Even though it was initially marketed as a new kind of massively multiplayer online game, the OASIS quickly evolved into a new way of life." -Ernest Cline
In his award-winning movie “Ready Player One,” Steven Spielberg portrays the future as an anti-utopia where much of humanity lives in a virtual world called OASIS. Although this is science fiction, many of the topics covered in the film are relevant today. Statistics show that in 2020, there were 2.69 billion active video gamers around the world. This number is predicted to grow exponentially in the upcoming years and reach 3.07 billion by 2023 (Clement, 2021).
Why do people increasingly play video games online?
Psychological research indicates that gamers’ primary motivation to play is the so-called ‘flow experience.’ This effect refers to a set of activities that fully involve and consume individuals and create a sense of time distortion. While in the game, players lose their self-consciousness and can no longer recognize changes in their environments (Lee, 2009).
Furthermore, most online games are multiplayer and enable thousands to play at the same time. This exclusive feature has given rise to a whole new market called eSports.
What is eSports and why it is gaining momentum?
eSports refers to the competitive online video gaming industry that functions similarly to ‘traditional’ sports. Like football, basketball and baseball, eSports events are covered by ESPN and include different games (Hamari & Sjöblom, 2017). Top eSports genres include:
multiplayer online battle arenas (e.g. League of Legends, Dota 2),
first-person shooters (e.g. Counter-Strike: Global Offensive),
real time strategy (e.g. Starcraft 2),
collectible card games (e.g. Hearthstone),
sports games (e.g. FIFA-series).
Recently, eSports became one of the most rapidly expanding media, with viewership expected to grow 9 percent, from 454 million in 2019 to 646 million in 2023 (Reyes, 2021).
Most of the fanbase comes from Asia, North America and Europe, are between the ages of 18 and 34 years, and are generally male. Notably, the survey discovered that eSports enthusiasts are working professionals who earn between $75,000 and $90,000 USD per year.
The high purchasing power of eSports spectators is why many international corporations invest in eSports events, such as Intel, Samsung, Coca-Cola, Arby’s, and Red Bull (Chapman, n.d.).
Unsurprisingly, the eSports market is set to reach $1.5 billion USD by the end of 2023 (Reyes, 2021).
How can the hospitality industry capitalize on gaming and eSports?
Currently, there are very few hotel companies that cater to the needs of these niche markets. Due to this lack of supply, Natus Vincere, the eSports organization based in Kyiv, Ukraine, bought a historical hotel “Dnipro,” right in the city center for $41 million USD. The company's founder, Alexander Kokhanovskyy, explained that he aims to turn the property into an eSports hotel that will feature training areas, an eSports arena, a gamers’ lounge, and unique rooms for professional players (Wells, 2020).
The existing supply of gaming hotels is mainly located in Las Vegas and competes in eSports arenas and suites (Hotel Speak, 2020). The best examples include:
Atari Hotels, Various Locations, US — designed to be an iconic gaming brand packed with games.
Luxor, Las Vegas, US — features HyperX eSports Arena for hosting world-class tournaments.
Esports Hotel E-Zone Cyberspace, Osaka, Japan — offers its guests state-of-the-art gaming facilities.
The Arcade Hotel, Amsterdam, The Netherlands — tailored for those who would like to relive the era of arcade gaming.
iHotel, Taoyuan City, Taiwan — supplies each guest room with high-tech gaming equipment and has a small eSports Arena.
To facilitate the needs of the rising number of gamers and eSports fans, leading hotel companies may do the following (Haussman, 2016):
host a weekly gaming night,
partner with eSports events,
create a gaming-focused lounge,
sponsor an eSports champion.
All in all, the hospitality industry has the potential to capitalize on this new market and holds a significant competitive advantage by having pre-existing real estate and event facilities — something that a specialized eSports event company may have trouble sourcing.
Anastasiia Petryshche is a master’s student from Ukraine pursuing the Master of Science in Global Hospitality Business program, which is in partnership of three schools: EHL, the Hong Kong Polytechnic University, and University of Houston.
Chapman, J. (n.d.). Esports: A Guide to Competitive Video Gaming. Finance. Retrieved from https://www.toptal.com/finance/market-research-analysts/esports
Clement, J. (2021). Number of active video gamers worldwide from 2015 to 2023. Statista. Retrieved from https://www.statista.com/statistics/748044/number-video-gamers-world/
Hamari, J., Sjöblom, M. (2017). What is eSports and why do people watch it? Emerald Insight. Retrieved from https://www.emerald.com/insight/content/doi/10.1108/IntR-04-2016-0085/full/html
Haussman, G. (2016). 4 ways hotels can play with Esports. Hotel Management. Retrieved from https://www.hotelmanagement.net/next-big-industry-trend-no-one-talking-about
Hotel Speak. (2020). The World’s Best eSports and Gaming Hotels. Retrieved from https://www.hotelspeak.com/2020/09/the-worlds-best-esports-and-gaming-hotels/
Lee, M. C. (2009). Understanding the behavioural intention to play online games: An extension of the theory of planned behaviour. Emerald Insight. Retrieved from https://www.emerald.com/insight/content/doi/10.1108/14684520911001873/full/html#idm45714282864704
Reyes, M. S. (2021). Esports Ecosystem Report 2021: The key industry companies and trends growing the esports market which is on track to surpass $1.5B by 2023. Insider. Retrieved from https://www.businessinsider.com/esports-ecosystem-market-report
Wells, J. (2020). Natus Vincere founder buys Ukrainian hotel for $41m, plans to use it for esports. The Loadout. Retrieved from https://www.theloadout.com/team/natus-vincere/dnipro-hotel