Over the last decade, we’ve received numerous inquiries as to the basics of starting an esports gaming center. Here are a few of the topical areas that you’ll want to pay attention to in the early stages of your business development.
When attempting to determine the location of your esports center, it should be easily accessible and centrally located to the community and demographic(s) you are trying to target. While many think that public places with a lot of foot traffic, such as a shopping center or strip mall, are ideal, we think otherwise. Both casual and hardcore gamers will find your location via online visibility and word-of-mouth, no matter where it is. Proximity to high schools, college campuses, and popular areas is certainly nice, but you don’t need to have prominent street visibility on a busy road with a high volume of vehicle traffic. A high-traffic area is going to cause your rent and monthly fees to potentially skyrocket. We prefer industrial, flex, multi-tenant spaces, that offer lower rent and common area maintenance (CAM) fees, versus the NNN fees associated with retail. The availability of parking in an industrial area is often far greater than that of other options as well. Plus the internet quality and availability may be far better versus retail.
When designing the esports center, it is important to consider the needs of both players, spectators, and those who wish to just casually relax and enjoy the atmosphere. Combining function that supports different use cases with visual appeal is not always easy, especially when foresight on the different types of scenarios you may encounter once you open can be difficult. At a minimum, the layout should include enough space for gaming stations, which is the main revenue generator for any center. Having the option for spectators to watch games and socialize is a nice option if the space allows for it. It is typically required by local code to have a restroom, but amenities such as a “power up” lounge, casual seating areas, and so forth, are not required and depend more on the budget of the project than strict necessity.
The goal is to create a space that is inviting and enjoyable for all visitors, along with a welcoming and comfortable atmosphere. This can be achieved through the use of appropriate color schemes, indirect, accent/mood lighting, and other design elements. Depending on your vision, it may also be helpful to incorporate elements that reflect the local community or the culture of gaming.
A gaming center should attract people to the facility, even those who have good gear at home. Thus, it’s important to invest in high-quality gaming PCs, monitors, keyboards, and mice. It’s advisable to standardize your equipment when using CCBoot Server (trust us, we know – we build servers). In order to attract serious gamers and ensure a positive experience for all players, consider factors such as performance, reliability, and cost. It may also be helpful to seek feedback from players and industry experts when making purchasing decisions. In addition to gaming equipment, it is expected to offer fiber WAN network infrastructure, such as synchronous Gigabit high-speed internet. This will help produce the low latency and ping times gamers expect.
Food & Beverage
A big part of the profitability of a gaming center is the sale of concessions. Offering food and beverage options is a must, not just in order to create a welcoming and comfortable atmosphere, but for the purposes of profitability. The best strategies typically involve having an owner operated cooler, product shelving, and perhaps freezers as well. One always has to weigh the pros of adding additional revenue-generating options such as coffee, smoothies and food, with the cons of additional counter help and staffing required to operate more complex food services. Either way, always try to be mindful of the preferences of the local community – for example, if a center is located in a college town, it may be beneficial to offer specific types of food options that that community prefers.
Community & Social Inclusion
Fostering a positive and inclusive community and encouraging teamwork and sportsmanship as part of the culture is a great way to help build a loyal customer base and create a good reputation. Social gaming, as popular as it is, can have pitfalls when many people come together under one roof – to help mitigate any potential issues, establishing clear rules and policies for your venue, and enforcing them, will go a long way. Creating a welcoming and respectful atmosphere, with the right kind of counter help to greet and work with the customers, is also important. Owners and managers can also engage with the community and gather feedback on ways to improve the facility and enhance the customer experience. The key is to create a space that is enjoyable and welcoming for all visitors, regardless of their skill level or background.
Pricing & Memberships
One of the most common questions we’ve received over the years is how much to charge. We suggest to offer a range of pricing options, including hourly rates, membership packages, and special discounts to segmented groups such as students, military, vets and first responders. Seasonal promotions based on holidays can also help create appeal. Creating more flexibility for customers removes barriers of entry and helps to build loyalty, and a range of pricing options further opens the door to your audience. The casual gamer who only wants to play for a short period of time can just purchase a few hours for walk-in, pay-to-play, while memberships will target the more dedicated gamers and those who want to access the esports center on a regular basis. Keep in mind, the goal is to make the esports center more affordable and accessible to a wider range of customers.
There are a variety of service offerings beyond just walk-in hourly gaming that can really help a center to take off. Let’s take a look at just a few income opportunities:
Tournaments & Contests
Hosting tournaments and events, such as local and regional competitions, attracts esports enthusiasts and creates a sense of community around the esports center. Our own center’s weekly Smash and FGC tournaments draw in people from all over Southern California, and their consistency and regularity helps build confidence that they will be happening at the same time and the same day every week. Local and regional competitions attract esports enthusiasts and create a destination for competitive gaming in the community. Typically, part of the entry fee to the event goes towards cash prizes but other incentives can also be given to encourage participation and build excitement around the events.
In addition to hosting tournaments, it may also be helpful to offer other events, such as watch parties for major esports competitions or meet-and-greets with professional players. Collaborations with local content creators and streamers will help expose your brand to their community. Consider having a local Twitch or YouTube broadcaster stream live at your center on a regular basis as part of their programming. Regardless of which way you go, these types of events can help create a sense of community and engagement among your fans and followers.
STEM and Education
A very hot topic right now that you may have heard of is STEM (Science, Technology, Education and Math) and STEAM. Offering educational services, such as coding and game design classes, can bring in an entirely new demographic and provide value on the local level. We’ve written an extensive article on this here. Offering science and technical learning can help attract students and educators, as well as those interested in pursuing careers in the tech industry. These offerings can also position a center as a hub for learning and innovation in the community. It may also be helpful to partner with local schools and educational organizations to promote these offerings and reach a wider audience.
Another way to promote the esports center and generate support is to partner with local businesses and organizations. These partnerships can take many forms, such as sponsorships, marketing collaborations, or joint events. An esports center can then tap into new customer bases and gain additional exposure. It is strategically advisable to seek out partnerships with businesses or organizations that are aligned with the values and goals of the center, as this can help build a sense of shared purpose and mutual benefit. In addition to businesses, it may also be helpful to consider partnerships with schools, community centers, and other organizations that serve the local community.
As we mentioned earlier, the physical center’s location is less important when online communities exist. In today’s digital age, social media and other online platforms can be powerful tools for promoting the esports center and connecting with the local community. Utilizing social media and other online platforms allows the business to engage with potential and existing customers and partners. By creating profiles on platforms such as Facebook, Twitter, and Instagram (the three most important ones), the esports center can share updates, news, and other content with a wide audience. Using these accounts, management can interact with followers, answer questions, take polls, and more. Of course, having a proper website and utilizing email marketing can also be invaluable promotional tools. By leveraging these types of platforms, the esports center can reach a larger audience and build its online presence.
It’s critical to plan in the early stages to improve the viability and longevity of an esports center. Launching and sustaining the business requires a healthy fiscal condition, which can be assisted partially by the reduced rent that isn’t possible with retail venues. Careful strategies when purchasing equipment, games, and IT infrastructure, along with a marketing plan that involves consistent, ongoing programming, events and tournaments, will help attract a larger customer base. Consider the demographics of the area, the cost of rent or lease payments, as well as any additional expenses, such as utilities and maintenance, when evaluating the market.
As always, we are ready to help with a free consultation. Just contact us!