LAN Party How To - Part 1: Planning and Power

Garage LAN or Mega LAN?

On the surface, the differences between your average garage LAN and a Mega-LAN are not apparent. But the truth is that behind the scenes they are very different. The first obvious difference is the head count. At your average home LAN party, you're probably looking at around twelve people in attendance, although I've seen upwards of 30 people! Even that rather large home LAN attendance, however, pales in comparison to the hundreds and sometimes thousands of people in attendance at a Mega LAN.

Another major difference is that a Mega LAN typically is more formally organized, including an actual agenda with planned tournaments. Many large parties also have food and drink available for sale while garage LANs may purchase shared food from contributions to a pot.

Last, but not least, the network infrastructure is vastly different for garage and Mega parties. Hundreds of users place an exponential load on a network that won't be handled very well by just plugging everyone into cascaded 10/100 switches. I'll go into more details regarding LAN design in my next article, "Building and Maintaining the LAN".

I have summarized the basic differences between small and large LAN parties in Table 1.


Garage LAN

Mega LAN


10-25 people

25-1000 or more people


Honor system - shared food bought using pooled money

Concession style - Items sold separately at fixed prices



Set agenda with planned tournaments


Lots of people you know

People you know and a whole lot you don't

Network Infrastructure


Intermediate to Advanced

Staff Members



Table 1: Basic differences between small and large LAN parties

Got Cash?

Setting up a garage LAN might set you back between nothing at all and $150 depending on equipment you may already have. But getting the kind of equipment you need to properly run a Mega party could run into the tens of thousands of dollars! Some things can be rented, others can be bought, but in the end a balance sheet will be required to run these huge events - there's no way around it. Table 2 has some numbers to clue you to the kind of money you'll need to get started.

Party Size

Small LAN
(~10 people)

Medium LAN
(~60 people)

(~500 people)


Home - $50 police ticket if called in by the neighbors for being noisy

Small Hall - $250-$750 depending on quality, timing and location

Big Hall - $1,750-$3,000 depending on quality, timing and location


Around the House

Rented - 2 per 6ft @ $6 ea = $100

Rented - 2 per 6ft @ $5 ea = $1,250

Network Gear

Basic 24-port 10/100 switch = $90

Basic 8-port Gig & 3 24-port 10/100 switches w/Gig = $480

Managed 24-port Gig & 21 24-port 10/100 switches w/Gig = $4,520

Network Cabling

Not Needed

$45 Premade

Around 4 boxes of Category 5e cable, Crimpers and Jacks (~$300 DIY)

Server Connectivity

Not Needed

Optional $120 gigabit uplink switch

2 Managed 24-port 10/100 w/Gig = $700

Core Servers

Not Needed

Not Needed

$500 Server

Wireless Access

SOHO WiFi Firewall = $100

SOHO WiFi Firewall = $100

High Capacity Enterprise WAP = ~$300

Internet Firewall

Without WiFi = $50

Without WiFi = $50

High Capacity Enterprise Firewall = ~$300 DIY / $750 Prebuilt

One-Time Costs




Per Event Costs




Table 2: Differences between small and large LAN parties

As you can see, the big guys are either digging deep into their own pockets, have a major investor, or perhaps have corporate sponsors that are furnishing equipment or cash in exchange for advertising and / or marketing at the events.

If you're still interested after seeing those dollar figures, read on and we'll get you going!

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