LAN Centers, the Rise and Fall… and Rise Again?
While the mention of LAN parties and LAN centers may bring about a feeling of nostalgia for some, they’re making their way back into the current gaming culture slowly but surely.
In the early days, LAN centers were often small, independently owned businesses that relied on word of mouth to attract customers that wanted a social gaming experience. However, as the popularity of online gaming continued to grow, larger companies began to take notice. By the mid-2000s, some major gaming companies were sponsoring LAN centers and hosting impressively large and popular events. These events had come a long way from basement LAN parties, and the industry was booming.
LAN centers became a central part of gaming in a short span of time thanks to innovation and the improvement of gaming technology, but nothing can ride the wave of innovation forever. While the allure of LAN centers had been the social factor, online gaming had become more commonplace, and gathering in centers to be part of a LAN started to slowly decline. While consoles had always been the popular at-home gaming solution, gaming PCs had started to become more obtainable and reasonably priced. The generation that had made LAN centers flourish now had their own money and could afford systems at home. With the two most valuable aspects of the business model now achievable at home, the demand for LAN centers decreased significantly.
As some centers held on throughout the years, they continued to provide the one thing you couldn’t get at home, in-person connection. Gatherings at LAN centers became a more intimate experience and often revolved around the release of new games and the accompanying parties. Then came the COVID-19 pandemic of 2020. That special in-person connection was temporarily severed during lockdown and many of the remaining LAN centers failed to keep their doors open.
While this may have looked like the end, there is still a flickering light at the end of the tunnel.
Esports and online competitive gaming has exploded in popularity over the last decade and has become a billion-dollar industry. With real money and national attention on the line, gamers have once again demanded the best technology and an in-person element to bond with teammates. Collegiate and local LAN centers have stepped up to provide for this new demand for high-end gaming equipment and the additional need for in-person social gaming experiences.
Trends and setbacks aside, the LAN center continues to offer an experience that can’t be duplicated online. The lockdown reminded us of how much personal connection is vital to us, and while the target audience might have changed, the LAN center industry still has a promising future with the rise of esports.
Do you have any LAN party stories to share?
Would you like them to become popular again? Let me know!