Tuesday, August 31, 2010
E-Bash is a LAN center, kinda a 21st century video game arcade. (It's overexposed but I think my wife and son are actually in this picture, it was taken on the right day ...)
E-Bash was founded in Terre Haute in 2004, by Zach Johnson, and kicked off with a 48 hour straight non-stop gaming party, 14 xboxes, 14 gaming computers and presumably an awful lot of Mountain Dew. The basic business model of E-Bash is to have a whole lot of gaming consoles of many different kinds, many video and computer games available, and to charge by the hour to play as much as you want. It's cheaper the more hours you buy at once, and plenty of kids seem to hang out there quite a bit. They were in a converted warehouse for a few years, but have been in prime retail space on 3rd street since 2006. Having many video game systems in one location makes it quite convenient for tournaments, or other forms of social gaming. But clearly one of their real niches is as a drop-off baby-sitting center for older kids. Another neat thing you can do is pay for only an hour or two and try out a whole bunch of video games to see if you want to buy any of them. Our kids have been there with a cub scout troop once, and asked to have their birthday party there once, and both worked well. Every time I've been in I've seen elementary students, middle school students, and high school students all playing. Sometimes there are older folk (other than the workers), and other times there aren't. The founder's blog claims that the average age of their users is 14. VIPs get a special discount on gaming all night Friday night, so that must be pretty popular. Once a month they do a "lock-in" where you can game all night on one of their systems for 15$ or bring your own in and play all night for 5$, or all day Friday, pizza for dinner, and all night for 30$. It is a fairly male place, but I know at least one young couple that gamed together all Friday night once, as an alternative to the standard dinner and movie, and said they enjoyed it greatly. The whole place runs security footage continuously, and has a fairly detailed check-in/check-out procedure. Why would someone want to play video games at a LAN center rather than at home? The area is split into 9 private rooms and plenty of gaming up in the lobby. And yes you can buy plenty of classic gamer concessions there, candy, chips, pizza, and of course Mountain Dew, which the founder's blog claims is their biggest concession seller by a long shot.
E-bash is actually a chain, and now has a location in Evansville too, but it started here in Terre Haute. It was the first video game center of it's kind that I had ever encountered, and I thought, at first, that E-bash might have been innovative at the business model level, as well as a cool, local Terre Haute business, created recently and owned and run by locals. It turns out that LAN centers are kinda an outgrowth of Internet Cafe's which have been around for almost 2 decades. By 1998-1999ish, some of the Internet Cafes in China and South Korea started looking a lot like a modern LAN center, and were called PC Bangs. But opening in 2004, E-Bash must have been one of the early LAN centers in the United States, not exactly inventing the format, but pioneering it into fairly untested markets. It took courage, money, technical know how, business sense, and well an innovative heart to open this gamer-land here in Terre Haute and keep it running and expanding for 6 years. Well, for a lot of reasons, but at root it is all about making video gaming a social experience rather than a solitary one. Scratch the surface and E-Bash is all about community building. That's why it's easy for me to say that E-Bash is
Just one more reason I'm proud of Terre Haute.