stats and given away random prizes, sent out a follow-up email to the group
  3. LAN Center growth “Idea of the Week”
    1. “How do I get tournaments going at my center?”
    2. Tournament Negatives:
      1. Nothing worse than spending tons of time, money, energy promoting an event to only have a couple people show up
      2. Displaces regular customers during busiest times
      3. Extra Work, Extra Cost, Extra Systems
    3. Tournament Positives:
      1. Great way to reach new players
      2. Gives your center the sense of importance, coolness
      3. Always want to have something going on, events
    4. Types of Tournaments:
      1. Big Cash Money
      2. Random/Scrambled
      3. Money vs. Prizes vs. Fame (Call of Duty players asked about trophies)
      4. Not always PvP, sometimes PvE
      5. Find a way to create rivalries with schools, clans, etc.
    5. Promotion = success
      1. “Impromptu” tournaments have a place, but not a good idea for long term
      2. Start it a month away or more
      3. Fliers:  Colleges, High Schools, Local Game Stores
    6. Results
      1. Ladders, leaderboards, presetige
      2. Photos and social media
  4. ggCircuit PULSE:
    1. Halo API notes
    2. Skin Release Schedule
    3. Tournament system Updates
      1. Brackets can be for just Players  now, not just teams
      2. Admin can automatically add players
      3. Types:  PC, Xbox One, Playstation 4, Wii U
    4. Extra Life
    5. WANdemonium
  5. ggCircuit “Tip of the Week”
    1. Winter Season Details
  6. ggCircuit Center Spotlight – Escape Gaming
  7. Welcome to new ggCircuit centers
    1. FunFirst Gaming – Czech
  8. Ending – ggCircuit now over 70,000 gamers

Video Game LAN Center Video Including How to Manage Consoles like Xbox and Playstation and more….

This week’s video includes the following highlights:

  1. LAN Center start-up Question of the Week – “How do you manage consoles and console games (Xbox One, PS4, Wii U) in a center?”
  2. LAN Center growth Idea of the Week – “Bring in new customers and support the community with fundraisers.”
  3. ggCircuit PULSE:
    1. Center subscriptions
    2. Fall Season Recap
    3. Winter Season Preview, November 30th – February 8th
    4. ggCircuit Leagues
  4. ggCircuit “Tip of the Week” – Local Prize Vaults
  5. ggCircuit Player Spotlight – Derrick_Shaver
  6. Welcome to new ggCircuit centers – Monkey Gaming Center – Arequipa, Peru
  7. ggCircuit Fall Season week 5 winners

Week 5
Total: 306,379
Razer Chroma Keyboard – Raven (Galaxy Gaming) – 820
Razer Kraken Headset – lemboplanb (Elite Sevilla) – 289

Grand Theft Auto V in my Video Game LAN Center?

gta5I have always held a strong line to NOT carry the Grand Theft Auto series of games in our stores (along with a few other over-the-top titles). Our eBash partner store of which I do not have any ownership carries the games. This newest game would be a HUGE boost to our sales during the next few months and beyond and help us through our slower months. I don’t want to compromise my morals, but how do I skip a game that could mean so much potential income for my stores? I am thinking of perhaps requiring every single parent to physically come into the store and have us read to them the warning label on the game right at the front counter to their face. Something like this:

Me: “Hello mommy of Billy Gamer, are you wanting to allow him to play the newest Grand Theft Auto V game?”
Mommy: “Yes, that is fine. He plays games like that at home.”
Me: “Alright, I just need you to be aware that this game contains ALL of these items: Intense Violence, Blood and Gore, Nudity, Mature Humor, Strong Language, Strong Sexual Content, and the Use of Drugs and Alcohol. You are fine with your 9 year old son being exposed to all of those things?”

Man, even typing that up I just get a bad feeling in my stomach. I know that all of these parents will say yes. Maybe I should require that they sit down and play the game with their kid for a minimum of one hour before they are allowed to give them permission to play the game?  Maybe seeing prostitution in action on the screen will make more of an impact than hearing the words “Nudity and Strong Sexual Content”?

I sometimes get the feeling that parents honestly think that the warning label on games (and maybe movies) are just *potential* things that could be in the game.  Almost like it is a general guideline for all M (Mature) rated games that *could* contain those things listed on the label.  At least that is what I hope is true.

However the items printed on that label are ACTUALLY found within that exact game.  So when GTAV says that it has Nudity and Strong Sexual Content the game itself has those items as something your child will experience while playing.

Maybe I just hope that is the case so that I can give parents a false excuse for not caring what their child puts into their brain.  I feel better thinking that parents are dumb and naive and not just doing a lazy and terrible job of raising their children.  I want to believe that parents are just too busy to take the time to monitor what their kid is playing, instead of probably the true reason they let them play these games.

Parents are selfish.

I know this is true because I am a parent and I am also selfish.  I want my time to myself.  We have 3 kids at home and right now my wife and I do not get any time to do what WE want to do.  At home and when parents drop their kids at my video game center these “guardians” are just looking for a break from being a parent.

I understand the feeling and I am not saying that having your kids play video games so that you can get a break is wrong.   It is not even wrong to have them play for a few hours in my opinion.  However it is not right to allow them to be exposed to such things that are in some of these games just so you can have some “me” time.

So, should I carry this newest game in our stores and just put a heavy burden on the parents to be the ones that decide if their child is exposed to the filth found inside?  Will that leave me a clear conscience?  I doubt it.