ASX-listed retail property group Vicinity Centres has announced plans to build a purpose-built electronic sports (eSports) complex at Emporium Melbourne, featuring a 200-seat stadium and two floors of gaming and entertainment.
Melbourne, now the epicentre for video gaming and esports culture — with major events such as Melbourne eSports Open and PAX Australia — will now open the largest eSports venue in the southern hemisphere, dubbed Fortress Melbourne.
The multi-billion-dollar eSports industry presents a massive opportunity for property developers in Australia aiming to cash in on the hype and diversify their portfolio away from traditional real estate investments.
The Emporium-based eSports venue will offer an Australian-first purpose-built arena, with more than 160 gaming PCs, console gaming suites, dedicated streamer pods, Roll Playing Game (RPG) and tabletop game play area, function rooms, a full-service restaurant and two bars.
eSporting tournament viewership has already surpassed that of traditional sports broadcasting.
According to Nielsen and Rentrak, total cumulative viewership for major sports finals place the US's NFL Super Bowl first with 124 million viewers and the world's premiere esports competition League of Legends second with 58 million, ahead of international cricket (46 million) and the NBA Finals (32 million).
The rising emergence of the eSports sector — which surpassed $135 billion in revenue worldwide last year, is now expected to grow exponentially with brands and potential sponsors looking to get in early in an market expected to reach $2.5 billion by 2022.
A big part of the sport's future revenue opportunities will revolve around live events — with opportunities to build fan engagement with specific teams and players, while generating typical sports-related revenues in merchandise, concessions and the rest.
Players are also enjoying the lion's share of revenue. Last month Melbourne-based teenager Anathan Pham, 19, collected $4.62 million in prize money at last month’s Dota 2 world championships in Shanghai.
“Emporium Melbourne is thrilled to become the home of the Southern Hemisphere’s biggest video gaming and esports venue which will offer a one-of- a-kind Australian gaming and entertainment experience,” Vicinity Centres chief development officer Carolyn Viney said.
“We are always looking at new, unique experiences to offer our customers and with the global phenomenon of esports rapidly gaining fans in Australia, Emporium Melbourne’s city location makes it the obvious choice for an esports arena and gaming venue that will cater to all audiences.”
While global esports industry revenues are cresting the $1.5 billion mark in 2019, Australian revenues are far behind.
The PwC Entertainment and Media Outlook 2019 report estimates total Australian esports revenue in 2018 was around $4 million and will reach an estimated $8 million by 2023.
Other commercial esports operations in Australia are focused around game developer-owned league events, such as Riot Games’ League of Legends Oceanic Pro League and Activision Blizzard’s Overwatch Contenders Australia, along with major one-off weekend events.
Goldman Sachs has also agreed that eSports is rapidly moving into the mainstream.
The professionalisation of what was previously seen as computer games has paved the way for esports to reach nearly 300 million viewers by 2022.
Fortress Melbourne will offer the best video gaming experiences and entertainment, with the newest tech, fastest internet, comfortable decor, great food and drinks, and a rich calendar of events and tournaments, plus more,” Fortress Esports chief executive Jon Satterley said.
Set to open its doors in early 2020, the stadium, designed by Populous — responsible ANZ Stadium and the new Tottenham Hotspur Stadium in London — will tap into Emporium Melbourne's 20 million annual visitors.