My first interaction with eBash occurred during a Gears of War tournament in February of 2007. I had not previously traveled to any well known LAN centers in the Midwest, essentially this was my first experience in a video game center. My initial impressions were probably overly enthusiastic largely due in part to my team’s first place performance in the tournament, but I still walked away impressed.
The doors opened for eBash in December of 2004 after months of hard work and planning by many people. Founder Zack Johnson along with many other volunteers remodeled an old warehouse and office space to initially provide 14 Xbox stations and 14 gaming computers. The grand opening on December 10th, 2004 weekend featured a 48-straight party, meaning 48 hours of non-stop gaming. This has become a bi-annual event at eBash along with many other tournaments and game release parties. eBash continues to grow and strive to meet their goal to be The most desirable Video Gamer Center in rural America.
Terre Haute, Indiana revolves around several major streets in the city. In order of importance and common knowledge among Terre Haute residents, these major streets include US 41 or Third Street, Wabash, and 7th St. eBash is located on US 41/3rd Street about a mile from one of the largest and busiest interstates in the state, Interstate 70. The current location is a prime factor for much of the companies success after moving out of the older building in 2006. Navigating to the store for locals is relatively simple – 3rd Street is the busiest street in the city and has numerous retailers littered on the north and south of the street. The out-of-towners even have it easy due to Insterstate 70′s proximity to the gaming center and the obvious fact that 3rd Street is a highway in itself.
As stated in the company history, eBash began with 14 Xbox stations and 14 custom built gaming computers. Those numbers have drastically improved over the course of six years and shows no signs of letting up. The current game system hardware count is the following:
- Xbox 360: 56
- Gaming PC: 34
- Nintendo Wii: 2
- Sony PS3: 2
The amount of gaming seats in the building is baffling to those looking at the building from a sheer gaming standpoint. Every square inch of space is strategically highlighted with system placement that fits well with each type of gamer. After several discussions with founder, Zack Johnson there may be plans to integrate more of Sony’s Playstation 3 systems sometime in 2010.
In Summer of 2009, the company began buying, selling, and trading video games and equipment – a feat not many LAN centers have accomplished with a great deal of success. One obvious, negative side effect of adding the retail component to their layout is that it looks completely out of place. Upon entering the building you will immediately notice the lobby area of the store house two island shelving units that display a tacky mixture of Nintendo Wii, DS, Sony PSP, PS2, and PS3 games. The display can obscure view to any curious, new customers walking in to the building and the color scheme of the units do not flow well with the rest of the center. The space between each shelf is too close and uncomfortable when more than two people are browsing an isle.
Along the left hallway of the building, the much larger gaming library of Xbox 360 games is displayed on a wall-mounted shelving unit. The large number of games looks amazing along the wall, however it is not visible unless customers are immediately directed by that area by eBash staff members.
Overall the retail component needs to be thoroughly revised and revamped with an equal or greater emphasis as the gaming component.
Under the Hood
The internet speeds at eBash can at times perform blazing fast speed tests, but overall it is extremely inconsistent. The center is running on a Wireless T3 connection provided by Joink with bandwidth speeds around 15 mbps download and 7-10 mbps upload. During the busier times of the week, usually weekends and holidays, the internet connection is not stable enough for reaction based multi-player games on the PS3, Xbox 360, or PC. These usually include first or third-person shooters and sports games…so World of Warcraft players are still in the clear.
The gaming equipment is suitable for most casual gamers, but the hardcore crowd may want to bring their own controllers or mouse pads. A quick walk-through from station-to-station will garner different nuisances ranging from loose or worn analog sticks, bad buttons, to sticky Xbox 360 disc trays – a sign of extreme overuse. Despite some malfunctions with controllers and Xbox 360s, the monitors and LCD televisions are all in great condition. One major flaw with many game centers is the lack of consistency with brands of monitors and televisions. This flaw is not a factor and is duely noted that mismatched equipment does not improve the gaming experience!
Many of the rooms have a color-based theme to readily identify where customers are able to sit and play. More recently, the gaming center added theme-based rooms with a focus on gaming products. The most recent, the Tritton room provides each station with Tritton gaming headsets that amplify the gaming experience for customers. The concept becomes much more intricate to the eBash model with the introduction of retail and may prove fruitful for both companies trying to sample their products and consumers testing equipment before purchases.
One of the biggest X-Factors that sets eBash apart from other game centers is the regional pull garnered from their tournament related events. Prior to Major League Gaming‘s introduction of Gears of War to the Pro Circuit in the summer of 2007, eBash was the only major tournament organizer in the Midwest for any console game other than Halo. Some events ushered in players from as far west as California and as far south as Florida. This trend has continued to progress almost coincidentally with the explosion of MLG on the competitive gaming scene.
The success of eBash’s tournament events in part led to the creation ggCircuit; an attempt for LAN centers to work together on bigger gaming events. The continued success of major tournament events is going to coincide with large scale, successful competitive titles such as Call of Duty Modern Warfare 2 and Major League Gaming’s growth. If MLG is the “majors,” LAN centers could be the minor leagues and eBash is currently the best minor league team out there.
End of the Day
It is no secret that the Terre Haute eBash is an industry leader among LAN Centers. Zack Johnson has been invited to speak at several iGames conventions in effort to pick his brain about what makes a video game center successful. Anyone interested in a superb gaming experience with a group of friends, eBash is definitely the place to play. The company will need to figure out the retail portion of their model with the correct implementation to ensure it succeeds. Should they figure it out and have everything in motion by Fall of 2010, GameStop may have to watch out! The ability to play a game, use a high end gaming headset, mouse, keyboard or any other gaming peripheral before purchasing it — you do the math.
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