How COVID-19 has changed gaming cafes: an interview with Rails

We've had the opportunity to interview Mr. Hicham, Managing Director at Rails Gaming Cafe, to see how they are coping with the COVID-19 pandemic.

Junaid Yawar  •  June 17, 2020

How COVID-19 has changed gaming cafes: an interview with Rails

Gaming & COVID-19 in 2020

The emergence of COVID-19 has completely changed lives globally and this also includes the gaming business. Once considered a “disorder” under World Health Organizations’ International Classification of Diseases in 2018 here, WHO now promotes to “Stay Home & Play Games”.

The shift in narrative could indicate how video games are generally viewed negatively because of the organizations’ lack of research into how gaming has evolved and is consumed. Gaming can actually help with the current isolation and quarantine situation especially through online connectivity while playing together and deep story-driven offline single player games .

As most things are in life, when done in moderation, gaming is far from an addiction but one of the most immersive and entertaining forms of interactive mediums available out there.

Gadgets Middle East had an opportunity to interview Mr Hicham, Managing Director at Rails, to see how they are coping with the pandemic and also to highlight the impact gaming cafe’s have on gaming today, as consumers spend increasingly more to get consoles and PC’s at home with the availability to game online at home.

When was rails established and what is your philosophy?

Rails was established in 2014. Our philosophy is to make everyone happy by providing the perfect conditions for an excellent gaming experience.

How are you different from the competition?

We are proud to say that our services cater to everyone. Very few gaming centers, if none, offer the varieties of games that we have. In addition, our prices are extremely competitive. Gamers can play on PC’s equipped with Nvidia 1080 GeForce and 144Hz monitors for only AED5 per hour.

How has COVID-19 affected your gaming cafe business?

Unfortunately we had to close our shop on March 15, 2020. We re-opened during the first week of June. This period has been very challenging for us. Although we are back in business, we are still not back to normal. We believe, like all other businesses, the challenge today is to secure enough cash-flow to keep the business alive. We have lots of financial commitments and trying to meet deadlines that weren’t really doable during this time.

How have you adapted with COVID-19?

There wasn’t much we could do to adapt. We offered some of the computers for rent. But other than that, our business model doesn’t have enough room for adaptation.

With stable internet speeds and easy availability of PCs & consoles for online gaming, why should gamers come to Rails? How does it differ?

It is all about the experience. Why would people go eat in restaurants when they can make food at home? For gamers, being in the same room playing with friends is not an experience they can easily replicate at home.

Do you have more PC gamers or console Gamers?

We do have 76 computers and 6 consoles. That’s due to the fact that PC gamers are much more than console players.

Could you let us know of your E-Sports Events? What are the prizes and how are you promoting it?

Before the shutdown, we used to run weekly tournaments. Players pay around AED25 entry fee and usually prize pool could be around AED1200 distributed to top three players.

We also run FIFA Tournaments on Playstation. These events run once a month. On average we get between 32 to 48 players in the FIFA tournament.

How is the FGC (Fighting Game Community) at Rails? Games like Tekken 7 have sparked an interest globally, do you see it at Rails as well?

We don’t really see many players interested in this kind of games in Rails. We get some console players from time to time though.

What is your most popular game over all? Is there anything other than Fortnite, PUBG, Call of Duty, FIFA & CS Go?

In addition to the games mentioned, Call of Duty Modern Warfare and Valorant are seeing high interest at the moment.

Do you plan to upgrade your Graphic Cards to 2080 and AMD Ryzen soon? If not, are you confident the 1080’s will perform with upcoming tech and next-gen consoles?

We recently added more computers with 1080Ti. We were debating whether we should use 2080 or not. We settled on 1080Ti after careful consideration as we didn’t see a huge performance difference between the two cards when compared to the price difference.

Thank you Hicham and we wish the Rails team good luck during this pandemic and the future. For anyone who wishes to check out Rails, here is the link to their website.

About Rails Gaming Cafe

Established in 2014 in JLT, Rails offers state of the art gaming computers with three levels to choose from: Low end starting at AED5 per hour, mid-range at AED10 per hour, and high-end at AED15 per hour.

Hardware Tech Available At Rails for Gamers:

  • 25-inch and 27-inch personal screens with 240Hz refresh rate coupled with fast internet to deliver super responsive gameplay.
  • Play with hardwired mechanical keyboards, award-winning optical mice, and top-of-the-range headsets
  • With GTX 1080ti and Intel i7 at the core, your crew has no excuses and the other team has no chance.

Rails also caters to Playstation enthusiasts with 6 console-booths equipped with 55 inch TVs and comfortable couches. There are also three tournament edition billiards table, two foosball tables, and two arcade machines. They also offer an extensive food and drinks menu for gamers to choose from.

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