Bringing eSports to a Vegas casino

downtown-grandOn the casino floor of the Downtown Grand Las Vegas, in what used to be the high limit room, two men face off in Mortal Kombat XL. It’s the final round of the night’s contest, called “Finish Him! Friday.” A $250 prize is at stake.

The two men sit on the edge of their chairs, custom fight sticks in hand, eyes fixed on the screen. Behind them, at least 20 people watch, drink and chat about video games. Just feet away, a pair of slightly inebriated women loudly cheers and claps at the roulette table, but the atmosphere inside the lounge is laid back, a refuge from the noise and neon lights of the casino. It’s a typical Friday night for the Downtown Grand, a hotel that recently went all in on esports by hosting weekly contests, watch parties and competitive events.

The global esports market is rapidly expanding; market researcher Newzoo (via VentureBeat) expects it to grow by 43 percent in 2016 from $325 million to $463 million. By 2019, Newzoo predicts esports will be a billion dollar industry, and as it continues to grow in popularity and viewership, this so-called “esports tourism” may be a prime market for a city like Las Vegas. Sin City has the infrastructure in place to support large-scale gaming events like Evo and The International. There’s even talk that Beijing-based company Ourgame International Holdings Ltd. wants to build a dedicated esports arena on the Las Vegas Strip, according to Vegas Inc.

If the city does become a future esports hotspot, the Downtown Grand wants to play a big part in that success. While massive professional gaming events happen every year, there isn’t a full-time, 365 days a year esports destination. Seth Schorr, chairman of the Downtown Grand and CEO of its gaming license holder and casino operator, Fifth Street Gaming, tells Polygon he hopes his hotel, and the rest of the Las Vegas metropolitan area, will be that destination.

“We wanted to create an environment that caters to the esports audience 24/7,” he says, “not just the weekend of an event, and then come Monday it’s no longer an esports hotel. We wanted to activate our property so that the esports enthusiasts always want to come visit the property and there’s always something going on.”

Full story @Polygon

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