Game On: Esports Entertainment Coming to a Mall Near You

Game On: Esports Entertainment Coming to a Mall Near You

Game On: Esports Entertainment Coming to a Mall Near You 1440 428 Chute Gerdeman

Over the last several years, mall developers have been reevaluating the tenant mix as consumer shopping has shifted online. Challenged to find a new formula, many have approached untraditional tenants like service providers that draw in regular foot traffic or hero anchors to attract a loyal customer base. In an effort to not just fill vacancies, though, some are seizing an opportunity to recreate a community core with entertainment arenas like esports and gaming venues.

The Esports Ecosystem

Gaming is no longer just a niche hobby captivating our nation’s youth. Its growing popularity is spanning generations and growing by the day. The total number of gamers will be close to 2.8 billion by the end of this year, representing more than 25% of the global population. More than half of Americans (60%) play video games daily, and 70% are 18 or older. While the industry has been widely dominated for years by men, nearly 45% of US gamers are now women. Parents are getting in on the action, too, with reportedly 67% playing at least once a week with their children.*

Beyond the numbers, there’s more to the movement that’s rivaling even today’s physical sports. The accessibility to play, inclusiveness of the sport, the diversity of games, and social connection are proving to be powerful momentum propelling the esport interest worldwide.

esports gamers

An Arena of Opportunity

UK company Belong Gaming Arenas is ready to make its mark in malls across the US. The company plans to open as many as 500 locations nationwide over the next five years, with initial locations to open in Texas, Ohio, and Tennessee. The esports-centric spaces provide nearly 50 gaming stations to support daily competitions for amateurs and pros. The company plans to launch tournaments later this year and tap into local communities to partner with local high schools, universities, and esports teams.

“Through Belong, we are establishing the baseball diamonds and football pitches of esports and gaming to supply the talent development pipeline and grow fandom as the industry continues to mature,” said Mike Sepso. Owner, global esports and technology company Vindex

esports female gamer

Taking a multifaceted approach to its esports business model, Nerd Street Gamers aims to provide educational and professional opportunities to players like traditional sports athletes. Bringing equity to esports, the company aims to bring virtual gaming into the physical world and provide adequate access through equipment rental and in-person instruction. With investments from Seventy Six Capital, Comcast, and Five Below, Nerd Street Gamers plans to expand entry into esports.

“What we’re trying to do is build an infrastructure for esports and provide tangible opportunities, whether it’s through [coaching] high schoolers to an amateur career or scholarship in college, or [opening up] professional opportunities in marketing, broadcasting or becoming a pro gamer,” says Paige Funk, Vice President of Marketing at Nerd Street Gamers.

UK-based Electric Gamebox is teaming up with Brookfield Asset Management to expand its immersive group gaming experience across the US and UK by launching 100 new locations and 1,000 locations by 2026. The brand’s mission centers around “shared play” by creating an environment that reinvents how video games are played. Unlike traditional esports or virtual reality venues, these cinematic gaming locations are set up using projection screens with 360-degree cameras, touch-sensitive walls, and motion tracking—getting people out of their seats and moving to make screen time social.

“We are thrilled to be working with such legendary investors to accelerate our expansion and further our mission to reinvent how we play video games. The future of retail is expected to be experiential by nature, and we can’t wait to be a part of this transformation,” said Will Dean, CEO and Co-Founder.

Sideline Support

If you think this growing gaming community lives in a virtual reality of their own, think again. Be it sponsorships, activations, or in-game space, many of the largest consumer brands are tapping in for “seen time” with this captive audience.

Last year, fast-food burger chain Wendy’s teamed up with the world’s leading live-streaming gaming platform Twitch to launch its “Never Stop Gaming” campaign. The brand worked with five Twitch streamers to develop an exclusive menu available for delivery only through UberEats. As a bonus perk, they also gave away swag and next-gen consoles.

esports gamers

In China, snack brand Doritos gave gamers the ultimate opportunity to face off with the greats. Teaming up with the League of Legends, the brand provided gamers the chance to play against South Korean professional player and world champion Lee Sang-Hyeok, aka Faker, and his team. Participants had to scan a QR code on the chip brand’s packaging to register for the event. The tournament went thousands of rounds and ultimately came to a final culmination at the Great Wall of China.

Aiming to empower female gamers in the esports space, several beauty brands have jumped on board to help build positive community connections. Sephora and Elf Cosmetics were early supporters of the GirlGamer Festival, “female-first” dating app Bumble notably sponsored an all-female Fortnite team, and MAC cosmetics has been rolling out gaming-inspired beauty collections.

Fusing media and community, esports and gaming venues stand to open the physical and virtual door to mall-based retail. With a loyal fan following, these entertainment destinations offer lucrative potential to appeal to both the competitive and casual gaming enthusiasts.

Curious how else retailers are breaking out of the box? Check our recent insights article Retail Cultivates Brand Tourism.

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