“Esports: Where Do We Go From Here?”

Tyler Endres, CEO, Esports Arena
Craig Levine, global chief strategy officer, ESL
Todd Merry, chief marketing officer, Delaware North
Brian Mirakian, director of brand activation and senior principal, Populous
Moderated by Bob Jordan, CEO, 1337 Facilities, LLC/founder, Venue Road

Tuesday’s esports panel at the VenuesNow Conference in many ways reflected the esports market itself: fluid, freewheeling and full of excitement, as a panel of highly energized and informed experts brought insights and perspective to what for many is an untapped and rapidly developing market with immense potential.

Playing off the panel’s subtitle, moderator Jordan’s first questions succinctly asked, “Where exactly is here?” All agreed the market is bigger than ever.

“It’s an overnight phenomena that took 20 plus years, but really this last three years has been accelerated,” Levine said. Evidence of this includes the number of venues now being designed or renovated with esports, in mind, including a $50 million venue for Comcast in Philadelphia that Populous’ Mirakian said he’s working on. Endres spoke about his firm operating esports sites in Walmart stores across the country.

Levine mentioned games he called the “big three” — League of Legends, Counter-Strike and Data 2 — which he said are the “only titles today constantly filling traditional sports arenas around the world.” Other big games include Fortnite, Call of Duty, PlayerUnknown’s Battleground and Overwatch. Levine also made mention of a league championship at the Bird’s Nest stadium in Beijing that ran for three nights before 75,000 as 110 million watched online.

There are myriad challenges and opportunities with esports that differ from traditional sporting events. This includes fans who want to participate in the action and/or be spectators; different games on the market means differing communities and competitions. The term “shape shifting,” was evoked several times by panelists as more games are released and others rise and fall with changing tastes and trends, making it hard to know which games will have longevity and how they will be played.  And the length of the competitions, which can go for as long as 11 hours, means that traditional venue consumer patterns don’t apply.

“We have different audiences, different types that makes it another level of complexity,” said Deleware North’s Merry, who noted some of the fans had never even been to their buildings before. “There’s a whole generation of people that are coming to your building.  They’re younger, and it’s on us to deliver.”