Esports tournaments are making a digital splash in the event industry, generating nearly $1 billion in revenue globally with no signs of hitting pause. With large-scale event bookings already down for 2021, hosting an esports tournament is a great way to boost business and enter a cutting-edge niche.
Because esports events last anywhere from a single afternoon to multiple days, and they rely heavily on tech—venue sourcing is make or break for this event arena. Read on to learn essential venue requirements for esports so your next event is gamer ready.
12 esports venue requirements to ensure a successful gaming event
1. Room to spare
Gone are the days when two teams of five players gathered in a room to battle each other on the video game frontier. With some of the biggest esports live events recording attendance levels of more than 100,000 people, the venue must be large enough to house a crowd. A venue that’s too small will make the players feel uncomfortable—no one wants a spectator to infiltrate their personal space during tense moments of play.
On the other side, booking a venue that’s too large for your esports tournament can carry its own set of problems. Spectators will struggle to see the action, leading to frustration in the crowd. (Or worse, boredom.) If they don’t feel close to the ‘live’ action, attendees will opt to watch the tournament from home next time around.
Common esports venue types that meet varying size needs:
- Dedicated esports venues
- Movie theaters
- Convention centers
- Small arenas
- Pro sports stadiums
- Shopping malls
New dedicated facilities are popping up everywhere, both refurbished and newly constructed. Esports Stadium in Arlington, Texas is the largest dedicated esports space in North America and is available for events. And many movie theaters are finding new life as esports arenas.
2. A centralized location
You know venue location is one of the most important factors when it comes to event turnout. Don’t select a site that’s off the beaten path. After all, a substantial portion of your players and spectators probably don’t have driving licenses and will rely on parental drop-offs or public transportation. Some parents might even be wary of hauling their kids to a far-flung venue, let alone leaving them there for a day-long tournament.
Events for older gamers have a better chance of success in or near a big city, or near a tourist attraction—attendees can turn the tournament into an opportunity for a vacation.
No matter your crowd, choose a venue in a location that’s easy to access through public transportation and provides plenty of free parking for attendees who must leave their cars for long periods.
3. The necessary licensing
Video games fall under the same copyright protection as other audiovisual works. Creators and publishers have the right to approve (or disapprove) the use of their games in public tournaments. Because of the rising popularity of these events, however, most publishers sell licenses to esports tournament organizers and third-party leagues—after all, it’s a source of revenue and an opportunity to promote their games.
For smooth sailing on the day of the tournament, contact the software company well in advance to let them know about the event and ensure you have the proper license and permissions to play the games.
4. Gamer-ready technology and support
Not surprisingly, one of the key requirements for your esports venue is a stable and robust power system, as well as a backup plan if the power goes down. You’re going to be setting up a massive amount of electrical equipment. And you could have hundreds of attendees tapping into the power supply to charge their computers. Consider a movie theater turned into an esports venue: the facility must support power strips along every row so players can plug in.
The last thing you want is a thousand people and players waiting around during a power outage. If the venue has an A/V person (a bonus when making your selection), speak to them about your needs and concerns in advance. If your venue does not have an A/V person, consider hiring your own.
You’ll also need to make sure the tech helps foster a social experience. This can mean one large screen where gameplay streams as attendees play along on their laptops. Or, enormous screens for esports competitions among professional gamers. Without a clear view of live gameplay, attendees will opt to stay home next time around.
5. The right Internet connection
This falls under ‘game-ready technology,’ but deserves a separate shout out: Your venue must have high-speed broadband internet. You’ll have hundreds of gamers playing in one place at one time, the broadband connection must be strong enough to support all of the digital action.
Not only will slow connections frustrate players, your spectators will lose interest quickly—those on-site and streaming from home on Twitch or YouTube. This will diminish your reputation fast. Never underestimate the power of ‘bad buzz’ serious gamers will generate if they can’t enjoy or stream their favorite event.
6. A layout designed for players and spectators
Some esports tournaments involve people playing for fun; others feature the best gamers in the world and are similar to major team sporting events. The check-in area should be large enough so guests aren’t crammed. Use an event check-in app to streamline attendee arrivals, and make sure staff are on hand to direct the crowd and help with any tech issues.
Inside the main playing area, your venue must be flexible enough to accommodate seating for individual players and team configurations. This likely means adding risers and stages to your event layout, or even building custom seating for players.
You’ll also need abundant seating for spectators and a seating layout that prioritizes unobstructed views. Auditorium and theater seating are ideal layouts for esports, but you’ll be able to create layouts that work with any space. Remember to reserve seats where players eliminated from tournament-style events can enjoy the remainder of the match.
Dedicated esports venues will have massive LED screens and digital leaderboards so everyone can see the game and who is winning. If not, make sure the site has adequate space. Coordinate a site visit with your A/V vendor so there are no surprises.
Use your event planning software to create the layout. Issues to watch for include keeping game play areas clear of attendees, and clarifying pathways to high-traffic zones, such as food and beverage, restrooms, and game sign-up desks. A 3D walkthrough can help you and your team spot sightline problems.
7. Inviting spaces away from the digital ‘arena’
Even gamers need a break from screen-time. This is also important for casual tournament attendees, and friends of players. Here are some non-digital ideas for your esports event:
- A retro-style lounge where fans can relax and have a mixed drink or a mocktail (keep in mind that your attendance may include plenty of guests under 21).
- A band or DJ for background music and play breaks.
- A game room where fans can play air hockey, billiards, and ping-pong.
- A retail sales area where spectators can buy gaming and esports related merchandise.
- Carnival-style food offerings, such as theater-style popcorn, soft pretzels, corn dogs, or cotton candy.
Whether someone is attending an esports tournament for the first time, or they’ve been to every event in the country, you want them to have a ‘wow’ experience.
Most venues have reserved parking spots, wheelchair ramps, and elevators, but always double check that sites follow accessibility guidelines. For large events, consider hiring an American Sign Language (ASL) interpreter for the hearing impaired. Every person who wants to attend an esports tournament should have full access to the same experience, regardless of their individual needs.
9. Tech-savvy staffing
The players entering esports tournaments rank at all levels from beginners to seasoned pros, and those entering Fortnite and Minecraft tournaments lean toward the younger demographic. You’ll need tech-savvy staff to help people get started, answer questions during the event, and troubleshoot issues.
Depending on the crowd size, you’ll also need event staff to direct players and spectators to proper areas, assist with check-in, keep times and scores, or assist with F&B sales. You might even require an emcee or event manager. Dedicated esports venues will have knowledgeable staff, but for stand-alone sites you’ll have to add temporary staff to the budget.
10. Food and drinks
Don’t rent a venue that doesn’t allow food or drinks in the gaming area. Players and spectators will get thirsty and hungry during an all-day event and you don’t want them to get hangry. Nor do you want them to leave the event in search of food. If the venue doesn’t provide F&B, hire a catering company to provide snacks (which you can fold into the event price), or organize visits from popular food trucks, timed to match breaks.
11. Security and clear safety procedures
As the world has changed, so have safety requirements at many venues. Does the venue provide security staff to protect the people and the very expensive equipment brought in and used at your tournament? If not, plan to hire your own. In addition to your security staff, alert local authorities (police and fire departments) if you expect a large crowd.
12. Esports event experience
This might not be easy to find, given that esports is a relatively young industry. However, choosing a venue that’s already hosted a few esports events will make planning that much easier. During those previous events, they’ll have worked out many of the kinks that occur with this type of complex and tech-dependent event. It’s a good idea to discuss how venues coped with esports challenges during the vetting process.