The rise of eSports has been extraordinary. Within the last decade, the competitive gaming industry has matured to the point where players make six-figure incomes from playing in front of massive audiences that watch both live and remote. Players travel all over the world to compete, and some fans follow them to the more prominent events sponsored by the world’s largest gaming companies.
Sports has proven resilient to some of the technology headwinds challenging other entertainment properties, such as movies. The live component creates an urgency that’s hard to replicate. People generally want to know the outcome of a live sporting event as it happens, rather than watching it on-demand after the fact.
eSports benefits from this same “fear of missing out” on a live event. This builds demand similar to a traditional sports event, and thus can be tapped by the hospitality industry.
To better understand how the success of eSports impacts hospitality, let's consider first the size of the industry, then explore some best practices, and close with some tips for your hotel’s eSports approach.
How big is the eSports industry?
The size of the industry is massive -- and growing. A recent Newzoo report pegged the size of the eSports economy at $905.6 million, which is 38% more than last year. The growth continues to accelerate, catching up to the explosive popularity of playing and watching online games.
The level of attention is also staggering. The most-watched eSport in 2018 was League of Legends, which captured viewer attention for 240 million hours. For comparison, the top three shows on TV per Nielsen netted 60.2 million viewers per episode cumulatively.
Competitive gamers also capture quite the number of hours on streaming services, with millions of viewers watching the most popular channels on live stream service Twitch each week. Competitive gaming is especially popular with younger demographics and sees much of its future growth from Asia Pacific.
What are other hotels doing?
There are two epicenters of eSports: Las Vegas and Taiwan. The existing infrastructure is ideally suited to competitive gaming: plenty of hotel rooms and a local industry familiar with events and entertainment. Another important factor: sports betting. For Las Vegas, eSports is essential, says Fifth Street Gaming CEO Seth Schorr
“For Las Vegas to maintain its position as the entertainment capital of the world, we as a city and industry need to constantly embrace new forms of gambling, entertainment, and sports. Esports is one of the few platforms that really embraces all three.”
Here are a few examples of what other hotels are doing:
Las Vegas: eSports Arena. The Luxor, owned by Casers, hosts one of the world’s first dedicated arenas. The arena spreads across 30,000 square feet with dramatic LED lighting and broadcast space to showcase high-profile events. The arena is also a revenue center, with per-hour charges to gamers.
Las Vegas: The Downtown Grand. A few years back, a renovation added a dedicated eSports area, as well as bunk bed rooms for gaming teams. Its location just off the casino floor reflects the similarities of eSports with traditional casino gaming: Interactive entertainment that encourages lingering -- and betting.
Taiwan: iHotel. Dubbed the first eSports hotel, the iHotel addresses the unique needs of competitive gamers: each room features a high-powered gaming rig for competitors, and the lobby (below) welcomes guests with a 16-person LAN center open to all guests. A few “capsule rooms” also provide minimal sleeping quarters for team living; sound-proof, these capsules make it possible for teams to go 24/7 without disturbing each other.
What can my hotel do?
As each hotel’s infrastructure and demographic appeal vary, there’s no set playbook for leveraging eSports. With that in mind, here are some steps that your hotel can take towards welcoming eSports enthusiasts:
Promotions. The easiest thing to do is to create a promotion around any local competitions. Similar to the way that you may offer discounts to traveling sports teams, create relevant discounts for this community.
Relationships. Don't neglect local eSports organizers. Reach out to show your interest and support for the community. Organizers can also help you understand how best to serve as a partner and potential venue.
Sponsorships. Consider sponsoring a local event or even a local competitive gamer. Enthusiasts are loyal to the brands that support this emerging sport. And with significant audiences watching remotely, there's a chance to expand brand awareness beyond attendees.
Venues. You don't need a massive arena or dedicated eSports space to host an event. Often, events take place in ballrooms. If your hotel has ample meeting space, it can transform into an eSports venue. One caveat: eSports is bandwidth-intensive, so be sure to align your IT to ensure adequate speeds.
Development. Certain markets, such as Las Vegas, have existing entertainment infrastructure that can extend to eSports. As your hotel looks to the future, consider how eSports fits into the plan. The reality of more people seeking out live eSports events means that there’s growth ahead. Diversify your sources of demand to best position any future development.
With these five steps, hotels of all sizes can begin to support the emerging eSports traveler demographic. There's plenty of growth ahead -- and those hotels that appeal to this new type of travel stand to gain a loyal fan base.
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