Sat, 29 Apr 2000

PlayStation rental houses boom in Jakarta

By Hera Diani

JAKARTA (JP): The economic meltdown, which is yet to completely recover, has had its good side. It has at least inspired people from all walks of life to think about different ways to make ends meet in order to weather the economic struggle.

In the early days of the crisis, which started in mid-1997, many Jakartans, including movie stars, singers and those who had just lost their jobs, risked investing in the street cafe business, which has since lost its appeal.

Over the past few months, the capital has witnessed a new business trend which has been mushrooming rapidly at places near schools, university campuses and housing complexes.

The local entrepreneurs call them "Play Station Rental". And yes, they are all in English.

The businesses offer PlayStation enthusiasts a chance to play a wide range of games on the provided television sets and PlayStation players for between Rp 2,500 (30 U.S. cents) and Rp 4,500 per hour.

One can see a flock of the game centers, for example, near the Gunadarma University and along several alleys off Jl. Akses UI Raya in the Kelapa Dua area in the southern part of the city.

"It's a profitable business," Sari, the owner of the Gamezone game center located on the site, told The Jakarta Post early this week.

The number of places in the area running this type of business totals more than 20.

A similar sight can be seen near a university campus in the Kemanggisan area of West Jakarta.

People residing in housing complexes in the capital can now see at least one newly opened PlayStation game center in their neighborhood.

The capital one needs to run the Japanese electronic game rental outlet depends on the targeted monthly earning. With a four-meter-by-four-meter space, carpeting or a set of cheap chairs, four PlayStation players, which cost about Rp 1 million each, four televisions at about Rp 3 million each for a 20-inch set, and about 300 CD games at Rp 5,000 each for pirated versions, one can make some Rp 3 million a month.

A person does not need a permit to run the business, nor pay any taxes.

Operational expenses include electricity, wages for an assistant and repairs for game sticks or players if they break down.

Most PlayStation game centers are packed with teenagers, particularly on weekends. Hands are busy on the sticks and eyes are fixed on the screen as they play the popular virtual games of various action and sports situations.

Games such as Tekken, Final Fantasy, Gran Turismo, Sensible Soccer and Metal Gear Solid have become the most favorite games available and many rental operators must have several copies on hand to please their customers.

Sari and her husband, a company employee, modified their five- meter-by-six-meter garage to run their new business, which was the first in the area, two years ago with a Rp 35 million budget.

The capital was used to purchase 10 20-inch TV sets, 10 PlayStation players, complete with sticks, plus some 700 CD games.

Setting the rental price at Rp 2,500 per hour and open for 24 hours, the business in the family's garage grew rapidly with an average income of Rp 400,000 per day.

Although Sari's Gamezone is still the most popular PlayStation game center in the area, the growing number of new competitors has affected her daily revenue.

"We now get about Rp 150,000 a day as there has been so many new competitors around here and people have their own PlayStations at home," Sari said loudly over the noise of games being played in the garage, which has been painted in blue.

Some other operators, including students of nearby Gunadarma University, have rented houses for about Rp 5 million to Rp 9 million a year from locals to run their business.

Student Yulius Riza, for example, and one of his friends pooled their money to invest in a business in the area. In September last year, they opened their BUM PlayStation game center with nine player sets.

"Within a span of five months, we have gotten our money back," he said.

By charging customers at Rp 3,000 per hour during the day and Rp 2,500 at night, the two students can earn between Rp 150,000 and Rp 270,000 a day.

The main target of the new business is quite clear: Gunadarma students, who spend an average of three hours playing the games.

"Sometimes they can play up to five hours at a time," Yulius said.

Febry, a freshman at Gunadarma who also owns a PlayStation player at home, acknowledged playing games at the game outlet almost every day.

"I come here to spend one to two hours during my break between classes," he said.

For high school students, the games often become a sort of addiction.

Fahrian, Lani and Akbar, students from SMP 111 Junior High School in Kemanggisan, West Jakarta, said they often stopped by the nearby Tekken PlayStation game center after school at about 5 p.m.

"But only for two hours at the most," Lani, who also owns a PlayStation at home, said on Wednesday.

"It's more fun to play together with friends," he said, pointing to Fahrian and Akbar.

Gunawan, the owner of the outlet, said that parents often came to pick up their sons who had played for hours.

"Sometimes teenage boys play up to five hours," he said, adding that he charged Rp 4,500 for the first hour and Rp 4,000 for each hour afterwards.

Gunawan, a bank employee who started his business one and a half months ago with Rp 33 million to buy eight players and TV sets, hoped that he would break even within seven months.

He spent another Rp 12 million to rent the five-meter-by-six- meter space near the SMP 111 and Bina Nusantara University for the year.

Currently, he makes at least Rp 150,000 per day.

A similar outlet called PlayStation Rental is located near Gunawan's.

Here, some parents were seen picking up their sons.

"College students and adults often come here too, especially on weekends," said Jack, an employee of the outlet which has five game players.

"We earn about Rp 100,000 a day," he said.