Some people would be content with a DJ or perhaps a live band at their wedding. For some of Lamont Pearson’s most recent clients, though, married life couldn’t get started with out a few rounds blowing each other away on an XBOX 360.
Pearson, the event planner for Atomic, a mobile video game and console rental service based in Ventura, was recently asked to set up the Microsoft system to display graphics accompanying a DJ’s set at a recent wedding near Los Angeles. After dinner, a few systems were looped together so kids and other wedding guests could play games against each other.
It’s not just brides and grooms calling Pearson. Often, it is moms and dads who want to arrange a no-hassle birthday party, or just give their kids the chance to play video games occasionally without committing to spending hundreds of dollars on new equipment. He has also set up systems at office parties and other special events.
“It’s a mobile arcade,” Pearson says. “For the age groups that are past the Jolly Jumpers, that’s where the interest is.”
A sales rep for Microsoft’s XBOX Live online service, Pearson says the bulk of his systems are XBOX 360s, but he also has a few of Sony’s Playstation 3 consoles and some Nintendo Wii setups.
For $35 a weeknight and $50-85 on weekends (depending on demand and distance), Pearson will bring one of his 20 video game systems over to a customer’s house or other location, as well as display monitors, controllers and three games of the customer’s choice from each system’s entire library (extra games and additional peripherals incur extra fees). All the installation is included, so customers need only plug the system into a wall outlet. Pearson will even arrange networking for multiplayer games, and can also connect gamers to XBOX Live to play with opponents around the world.
“I do anything,” he says, noting the technological capabilities of current systems, particularly the XBOX 360 and Playstation 3, which include powerful computers that can be used beyond gaming for entertainment purposes, such as the graphics display at the recent wedding. He will also round out parties with iPod docks for music, headphones so kids can play without disturbing their parents, and other accessories.
The unique business has earned Atomic customers from throughout Los Angeles County as far north as San Luis Obispo. Although Pearson, a business major who graduated from the University of Southern California, calls himself an event planner, the business evolved from a brick-and-mortar operation in Ventura near Johnson Drive that offered giant Japanese-manufactured arcade systems and networked computers. Those systems cost upwards of $10,000 each and weren’t as powerful or versatile as the current crop of systems that Pearson can easily transport up and down the Central Coast.
Even so, owning a video game system can still be expensive. The cheapest of the three “current generation” home consoles, the Nintendo Wii, still costs $250 alone. The other systems can cost between $300-500, depending on the configuration. None of this takes into account the cost of games and additional accessories.
“You could be paying up to four or five grand,” Pearson says.
Atomic is a family affair. Pearson is the business’s president. His brother is vice president, and other family members also are involved. Before focusing on this business, Pearson was a firefighter in Oxnard.
He sees a niche in a business with few competitors and says rental chains like Blockbuster have abandoned system rentalsv because of the manpower demands.
“I’m a maverick of gaming,” he says. “It’s what I do. It’s like Tony Hawk and skating or Michael Jackson and singing.”
The rental service, he says, combines the business and technical skills he developed over the years with his own love of video games.
A parent of 3- and 8-year-old girls, Pearson rejects the idea that video games are harmful to kids, as long as they are used responsibly, and he sees that as another business advantage.
“With my business, parents have control over their households,” he says. Instead of making game systems accessible at all hours, parents can use his rental service as an incentive for getting homework done and allow kids to play only during the times they permit.
“There has been no negative energy,” he says.
Atomic can be reached at 816-2909 or 816-9482.