Video gamers find niche bringing the fun to you


POSTED: Thursday, June 11, 2009

Combine four guys with video games and the first thought that springs to mind is probably not “;successful business venture.”; Nevertheless, Mobile Gamer Guys LLC seems to be just that, a little more than a year out of the chute.

Inspired by a mainland franchise offering trailers tricked out with video games and monitors, the local partners created their own business model for Hawaii, said co-owner Kalani Miller.

Miller, Shawn Haruno and Caesar Paet started the business and were later joined by Chris Gongora. The latter had demonstrated a knack for sales, marketing and promotion almost to the point of hoarseness, Miller chuckled. All still have their day jobs.

The partners initially wanted a large tour-bus-type motorcoach. However, realizing they wouldn't need a commercial drivers license for the used airport shuttle buses they were looking at, they bought two. More purchases are being explored for expansion to Maui, Kona and beyond, said Miller. Each bus has eight built-in Xbox 360 consoles and TV monitors and upholstered seats — and can be networked for bus-versus-bus competition, depending on the game.

“;There's no screen-cheating, or looking over someone's shoulder,”; Miller said.

Teams can converse without the others listening in, as happens in a living room, while sharing a split-screen monitor.

MGG “;can do tournaments anywhere on the island,”; Miller said.

The buses can be rented individually and each has a separate large screen that can be hooked up to a Nintendo Wii for more physically active game play under a tent outside. The extra screen also can be hooked up to DISH Network, if a different sort of game-time coincides with the kids' party.

“;We're in talks with some corporations”; interested in hiring the buses for team-building events, he said.

MGG also will bring a bus out to community-type fundraising events, charge attendees for five-minute rounds of play and give 30 percent of proceeds to the organization.

Miller's history of running video gaming tournaments goes back to 2006 and he remains passionate about it as part of the business. MGG is developing GPODS, or gamer portable on-demand stations. The eight-gamer “;pods”; can be wheeled into, say, a ballroom for a private event. Players can sit on opposing sides, or screens can be flipped around so the unit can be backed up to a wall.

Starting July 4, MGG has 17 Saturdays and 10 Sundays booked due to its Call of Duty video game tournament in conjunction with CVS Caremark and Longs Drugs.

Many customers are taking advantage of cheaper weekday rates, starting at $150 an hour for a two-hour party, Miller said. Single- and dual-bus rates are detailed on the MGG Web site.

Saturday morning, the company wraps up its 2009 High School Guitar Hero World Tour Video Game Challenge, in conjunction with KDNN-FM 98.5 and the state Department of Education, at Ward Theatres.

Sans buses, Miller tested his setup.

“;I plugged it into the projector,”; and seeing the game graphics fill up the movie screen he thought, “;Man, I love my job!”;

The demographics of people who play or enjoy video games are broader than many people realize. Tetris just marked its 25th anniversary and is played by multiple generations, for instance.

“;We did a bon dance and had grandmas come out and play 'Guitar Hero,'”; Miller said.

On the 'Net:

» mobilegamerguys.com



Erika Engle is a reporter with the Star-Bulletin. Reach her by e-mail at .(JavaScript must be enabled to view this email address)