It’s understandable why you might want to start a gaming cafe. It’s hard to break into the normal cafe business when big players like Starbucks are around. Not to mention all the other smaller cafes that cater to general audiences.
The average cost of starting a gaming cafe is $120,000. These costs include:
• The cost of PCs/consoles
• Utility/remodeling costs
• Game licensing
PC’s and consoles
When it comes to PCs designed for gaming, don’t cut corners. Gaming PCs need advanced hardware, particularly if customers want online gaming or to hold tournaments and they will. A single gaming PC can cost around $2,000-$3000. Most people who have run gaming cafes recommend getting around 10 to start with.
Gamers want to be comfortable so the cafe will need proper gaming chairs which can also run between $100-$400 each. Some may cost more but going for the mid-range priced chairs is good enough. Invest in higher-end keyboards that are designed for gamers which start around $150. Some games can get heated so the keyboards need to be durable and responsive. Some games, like Elite Dangerous, may need joysticks or other peripherals so plan on getting some.
Headphones are also important as many people want to experience the game’s full sound capabilities. Cheap earbuds won’t cut it. Not only are they fragile, sharing them can be a health hazard. A good set of headphones runs about $25. It’s best to have one for each computer plus a few spares.
Tournaments are an expected attraction at gaming cafes. Tournaments need LAN adapters. Major gaming cafes, especially the ones that are going heavily into eSports, have specialty software to organize and keep track of tournaments. One example is ggLeap which costs $5 a month per PC.
With all the computers, staff members who can troubleshoot technological issues are a must. Typical gaming cafes have a person on staff for this purpose rather than juggling it with multiple other duties so the issue can be resolved quickly. If one of the initial computers goes down for an extended length of time, that will substantially cut into your business.
Insurance will also be needed for all those PCs since there might be occasional issues that the in-cafe technician cannot resolve by themselves. There may be issues that necessitate a complete replacement of a computer. The type of insurance needed costs $200-$250 per computer.
Going into console gaming might be somewhat less daunting but there are still some hurdles. Players want the best visual quality and want high-end televisions. To provide variety, you’ll need all three major consoles plus games for them. Consoles can run between $200-$400 and TVs are often $100 or more. Other peripherals, like spare controllers or steering wheel controllers for racing games, may also be needed. Gaming cafes typically have a selection of games that can appeal to multiple demographics, including kids.
Consoles have another understated benefit, the lack of interest from hackers. Most people don’t give a second glance at random computer screens as they walk by. But in any gaming cafe, there will be plenty of spectators around the consoles. That means if a hacker is doing things he shouldn’t be doing, the whole cafe will know. Not that consoles are high-priority targets. Game companies have so much proprietary software that it’s hard for a hacker to get anything of value in a short amount of time. That said, keep an eye out for anyone trying out of curiosity.
The most successful gaming cafes have a mix of console and PC gaming. Some people find PC games too complicated. Other people don’t have access to higher-end PC games (like children who only have access to budget family computers) so they stick to consoles.
Security measures are needed for console and PC gaming. Each of the computers needs an anti-virus program and sadly the free ones won’t cut it. While it’s easy to implement measures to stop people from downloading and uploading things, always be ready for the possibility that someone will find a way around them.
Clients want their information protected and the cafe needs to be able to provide that security. Gaming cafes are popular targets for identity thieves and other unsavory characters. If clients find out their data is not secure, that will damage your business’ reputation. Shelling out money for anti-virus programs is better than losing computers and businesses to a virus. Depending on the plan, this can cost $500-$700 a year.
All the hardware is expensive so physical security is a must. Electronic devices, including games and peripherals, need to be kept in a safe spot and customers need to be required to return them when they are done using them. Some things like keyboards can be physically secured to tables.
Utilities and Remodeling
This next part is hard to give exact prices for because there are so many variables. However, we’ll explain what these variables are. For starters, the new building will need some rewiring.
According to a former gaming cafe owner we interviewed, putting all those PCs, consoles, and televisions on a few power strips is dangerous. In the worst-case scenario, a fire can start and if you aren’t prudent about fire prevention, that can imperil any insurance claims and possibly create legal trouble…
A licensed contractor will have to come in and rewire the space to add in new outlets and upgrade the circuitry so that it’s less likely to overheat. We can’t give you a raw number as to how much this will all cost because it depends on what local contractors will charge. Consult local contractors and electricians for more information/estimates.
It’s possible to cut down on some costs by setting up shop in a newer building. Either way, plan on this being a significant expense. Depending on how much noise the customers make and if there are businesses next door, the building may need some degree of soundproofing.
• Internet and Electricity
Data-wise, gaming is pretty intensive so expect to pay a big bill for a high-capacity plan. You will need high-speed and consistent Internet. Nothing annoys a gamer more than losing because the connection dropped.
Gaming PC’s/consoles running for hours a day will raise your electric bill significantly. To save electricity, have computers go into sleep mode as quickly as possible when they aren’t in use. Sleep mode timing can be modified in the computer’s settings.
Learn other ways to attract customers HERE.
To allow people to play video games at a commercial establishment for profit, cafes need permission from copyright holders. Luckily, Steam and other platforms have recognized the potential of gaming cafes and have a licensing program for this purpose.
However, they do require the computers to always be online, and not all Steam games offer licenses. The costs for the licenses vary.
An alternative to a lot of this is board and card games. Board games don’t need lots of electricity and bandwidth to run. However, a lot of the games are niche and you may need to have staff explain certain things if the instructions aren’t clear. The costs of the games themselves can vary (usually between $20-$50) though some patrons have been known to donate games as well.
There’s also some room for growth. Having extra copies of the board games to sell can bring in some decent money as can trading cards but stocks of both will be needed. Some stores/cafes of this nature sell and buy rarer cards individually and they invest in a system or app to scan prices of cards so they know what a card’s worth. The apps can be $30 a month. Tournaments can draw in big crowds too.
Be aware that if you start with board games and want to expand into video games later, chances are good you’ll be shutting down to do some remodeling.
Will I need food and drinks?
These can add to the experience and make people stay longer. Just have a designated area for eating and drinking to minimize the risk of damaging electronics. It can also be a decent security investment. Being able to buy food/drinks from the cafe means customers aren’t smuggling in greasy food that leaves gunk on the electronics or a bunch of alcohol that leads to fights. To serve food, you’ll need a license.
What rules should I set up for the cafe?
Treat other customers and staff with respect and don’t break the stuff are good starts. Porn bans need to be clearly posted and strictly enforced. There is software that can block it but there is always someone who will try to skirt it. Allowing porn at a gaming cafe can lead to headaches like outraged community members but they’ll likely give you a pass if you take steps to keep porn out.
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Please note: This blog post is for educational purposes only and does not constitute legal advice. Please consult a legal expert to address your specific needs.