There’s no denying it: eSports have gone mainstream.
The significant presence of it in pop culture has added a new facet in the world of competitive gaming, rolling the red carpet for a new breed of cyber athletes and fans altogether. On the other hand, eSports still have the tendency to remain niched, in such a way that despite its legions of followers worldwide, there’s still the issue of inaccessibility.
This inaccessibility specifically affects beginners and/or novices who are looking for a nearby community that can cater to their needs, whether physically being with a group of people to play with (i.e. gaming nests) or enjoying a live major event with peers in sort of a sports bar.
Previously, we’ve taken a look at the history of eSports in the Philippines and its current state today. This time, let’s take it a step further and look at an eSports bar as a viable business.
The Marketability of eSports
Similar to a lot of somewhat offbeat endeavors such as the K-Pop and Doctor Who fandom, eSports is popular on its own, yet there are still marketing challenges that are in the way. Candice Mudrick’s article on Medium presented five branding challenges pro gamers face, in which a key takeaway focuses on its mass appeal. The piece suggested that even the most popular eSports stars are still universes away from the likes of David Beckham when it comes to looks and personality.
Disregarding the potential of pro gamers in terms of global marketability can be a huge mistake; take Fortnite’s Kyle Giersdorf as an example. Our article on “Bugha” detailed the 16-year-old phenom’s road to $3 million in the inaugural Fornite World Cup. What’s even more remarkable is how Giersdorf took his relatively unknown team, Sentinels, into the world stage, in front of a massive crowd at the Arthur Ashe Stadium in New York.
Think about it: if “Bugha” along with other eSports athletes from 30 different nations can sell out a world-famous sports venue and entertain more than 19 million viewers around the globe, what more could the industry do in a smaller, more intimate setting like a local sports bar?
What Makes an eSports Bar?
Traditional sports bars and eSports bars have many similarities and differences. First off, they both host events that cater to a specific segment in the market, those passionate fans who pour their hearts and souls out for the love of a particular sport. Some can also argue that they whip up the most delectable dishes and serve the most refreshing drinks. The contrast, however, lies in popular culture’s acceptance.
In hindsight, eSports bars are more — for lack of a better term — peculiar, compared to their more established counterparts. Yes, major tournaments in Fornite somewhat give the Super Bowl or even the NBA Finals a run for their money in terms of viewership and marketability, but at the end of the day, they still have a long way in terms of penetrating the general sporting audience. One glaring issue is exclusivity.
The Unique Challenge of Operating an eSports Bar
Now that we’ve established eSports as a potentially marketable platform, let’s turn our attention to and address the challenge of exclusivity.
Indeed, it can be intimidating for a casual gamer to get involved — let alone compete — in eSports, as they can be rather introverted. Add that to the fact that a sports bar typically features a livelier, more social setting, and you have a recipe for anxiety. Thankfully, there are some tried and tested solutions for would-be eSports bar owners.
First is regularly hosting eSports tournaments, which can generate sufficient income for your sports bar. This, in more ways, can also grow its appeal and attract more people to the game, or perhaps fans who attend eSports events not just to play and compete, but also to mingle with peers and enjoy the venue’s ambiance. Furthermore, an eSports sports bar can benefit from traditional elements in the form of arcade machines, quiz nights, and even board games.
These facets can also open the doors to more casual fans and even help them become diehard supporters.
All things considered, there are many ways to make money in eSports. Game Rex has an article on careers in eSports that go beyond the typical pro gamer. Here, the writer reinforced the feasibility of starting an eSports bar, how it can adapt the concepts of traditional sports bars and elevate them according to their target market.
We’ve also seen the success of companies like Mineski and the slow but steady acceptance of eSports in the mainstream. With the enduring popularity of mobile and computer gaming in the Philippines, it’s no surprise that eSports bars and other gaming-related ventures are on the rise.
However, behind all the excitement of starting a new venture and mixing passion with work, the truth is that owning an eSports bar — just like any other business — can be quite daunting. Yes, the industry is huge, and it’s growing bigger and bigger by the minute, but if you don’t put in the effort, all these ideas will go to waste.
Daniel Ling is a tech writer, gamer, and cat dad. He graduated with a Bachelor of Science in Information Technology an indeterminate number of years ago, worked for a while in the IT industry, switched to startups, and now does writing in his spare time. If you want to catch up on the latest gossip about gadget releases, he probably already knows it, and if he doesn’t then he can at least Google it pretty quick. If you challenge him to a Star Wars trivia battle, you will lose.