It’s early evening at Press Start Gaming Center, and business partners Andy Reanrungroch and Bryant Dietz are at ease as they enjoy the slow period of the day; the hour or two after the younger players go home but before the nighttime walk-ins and organized gamers begin filling seats. The center has only been open a month, and everything still bears the squeaky clean shine of recent unpacking. A board advertising a Dec. 21 grand opening tournament (grand prize: the console of your choice) greets guests as they enter, while PS4s, Xbox Ones, and monitors sit in a cluster of octagonal tables. The space has a BYOC (bring your own console) area.
Sitting on barstools, Andy, Bryant, and I chat backstory, video games, and Las Vegas.
What’s the story behind Press Start Gaming Center? How did it come to be?
The idea for started six years ago as a place geared as a video game lounge – rather than your traditional (local area network) – built around community, culture and atmosphere where everyone feels welcome. There is a lack of things to do for young people here in Vegas so the concept was to socialize the gaming experience by having a wide open floor plan for spectating and hanging out alongside gameplay. Basically the idea of PSG was to be an alternative to the movie theatre, pool hall and go-carts for younger casual gamers, while providing state of the art tech and internet speeds more hardcore gamers could appreciate as well. We thought the timing was right with the release of two brand new consoles so we pulled our heads together and here we are.
So what’s the hardware setup? What led you to choose console-based gameplay over a more traditional (for LAN centers) PC outfit?
PSG has 15 Xbox Ones and 15 PS4’s with all current titles available to play. All the systems are hooked up to BenQ official MLG gaming monitors ready to LAN and play online. The large tables were custom built with gaming in mind. Our larger monitors seat two for sports games and fighting games, while the smaller monitors on the octagon tables are made for first person shooters and solo play. One octagon table is wide open for BYOC or BYOPC for now. Soon we will get into the realm of adding PCs but for now, with these next gen consoles being so fresh we thought it would be best to pull our resources together and concentrate on that for the wow factor effect we want to have on our new customers.
How do you handle Xbox Live and PSN accounts? Can players use their own logins, or does each machine have it’s own account?
Each system has its own PSG account so anyone can play online, but if a customer has their own account it’s very simple to sign in and play under that and delete it when they are done. There is an option to keep asking for password as well. We have a few regular customers that like to keep their accounts on our system but no one can access it. The nice thing now is everything is cloud based, so if someone plays Call Of Duty for example, their achievements move with the account and data is not stored on PSG consoles.
Do Microsoft or Sony make any concessions for the LAN owner, allowing for bulk purchases or account management?
We are too new and small for Microsoft and Sony. We paid full price for all the systems, although Sony was a little more helpful through their business department and allowed us to preorder all our systems at once. With Microsoft we had to create different email accounts and purchase Xbox Ones on separate transactions which was a hassle, but it all worked out in the end. Game publishers have not been any help either. We pay full retail for the games most of the time, with some small help from a local business that saved us a couple bucks on each game, but every little bit helps and we are appreciative.
Now that you’ve been open for a few weeks, how has the response been?
The response so far has been amazing and we are truly grateful for our customers. They have been very supportive by taking flyers, offering shwag, making signs for us and coming back again and again with new friends. I hope they all realize how much this helps as we try to really get our name out in the community and establish ourselves as a successful business. The FGC [fighting game community] has been very supportive as well. We host Wednesday night casuals that have been drawing 30-60 people every week. When we see them having a good time here it really puts a smile on our faces.
What’re the most popular games so far? Between the Xbox One and PS4, is either a clear preference among players?
Call of Duty Ghosts, Battlefield 4 and Killer Instinct have been the most popular games with customers so far, with FIFA close behind. There has also been a good following for Lego Marvel and Super Mario 3D World on the Wii U. System favorites has been a tossup. You have your die-hard PlayStation fans and Xbox fans, then everyone in the middle that wants to check out both systems.
Many cities have robust gaming communities, most often represented in the fighting game tournament scene but extending out to other genres as well. What is the Las Vegas gaming community like?
From our short time in business, it seems like the Las Vegas gaming community in general is disbanded. There seems to be small niche groups that have LAN parties but there doesn’t seem to be a sense of community and the response we have gotten is because there’s no central place to go.
Yeah, especially for the under 21 crowd. How do you see PSG changing that?
We want to help put Las Vegas on the map. As people learn about PSG we will host more and more tournaments and events for all groups and hope this puts fire in the hearts of Las Vegas gamers to step up their competitive spirits. We would like these Las Vegas gamers to call PSG home and we’re excited about the possibility of sponsoring Vegas teams for national events, but it’s way too early. We are just dreaming about that at this point.
CHRIS AINSWORTH is a native Las Vegan and a tech dilettante. Find him on Twitter (@driph) or at driph.com. The PRESS START GAMING CENTER is at 4840 S. Fort Apache Road, #100. www.psglv.com.