Game On! Growing Your eSports CommunityMarch 12, 2013 By: Brad Nierenberg
There’s a largely untapped market out there, throngs of new patrons looking to gather, and willing to buy food and drinks as they cheer on their favorite team. No, I’m not talking about fans of football, baseball, basketball, hockey, or soccer. I’m talking about gamers, and I guarantee that if you knew more about this growing eSports community, and realized the added business potential they bring, you’d give incorporating barcrafts a serious look.
According to market tracking firm, The NPD Group, more than 211 million people in the United States play video games. While this group was once content playing eSports on the couch, they are now looking to socialize with like-minded gaming friends as they watch their heroes play. Yes, heroes. The gaming community looks to popular eSports professionals like football fans view Peyton Manning. And, while these professional gamers are not making millions like Manning, many do earn an annual six-figure salary on top of sponsorship income. The point here is that the gaming community is organized, big, and ripe for bars and nightclubs to take advantage of.
Need more proof? Recently, the 10,000-seat Galen Center at the University of Southern California sold out in just five days as gamers gathered to watch the world championship of the game League of Legends, which drew professional eSports teams from the United States, China, and Russia. Six million watched the competition online! Now, of course, your business can’t hold 10,000 people, but it might be able to handle 35, 50, or 100 new customers. Recently, in Austin, Texas, a barcraft event drew 200 gaming enthusiasts where the average new consumer spend was approximately $30 per person.
If that new business potential intrigues you, there are a couple action points you can do immediately. First, seek out the local gaming community to take their pulse on whether they’d be interested in a barcraft. Google gaming shops and meet-up groups and start polling their interest. Second, as simple this sounds, be sure your bar or nightclub can accommodate the event with respect to necessary technology. One of the misconceptions owners and managers have about hosting a barcraft is that it is difficult to execute because of technology. That’s simply not the case. The only resources the establishment needs is a digital switcher linking televisions (HDMI), a laptop, and a fast internet connection for live-streams.
While the technology should not be a concern, there is, however, one very important piece of planning owners and managers need to consider. To help draw in gamers to your establishment, I highly recommend teaming up with an organization fully engaged in and experienced with this close-knit community. A group like One Nation of Gamers (ONOG) helps bars and nightclubs from all over the country organize barcrafts, from the event setup to building buzz around the event by tapping into their vast pool of gaming constituents. In addition, they also provide branded marketing swag to gaming patrons, something that helps build on the positive onsite experience, which opens the door for increased spending.
“The key in making a barcraft event successful is having the ability to tap into the strong comradeship of the gaming community,” said Deric Ortiz, president of One Nation of Gamers. “If bars and nightclubs can create buzz within that community, eSports fans will come out in strong numbers, which definitely offers up new business opportunities, not just for the single event, but far beyond that. The barcraft scene offers gamers the chance to connect with one another, learn new skills, and simply have a good time watching their idols play. It’s a growing movement that one day soon will be on the main stage.”
That sentiment was echoed by Brandon Beck, the developer of the League of Legends, who predicted that “eSports will be an Olympic event in my lifetime.” While that is truly a lofty aspiration, there is no doubt that the barcraft scene is rapidly growing, and surpassing dart and pool leagues in popularity, especially in bars in metro areas and college towns.
The design and content of the games are so life-like, and when you couple that with pro gamers playing, there’s a sense of live sports and “reality TV”, which further adds to the intrigue and excitement of barcrafts. Are they about to go toe-to-toe with the Final Four, the World Cup, or the Super Bowl? No. But, the table is set for this movement to continue to race toward mainstreaming, and the time for bars and nightclubs to get involved is now.