A game center is a place where people can come together to play video games, compete in tournaments, and form a community of their own.
Learn how to start your own Game Center Business and whether it is the right fit for you.
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Start a game center business by following these 10 steps:
- Plan your Game Center Business
- Form your Game Center Business into a Legal Entity
- Register your Game Center Business for Taxes
- Open a Business Bank Account & Credit Card
- Set up Accounting for your Game Center Business
- Get the Necessary Permits & Licenses for your Game Center Business
- Get Game Center Business Insurance
- Define your Game Center Business Brand
- Create your Game Center Business Website
- Set up your Business Phone System
We have put together this simple guide to starting your game center business. These steps will ensure that your new business is well planned out, registered properly and legally compliant.
Exploring your options? Check out other small business ideas.
STEP 1: Plan your business
A clear plan is essential for success as an entrepreneur. It will help you map out the specifics of your business and discover some unknowns. A few important topics to consider are:
- What will you name your business?
- What are the startup and ongoing costs?
- Who is your target market?
- How much can you charge customers?
Luckily we have done a lot of this research for you.
What will you name your business?
Choosing the right name is very important. Read our detailed guide on how to name your business. We recommend checking if the business name you choose is available as a web domain and securing it early so no one else can take it.
What are the costs involved in opening a game center business?
Costs vary for owners depending on where they open. A franchise can cost more than $200,000 and require substantial capital and liquid assets. You may be able to open for considerably less than this if you scout for cheaper equipment or open in a less desirable section of town.
What are the ongoing expenses for a game center business?
Game centers need to budget for the cost of their space, the maintenance of their machines, and the salaries of their staff. They’ll also need to factor in the cost of advertising and ongoing commercial insurance
Who is the target market?
The target market can be any video game player, whether they’re serious or casual. Gaming centers welcome people of all skill levels, whether they have a few minutes to play or several hours. This market does skew toward young males under the age of 35 who have enough disposable income to participate in new games.
How does a game center business make money?
Game centers make money by charging customers to use their facilities, typically by the hour or per day. They may also rent out their facility for private events, such as birthday parties.
How much can you charge customers?
Game centers can charge around $20 a day for an all-day pass on the weekends. They may offer all-day passes on the weekdays for $10 or feature ‘happy hour’ pricing at a drastically reduced price of $5. A birthday party with up to 18 stations may cost between $500 – $600. This includes everything from favors to refreshments.
How much profit can a game center business make?
Profits for a gaming center can vary based on location and marketing strategies. However, because the machinery is already paid for, the margins for profit can be quite high as long as the technology is well-maintained.
How can you make your business more profitable?
Owners can sell merchandise or gaming accessories to make themselves more profitable. They can also host a game exchange, where they take a small cut of the sales (or a flat rate from each guest) for facilitating the event.
Want a more guided approach? Access TRUiC's free Small Business Startup Guide - a step-by-step course for turning your business idea into reality. Get started today!
STEP 2: Form a legal entity
Establishing a legal business entity such as an LLC or corporation protects you from being held personally liable if your game center business is sued.
Form Your LLC
Read our Guide to Form Your Own LLC
Recommended: You will need to elect a registered agent for your LLC. LLC formation packages usually include a free year of registered agent services. You can choose to hire a registered agent or act as your own.
STEP 3: Register for taxes
You will need to register for a variety of state and federal taxes before you can open for business.
In order to register for taxes you will need to apply for an EIN. It's really easy and free!
There are specific state taxes that might apply to your business. Learn more about state sales tax and franchise taxes in our state sales tax guides.
STEP 4: Open a business bank account & credit card
Using dedicated business banking and credit accounts is essential for personal asset protection.
When your personal and business accounts are mixed, your personal assets (your home, car, and other valuables) are at risk in the event your business is sued. In business law, this is referred to as piercing your corporate veil.
Open a business bank account
Besides being a requirement when applying for business loans, opening a business bank account:
- Separates your personal assets from your company's assets, which is necessary for personal asset protection.
- Makes accounting and tax filing easier.
Recommended: Read our Best Banks for Small Business review to find the best national bank or credit union.
Get a business credit card
Getting a business credit card helps you:
- Separate personal and business expenses by putting your business' expenses all in one place.
- Build your company's credit history, which can be useful to raise money later on.
Recommended: Apply for an easy approval business credit card from BILL and build your business credit quickly.
STEP 5: Set up business accounting
Recording your various expenses and sources of income is critical to understanding the financial performance of your business. Keeping accurate and detailed accounts also greatly simplifies your annual tax filing.
Make LLC accounting easy with our LLC Expenses Cheat Sheet.
STEP 6: Obtain necessary permits and licenses
Failure to acquire necessary permits and licenses can result in hefty fines, or even cause your business to be shut down.
Federal Business Licensing Requirements
Certain state permits and licenses may be needed to operate a Game Center. Learn more about licensing requirements in your state by visiting SBA’s reference to state licenses and permits.
State & Local Business Licensing Requirements
For information about local licenses and permits:
- Check with your town, city or county clerk’s office
- Get assistance from one of the local associations listed in US Small Business Associations directory of local business resources.
Most businesses are required to collect sales tax on the goods or services they provide. To learn more about how sales tax will affect your business, read our article, Sales Tax for Small Businesses.
Trademark & Copyright Protection
If you are developing a unique product, concept, brand, or design, it is prudent to protect your rights by registering for the appropriate trademarks and copyrights.
The nature of legal requirements in distance education is ever changing, especially in regards to copyright laws. Here is a frequently updated resource, which can help keep you aware of the legal requirements.
Certificate of Occupancy
A Game Center business is generally run out of a storefront or standalone building. Businesses operating out of a physical location typically require a Certificate of Occupancy (CO). A CO confirms that all building codes, zoning laws and government regulations have been met.
- If you plan to lease a location:
- It is generally the landlord’s responsibility to obtain a CO.
- Before leasing, confirm that your landlord has or can obtain a valid CO that is applicable to a Game Center store business.
- After a major renovation, a new CO often needs to be issued. If your place of business will be renovated before opening, it is recommended to include language in your lease agreement stating that lease payments will not commence until a valid CO is issued.
- If you plan to purchase or build a location:
- You will be responsible for obtaining a valid CO from a local government authority.
- Review all building codes and zoning requirements for your business’ location to ensure your Game Center business will be in compliance and able to obtain a CO.
STEP 7: Get business insurance
Just as with licenses and permits, your business needs insurance in order to operate safely and lawfully. Business Insurance protects your company’s financial wellbeing in the event of a covered loss.
There are several types of insurance policies created for different types of businesses with different risks. If you’re unsure of the types of risks that your business may face, begin with General Liability Insurance. This is the most common coverage that small businesses need, so it’s a great place to start for your business.
Another notable insurance policy that many businesses need is Workers’ Compensation Insurance. If your business will have employees, it’s a good chance that your state will require you to carry Workers' Compensation Coverage.
STEP 8: Define your brand
Your brand is what your company stands for, as well as how your business is perceived by the public. A strong brand will help your business stand out from competitors.
If you aren't feeling confident about designing your small business logo, then check out our Design Guides for Beginners, we'll give you helpful tips and advice for creating the best unique logo for your business.
If you already have a logo, you can also add it to a QR code with our Free QR Code Generator. Choose from 13 QR code types to create a code for your business cards and publications, or to help spread awareness for your new website.
How to promote & market a game center business
Gamers spend a good deal of time on the internet, so you may want to consider local advertising on social media channels, such as Facebook or YouTube. Consider making videos geared toward the gamer first — not for advertising your business. For example, make a ‘Top 10 Tips’ for your hottest game. A local gaming celebrity may be willing to promote your business online as well. Finally, owners can incorporate more traditional marketing, such as flyers, radio, or TV ads, as a way to round out their approach and really get the word out.
How to keep customers coming back
Customers want to have fun, make friends, and learn some new skills. They want to be recognized for the skills it took them so long to build. The more you can give them the technology and the facilities they need to thrive, the more likely it is that people will want to come back.
Owners also need to stay on top of the latest games, so their inventory and selection are always fresh. Listening to customers and adapting your business model to the latest trends can be a good way to maintain loyal customers while still attracting others.
STEP 9: Create your business website
After defining your brand and creating your logo the next step is to create a website for your business.
While creating a website is an essential step, some may fear that it’s out of their reach because they don’t have any website-building experience. While this may have been a reasonable fear back in 2015, web technology has seen huge advancements in the past few years that makes the lives of small business owners much simpler.
Here are the main reasons why you shouldn’t delay building your website:
- All legitimate businesses have websites - full stop. The size or industry of your business does not matter when it comes to getting your business online.
- Social media accounts like Facebook pages or LinkedIn business profiles are not a replacement for a business website that you own.
- Website builder tools like the GoDaddy Website Builder have made creating a basic website extremely simple. You don’t need to hire a web developer or designer to create a website that you can be proud of.
STEP 10: Set up your business phone system
Getting a phone set up for your business is one of the best ways to help keep your personal life and business life separate and private. That’s not the only benefit; it also helps you make your business more automated, gives your business legitimacy, and makes it easier for potential customers to find and contact you.
There are many services available to entrepreneurs who want to set up a business phone system. We’ve reviewed the top companies and rated them based on price, features, and ease of use. Check out our review of the Best Business Phone Systems 2023 to find the best phone service for your small business.
Recommended Business Phone Service: Phone.com
Phone.com is our top choice for small business phone numbers because of all the features it offers for small businesses and it's fair pricing.
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Is this Business Right For You?
This business is great for entrepreneurs who understand the mindset of the average video game player and what they’re looking for in their gaming experience.
Want to know if you are cut out to be an entrepreneur?
Take our Entrepreneurship Quiz to find out!
What happens during a typical day at a game center business?
Game centers host video game players from all walks of life. Staff will spend time setting the stations up, selling merchandise, chatting with customers, researching new games, and maintaining the cleanliness of the space. Owners will need to advertise, prepare budgets, and manage employee requests and guest expectations alike.
What are some skills and experiences that will help you build a successful game center business?
Game centers will take a lot of persistence to get off the ground, so owners will need to be ready to sell their business to the public. Formal education is not necessarily required, but having experience in sales and business management will help immensely. Ideally, you should also have deep ties to the larger gaming community. This can help you determine which games to carry and what customers are looking for in a center.
What is the growth potential for a game center business?
The video game industry brought in $108.9 billion in revenue last year alone. Gaming centers are still something of a niche market, but one that’s supported by an ever-growing customer base. There is a need for a different venue for gamers to practice their skills and build a community.
Take the Next Step
Find a business mentor
One of the greatest resources an entrepreneur can have is quality mentorship. As you start planning your business, connect with a free business resource near you to get the help you need.
Having a support network in place to turn to during tough times is a major factor of success for new business owners.
Learn from other business owners
Want to learn more about starting a business from entrepreneurs themselves? Visit Startup Savant’s startup founder series to gain entrepreneurial insights, lessons, and advice from founders themselves.
Resources to Help Women in Business
There are many resources out there specifically for women entrepreneurs. We’ve gathered necessary and useful information to help you succeed both professionally and personally:
If you’re a woman looking for some guidance in entrepreneurship, check out this great new series Women in Business created by the women of our partner Startup Savant.
What are some insider tips for jump starting a game center business?
Game center owners are still in uncharted territory, and much of your success will depend on the inherent interest in your area. In neighborhoods that already have a dedicated gaming community that needs a common space, you may be able to open in an out-of-the-way location. However, most owners will likely want to open in a busy area to encourage word of mouth and general interest.
If you’re already a dedicated gamer yourself, you should be promoting your business to anyone in the area who may be interested. In fact, polling people to find out their enthusiasm level in a communal space can give you a better idea of how to structure your business model. For example, if more people are interested in straight tournaments rather than open gaming, you can coordinate your weekend events to meet demand.
In the same vein, owners will also need to find out from what angle they want to promote their business. For example, are they trying to provide gamers with a chance to meet new people and make friends? Or do they want to give gamers a platform where they can show off their skills? Obviously, people can come for both reasons, but owners should have a clear branding strategy when it comes to getting the word out.
Look for ways to attract new people into your facility whenever possible. For example, do you have a communal space where you can host more traditional card games, such as Magic the Gathering? Or can you appeal to casual video game players with amateur contests (featuring big prizes) on certain nights of the week? Parents might enjoy a night away from their children where they can engage in a fun competition. The more creative you are, the more likely it is you’ll be able to appeal to a much wider base.
How and when to build a team
You’ll need a staff to maintain daily operations from the very beginning. Look for employees who are friendly, efficient, and knowledgeable about the gaming community. As time goes by, consider hiring your most loyal customers, as they will already be familiar with the clientele and the selection.