The modern gaming center has undergone a massive change in the last couple of decades.
Previously referred to as ‘cyber dens’ or ‘gaming cafes’.. the venues once small statue has grown dramatically in accordance with the latest gaming trends, and more recently from an influx of revenue generated by the ever-popular global esports industry!
There are now over 650 LAN gaming centers in the US, with plans for many new state of the art facilities ready to be infused into brand new esports arenas, college campuses, and other prime locations across the country.
If you’re one of the millions of gamers that enjoy playing at home, but might never have given a thought to how visiting a premier gaming center can benefit you..
Then we hope to shed some light by providing some info on the top-notch equipment they might stack, or if you’re lucky enough to live nearby – what’s inside some one of the best new facilities in your local area!
What is a Gaming Center?
A gaming center is a business that has a series of computers, or consoles connected together, primarily for the purpose of playing multiplayer games. A customer will often pay an hourly fee for the usage of these machines, where they can compete against friends over a LAN connection.
Gaming centers come in a variety of different styles and sizes. They can range anywhere from around 8-20 computers for the very small, up to 400 plus for some of the largest! The PC systems found at a center will likely have higher-end hardware installed, specifically for computer gaming.
Customers can play games with or against in-house opponents. They also have the option to play games with (or against) online opponents, so it’s fundamental that the gaming center offers its players a high-speed Internet connection.
Many gaming centers offer its players the chance of joining the venue as a member, much like a fitness gym. This gives the customer the option to pay a recurring yearly, (or month-to-month) subscription, in return for discount hourly fees or promotions.. If you have plans of spending an abundance of gaming time at your local gaming center in the future then this would be sure to work in your advantage!
How much do Gaming centers charge?
The majority of gaming centers charge $4-$6 an hour for non-members. This price will usually decrease the longer you wish to stay. Five hours of gaming time will generally only cost $20, or around $25-$35 for a day pass.
Why should you go to a Gaming Center?
If you’ve never been to a gaming center before, then you might be wondering what exactly the appeal is that makes them popular, or how they can benefit you..?
I’ve personally had a professional setup at home for many years, but still love to hang out at these venues on the weekends or whenever a free opportunity arises. To me, the gaming experience goes unmatched with just staying in and playing at home, as the atmosphere around the place makes it feel extra special. Even more so when you have the chance to load up a new game that you haven’t ever played on before and step outside of your comfort zone!
There’s a wide variety of reasons for giving up some your hard earned money to support your local gaming center. Here are just some to name a few:
There’s no better place to meet, and bond with your fellow gamers than in a gaming center. If you’re looking to make friends with like-minded people, who no doubt have some of the same interests or hobbies as you, then this is the place you should go.
Being involved with a community of other gamers can help you to grow as a player, both online and offline. The community may even help you to open new doors and opportunities. Whether this is by informing you about something you did not know, providing collaborations on Twitch, or possibly setting you up to join a close-knit team in your local area!
Staying at home to play games on your own all day can often feel lonely, it’s much better for your mental health to get out there and socialize!
Gaming centers regularly host weekly meet-ups, tournaments, and other events to further enrich the community experience. If you’re looking for somewhere you can go on a regular basis, but are not interested in sports or other conventional hobbies, then why not see what’s going on at your local gaming center, you may be surprised at what else goes on there.
For anyone that has aspirations of making money from their level of skill on the game, then attending local tournaments in a must! There aren’t that many ‘in-person’ locations where aspiring pros and enthusiasts can gather together to spar in front of a lively crowd.
A local gamer can really make a huge name for themselves if they do well in a competition, which can open doors to great new opportunities. Gaming centers can sometimes act as a feeder system helping to establish promising players..
Former Cloud 9, Counter-Strike player Jordan Gilbert aka “n0thing”, is just one example of a player who had massive success by competing in the in local scene at a very young age. He was just ten years old when he won his first LAN tournament, and has since then risen to become one of the most experienced, internationally-known players in the world.
N0thing is now considered a legend at his local GameSync gaming center – where you can still find him waxing players today!
Click here to visit our post “become a pro gamer”, where we go into more detail on competing competitively.
Improve your esport skills with Gamer Sensei.
Cutting-edge hardware, latest games and internet
The top gaming centers often offer top-notch hardware, including: 9900k CPUs, 240hz monitors, and lightning fast internet. If you feel your home setup is holding you back, and are wanting to experience your full potential on some of the latest equipment around, then competing at your gaming center might be the best way to go about it.
In the realm of esports; if you aren’t playing with at least 120 FPS while using a monitor that gets at least that many Hz, then your skill will undoubtedly suffer no matter how talented you are.
It’s not just the blazing fast computers that you may want to try out, as most gaming centers are now also offering the latest cutting edge virtual reality (VR) technology. Just as the personal computer was too expensive for many home owners in the past, the same can be said for some of the latest VR equipment. Here you can experience the latest ‘immersive’ multiplayer computer-generated worlds, without even having to buy a headset.
It goes without saying that you will also be surrounded by all the latest games on: PC, Xbox Series X, PlayStation 5, and Nintendo Switch – so you can finally decipher which one is best!
Food and merchandise
Getting served delicious hot snacks to eat right in front of your computer screen might be a novelty for those of you with strict parents (or partners) at home. Either way it’s something else that adds to the whole experience, so you won’t even have to worry about getting out of your chair!
At the majority of gaming centers you can enjoy a variety of different foods, snacks, and beverages, including: Fries dripping with cheese, Pizzas, Hot dogs, or anything else that takes your fancy. Cocktail bars have also become more common in recent years, so make sure you bring some ID!
It’s sometimes hard to come across any decent gaming merchandise, but modern centers may also include their own small retail stores; giving you access to purchase specialized clothing, accessories, and various esports brand apparel.
Test your team
Doing anything ‘team related’ is always much easier ‘in-person’, and gaming centers can provide the perfect facilities for training with your buddies. In esports it can sometimes be very difficult to know whether your teammates are cheating or able to perform well in tournaments. Meeting at your local center is possibly the easiest way to test people out and make sure they are a good fit for your team.
You will find that the top esports teams in the world train together on LAN, and even live together in some cases. There’s a lot to be said about working together closely in the same area, and it will definitely help motivate you get to better at any game!
You never quite know who’s going to be there, or what kind of atmosphere you’re going to get! Whether you’re about to head straight-first into a competitive, ‘serious’ vibe -where you must show cast your talents to make friends and earn respect.
Or perhaps the complete opposite situation is present, and the building has turned into some kind of drunken house party. People being noisy, spilling drinks, socializing and generally having an awesome time.
One thing’s for sure; that if you find yourself sat around a screen competing against your mates in a super smash bros tournament with generous prizes to be won – it’s going to be a lot better than being stuck at home on your own!
Where did the modern gaming center come from?
A brief history
Cyber Cafes, or LAN dens started to emerge in the US over two decades ago with the introduction of some of the first PC games. Around this time, high spec computers were very expensive for the average homeowner, and their popularity began to surge across the country as gamers flocked to indulge in the latest multiplayer experiences.
However, for many franchises this businesses model was fairly short lived. Advancements in PC hardware came a huge way in a very short period of time, meaning the price of the technology dropped dramatically due to supply and demand. Personal computers had become the norm and were now much more capable of handling higher-end games.
The general public preferred to pay for their own gear up front, being able to have full control over what they did, and how long they played, from within the comfort of their own homes. This saw the slow demise of many such cafes in the US, and across other western countries. A once promising, exploding industry had now taken a turn in the other direction, with many forced to modernise and get with the times.
LAN centers continued to prosper in Asian countries, that were often seen as a stable widespread business. In developing countries such as South Korea or Japan, the cost of setting up shop was seen as far more economical and there was no shortage of customers. The appeal of the LAN cafe continued to stay popular In other parts of the world that did not have the same access to technology, or household internet speeds, found comparable to the US.
Today it is estimated that over 90% of the LAN Centers in the world are currently in China!
A new lease of life
The global esports market has risen rapidly in the last few years, most noticeably surpassing the $1 billion mark in 2019, a massive jump from $856m in the previous year!
An influx of revenue generated by this booming industry has been pouring back into the development of many new state of the art gaming facilities across many western countries; as investors (who fear on missing out), look to innovate to attract a larger audience.
The once small and dying gaming café sporting bland white walls, and little to no décor has had its dreams come true by being reinvigorated as premier ‘esports gyms’ for some of the most professional athletes.
A re-emergence has certainly been noticed across the US, seeing many new buildings popping up all over the country. There are now more than 650 gaming centers (with many more in plans for future development), ready to be infused into brand new esports arenas, college campuses, and shopping malls; amongst an assortment other locations that you would least expect!
What are the 5 best Gaming Centers in the US?
5. Tech Time Gaming Lounge
- Founded: Nov, 2017
- Gaming stations: 60 PC’s, 9 gaming consoles
- Location: Woodbridge VA, near Washington DC
- Non-member price (5 hours): $20
Tech Time Gaming Lounge is the most modern PC gaming center in the Washington DC area. It currently boasts 65+ gaming stations, and over 40 popular games from Fortnite to the classics. The interior was designed by E-blue (the world’s largest LAN center manufacturer), and flaunts an extremely sleek ‘spaceship-like’ theme that’s sure to keep you in there all day!
The Gaming Center features include:
- 60 gaming PCs with i5/1070 and i7/1080 setups.
- 27″ and 32″ 144 Hz monitors.
- 1GB dedicated fiber internet connection.
- 9 gaming consoles (Xbox/PS4/Switch).
- 11’x22′ party room for tournament viewing and events.
- Complimentary Wi-Fi and Netflix.
Tech time are well known to run tournaments birthday parties and other seasonal events. They offer tons of special membership deals for locals including 20% off normal game time rates, discounts on selected tournaments, and even a free 5-hour gaming binge on your birthday! If you happen to live in close proximity, then you definitely should be making the most of this place!
4. Ignite Gaming – Chicago
- Founded: 2002
- Gaming stations: 100+ PC’s, Xbox, and PlayStation consoles
- Location: Chicago
- Non-member price (5 hours): $23
Ignite is Chicago’s premier gaming lounge and esports venue! It’s without a doubt the most established gaming center in the whole north of the states going all the back to 2002! The 18,000 SF techy, industrial space is packed with over one hundred gaming stations, a fully serviced bar, and all the specialized private areas you need for having a really awesome time!
Once inside, you can immerse your soul into the latest and greatest games from Call of Duty, to Madden and Street Fighter. As you can see from the pic, the majority of gaming stations have all been arranged in octagons; perfect for separating the social environment into different gaming categories of LAN tournaments, or to play with a close group of friends.
The Gaming Center features include:
- Powerful gaming rigs with GTX 1070 and Intel i7 at the core.
- A 27-inch personal screen with 144Hz refresh rate.
- Large 4K TVs for fun ‘on the couch’ split screen action.
- 100 + gaming consoles (PC’s/Xbox/PS4/Switch).
- Private Studios equipped with Rock Band instruments.
- An old school arcade and VR sessions.
- Pizza place and Drinks bar.
If you love your food and drink then you will be pleased to hear that the concessions menu is high on the agenda at Ignite. The center serves a large selection of delicious signature pizzas, local craft beers on tap, and even their own crafted gamer-themed cocktails. What better way to relax and enjoy your gaming experience!
3. Esports Stadium Arlington
- Founded: Nov, 2018
- Gaming stations: 50-plus gaming stations
- Location: Arlington, Texas
- Non-member price (5 hours): $25
The Esports Stadium Arlington is currently the largest dedicated ‘esports stadium’ in the United States, (since it officially opened in November last year). So it’s no surprise that the 100,000 square ft venue also has its own premier gaming center; which is pretty much a dream come true to any of the local residents that happen to live nearby!
“Gamers can come in day-to-day to play all of the latest and greatest games on NVIDIA powered gaming PC’s with 240hz G-Sync monitors, or PlayStation 4, Nintendo Switch, and Xbox One consoles while engaging with other local gamers”.
The community hub has an incredibly specious and open design, aimed at creating an atmosphere to make you feel good about your gameplay!
The Gaming Center includes:
- Fully furnished PCs equipped with NVIDIA Titan XPs.
- 24″ Full HD 240hz G-Sync monitors.
- Daily pay-to-play PC, console, and VR gaming.
- Weekly/ monthly tournaments, and meet ups.
- Book events – Boot camps, Birthday parties, Private events
- Esports merchandise shop/ Concessions shop
- VIP Player Lounge
The Arlington Center has everything you would expect from an esports stadium, including: super-fast Internet, up to date computer hardware + peripherals, and a clean environment etc.
However, It goes without saying that the best thing about having access to this place, would be the opportunity to compete in the sheer number of tournaments found scheduled on their calendar each month. They currently host a community Modern Warfare and Smash Ultimate tournament every week. You can check out their tournament calendar here!
For any aspiring pros out there, who are looking for a new town to live; Arlington is the place for you!
2. Helix eSports
- Founded: December 2018
- Gaming stations: 150 gaming stations (105 PCs, 35 Xbox One consoles & 25 PlayStation 4s)
- Location: North Bergen, New Jersey
- Non-member price (5 hours): $20
‘Helix eSports’ is the premier gaming center for all players in the New York City & Northern New Jersey area. After recently opening last year, it is now currently the largest gaming center in the whole of the United States (by number of PC’s/ consoles), consisting of 150 permanent gaming stations!
The state of the art 6,500 square feet venue is spread across 5 dedicated gaming rooms. It was designed by industry veterans to deliver a professional gaming experience for players of all levels. The center gives you the opportunity to play all your favourite games like Fortnite, Overwatch, League of Legends, DOTA 2, and Rocket League in an environment unlike any other!
The Gaming Center includes:
- HP Omen Gaming PCs.
- Dedicated fiber-optic lines.
- Weekly/ monthly cash prize tournaments.
- Book events – Boot camps, Birthday parties, Private events.
- Snack bar – serving food, beer & wine.
- Lounge area and private rooms.
- High School League.
What’s special about the Helix center, is that it aims to focus on the development of younger players, by providing them exposure into the industry. One way they go about doing this is by hosting their own high school esports league – a program that allows students to compete face-to-face against other schools in the area, with the hope of recruiting the best players onto scholarships!
The Helix center focus’s heavily on local tournaments. You can find their whole list of competitions here. This is without a doubt one of the best ecosystem’s for young players growing up in the country. You’ll have to experience it to believe it!
1. Localhost Arena – Denver
- Founded: December 2018
- Gaming stations: 110 Computers
- Location: Denver, Colorado
- Non-member price (day pass): $20
Localhost is famous for their iconic amateur tournaments hosted in Philly and Huntington Beach, however it’s their esports arena in Denver that we’re mentioning today for having one of the best LAN facilities that you can find!
The 18,000 square foot venue comes with over 100 top of the line PCs, all the major consoles, and even a giant oversized screen! The well-maintained open environment is perfect for gamers who are either looking to dive deep into their gaming, or want to hang out while viewing their favourite streams.
The center is known for having a super chilled atmosphere, filled with friendly and positive people, and a bunch incredibly helpful staff. If the money side of things really puts you off going out to play games, then you will be pleased to hear that this is also the cheapest venue on our list, coming in at just $20 for a whole 12 hour pass!
The Gaming Center includes:
- 110 Professional-Grade Gaming Computers – i7 8700k CPU’s.
- 240hz ‘BenQ‘ monitors.
- PlayStation 4 Pro, Xbox One X, Nintendo Switch consoles.
- The latest Virtual Reality set ups from Vive Pro.
- Esport training days and boot camps.
- Weekly amateur esport Tournaments.
- Oversized screen, Lounge area and bar.
As you can see, only top tier equipment can be found here. PC’s capable of running on the highest fidelity (with no lag), comfortable chairs, and expensive gaming headsets. Of course, everything you will find is up to tournament standards, being part of a gaming arena and all!
The venue is renowned for its overnight tournament lock-ins where amateurs and pros can compete for the highest prize – “Localhost Arena is home to quality competition with guaranteed prize pools that start at $200 for NCS Academy events and climb as high as $50,000 for a Grand Final”.
You can check out their list of tournament events here.
If this center is in your local vicinity, or even if you fancy making a trip, – get ready to be blown away!
Today's the day! We were up pretty late last night connecting peripherals, adjusting lights, and finishing the set up. Worth it.— Localhost Denver (@localhostdenver) December 7, 2018
Join special guests today and help us celebrate our grand opening at 2:00pm.
Check out more info here: https://t.co/adrzarqtPU pic.twitter.com/mczwB15FoP
6. Press Gaming center – Las Vegas. Founded: 5 November 2013 – 40+ gaming stations.
7. Seoulpcgamecenter – Annandale, Virginia. Founded: Apr 2000 – 60+ Computers
8. Cyber City Esports Center – Los Angeles. Founded: May 2013 – 40+ gaming stations.
Photo by Alex Haney on Unsplash
Photo by Christian Wiediger on Unsplash
Flickr by Nelo Hotsuma at https://flickr.com/photos/84574136@N06/14733171329
Source: Data – newzoo