E-sports, gamification, and the convergence of the digital world with real estate are set to have a ‘enormous’ impact on shaping our environments. And the ramifications include a greater community involvement and perhaps more fluid buildings shifting between uses over the day and night.
Those were some of the views to emerge from Changing the game – the impact of e-sports on real estate, a webinar that brought together three key thinkers in a booming area.
Nicky Wightman of Savills said that there were now three billion gamers across the world, and that the UK has a big interest in this space, coming in as the fifth largest market on the planet. Gamification had had a huge impact on areas like fashion and music, she said, and events like the Fortnite World Cup in 2019 had shown its burgeoning appeal, coalescing interest around the industry in a mainstream way.
‘What does this mean for real estate? The applications are enormous’, Wightman said. ‘This is a space that is enormously significant. It is disrupting, it is innovating, it is creative. It’s defining its own culture’
Here East’s Gavin Poole said that the days of gamers being thought of as the stereotypical person on the sofa, eating crisps and drinking coke, were long gone. Now they are considered more as ‘athletes’ with big numbers flocking to places like the Copper Box on the Olympic Park to do battle in a physical space, but in virtual worlds. Here East had started to build a ‘cultural cluster’ where gaming, gaming design and competitive design could all sit. But Poole added that an important aspect of e-sports and creating venues is that it is, essentially, a good thing for local areas. ‘This is a community programme’, he said. ‘This is about building the scene, about reaching into communities, reaching into the schools, working with young people, showing what they can do. They are not all going to be players, but they can actually work in this sector if they choose to do so as well’. All of a sudden, he added, you can engage the community, engage young people, enhance education, bring in new sectors, major events and have a multi-use facility. ‘And also have a lot of fun along the way. And I think that's really important
Chi Bhatia of HKS Architects presented key examples of the practice’s work in this area on e-sports, experiential content, convergence and immersive entertainment venues, including the 70,000-seater SoFi stadium, outdoor plaza and performance arena for the Chargers in Los Angeles that features a dual sided elliptical video wall ‘that is in itself an immersive venue’. The Team Vitality venue in Paris – as featured in NLQ – is a vibrant, multi-use space and ‘lifestyle brand’ which is easily adaptable from holding eSports events to staging product launches or music club nights, with retail, offices and a basement production studio thrown into the mix too. Other schemes included immersive spaces that could hold events and help in post-covid dead box retail environments, along with broadcast suites and interactive smart stages within Premier League stadia. ‘eSports and gaming deserve a benefit for this type of experience to grow, because other forms and other genres of IP are also wanting this location-based entertainment in a new way’, said Bhatia. ‘But for us it’s not about just the technology - and as customer experience increases, how do we then enable that in a new way?’
Discussion points in the session included the effect of COVID’s fast acceleration to digital models and challenge of bringing digital and physical models, as in the office environment; the potential for sports entertainment, e-sports and location-based entertainment to resemble the Disney or amusement park experience, and the idea of a London Games Festival to promote the area more. ‘This is an industry that has the capacity to really drive footfall’, said Wightman.