What makes gamers get out of their high-tech chairs, off the Discord platform, and into an esports venue? Many esports specific facilities believe they have discovered the secret recipe to draw the gamer crowd out of their basements and into their seats. While some U.S. cities are funding esport specific venues in order to build a new revenue stream for their communities, year-round, others are taking a different route.
One of the first, smaller type venues was built in Santa Ana, California, back in 2015. Esports Arena Orange County seats 1,400 people and hosts professional and amateur events. Originally funded in part by Chinese sports and video game company, Allied Esports, it remains an intimate location for gamers to watch, play, and just mingle.
The next step up, a mid-size range, can be found at the Wang Theatre in Boston, Massachusetts, which has a capacity of 3,500. The venue traditionally hosts orchestras, dance performances, and Broadway musicals. The decorations also lean towards the classical, with chandeliers and red velvet-type seats. What this venue offers is intimacy, allowing the fans to mingle with the gamers, which larger venues cannot offer. The Boston Red Soxs’ stadium, Fenway Park, has the same feel and is a cherished ballpark.
And, lastly, on the larger scale sits the Staples Center in Los Angeles, California, with a capacity of 20,000, as one of the largest venues that have held several esports finals. This high-tech venue delivers on experience, viewing options, and fan excitement.
Esports events are taking place in all types of locations. For instance, some cities like Philadelphia, are building downtown locations attached to office space. John Fazio, CEO of Nerd Street (NSG), a national network of esports facilities and events, recently broke ground on a first of its kind, an esports industry campus called “the Block,” where NSG’s headquarters will be based, but it will also include training centers, educational space, and broadcast studios. Funded by the Founders Fund, Five, Comcast Spectacor, Seventy Six Capital, Elevate, & George Miller, Fazio believes the best way to select the right location and “unlock the market is to have mobile units come into a location and create a pop-up esports event. This allows us to collect accurate data on a potential location before determining if a brick-and-mortar venue should be structured.” NSG utilized this strategy in Missouri and only after the temporary events proved to be successful did NSG open a permanent site in St. Louis.
David Kliman, founder of the Kliman Group, a meeting expert with a focus on market trends and customer experiences believes Fazio has the right strategy for esports. “While other sports like sand volleyball or squash can do a pop-up event,” stated Kliman, “esports is different because of the economics behind it. It is all about the massive viewership and the potential economic impact that puts esports on a completely different scale than traditional sports.”
While size and location matter, John Davidson, founder and CEO of the Davidson Learning Company, a brand consulting agency in the esports and action sports subcultures, is convinced it is the sport itself that demands uniqueness. “What is unique about esports venues is the opportunity to be far more creative than traditional sports,” stated Davidson. Because of the high level of digital experiences, “the winning venue,” according to Davidson, seems to be the one that worries a bit less about size and location (although important) and, instead, “invests more in visual and audio technology to create the best fan experience.”
No matter if an esports event is run out of a temporary or permanent space (i.e., mobile truck, mall, parking lot, theater, arena, casino), it is clear gamers are seeking two main things: variety and authenticity.