The trend in computer gaming has been all about the Internet for the past couple of years, with players at home able to play their favourite PC or console games against online opponents.
But another form of computer gaming has taken off in recent years, which updates the concept of the arcade game amusement parlours with the latest PCs and PC games.
While some gaming parlours started as Internet cafes offering one or two games such as Quake 3 and Counterstrike, these latest gaming parlours are dedicated to LAN gaming, with serious hardware, frequent competitions, dozens of different games and memberships in the thousands.
And the operators of these parlours are hoping to cash in on their gamer clientele by selling them IT equipment for their home PCs too.
The past six months has seen a rash of new gaming parlours open or expand their businesses in Sydney and Brisbane. Sydney’s iStarZone launched its flagship city parlour in Sydney in July, while rival Core Games is about to open its second gaming parlour on Sydney’s north shore.
There’s a similar trend further up the east coast, with Uptime Games recently opening its second Brisbane gaming parlour.
LAN gaming is in its infancy in Australia, according to Core Games owner Chris Dooley.
“There are about 70 gaming companies in Australia, and 50,000 in South Korea,” Dooley said.
He is confident that Australia will follow Asian markets such as Korea in embracing LAN gaming, and has just signed a five-year lease for the premises at Westfield Hornsby.
The drawcard for gaming parlours are their ongoing gaming competitions. While internet cafes used to offer games on a casual walk-in basis, gaming parlours are now geared to accommodate members, many of whom participate in regular competitions.
The team sport aspect of gaming had driven the acceptance of gaming parlours, Uptime’s Owen Parkinson said. “People generally come in as a group – it’s a different kind of sport,” he said.
Uptime Games and Core Games allow members to create individual user profiles. Players can log in to any computer and recall saved characters, games and computer preferences.
Players preferred gaming parlours to online gaming, according to Parkinson, because it was faster. And while some online games have been plagued by cheating, Uptime was able to guarantee its computers are clean.
Along with the entertainment dollars they get from onsite games, several of these gaming companies are hoping to cash in on their gaming clientele by selling them equipment for their home PCs into the bargain.
Dooley hopes to build an IT hardware and software business out of the Core Games membership. He is developing business alliances with a number of vendors who are keen to reach his clientele of PC gamers, who traditionally spend up big on power computing systems and components.
IT vendors clearly see gaming parlours as a route to the lucrative gamer market. They are beginning to throw their marketing weight behind gaming parlours by sponsoring their competitions, and providing free or cheap hardware to the parlours.
For more on this story, see this week's issue of ARN, due out Wednesday.