Providing a gaming business that caters to all gamers is something you need to establish as soon as a customer walks in your door. At times, we have found that even adding the word "esports" to your business could provide some apprehension before they step foot in your business. This may be because the word esports can mean everything is a competition. It's important to take time to get to know your gaming customers and find out what makes them interested in coming to your venue and what they like to participate in.
Cater your esports venue to all types of gamers.
Esports venues can often be focused on attracting a demographic that is interested in professional video games. This gamer demographic represents just 20% of the total gamer population. They consist of casual and hard-core gamers, as defined by the average time spent playing video games per week. Although the hard-core gamer typically spends many hours playing games each week, they may not attend local esports events or follow them closely.
In this post we'll look at the following:
- The problem with "Path To Pro" esports
- The profitability of esports tournaments
- Video Games that succeed as tournaments
- How a competition focus could turn off gamers
- Tapping into the full gamer landscape
- The five types of gamers
The Problem with "Path To Pro" Esports
As stated in the intro, the competitive aspect of gaming makes up for 20% of gamers in total. There has been a "path to pro" concept with many esports companies that want to take a little league approach to players and grooming them to be in big tournaments. I love this concept, but as an esports venue owner you're limiting your business by having this as your sole focus. Let's put this in perspective with traditional athletes.
Out of all athletes, roughly 7% of traditional athletes participate on a college level. Going one step further only 2% of those 7% on the college level go pro.
Statistics of traditional athletes that go on to play college and pro. (courtesy leagueside.com)
When considering an esports venue, to succeed you need butts in seats. Utilizing a "path to pro" mindset may limit your success and becomes a smaller niche in an already niche industry.
Esports Venue Tournaments Are Not Profitable
Esports venue business owners are often disappointed because their esports tournaments do not generate profits. Esports venues think they can attract gamer populations by repeatedly hosting high-profile esports events that feature professional gamers only and stream them online, but many gamers do not participate in competitive gaming and don't engage with these efforts. They continue to play what they want, when they want, where they want. Esports venue owners need to diversify their approach to engagement by understanding customer preferences and behaviors.
Rarely will you find that running esports tournaments in your venue are profitable. The reason is because if you are an honest owner, you should be returning the majority of team tournament fees back to the participants. This means that tournaments are more of a marketing opportunity to get people in your venue versus a money maker. You WILL make money, but most likely this will be in the form of premium offers to tournament customers such as game time after the tournament is over or through concessions sold at your venue. In our internal chats, we always used #watersales because on tournament days they were off the charts!
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Popular Video Games That Succeed With Tournaments
In our US midwest experience, the following customers always came out for these events:
Always a popular event with young and older alike. Fortnite is an easy way to get people into your venue. The game is easy to set up an event. Matches are fairly speedy. Players want to show the skills that they've honed from home. The only difficulty may be satisfying cross-platform players and/or providing controllers in a PC environment.
Call of Duty
Call of Duty games consistently provides teams wanting to participate in competitions. They have a great online following. The difficulty for an esports venue owner may be the platform of the game. Depending on your PCs/consoles available you may have to limit teams based on your ability to provide enough for full teams. Enough game copies can also be an issue.
The biggest problem with the COD community is attitude and language. If you plan to have a COD tournament you may need to siphon off regular customers to a different part of the store or you may want to close your locations to regulars on tournament day to alleviate any disgruntled parents.
League of Legends
League of Legends always has a steady following for tournaments. This continues to be a top draw for teams all over and in our experience the tournament that the most local players show up for.
I'd be remiss if I didn't state other games that may have a good tournament following. This depends on where you live and the game's following.
CS:GO can have a good following, but experience has been that players need to use their own gear, have specific setups, etc. which can be a pain point when trying to get matches completed.
Games such as Apex, Valorant & Rocket League when used sparingly can get good crowds but over time don't have much-staying power.
Sports games have always been 50/50 experiences for us. Many times the hype that surrounds these games and clamoring for events are great, but come game day equal in a lot of no-shows.
Does a Competition Focus Turn Off Your Valued Gamers?
In our experience, the long-term interest of local esports for tournaments has its peaks and valleys.
Teams do no tend to stay together long term. In fact, many teams form for one event and never play together again. If they do play in the next tournament it may be with different faces to try to get the W.
Depending on your location, the game supported, and the prize being offered teams may travel quite a distance to attend your tournament. On one hand, it is a great thing that they want to experience your venue for a tournament from a far distance. On the other hand, depending on their skill level, the morale of your local teams may become frustrated by the fact that a team scooped up a prize pool and didn't continue to support the business. As an owner, you should find a way to set up your events for success acknowledging your local players as well because they continue to help the business prosper.
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Tapping Into All Gamer Types (the 5 C's)
If competitions make up 20% of gamers, this means that you may be missing out on 80% of potential gaming customers with a tournament-only mindset. Many gamers don't spend a large amount of time gaming and may only be interested in recreational gaming activities that do not require a high skill level or commitment.
Through the analysis of experiences of our esports venues, we've come up with the five classifications of a gamer. All gamers fit under one or more of these monikers and most likely spread across multiple platforms to quench their gaming thirst.
The five C's of gamers are: Casual, Communicators, Collectors, Creators, and Competitors.
Casual gamers will do a combination of casual play, watch Twitch, watch YouTube and browse social media. They are willing to try new video games and may be interested in attending a gaming class or workshop.
Communicators are those that want to connect to others through their gaming. This may be in person but more applicable to the online properties of your esports venue. These are the gamers that are active on your Discord and social media, participate in Twitch chat, share and comment on your social media posts, & may want to create communities within your gaming customers.
Collectors are gamers looking to obtain stuff through their game time. They are passionate about the gamification concept. This may include playing games for long periods of time to obtain achievements or leveling up. Interest in collecting reward points/coins and redeeming a prize. Interested in collecting rare skins or unique esports venue offerings (commemorative shirts, etc.). May be targeted to purchase special merchandise or collectibles.
Creators are those that take their gaming to another level and include learning or applying skills. These would be streamers who produce an online show, using their multimedia skills for themselves or others, dabbling in game development & editing video content for or around your venue. These folks would highly be interested in gaming or education opportunities where they can learn a new skill.
Competitors are what much of this article has been focused on. They are the gamers that hone their gaming-specific to events. Always want to be part of solo or team events whether they be for fun or for prizes. While they may be a small portion of the entire gaming landscape they are still very important to capture for an esports venue.
This type of data would help engage and know video game titles they might like.
Throughout the video game landscape, there are many gamers who may be underserved in your esports venue. For the future of your business, it is important to study behaviors and target certain customer types when designing content and opportunities for your gaming customers.