Wednesday, Oct. 26, 2016 | 2:38 p.m.
Casinos can hold successful e-sports events, said several industry experts speaking at the E-sports and Casino Resorts conference at the SLS today. They just have to bring all the right people together in one place and treat them right.
Experts from e-sports teams, companies that offer e-sports broadcast platforms and fantasy e-sports services and others discussed what casinos can do to host successful e-sports events.
And events are something the e-sports community wants, because of its very nature.
“Most gamers and people in the gamer culture are spending a lot of time online,” said Steve Arhancet, co-CEO/owner of e-sports team Team Liquid. “But they don’t have a place to go and socialize in person. There aren’t really any events or a bar to go to, and so people [congregate] around the tournaments.”
Holding tournaments is one way to take advantage of this need to gather. But it’s not the only way, and it comes with its own challenges.
“If you want to, you could do something like what Mandalay Bay did and hold a massive event,” said Scott Burton, CEO of EsportsPools, which provides fantasy sports service for e-sports fans.
“Or you can do what Seth (Seth Schorr, CEO of the Downtown Grand) downtown did with his approach and have weekly events. If you’re hosting major online events, then you have a lot of tech issues to think about. And I strongly recommend bringing in someone in that has experience holding those.”
Another option is to hold events around the tournaments, including viewing parties and after-event parties where fans meet players and important influencers in the e-sports world.
Arhancet said that’s exactly what his team did after the large Mandalay Bay e-sports event earlier this year.
“We had playoffs at Mandalay Bay, and we said, ‘Hey. Let’s have an after-party where folks could come and party with the team,’” he said. “We were worried about the demographic, because the venue was over 21. And, as you know, it’s like a 30 buck cab ride from the Strip to downtown.
“So we didn’t know what to expect. We had the players put out a few tweets. And we thought about what content we could have at the event. Should we play games or have an interactive event?
“We decided let’s just take photos with the team. We’ll have fans come and take photos and hang out. I didn’t expect as many people to show up as did. It was close to 1,700 people.”
Burton said player meet-and-greets can have a multiplier effect. “You can’t believe the amount of pull these teams and players have,” he said.
And the people who stream e-sports and follow the e-sports players online can often be as big a draw as the players.
“Ya, it’s surprising to me and probably to you,” Burton said. “In the UK, one of the popular YouTubers was sitting on stage and streaming (e-sports) and there were 2,000 people there. It’s amazing that you can get people to come in and watch someone just stream games.”
Nick Allen, Director, Esports Operations at Twitch, a company that offers a video streaming platform and community for gamers, agreed that courting influencers could pay dividends for casinos.
“Think about influencers and how they could utilized or be made to be interested in Vegas’ offerings,” Allen said. “Imagine a world where a very popular influencer was streaming live and showing what they were do when they were in Vegas.
“The level of accessibility fans have with broadcasters on Twitch is extremely deep. So you could leverage that. Have them spend a week in vegas hotel, Having one of them speaking highly of your venue or hotel and you have a really great marketing opportunity.”
The panelists discussed other ideas to bring e-sports into Las Vegas casinos, including supporting a league and having multiple events around the various properties on the Strip and even hosting a team and watching it recruit and develop players over time.
But regardless of the method, they said, casinos should respect the community and not look at e-sports as simply a trend to cash in on.
“One big risk is authenticity,” Burton said. “if you’re just seen as a big casino brand that wants to jump in and capitalize on this thing and aren’t putting in place the infrastructure and people that it needs, it won’t work. If you upset this community they will leave fast and tell everyone about it.”
Arhancet agreed, casinos have to do their homework.
“It’s important, making sure that it’s authentic,” he said. “Gamers..they’re able to smell something that’s not right and call it out as foul, be it as little as calling it e-gaming, not e-sports.
“Make sure you’re creating an event with the right type of intellectual property and players and get good advice on curating your event.”