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A LEAGUE OF THEIR OWN

Retailers open eSports arenas inside their stores

Brands shouldn't underestimate the popularity of competitive video gaming. As younger Millennials and especially Gen Zs embrace this activity to fit their digital-first lives, the global eSports market is projected to reach $1.65 billion in revenue by 2020. Retailers are getting in on the action by launching dedicated eSports arenas within their stores.

WALMART

As part of Walmart's ongoing efforts to become a community destination, it's opened eSports arenas inside its stores in Roseville, CA, Spokane Valley, WA, and Colorado Springs, CO, and plans to do so in two more locations. Each venue, created in partnership with the aptly named company Esports Arena, holds league nights on weekdays and tournaments on weekends, as well as open play hours for people to hang out, practice, and try out its products. Though these spaces promote Walmart's line of PCs called OVERPOWERED by Esports Arena, shopping feels secondary, in line with young consumers' desire for brands to prioritize community over commerce.

SPORTS DIRECT

To compete with online shopping and further encourage people to visit its stores, UK retailer Sports Direct has also opened pay-to-play eSports spaces in select locations in partnership with the company Game Digital. Last year, Sports Direct paid £3.2m for 50% of Game Digital's eSports business, Belong, in order to bring the brand into its locations and sell its gaming products. Though Sports Direct hasn't announced how many Belong arenas it plans to open, the first location opened at its Lakeside flagship store this past October, enabling visitors to play for £7/per hour and book parties.

CURRYS PC WORLD

UK chain Currys PC World is also devoting space in its stores to eSports through a partnership with gaming company ESL. So far, the retailer has opened these spaces in several locations, including in Fulham and Swansea, Wales. Unlike Walmart and Sports Direct, Currys PC World offers free gameplay in order to let visitors try before they buy. The company cites this move as a big part of its increased focus on eSports, and is even planning to invite eSports teams to use its in-store arenas to train before tournaments and thereby draw greater attention to its centers and the game.