As popular as esports has become over the last few years, much of the focus has been on content creation and streaming, while in-person attendance at tournaments remains relatively niche in the US. According to New Media Measure®, only 4% of the US population has attended an esports event in the past three months. When including those viewing esports events, however, that figure almost doubles to 7%, suggesting that streaming (not in-person attendance) is the primary method for fans to watch.
Media giant Comcast has been paying attention to this trend and is shifting its esports arena plans accordingly. Its Philadelphia-based subsidiary Comcast Spectacor, which owns esports OverWatch League franchise the Philadelphia Fusion (along with other sports clubs), has decided to pivot away from building the Fusion Arena, a 3,500-seat esports facility, and instead use its rights to develop a multipurpose venue. The company isn’t giving up on esports events, but rather wants to be able to offer a place for concerts, restaurants, and a variety of entertainment.
According to PhillyVoice, “One reason for the change in plans is the way the esports industry has adapted to the pandemic. The closure of venues pushed esports more firmly into the realm of streaming, where the biggest winners have been Twitch, Facebook Gaming and YouTube Gaming.”
Additionally, Comcast envisions creating something that is positioned to leverage the appeal of Philadelphia’s four major pro sports teams that play in the stadium district. The idea is to emulate what Toronto and Milwaukee offer with their respective Jurassic Park and Deer District sites. At the moment, Comcast Spectacor is still exploring ideas and there are no immediate plans for what was to be a $50 million esports venue.
In the meantime, as streaming gains more and more momentum and esports orgs focus on content creation around gaming and urban/youth culture, there has been more investment in building out facilities for clubs to record fresh content. The NBA affiliated Golden Guardians, for example, recently announced a 10,700 square-foot esports facility in LA, to function as a creative studio and training facility. It’s expected to open this fall and is likely the kind of esports investment we’re going to be seeing more of going forward.
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