Gaming café during the isolation period: how our survival turned into profit
We continue sharing translations based on original stories from the Russian IT-community Habr.com. This time an owner of a gaming café which was forced to temporarily close down during the COVID-19 pandemic tells about his experience with the decentralized Playkey network.
Here is the link to the original publication: https://habr.com/ru/post/498680/
We sincerely thank Uluru for his permission to publish this translation!
Looks like decentralization is taking over the Russian internet segment. Just not too long ago I discovered an article titled “Monetizing gaming: running several servers in the decentralized network, hardware owner perspective” on Habr. Then I realized that I work with the same decentralized network. Although I did not even attempt mining and I run a gaming cafe. Just last year in October I opened a gaming cafe 59FPS. It was intended to become a local eSports arena and things were going reasonably well until… Well, I don’t think I need to explain the ongoing health crisis. Below you can find a story how the gaming cafe manages to survive and generate profit even now thanks to decentralized gaming.
How the gaming cafe came to be
I have been the head of the local branch of Russian eSports Federation. We had been working for a good while but there was a constant lack of an arena to host eSports competitions and championships. So, eventually I ended up establishing such a platform myself. After all, the best way to get something done is to do it yourself. And this is how we established a venue with powerful hardware and comfortable gaming gear.
Based on the feedback we received from the visitors after the opening, we got it right.
The place is not very spacious with just 20 gaming spaces, which are well equipped to match the needs of eSports players and assure comfortable gaming. The space is arranged with the eSports championships and training for competitions in mind.
Here are the hardware specs:
- CPU AMD Ryzen 5 3600. 6 cores clocked at 3.6 GHz.
- RAM DDR4 16GB PC4–21300 2666MHz Corsair, 2 x 8 GB.
- VGA Palit GeForce RTX 2060 SUPER JS PCI-E 3.0 8192 MB.
- Network connection — 500 Mbps.
Working during the pandemy
We had customers coming since the very first day. And it was no surprise to us. Gaming cafes have been around for quite a while and are not going away any time soon. There is still a great number of people who visit such venues because they value team spirit and enjoy gaming right next to their teammates and maybe even opponents. And there are also occasional visitors who stop by to play or just watch other people play.
All in all, we were doing great. Unfortunately, just as I mentioned, the place was opened in October, so we were able to run business normally only for a couple of months.
Even after the news about the pandemy in EU and Russia made headlines (but before the self-isolation was forced by the government), we still had visitors coming. There were days when we would see much fewer visitors, but on average the business was going just as usual. Even our revenue saw no significant changes.
Unfortunately, I was forced to close down the place on the 28th of March. I was hoping we would be given a chance to work the full month until the end of March (March 30th was the official beginning of the self-isolation period). And yet, on the 28th of March when we had a few players participating in the qualifying matches for the federal level eSports competitions, we had the police officers reminding us that we need to close down the place. Naturally, all the competitions now are held online.
In search for the new opportunities
With the gaming cafe close down I ended up in a rather awkward situation. My business was no longer profitable, moreover I was losing money. There were bills to pay, rent and other maintenance expenses. So, I started looking for a way to make money on what was left. The hardware and high speed internet connection.
Many gaming cafes made plans to rent out the physical hardware to users. We also decided to give it a try and started accepting requests for such machines. Luckily, we decided to go the smart way and check the people who requested the hardware. 5 out of 6 people who applied had debts and those debts would remain unchanged or even grow for years. This was likely due to the fact that such people had no job or other stable sources of income. This meant that in case certain parts of PCs or even entire machines would go missing, even with the court’s decision we would not have any way to get back the cost of the PCs. The risk was just too much to take and I opted out of this.
I managed to find a suitable solution rather quickly. In the community of gaming cafe owners we already had discussions going on about decentralized gaming networks. Drova and Playkey were mentioned the most. And since these servers were considerably safer I decided to give one a try.
I went with Playkey just because their head office was located in Perm, my home city. However, there was one more reason. I also wanted to give gamers from my city a chance to compete in various online events.
Connecting to the network
I filled in the form on the website and was contacted immediately. We started working on connecting the hardware. and although there were certain issues, they were quickly resolved thanks to the very resourceful support team. The biggest issue I had was the fact that my machines were powered by AMD CPUs. These are quite an uncommon sight in gaming hardware, so setting them up took a little longer. I also had to take out my M.2 SSDs as they were interfering with the Playkey software. Turns out, the client was based on CentOS which had no support for this type of SSD. Fortunately, a kernel update solved the issue and the need to take out M.2 SSDs disappeared.
The servers connected to the decentralized network are nodes that are available to gamers, who connect to play in the cloud. When the closest to the gamer node is found it is connected and the game is launched. This way gamers get faster response and experience closer to games being run natively, whereas the node owner and the service make a profit.
How much does the gaming cafe make with the service?
Each machine earns $50 a month and that is a fixed sum. So 20 machines set up in the network generate $1000 income per month.
That is with about 6–10 hours of use time for each machine every day.
However, about 60% of that sum is spent on paying the bills and covering other expenses that still exist even during the isolation period. This leaves me with about $400 of profit. This is a fair amount of money, and that is especially great in the current situation. The business is making money, which means that we’ll be able to continue business as usual once the self isolation period ends and people will come back to gaming and training.
In my opinion, decentralized networks will continue developing as they’re beneficial to all parties, the services that run them, gamers and hardware owners. Essentially, my gaming cafe is full of people even now, although their presence here is virtual. And if you happen to be from Perm, the location is Sovetskaya Street, 3, next to the “Zavod Shpagina” media space.