Tournament play taps immersive social entertainment platforms

The latest immersive amusement platforms have embraced tournament play, engaging consumers in exciting new ways.

Image: Adobe Stock.

Tournament competition continues to grow in popularity, and the family entertainment center/social entertainment space seems perfectly placed to offer a stage for the growth.

As more platforms are released which defy the previous aversion to support connected hardware and competition features, this aspect of the business will grow in the vital marketing role it plays.

The latest immersive amusement platforms have embraced tournament play — as seen with the Omni Arena (Virtuix), VR Esports Arena (Phenomena), Tower Tag Battlezone (Hologate) and the VAR Box (VAR Live).

VAR Box breaks new ground

The VAR Box League of Colleagues marks an industry-first competition between game operators to help grow the e-sports competition element of the platform.

The competition saw U.S. players break into the top three places for the first time, winning their slice of the international prize pot. The U.S. players took on stiff competition from the international players from Taiwan, Thailand, Hong Kong, Malaysia and the U.K.

Zero Latency, meanwhile, announced its Champions of the Undead, a championship to win a $15,000 cash prize, with runners up getting HTC hardware. Competitors will play the location based entertainment VR free-roaming game, “Undead Arena,” with players divided into three sections: America, Europe and Middle East/Asia Pacific. The final will take place in October.

E-sports stake their claim

The deployment of temporary e-sports spaces in existing entertainment properties continues with the news of a partnership between Coca-Cola and Six Flags. Eight of the Six Flags resorts have opened gaming house locations, with e-sport lounges comprising multiple PC gaming stations to play the popular titles such as “Fortnite,” “FIFA 23” and “League of Legends.”

The strength of the e-sports aspect could also be seen in London at the Red Bull Gaming Sphere London, located in Shoreditch. The Gaming Sphere is one of several e-sports arenas operated by Red Bull and, along with high-end PC terminals, the venue can roll out racing rigs for head-to-head competition.

The Gaming Sphere also includes a partnership with VR headset developer Pico — the Bytedance owned operation has installed in the venue a mixed reality booth, where a blue screen chroma key setup allows VR players to be superimposed into the VR game, with their action able to be streamed. This is a working implementation of the idea Meta had attempted with its failed Meta Store VR showroom.

One of the largest e-sports tournament competitions took place in Saudi Arabia’s capital, Riyadh, with the Gamers8 2023 Season event. This was a unique gathering of some 1,050 professional e-sports teams, and a large public audience of 1,355 players and spectators, along with an estimated 1.08 billion social media views generated.

The event, operated in support of the Saudi Esports Association, saw a record high in prizes, with $45 million up for grabs.

On the event floor, the Aramco simulated racing platform was deployed, along with a number of PC and console terminals, with over 40 state-of-the-art simulators available, offering immersive e-sports and, alongside the simulated arena were e-Karting courses, the whole event culminating in a music festival that saw some 91,000 tickets sold.

All this competition and entertainment was part of the Riyadh Seasons, an important festival in the area, spanning eight weeks from July to September each year.

Growing pains

Which is not to say that e-sports has been immune from growing pains.

U.K.-based Belong Gaming Arenas closed its U.S. subsidiary, Belong Gaming Arenas US, which operated six venues in locations such as Chicago and Dallas, as reported exclusively by the Esports Advocate news site.

The Belong Gaming Arenas U.K., owned by the Frasier Group, confirmed that this U.S. news will not have an impact on its 27-venue U.K. business, and these will continue to trade as normal.

Parent company Vindex was acquired by ESL Faceit Group in March and has been restructuring the operation.

Another U.S. e-sports operation was also making strategic cuts — organization Gamers First, known as G1. Staff cuts included senior executives.

Setbacks are to be expected as the entertainment landscape grows in new directions.

There have been landmark gatherings in the competition landscape, a success story with roots in the traditional amusement trade that seems loathe to learn from the success. However, hopes that we would see an association-supported strategy to promote tournament competition between FEC venues are yet to materialize.

(Editor’s note: Extracts from this blog are from recent coverage in The Stinger Report, published by Spider Entertainment and its director, Kevin Williams, the leading interactive out-of-home entertainment news service covering the immersive frontier and beyond.)

Along with advisory positions with other entrants into the market he is founder and publisher of the Stinger Report, “a-must-read” e-zine for those working or investing in the amusement, attractions and entertainment industry. He is a prolific writer and provides regular news columns for main trade publications. He also travels the globe as a keynote speaker, moderator and panelist at numerous industry conferences and events. Author of “The Out-of-Home Immersive Entertainment Frontier: Expanding Interactive Boundaries in Leisure Facilities,” the only book on this aspect of the market, with the second edition scheduled for a 2023 release. 

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