TL:dr Esports holds tremendous promise for FECs to build community along with an event-based recurring revenue stream. Come to ShowUp to learn everything you need to know about Esports for FECs.

Come meet Phil Kaplan, CEO of Gameworks, George Sautter, former SVP Strategy for Cineplex, owners of World Gaming Network and Collegiate Starleague, Scott Novis, founder of Game Truck, Marcus “Esports” Howard, Marco Mereu from Xset, Blaine Graboyes from Gameco, and more. It’s the largest gathering of Esports expertise the FEC industry has ever seen.

Get tickets during the “Pay What You Want” promo – ends soon.


In February 2016 I started covering virtual reality’s third wave featuring The VOID, VRcade (now VRstudios), and Zero Latency. A year later I wrote that the third wave was shaping up like a tsunami. Five years after VR’s reemergence as a legitimate FEC attraction, it’s become a staple attraction in FECs.

So what’s next? For the last several years operators have been asking me about esports for FECs. Could that be the next big thing?

My response has been “not yet.” While esports is exploding, there were no clear business models for location-based esports beyond the occasional stadium tournament.

But that has not stopped forward thinking operators from experimenting and learning.

Urban Air tests Creative Works Esports FEC System

Creative Works launched a turn-key esports system for FECs in partnership with GGleap at IAAPA in 2018. But Esports isn’t something you can just drop into an FEC like a new arcade game. It’s an entirely different business model and requires new skills. If you’re interested, read on.

Early Signs of Success

Gameworks, under the stewardship of CEO Phil Kaplan, has invested heavily in esports in their FECs over the last several years. He sees a huge growth opportunity for the FEC industry. I spoke with Phil a couple of weeks ago about how he sees esports developing in the FEC market. He made some really great points.

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  1. Esports is about community. You need to build a community of gamers who want to spend time in your venue.
  2. Esports is an event business. Recurring esports tournaments offer the opportunity of increased frequency of visit and a recurring revenue stream.
  3. Esports drives ancillary revenue. You can’t expect to make money just by renting out gaming PCs. If you don’t have a strong F&B component, it probably won’t work.
  4. Esports requires new skillsets. You need people who understand how to organize, market, and run events. You also need community managers.
  5. Players want to practice at home, get good, and then come to the location to show off. This included the ability to live-stream their games from the location.

Casino Market Holds Relevance for FEC Esports

Seth Schoor, founder and CEO of the Downtown Grand Hotel and Casino just wrote an article in Global Gaming Business magazine that’s worth a read. Seth was an early adopter of esports in the Las Vegas casino market. And through that experimentation he’s begun to learn some of what works and what doesn’t.

Esports at Downtown Grand Casino holds clues for FEC Esports
Photo from Downtown Grand Facebook Page

He writes that many operators are just waiting for the gamer generation to get older assuming they’ll evolve into slot customers like their parents and grandparents. This assumption comes with existential risk.

The current generation of gamers has grown up with skill-based gaming. Games of pure chance hold little allure over them. Hope is not a strategy. Ask a movie theater owner how that’s worked out.

I bring up the casino market because I see lots of parallels to the FEC market. They both have been dependent on re-skinned versions of the same basic games for a generation. And they both need to build new relevant offerings to new generations of players.

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Seth writes, “We recently saw what happened when casino industry leaders did not have a strong mobile sports wagering strategy. The “newcomers” from the daily fantasy sports space garnished market share in a way that most would not have expected. And now the biggest operators in the gaming space are playing catch-up.”

I know of a dozen companies that are investing in location-based esports. I don’t know if they’ve unlocked the keys to the business model yet, but I can assure you that they’re getting closer every day.

Want to Learn More About Esports?

If you want to talk to the leading innovators, trailblazers and originators busy inventing the future of the FEC business, grab a ticket right now to ShowUp – the new social convention and trade show for FECs. I’ve made tickets available for “pay what you can” so even if you’re broke AF, you can attend. No excuses. I want everyone to ShowUp so we can collaborate and design the future of the FEC together.

With love,

Bob