Retailer GAME has launched a new e-Sports arena in the heart of London, offering gamers a fun safe space to get their APEX Legends fix.
The new arena from GAME and Belong has over 100 desks in its gaming pit. It’s buried beneath a House of Fraser on Oxford Street, but it has its own purple-lit entrance – so you don’t need to walk through a gazillion beauty and perfume aisles to find it.
Spread across a cavernous basement room, the space is half GAME store and half mammoth gaming pit. The shop area has been set up to let you trial out hardware and new releases, so the whole thing feels very experience-focused. It’s almost like an old-fashioned arcade with an updated aesthetic.
“We want to be on the top list of places to go – not as a shop,” says GAME CEO Martyn Gibbs. “We’re thinking ‘What are the top ten most fun things to do in London,’ we want to be within that.”
There are over 112 bookable PCs in the arena, making it the biggest permanent set-up in the UK. On top of this, there are two party rooms you can reserve, a dedicated pro room for esports teams, and well-lit streaming stations tucked away at the back of the arena.
It might feel a bit intimidating for people who enjoy the odd battle royale but don’t see themselves as serious players. But these are exactly the type of people Gibbs is trying to engage.
“When you say to people ‘Are you involved in esports, would you want to be?’ They say ‘I’m not good enough,’ or ‘I’ve got no idea how.’ That’s literally all you have to solve for them. That’s exactly what Belong is [offering], it’s whatever level you want to participate at. Either with just your friends or new teams you’re creating.”
Belong arenas have been growing in numbers. This year, new places opened in Ballymena and Sutton (although as a side-effect of the Oxford Street arena opening, the Wardour Street one will be closed). Across the UK the arenas ‘compete’ against each other regularly and winners can wind up on stage at Insomnia festivals.
To celebrate the opening of this new gaming pit, esports team Excel will be hanging out in the Oxford Street’s pro-room from 5 – 8pm on December 13, challenging amateur League of Legends players to take them on.
“The amateurs will lose, of course,” says Gibbs. “But they’ll have fun.”
Esports is having a great 2019. According to analyst company NewZoo, the industry will make more than $1billion in revenue this year, and the global audience will total 456 million.
Given the above figures, it makes sense that the big players in the UK are trying to find ways to expand and improve venues, so they can cater to more attendees and also upgrade live coverage.
“We’re trying to build the most valuable community for gamers,” says Gibbs. “We don’t believe we do that by just having a shop. We believe you have to have the right experiences around that and a real focus on esports.”