Will an eSports revolution power up retail destinations?

An eSports revolution could be set to power up UK retail destinations, according to exponents of the online gaming trend.

The activity – which involves the competitive playing of online computer games – attracts enormous numbers of participants, both in playing the games and watching live streamed events. Its potential impact on the retail scene was the subject of the first Insights Seminar hosted by PR group Aver, held in London this week.

Dave Chadwick, a games developer at Candy Crush parent King, emphasised the scale of the market for eSports and the dedication of its fans, which he likened to those who follow football teams. Fans travel to physical arenas to watch tournaments and are keen to participate in events linked to their hobby.

Wanyoo Cafe
Wanyoo Cafe

“These gatherings are a fantastic retail opportunity,” Chadwick told an audience of retail property specialists. Limited edition products, such as collaborations between gaming brands and fashion labels, are much in demand and are often available only at specific physical events, he says. “It is a $180bn industry and growing.”

Shopping centres, especially those with arena facilities, can make ideal and accessible venues for eSports tournaments – which can last for several days, attracting customers who may stay for long periods, says Chadwick.

Gaming brand Wanyoo Café has more than 1,000 branches in China, offering a social environment where gamers can come together to compete with one another.

It too is convinced of the potential in the sector, and three months ago opened its first UK branch in Chinatown London. Five further branches are planned, in London, Manchester, and Coventry. The latter location has been chosen because the group identified a large student population; the brand plans to work with universities to establish smaller branches in campus locations.

Wanyoo London store operations director Joe Xie says that the UK branches will be used as a base for expansion across Europe.

And Tony Levine of property management group Shelley Sandzer outlined the opportunities for engaging with eSports fans at physical events. “A recent League of Legends tournament pulled in so many people that it’s nearly as popular as NFL,” he says.