The stereotype image of the video gamer is someone rooted to a sofa while a TV flickers in a darkened living room or they’re up in their bedroom gazing fixedly at a PC screen while jabbing at mouse and keyboard.
However, it seems that video gaming is moving from solitary pastime to spectator sport with the emergence of ‘eSports’– and this is could be good news for property landlords.
Last year, the eSports market grew to $1.1bn. That was year-on-year growth of about 26% and the sector is forecast to jump up to around $2.3bn within three years according to Forbes. Growth is also being fuelled by the competitive nature of gaming: in 2019, Epic Games, the creator of Fortnite offered prize money of more than $100m for competitive tournaments.
And like mainstream sports, the best players of these games are also attracting an audience. First, this was through online platforms like YouTube and Twitch but now it’s moving to physical spaces ‘game arenas’ where you pay to watch and learn from the best players who are often competing as part of corporate sponsored teams.
And, like regular sports, if you prefer to play rather than watch there are smaller centres. In London this trend has seen the expansion of the Belong Gaming Arenas introduced by the retailer, Game, to sit alongside their traditional retail stores, and for Wanyoo to acquire their first UK gaming café on Charing Cross Road. Wanyoo is Asia’s largest gaming café chain with 1,000-plus cafes in more than 50 cities.
Revenue streams are driven by playing fees – typically £5-7 an hour – or the cost of admission if you’re watching your gaming heroes in arenas such as Gfinity eSports arena in Fulham Broadway. And, of course, there’s lots of scope for adding on food and drink offers.
On average, Wanyoo’s gamers stay in venues for 3-5 hours. While audience dwell times are shorter, the game developers are looking at how they can embed advertising in the same way that you have hoardings around a pitch in a televised football game with companies such as Bidstack bridging the gap between game developers and advertisers.
And the cross-fertilisation of the digital and real worlds doesn’t stop there: celebrities like Michael Jordan, Drake and Gareth Bale have made substantial investments into the eSports sector.
The good news for landlords is that these eSport centres don’t have any particular property requirements other than size; they have taken units on high street locations and shopping centres, and are not too precious about ground, first floor and basement spaces!
The global eSports audience is now estimated to be around 450m people and, of course, many of the gamers who cut their teeth on Counter Strike, Quake and SuperMario more than 20 years ago are still playing today so the sector has a strong demographic profile.
And, if you’re not sure that eSports are here to stay then consider this: they’re under consideration for inclusion at forthcoming Olympic Games.