Myung Kim has started a new venture few others would dare to try these days — open a video game arcade.
Arcades went out of fashion back in the late 1990s when video game consoles were finally able to replicate the arcade experience right in the user’s living room.
Gaming aficionados will either credit or blame Sega’s Dreamcast, unveiled in 1998, as being responsible for the ultimate demise of video arcades, once a staple at practically every mall in America.
But Kim has hope he can offer up an experience the living room can’t by getting people out of their homes and into downtown San Mateo for a little social interaction.
Kim quietly opened the Gamecenter on B Street over a week ago and has already attracted a core of gamers who love to compete.
The draw to the Gamecenter now is the latest version of a video game called "Gundam vs. Gundam,” currently available only in Japan and at one other arcade in Texas called Arcade UFO.
Kim’s plan is to stock the Gamecenter with rare, unique games that cannot be found anywhere else.
He also intends to rent out gaming consoles by the hour so large groups can have a go at an afternoon of playing John Madden football or racing games.
San Mateo resident Pavo Miskic, 21, is a competitive gamer who has been eagerly waiting for Kim to open the Gamecenter.
"I had to drive for at least an hour to find good competition,” Miskic said Wednesday.
Miskic is an expert at "Street Fighter,” which Kim features at Gamecenter.
Kim, 26, has opened the arcade just as a retail video game shop down the street is set to close later this month.
Orlando and Misty Megia opened Play N Trade on B Street in downtown San Mateo four years ago but they are closing its doors June 26.
Spending money on video games is something people are doing less of in the poor economy, Misty Megia said.
"The economy has made saving money a much higher priority for consumers today than anything else, which is completely understandable but threatens every small business that has to compete with larger chain stores,” she told the Daily Journal.
Last week, market researcher NPD Group said retail revenue from game systems, software and accessories fell 14 percent in May to $743 million, the lowest monthly figure for sales in the United States since October 2006. Hardware revenue fell 5 percent to $229 million, while game revenue fell 19 percent from a year earlier to $376 million, according to NPD.
A new video game title typically retails for $50 or more.
The Megias offered their customers local, national and international tournaments at Play N Trade along with private gaming parties.
Now, though, there is a "for lease” sign on the window at Play N Trade while the Megias are making deep discounts on the remainder of their inventory.
While Orlando Megia is preparing to close Play N Trade, he has also assisted in bringing the Gamecenter to life, Kim said.
"Orlando was very helpful with this project,” said Kim, who is a former game developer for mobile devices.
Kim was inspired to open the Gamecenter after visiting Japan, the land of seven-story video arcades.
Arcades are a place where total strangers with shared hobbies can meet and interact with each other, Kim said.
The arcade does not open until 3 p.m. though because Kim does not want to deal with any students skipping school to play video games.
"I want to avoid any truancy issues,” he said.
The Gamecenter will stay open to midnight during the week and 1 a.m. Saturdays.
There is a culture around gaming, Kim said, who hopes it will find a home in downtown San Mateo.
Bill Silverfarb can be reached by email: firstname.lastname@example.org or by phone: (650) 344-5200 ext. 106.