The Power of Place and the eSports Arena Revolution

The world of electronic sports is coming to a neighborhood near you. As momentum for competitive gaming continues to gather steam in 2016, a startup called eSports Arena is taking flight as North America’s first dedicated eSports facility (read below, for the interview segment). The Arena is a 15,000 square foot location located in downtown Orange County, California. As the first of its kind, eSports Arena seeks to capitalize on the absence of dedicated venues for competitive video games; a void that underscores the criticality of location and place in the world of eSports.

Bridging a digital divide through physical space

The notion of local affinity is deeply embedded into the notion of sport and competition. Games, matches, and events are assumed to take place at a given location or place. eSports has turned this notion on its head by proving the popularity of competitions that take place solely on a digital playing field. Lacking the need for physical playing surfaces — courts, fields, etc. — and buoyed by an increasingly internet connected world; competitive gaming has seen a rapid rise in popularity, over a relatively short period of time.

“We believe that locality is the missing link for eSports to get to that next level. Regional communities are hungry for a connection to eSports organizations.”
— eSports Arena team

However, the reduced reliance upon physical proximity has resulted in a void within the eSports experience; specifically, an inability to capitalize on the immense value of ‘place’ within a marketing mix. As physical beings, humans have come to rely upon technology to bridge geographic distances. Yet, digital connectivity remains a supplement to, not replacement for, in-person experiences. The business of traditional sports has evolved around the concept of geography, featuring the following as location-dependent sources of revenue:

  • Live events broadcasted within specified regions
  • Stadium ticket sales & concessions
  • Merchandise and memorabilia

On the other hand, electronic sports must extend its substantial digital presence into the physical world. Currently, seasonal tournaments and events, hosted by organizers like ESL, are the only bridge between the digital and offline world in eSports. This creates an artificial bottleneck for expression and limits potential for activation within the marketplace. As a result, an entire universe of sponsors, partners and investors are essentially locked out of the eSports opportunity. Addressing this issue is dependent on outlets like eSports Arena creating a home for consistent, regional competitive gaming competitions and events.

The power of social integration

To continue along the path of mainstream acceptance, eSports must integrate into a wider social fabric. In essence, broader acceptance of competitive gaming requires the development of local affinity. Given similarities to traditional sports, eSports will benefit from physical places where:

  • Parents can accompany children to participate and watch
  • Fans travel to witness a big game or event
  • Enthusiasts form and reaffirm social bonds

Additionally, a strong marketing mix for eSports depends on being able to generate the concept of spectacle and festival as a draw for casual interest. As an increasing number of non-gamers are exposed to eSports, the existences of places where crowds and communities come to life are essential to capturing interest. Enthusiasm is viral, so carving out physical locations, where people with a passing interest can mingle with hardcore supporters, is absolutely critical. Not to mention, video game play, especially in North America, still labors under the tag of anti-social activity. An increase in the number of shared social spaces centered on video game entertainment is a recipe for dispelling those assorted myths.

Interview with eSports Arena​

Traditional sports are built around local affinity. How important is a sense of locality to eSports?

We believe that locality is the missing link for eSports to get to that next level. Regional communities are hungry for a connection to eSports organizations. Currently, most professional teams are separated by continental regions (North America, Europe, Asia, etc.) and fans change minds often based off of teams’ performances. Having a home team that you could cheer for will encourage stability and the growth of a fan base. eSports Arena will bridge the gap between high-level gaming organizations and the community

eSports Arena is billed as “North America’s first dedicated eSports facility.” Which indicators point to good market timing for this business model?

The eSports industry is one of the fastest growing markets in the entertainment vertical and eSports Arena is set to play a key part in the growth of the industry by providing a unique solution to increasingly larger demands from both companies and consumers.
Currently, eSports enthusiasts have two options: play games and watch eSports events at home or wait until the once-a-year mega stadium event makes its way to their town. There is a lot of room in between those two extremes and eSports Arena is filling up that space. The beauty of eSports Arena is in its ability to provide professionally-produced events at all levels–whether that be for massive $100K professional player tournaments or for local amateur players. Before eSports Arena there was no avenue for the amateur scene to grow, but now we are creating a future for eSports that will allow amateur to professional-level competitions take place on a daily basis.

Marketers are salivating at reaching eSports enthusiasts, how will eSports Arena fit into that picture?

eSports Arena allows for constant engagement through both live event presence and on a global broadcasting scale. Companies and sponsors are able to reach their key demographic targets through highly-engaging content that seamlessly incorporates their products and brands by hosting these gaming events. With everything produced in-house and with our professional broadcasting and production team, we are able to produce any eSports event at the drop of a dime for a fraction of the cost to marketers.

When tournaments aren’t being hosted in the arena, how is it used?

At our location in Orange County, California we have a monthly membership program that only costs $13 a month. This membership grants you access to all kinds of events and open access to the facility every day from noon to midnight. It’s the ultimate modern LAN center experience.

Are there any plans for expansion outside Southern California?

We’ll have locations across 16 regional markets in the next few years. Regional affinity is a big part of the future growth and success of competitive gaming and eSports Arena is spearheading innovation in the industry.

What are three things we should look for from eSports Arena in 2016?

A glance at our Q1 schedule says it all: eSports Arena is all booked out for an amazing variety of events. Last year, we produced our first tournament for another company: the Vainglory Autumn NA Finals. In 2016, we will be producing an event that will be even more demanding: the CyberPowerPC $100K CS:GO:OC Invitational.
The year will be filled with more events like this as other companies become more familiar with our production prowess. We will also be growing our own weekly amateur tournament series, starting with our Monday Night Fireside, and CS:GO Fridays. You can also expect these series to turn into leagues, with teams accumulating points to eventually compete in our very own eSports Arena Invitationals. Our calendar is always a moving target and we are beyond excited for all the plans we have for this year.

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Originally published at blog.entivagroup.net on February 9, 2016.