Competitive gaming — a.k.a., esports — is exploding. According to Newzoo, an esports marketing research firm, in 2016, approximately 256 million viewers settled in for at least one live-streaming esports event.
And where there are masses, there is money to be made. From the players to the sponsors, all the way up to the venue owners, professional gaming pioneers — if things trend as projected — will soon be reaping huge rewards.
But as crowds continue to grow, promoters and sponsors are having a hard time finding stadiums large enough to handle the audiences. So, to remedy the situation, investors are developing esports venues in several major cities.
Esports Viewership By the Numbers
At the most recent IEM World Championship in Katowice, Poland, more than 173,000 passed through the turnstiles over two days, representing an increase of 53% over last year’s World Championship. There was also a record 46 million online viewers, breaking the 2016 League of Legends World Championship of 43 million.
Esports Venues Are Popping Up Everywhere
As mentioned, esports viewership demands have motivated real estate moguls to redesign existing sites and build new ones — specifically for video game tournaments.
The owners of TCL Chinese Theater, led by CEO Robert K. Laity, announced plans for a new CinemaCon esports venue adjacent to the company’s Chinese 6 Theater complex in the heart of Hollywood. It’s slated to open in the summer of 2017.
According to Laity, the new venue is just the beginning. In a recent interview, he explained, “What we are launching is just the tip of the iceberg. We see cinema operators working together as a global network of immersive MX4D esports theaters and becoming part of the fabric of competitive gaming. We are in discussions with sponsors, esports organizations and other cinema operators to join forces with the TCL Chinese Theatre as we bring this exciting capability to the world of online and live tournament play.”
What better spot for an esports complex than America’s over-21 playground, Las Vegas!? Millennial Esports is opening a 15,000 square foot new venue in the heart of downtown. There’s seating for 800 fans and participants, with 250 stadium-style seats in the main arena. And in true Vegas fashion, it’s open 24 hours a day, 7 days a week, 52 weeks a year.
Washington D.C. has long-served as the nation’s capital, and now the mid-Atlantic enclave wants to become an esports hub, too. With much fanfare, the city announced its official sponsorship of NRG Esports, the nation’s top esports team.
As the first city sponsorship of its kind, NRG’s founders and investors also include Sacramento Kings’ owners Andy Miller and Mark Mastrov. Celebrity athletes like Shaquille O’Neal, Jimmy Rollins, and Alex Rodriguez are also involved. The group will be providing team logos, a fan website, and a boot camp practice venue for players and prospects.
Moreover, the city of D.C. plans to build an esports stadium. Doing double duty as both a gaming arena and Washington Mystics stadium, the facility will seat 4,200 people and cost $65 million.
According to Events D.C. Chairman Max Brown, “[It will] come online in late-2018, early-2019. Fully tailored and wired for esports.”
The Future of Esports
When asked about the rise of esports, Trent Miller got right to the point: “I’ll only say that more people tune in to watch the League of Legends Grand Finals than the NBA Finals or the World Series. Whether or not esports will overtake football remains to be seen. But as far as esports overtaking most physical sports, it already seems like it’s happening.”
Kelly / Warner works with esports athletes, gaming personalities, and teams. To learn more about how we can help people in the professional gaming world with everything from contract negotiations to conflict representation, check out the esports law section.