Tell me a little about yourselves and your establishment.
My name is Jon Bessmer. My wife, Brandy Bessmer, and I own PLAYlive Nation. I am originally from Portland Oregon but have lived in Billings for over 15 years and consider it home. My wife and I have two children Jackson (10) and Cody (6) and a yellow Lab named Rosie. My wife and I come from the banking world and have accounting/finance and business backgrounds. We actually met at Wells Fargo in 2001 and have been together ever since!
PLAYlive Nation is a premium gaming lounge. We offer a clean and safe environment for gamers to socialize, network, and play. From the club style atmosphere, high-definition televisions, surround sound headsets, comfortable chairs, large game selection and online gaming capabilities all the way to the customers, members and staff; PLAYlive is the ultimate place to go if you want to: test new games, game with friends, escape the distractions of playing at home, compete in tournaments, join a league, repair your console or controller, throw a party, or modify your gaming gear.
What is the goal, and or motto of your establishment?
The goal of our business is to bring gamers together! I would like to steal a couple quotes from Nolan Bushnell, the famed inventor of Pong, Atari and Chuck E. Cheese: “Despite what some may have you believe, games exist to bring us together; that’s where games come from, and that’s where we’re going back to.” This quote rings with truth. Playing with dozens of other gamers in the same physical location makes a world of difference. It’s just more fun to play with others!
Our motto is “Play smart, play here, PLAYlive!” (I wish we had a better motto but this is a corporate thing so feel free to leave it out of the blog.)
When did you open?
We opened Saturday February 13th.
How many staff members do you have?
We currently have one staff member, Casey Jones, but we are working on hiring at least one or two more employees.
How many gaming stations do you have?
We have 27 individual gaming stations and one couch station on a projection screen.
Do you offer computer gaming?
Not yet, but corporate has said it is in the works for the future.
How many different types of consoles do you have and what are they?
Do you have old school consoles such as Sega Genesis, Nintendo systems, Dreamcast ect?
No, we only have Xbox One.
Do you plan on offering arcade machines?
No we do not.
How many different games do you have to offer and what types of genres?
Too many to count! We are always adding games to our list. I went out and purchased copies of Ryse: Son of Rome, Titan Fall, and Gears of War Ultimate Edition the other day. We will always have the newest titles but we feel it is equally important to carry classics and older titles.
What other types of services do you offer?
We repair Xbox One, Xbox 360, PS3, PS4, and all apple products.
We sell Gamer merchandise from Bioworld, Entertainment Earth, J!nx, Just Funky, and many more. We also have a deal with loot crate that allows us to give out full loot crates as prizes in our tournaments and leagues.
What types of gaming accessories do you offer while gaming?
We offer a Gamecon X40 Stereo Headset, Xbox One wireless controller with a pro wrap for better grip and to protect it. (wraps not installed yet but they will be soon.)
What types of young kid games do you offer?
Minecraft, Minecraft Story Mode, Rayman Legends, Lego Batman, Lego Hobbit, Lego Jurassic World, Lego Avengers, Lego Movie, Plants vs. Zombies, Mega Man, Rocket League, Forza, Madden, NBA2k16, Fifa16, and more. (coming soon Kung Fu Panda, Peggle 2, Ori and the Blind Forest, and Spark)
What type of teen rated games do you offer?
Too many to list but here are a few. Call of Duty Black Ops III, Halo 5, Evolve, Borderlands, Battlefront, Battlefield, Dying Light, Dark Souls II, Gears of War Ultimate Edition, Titan Fall, Mad Max, Metal Gear V, and more!
Do you offer adult rated games such as deadpool ect?
Grand Theft Auto, Evil Within, Ryse: Son of Rome, and more! Some games with explicit material like nudity and sexual content are banned at a corporate level.
Do you offer any VR gaming?
Not at the moment but perhaps when the technology develops more and the price comes down. I read an interesting article on it today and a CA company just received $15mm in investments so they are getting close!
Do you plan to offer it later on?
Perhaps but no ETA.
What can you tell us about your gaming stations and systems?
Our gaming consoles are safely stored in a cage behind the front counter where they are well ventilated and maintained. We use HDMI over Cat6e to keep the store clean and free from hanging wires that look ugly. Our stations are spacious and equipped with comfy recliner chairs. Each station has a 40” 1080p HDTV.
What kinds of kinds of competitive gaming do you offer?
We will be offering cash prize tournaments, non-cash prize tournaments (game time, controller mods, candy, gift cards, etc) and month long gaming leagues.
What are your 5 most popular games requested?
Call of Duty Black Ops III, Grand Theft Auto, Rainbow Six Siege, Just Cause 3, Battlefront, and of course Minecraft.
Do you have gaming tournaments and or themed days or events?
We do have tournaments but no themed days or events.
What type of a crowd are you trying to reach, and what type of crowd do you currently
The interesting thing about PLAYlive is we reach such a broad and diverse audience. I would say our most common demographic is the male teen. But we have many younger children that love to come in and play as well. I would really like to see the Billings female gamers represented, and what better way to do it than have a good ol’ guys vs. girls night!
What types of people do you encourage to come to your establishment?
People who want to play casually and have fun. There will be specific events and days where we want hardcore gamers and pros to come in, but I want our establishment to represent both sides equally. We don’t discriminate, young, old, female, male, it just doesn’t matter. One of our MTG customers said it best last week. “Billings needs a place where all gamers feel safe and accepted, and that is going to be PLAYlive.”
Do you get a lot of families to come into play together?
Yes! It is so exciting to see moms and dads playing with their kids. I would like to hold specific family nights where we provide a special deal for gaming and pizza. Families could play games like Hasbro Game Night, Rare Replay, Mine Craft, etc.
Tell us about the different memberships, and programs you offer?
Basic Membership - $19.99 gets 4 hours of anytime game time and up to 52 hours of free game time on various days. This membership also receives discounts on concessions, events, and parties.
Dual Membership - $24.99 (up to 2 gamers) gets 4 hours of anytime game time and up to 52 hours of free game time on various days. This membership also receives discounts on concessions, events, and parties.
Family Membership - $29.99 (up to 5 gamers) gets 4 hours of anytime game time and up to 52 hours of free game time on various days. This membership also receives discounts on concessions, events, and parties.
After School Membership - $199 (on special right now for only $99 a month!) Moms and dads can drop their kids off after school and they can play until 6:00 PM. This membership is good Monday through Friday and is setup on a recurring billing cycle. No contracts are required so it can be canceled at any time. We also offer daily and weekly after school membership passes.
What kinds of promotions or ideas do you offer to get people interested?
We typically offer some kind of daily special, tournament, or event. Our play all day pass is pretty popular and we are able to discount that from time to time. The best way to learn about our promotions is through our Facebook page (PLAYlive at West Park Promenade) or our Facebook gaming Group (PLAYlive Nation Billings, MT).
I really want to get a gamer league going. It would be casual play but people would come in on the same day at the same time and play round robin style games with others. It would be similar to a bowling league or pool league with prizes, awards, and good times for all!
Do you offer both beginners gaming and expert level?
Nothing officially designated but I will separate out the casual gamers and pro gamers in tournaments by offering non-cash prizes in one tournament and cash prizes in another. I think this way casual gamers can get into a tournament for a lower entry fee and much lower risk if they just want to have fun. The higher stakes tournaments will have higher entry fees but cash prizes which will attract the expert gamers or pros.
What makes you different than other gaming establishments similar to what you do here?
Our atmosphere is nothing like Montana has ever seen.
We have a very clean and safe environment.
When you walk into our store you will always be greeted by friendly staff who are there to help and encourage people to play together.
We have the strong backing of a franchise which gives us a lot of leverage when it comes to offering premium services and merchandise.
PLAYlive Nation is all over the country including Washington, Oregon, Idaho, California, and we are growing every day.
Do you fix game consoles?
Yes, Xbox One, Xbox 360, PS3, and PS4.
Do you have any gaming advice?
Practice practice practice! I love challenging games that teach me patience and problem solving. Beating and mastering a game is extremely rewarding and can add value to your character and personality. Also, listen to the pros! Watch Twitter and youtube to get expert advice.
What kinds of snacks and accessories do you offer?
Xbox One and PS4 controller accessories: Triggers, buttons, D-pads, Shells, Wraps, Armor, and pro grips.
Candy, pop (Pepsi products), chips, and energy drinks (Pepsi products), and water. We will be adding juice, tea, and other snacks like jerky and hopefully fruits and veggies (pre-packaged).
Do you have any future goals you are working towards?
We will be opening stores all across Montana and have already worked out the franchise rites through corporate.
We would like to create a competitive Montana gaming team and sponsor them to go around the nation and give our state strong representation in the gaming world.
Do you encourage costuming?
It has not been brought up yet so I don’t know. I think the kids would love it!
Can people come dressed up in costume?
I don’t see why not. As long as it is kid friendly and not something that would cause the furniture or floors to get messy It would be a cool idea!
Does your establishment have any set rules people should know?
Have a good time! If there is something we can do or stop doing to help you have a good time at PLAYlive Nation, just let us know.
No swearing / vulgar language
Be considerate and respectful of other gamers.
No eating near the stations but drinks are allowed. Food stays at the tables.
Be respectful of the equipment. If we break our nice things we won’t be able to have nice things.
No outside food or beverage unless you have brought in a cake for a birthday party.
How would you describe your establishment to someone whom has never been?
The next generation of gaming!
A family friendly and pocket book friendly gaming lounge!
I'd like to thank Jon Bessmer for the wonderful interview. You can follow them in Facebook at: