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Esports Tournaments Coming to a Mall Near You

10 Jul, 2019

By: Mary Helen Sprecher

Point-and-click shopping is killing malls. That’s not news, and with the uptick in bankruptcy and closure of longtime retail tenants like Dress Barn and Payless Shoes, you’d be hard-pressed to find a mall that isn’t struggling. But in its own way, the digital age might just help shopping centers reinvent themselves enough to survive. Here’s your proof: premium mall and outlet owner Simon Property has bought $5 million worth of shares in Allied Esports.

Under the agreement, Simon and Allied Esports will collaborate to bring esports experiences to select Simon destinations. In-mall arenas will be designed for tournament play and daily use, with the capability to be expanded into common areas for larger esports activations and live events, according to Cynopsis.

An article in SportTechie also pointed out that as part of its deal, Simon would collaborate on building and operating co-branded “Simon Cup” tournaments and activations using the HyperX Esports Truck. (Allied Esports is already a long-term partner of HyperX, a maker of gaming headsets. The two have collaborated in the past on the HyperX Esports Arena at The Luxor in Las Vegas. HyperX was also an official partner of Allied Esports’ North American mobile esports truck, which travels the U.S. to various gaming events. Last year the truck was present at E3, VidCon, and Comic-Con.)

The first competitions are set to launch at select Simon malls this fall, starting in the New York and Los Angeles markets, and culminating in a Grand Final at the iconic HyperX Esports Arena in Las Vegas.

The agreement is being viewed by many as a last-minute call from the governor to an inmate on death row. While malls might enjoy better foot traffic around holidays, it hasn’t been enough to sustain them. Business Insider, in a photo essay on mall closures (worth the read for its visual value alone) said a report done by Credit Suisse showed the downturn would result in 20 percent to 25 percent of malls closing in the next five years.

Those are some grim statistics. And as Forbes noted, it’s not typical for someone to ride to the rescue. Forbes contributor and managing partner of the retail advisory company RSR Research, Paula Rosenblum writes, “It is up to the mall operator to draw foot traffic into the mall and give retailers within it an opportunity to take advantage of that foot traffic.”

In other words, the onus is on mall operators to find ways to engage customers and reinvent themselves – something that seems to be in evidence in the Allied/Simon partnership.

Malls would, in many respects, make excellent venues. In addition to having plenty of free parking (something that can’t always be said of convention centers located in urban areas) they already offer concessions, are ADA compliant and have a longstanding reputation as community gathering points – particularly for youth and teenagers. And while connectivity might have to be upgraded to make them suitable as esports venues, it’s not something that can’t be done.

And it might just bring stores back – at least those that cater to the gamer population.

“The agreement with Simon is a landmark opportunity to bring Allied Esports’ vision for the future of competitive gaming to Simon’s world class property network,” Lyle Berman, director of Black Ridge, told Business Wire. “The significant investment by Simon would be a testament to our unrivaled plans and to the opportunity Simon sees to participate in this growing industry.”

It won’t be the first time a non-traditional venue has laid the groundwork to hitch its wagon to the esports star. Movie theaters, already feeling the pinch as consumers stream their entertainment, are working to up their connectivity and become the landing place for esports tournaments.  

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