December 22, 2009
Downtown Racine's Piranha Gaming resets broken video game consoles
Local kids - and more than a few adults - are counting down the days to opening presents under the Christmas tree and finding a new video game system.
Nintendo Wii, Sony PS3 and Microsoft's Xbox 360 are once again the hot gift of the holiday season. An estimated 24.6 million game consoles will be sold around the world in just the 4th quarter alone.
That's good news for one local business that's finding success in an area most people don't think about when they look at their shiny new console in the box.
Jason Jarstad, owner of Piranha Gaming at 234 Main St. in Racine, fixes broken video game systems. There's more business in the market than you'd think. Video game consoles regularly fail, and owners are forced to send the system into the company or buy a new system. Jarstad offers a third option.
He'll fix broken machines in a day for $35. There's been enough demand for the service since he opened in November that Jarstad has signed a year lease for the Main Street store. He can thank Microsoft's poor quality for the work.
(Photo-right: A piranha in the fish tank at Piranha Gaming.)
The computer giant's Xbox 360 registered an abysmal 54.2 percent failure rate in a survey of by the magazine Game Informer. To be clear, that means more than one out of every two Xbox 360s fail. The most common cause is gruesomely named "red ring of death," which refers to lights on the console that light up when the machine fails.
Jarstad said he's fixed several "red ring of death" errors in the past few months. Some customers have driven an hour for his service.
The video game repair market is relatively untapped in southeastern Wisconsin, Jarstad said. Several people advertise on services like Craigs List and work out of their home, but Jarstad is one of the only businesses of its kind in the region.
Along with 360s, PS3s and Wii's also fail, though at much lower rates than the Xboxes. The PS3 failure rate is somewhere around 10 percent (still pretty bad for home electronics, which typically fail at a 3-5 percent rate), while the Wii is under 5 percent.
Microsoft has extended the warranty for Xbox 360 owners to three years, but many people don't want to wait the 2-3 weeks it takes to get their machine repaired, Jarstad said. There's also no guarantee owners will get back their same machines from the company, he said.
Jarstad has been repairing video game consoles for years. He started in middle school and just never stopped. A few years ago he realized people would pay him to fix machines and started working out of his home. Just as word of mouth spread about Jarstad's services, he got laid off from his job managing food service at Marquette University. With jobs scarce in the down economy, he decided to go out on his own.
He opened Piranha Gaming in early November, complete with a fish tank full of, you guessed it, piranhas.
Along with his repair service, Jarstad's store sells video game systems and used video games (from Atari to PS3 and all systems in between), all at competitive prices. Jarstad noted he has over 100 Wii games for sale for $24.99 or less. A refurbished Xbox 360 (which Jarstad will service, if needed) is $169.99 with a wireless controller and games included.
In the new year, Jarstad hopes to expand his niche business into repairing computers, TVs and other equipment. He'd also like to sell computers and accessories, and generally expand his offerings into a full-fledged home technology store.
For now, he's focusing on video games. Ironically, Jarstad, at least lately, isn't much of a gamer.
"I don't have any time," he said. "I'm too busy with the store."