How to Start a Game Center Business

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.

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Learn how to start your own Game Center Business and whether it is the right fit for you.


Start a game center business by following these 9 steps:

You have found the perfect business idea, and now you are ready to take the next step. There is more to starting a business than just registering it with the state. 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.

Check out our How to Start a Business page.

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:

Luckily we have done a lot of this research for you.

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.

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.

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After registering a domain name, consider setting up a professional email account (@yourcompany.com). Google's G Suite offers a business email service that comes with other useful tools, including word processing, spreadsheets, and more. Try it for free

STEP 2: Form a legal entity

The most common business structure types are the sole proprietorship, partnership, limited liability company (LLC), and corporation.

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

Have a Professional Service Form your LLC for You

Two such reliable services:

You can start an LLC yourself and pay only the minimal state LLC costs or hire one of the Best LLC Services for a small, additional fee.

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!

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You can acquire your EIN for free through the IRS website, via fax, or by mail. If you would like to learn more about EINs and how they can benefit your LLC, read our article, What is an EIN?.

Learn how to get an EIN in our What is an EIN guide or find your existing EIN using our EIN lookup guide.

Small Business Taxes

Depending on which business structure you choose, you might have different options for how your business will be taxed. For example, some LLCs could benefit from being taxed as an S corporation (S corp).

You can learn more about small business taxes in these guides:

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.

Additionally, learning how to build business credit can help you get credit cards and other financing in your business's name (instead of yours), better interest rates, higher lines of credit, and more.

Open a business bank account

  • This separates your personal assets from your company's assets, which is necessary for personal asset protection.
  • It also makes accounting and tax filing easier.
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Recommended: Read our Best Banks for Small Business review to find the best national bank, credit union, business-loan friendly banks, one with many brick-and-mortar locations, and more.

Get a business credit card

  • This helps you separate personal and business expenses by putting your business' expenses all in one place.
  • It also builds your company's credit history, which can be useful to raise money and investment later on.

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.

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:

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.

For information about local licenses and permits:

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.

Learn more about trademark and copyright protection

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.

Learn more about General Liability Insurance.

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.

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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.

Using our website building guides, the process will be simple and painless and shouldn’t take you any longer than 2-3 hours to complete.

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Recommended: Get started today using our recommended website builder or check out our review of the Best Website Builders.

Other popular website builders are: WordPress, WIX, Weebly, Squarespace, and Shopify.

Start A Game Center Business In Your State

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Select your state below for an in-depth guide on completing each of these steps in your home state.

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.

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Want to know if you are cut out to be an entrepreneur?

Take our Entrepreneurship Quiz to find out!

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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.

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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.

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:

  • Funding
  • Events
  • Guides
  • Support

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.

Next Steps

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