How to manage a gaming center: success story of the Ukrainian SaaS service that has conquered 40 countries
Cyber clubs and Lan centers started booming about 20 years ago. And today you can make millions of dollars via Counter-Strike, and ordinary small Internet cafes have transformed into cyber arenas and eSport bars with full-fledged restaurants and gift-shops. So now, the new generation of gamers prefer going to play in the eSport-bar, creating their own micro-communities.
The growth of the cyber-center industry is facilitated by global trends:
- the capitalization of the gaming industry in 2018 exceeded the performance of the movie industry – 138 against 136 billion dollars;
- the in-game shopping market is bigger than the boxing office in the whole world – 50 against $ 41 billion;
- over the next 10 years, the video game market will double, making it dominant in the entertainment industry and completely unattainable;
- The new Esportainment industry (eSports + entertainment) has appeared.
Modern arenas are being created with stages for several hundred people and large screens for tournaments. And if you also add here the hardware in the form of computers and monitors for players, it becomes clear that all this business must be properly managed.
The Ukrainian software company called ENESTECH developed the SENET cloud solution for managing its own gaming center and then monetized this SaaS service.
Today, SENET serves more than a million computers in almost a thousand cyber clubs from 40 countries. On what was the starting point, what contributed to the development and how the company is doing now, more and this is in our blog.
If you want to do something properly, do it yourself
Initially, the software was created as a solution to meet the needs of their own network of cyber centers called IT Land. The number of computers there was getting to 500, and badly needed a system that would simplify the administration and maintenance of such a large number of PCs. Its operating system turned out so successful that it became obvious – it has the potential of a full-fledged commercial product.
The first thought was to use outsource development, but the price-quality ratio was the thing that discarded this idea.
“We created the ENESTECH Software company in 2014 and our own team has already developed a solution. At that time, we had an excellent “training camp” in the form of the IT Land network, so the solution could be tested at any time,” said Oleg Krot, managing partner at TECHIIA holding, of which the ENESTECH company is also a part.
First of all, the developers changed the architecture and moved to the cloud in advance. We started from the CIS market, which we knew and understood better than others. When the number of customers who used SENET to manage their gaming centers for a long time exceeded ten, it was clear, now is the time for the product to go to the masses.
Just a couple of years ago, many of today’s ENESTECH customers used standard free of charge systems, which were essentially alarm-based applications. In addition, they are not completely safe, such software can collect user’s personal data for the purpose of further resale. For example, social networks access, game accounts and even bank details of the gamers. In the first few years, the development team had to spend on fighting the habit of using free or cracked software in centers.
“Constant modification is one of the critical success factors in the computer center business. It is crucial to update the hardware every couple of years so that the most demanding games were running smoothly, and gamers didn’t lose interest. The same story with a number of major software,” says Elchin Aliyev, CEO of ENESTECH. “Adding bigger monitors and comfortable seats, but not thinking about a reliable and functional managing system, is obviously a failed strategy. In fact, this is the heart of the club, which runs the blood through the veins of this gaming center, allows you to receive a fixed payment, see all statistics, update content on a hundred of PCs at the touch of a button from the admin panel, increase customer’s loyalty, give gamers the opportunity to book and pay for seats before going into the club and even organize their own tournaments. When a club is stuffed with cool gadgets and gaming chairs for $300, but it uses free software, it’s like if the Ferrari’s car has electronics from the old Daewoo Lanos.”
Recommendations in the market, user’s trust, availability of the trial period, optimal tariffs for using SENET, effective marketing, all these things gave an impetus to the growth in the number of customers.
It’s not enough to be just good software nowadays
The company does not consider itself to be b2b or b2c, ENESTECH creates a unique ecosystem for the club, in which it should be easy for the owner to manage the business, for the administrator to work comfortably and for the gamer to play comfortably.
SENET price rates vary by market and region. The features of the economic situation in the country, the number of connected computers, the cost per hour for a player are taken into account. Approximately the cost of the package varies from $55- $200 per club per month. Even with a very rough calculation, it turns out that the monthly cost of using SENET pays off in 2-3 hours of club operation.
Cloud technology allows owners to manage their cyber center without being physically there. You can be on the beach in another hemisphere and watch the club’s load or cash flow in real-time from your smartphone, while there is no possibility to pay “off the register”. You can collect more ambitious statistics, conduct promotions, create your own loyalty program. SENET offers its customers quite a wide range of possibilities of customization and monetization, increase profits by using additional features.
Club employees, like system administrators, cashiers, technicians – derive their value from SENET. Remote control and centralization of the system allow them to update software and games on all computers in one click, solve problems by connecting a 24-hour SENET support specialist to their monitor, which ultimately increases their efficiency and reduces costs.
The company also cares about gamers and improves their user experience. By creating your own account, a gamer, on the one hand, gets access to a loyalty program, which can reduce the cost per hour depending on the total amount of time spent playing a game (similar to airline miles), and on the other, can participate in tournaments.
The tournament module integrated into SENET allows gaming centers to connect to WePlay! Esports tournaments or even create their own tournaments for gamers.
Online booking of a PC allows a customer to reserve it in advance, pay for their favorite place, come and start the game on their own without the help form administrator.
Shops, which have become an invariable attribute of the modern computer club, also work in both directions. The owner and cashiers control the sale of goods and their stock, and a gamer through the ShopShell module can buy a Coke, sandwich or merchandise not interrupting the game.
The ENESTECH team has more than 70 specialists from 12 countries: Ukrainians, Americans, Azerbaijanis, Pakistanis, Ecuadorians, Turks, Colombians, Russians. This benefits 24/7 customer support to provide help on the customer’s language. SENET already has localization in seven languages.
In addition to the development of cloud software, the company has a hardware direction – a patented device for game consoles has no analogs in the world. The main advantage is that PlayStation or Xbox can be connected and managed along with your PC’s in a single club admin panel. All thanks to the SENET controller.
What future holds
A computer club is no longer a business for renting a PC. It is rather a format of recreation and entertainment, competing with home comfort and coziness.
“People go to restaurants and cinema while having well-equipped kitchens and large TVs at home. The same idea underlies the modern cuber center. People come here not only to play, but also to spend time with friends, eat, sometimes even smoke a hookah, and relax after school or a workday,” underlines Elchin Aliyev.
Clubs are increasingly merging with the HoReCa sphere. The bar in the club can bring 30-40% of revenue.
The sales of eSports souvenirs and accessories is quite a big part of the revenue as well. Computer mice, rugs, backpacks, T-shirts with symbolics, stuffed toys in the form of heroes from your favorite computer game.
The universe of computer clubs today is very diverse and has its own specifics in each country.
There are three most popular types of sites:
- Huge ones. Cyberarens, a large network of clubs, franchises with eSports shows and tournaments.
- Medium. With very high-quality hardware, but a limited number of PCs and several clubs in the network
- Small ones. Internet cafes with several PCs and copy centers.
The first type is growing fast and in demand more than others. For example, in Europe, cocktails and disco bars are popular, which have a dance hall and a gaming PC room. One of the most famous franchises is Meltdown, it already has 22 clubs in Europe and is constantly updated with new discoveries.
Large networks and franchises for 50-100 clubs attract large sponsors like Nvidia and Logitech and rely on competitions and cooperation with eSports organizations.
A new and rather peculiar market is eSports faculties, which are massively being opened in many Western universities and which need to administer their PC’s. And today, some of them are testing SENET for effective management of computer classes.
The most interesting market for ENESTECH is Southeast Asia, where the cyber-clubbing culture is unique and has been developing most intensively and for the longest. Elchin Aliyev believes that no standard functionality can cover both the legendary Korean PC bangs and Japanese “cafes for the homeless” at the same time, so they are going to modify the product for success in this market.
Cyber center as an investment
Pretty much soon computer clubs will compete with movie theaters. Can’t believe it? Then imagine that someone telling you 5-7 years ago that you would go to the gas station to grab a cup of coffee. Cinemas around the world broadcast tournaments in various disciplines. Multiplex has sold out numerous times for Dota2 finals.
Experts estimate the number of spectators of eSports events at 394.6 million people. Multiplex even created its own computer club as a pilot project, which will eventually grow into a network. This is logical if a teenager has UAH 50 for small expenses, then he will not have enough for a movie ticket, though it will be enough for a couple of hours in the game center.
Starting with a computer club management solution, ENESTECH went further. 10 years of experience in managing their own centers and accumulated expertise guarantee customers high-quality business consulting. Upon request, the company’s specialists can develop a business plan, a strategy for opening, managing and promoting the club, offer PCs and components at reasonable prices through partnerships with manufacturers and distributors.
ENESTECH offers a full construction option. The first customer was Force Arena in Lutsk – the largest establishment in Western Ukraine. And the cloud solution of the service allows anyone to expand the business of cyber clubs into hundreds of computers in Mexico or Australia in a matter of days, and sometimes even hours.
Opening a club with 30 gaming places will cost an average of $50,000. Calculating the average club possibilities, you will learn that such a project can pay off in up to 2 years.
In fact, there are not so many computer centers in Ukraine, this niche is not competitive and starting a business here is much easier and cheaper than opening a coffee shop or barbershop. At the same time, Ukraine is consistently included in the world’s top 10 countries for the achievements of eSportsmen. The development and creation of new arenas is inevitable, and progress in this direction should occur within a few years, which can already be seen in countries with similar situations and market conditions in this area.