The redesigned Viking Gameroom has to make $100,000 by the end of the year for the budget to break even, after low Xbox and computer game rentals have forced workers to consider changes to the program. The game room did not meet the university’s budget expectations during its first six months, pulling in close to $30,000.
The redesigned Viking Gameroom has to make $100,000 by the end of the year for the budget to break even, after low Xbox and computer game rentals have forced workers to consider changes to the program.
The game room did not meet the university’s budget expectations during its first six months, pulling in close to $30,000. The revenue for the game room, to cover salaries, maintenance and equipment costs is expected to be about $130,000 for the entire school year.
“We take a look at budgets really hard at six months,” said John Eckman, associate director for Auxiliary Services. “[We need to] look at a way to get at the core problems.”
The game room is supposed to be self-supporting, and if the program does not make up its cost, budget cuts or increased prices are likely. Known as Viking Bowl and Billiards, the Gameroom saw a redesign in August that added over $30,000 worth of 12 networked computers, four Xbox 360s projected onto 10-foot screens and furnishings to the Smith Memorial Student Union basement location that already had a bowling alley and billiards.
The game room was redesigned in August of last year to include Xboxes and computers because of diminishing interest in the arcade and pinball machines that were in the space. Because arcade machines, maintained and purchased by a private contractor who shared profits with the university were not making enough revenue, Eckman and other auxiliary staff looked to the Xboxes and computers as a solution.
He said that despite the lower-than-expected revenues, the revamped game room is seeing better performance than in previous years.
“Overall the game room is still very successful and more so than in previous years,” Eckman said.
The revenue for the Viking Gameroom is tracked by assessing individual aspects of the room: bowling, billiards and the video game equipment. Bowling and billiards are expected to meet profit goals, but Aaron Faw, Viking Gameroom manager, said that it is unlikely the video game hardware will meet profit goals unless changes are made. He said Auxiliary Services has been pushing for an increase in revenues in the game room.
Eckman said Auxiliary Services is currently examining business processes like hourly fees and advertising to make sure that they are working properly. He said that the remodeling of the basement hallways near the game room should attract more students downstairs in Smith, but Auxiliary Services is expecting it will take some time for the new game room to attract more students and in turn revenue.
“We don’t expect it to be what it should be for five years,” Eckman said.
Revenue for the game room is up $10,000 from what it was last year during winter term, but increased expenditures and set-up costs for the new game equipment means that the game room must increase revenue to compensate. Faw said it is difficult to bring in customers with the game room’s location and lack of advertising, which Faw said he takes responsibility for.
“I need to be doing a lot better job,” Faw said. “My marketing skills are sadly lacking.”
The game room currently advertises in only a few places on campus: one poster in each stairwell of the Smith Center and a sign placed outside the building.
Faw said he wants to start dispersing flyers all over campus, especially in student dormitories, which he said is a major market. He said he told Residence Life that each resident assistant gets a two-hour free party for students on their floor, but not many have utilized that service.
Auxiliary Services is considering a price increase for Xbox and computer rentals. Prices currently are $3.60 per hour for students, staff and alumni and $4.20 per hour for the general public.
Faw said he is advocating to keep the same prices to not alienate users. Auxiliary Services and the Viking Gameroom have not decided on any options for increased prices.
Emir Sadek, a PSU student who rents the Xboxes regularly, said he uses the game system about twice a week at three hours a time, costing him about $20 dollars a week. He said he would think twice about using the game room if prices went up, and said he is holding out for prices to go down.
“Prices are already really high,” Sadek said. “There’s only a certain amount of change in your pockets.”
If the game room does not increase its revenues, the university will have to look at the business model and make changes, according to Donald Forsythe, assistant director for Auxiliary Services. He said the first changes would be to increase advertising, and then, if necessary, to make budgetary cuts including labor changes, hiring less staff and decreasing hours of operations.
Forsythe said programs that are underperforming could be shut down, but said that because the game room is in its first year of the new design, it should remain running.
“No one in auxiliary is ready to give up on this model,” Forsythe said. “There’s a lot of excitement in this venture.”
The remodel of the game room cost about $30,000, according to Eckman-$10,000 from Auxiliary Services and $20,000 from the Students Technology Access Group and the Student Fee Committee. If the game room fails to make up what it was budgeted, money will have to come out of Smith Memorial Student Union budget.
Although the center has been open since August, the Viking Gameroom will have its official grand opening Thursday, Feb. 8.