How to Start a Video Game Cafe

As a video game cafe owner, you can offer gamers opportunities to socialize with friends and fellow game enthusiasts. According to Smart Launch, a software provider, you will need start-up capital of about $120,000 to develop this atmosphere. Your ability to grasp the technology involved with personal computers and gaming consoles for your players can help you keep initial costs from ballooning.

The Hardware

According to Smart Launch, your cafe should be one-half personal computers and one-half gaming consoles, but you'll need at least 40 total stations to make the mix feasible. For personal computer systems, the hardware -- keyboard, monitor, screen and mouse -- should have a useful life of 24 to 36 months. A server computer is needed to control the customer computer stations, including the play time of the gamers. Antamedia, a business software provider, advises that you have high-end graphics cards and processors. Expect such a system to run $1,500; when you replace, you might get $150 to $400 out of the old equipment. Smart Launch says use 26-inch to 32-inch screens with your consoles.

The Games

Antamedia says software can become very costly especially when you need separate game licenses for 50 computers. License Key Management software can reduce the expenses of having to purchase a game license for each terminal. Specifically, the service makes the game available to a terminal user when it is not being used by another. Your customers can also play source games distributed via the Internet to cyber or game cafes from various providers. For example, Smart Launch reports on a café owner who paid $10 per terminal seat per month for games provided by Valve Software. Cafes such as The Hungry Gamer of San Marcos, Texas, and The Gamerz Funk of Taylorsville, Utah, allow gamers to bring their own discs to play on gaming consoles.

Speed for Gaming

T1 internet service provides the fastest speeds for downloading and loading games and other content. According to SmartLaunch, T1 will support 50 to 60 game stations. Telecommunications consulting group 10GEA says the average cost of T1 runs around $200 a month in high-use areas and up to $700 per month in rural areas. Cable internet, which is slower, costs $30 to $80 a month, depending on the provider, according to 10GEA.

Renting Play Time

Lower hourly rates may encourage customers to stay longer. For example, at publication, Chicago's Ignite Gaming Lounge advertised $5 for one hour, or a discounted $12 for three hours. Video game cafes typically reserve rooms or blocks of game stations for birthday parties and other group gatherings.

Other Products and Services

Supplement your console or terminal rental revenue with snacks, coffee, sodas or finger foods. If you plan to prepare food, you'll likely need a permit from your health department along with commercial-grade sinks and refrigerators. Your cafe can also earn more from computer or console repair and buying and selling of used games.

Trending Female

Your initial marketing campaign should not ignore the female population. The Gamerz Funk says that one in five of their customers are women. According to the Entertainment Software Association in 2014, 48 percent of video game players were female. Women over the age of 18 made up 36 percent of video game players, while males under age 18 were only 17 percent of the players, according to the Association in 2014.

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About the Author

Christopher Raines enjoys sharing his knowledge of business, financial matters and the law. He earned his business administration and law degrees from the University of North Carolina at Chapel Hill. As a lawyer since August 1996, Raines has handled cases involving business, consumer and other areas of the law.