The Las Vegas Strip could soon be home to an arena for competitive video games if one Chinese company gets its way. The Beijing-based Ourgame International Holdings Ltd, the parent company that owns the World Poker Tour, wants to build an arena for e-sports. They want to build them in many locations around the world, but they see Las Vegas as a prime location.Ourgame already runs an arena in Beijing, and officials said this week that the company was teaming up with other Chinese businesses to expand to other countries. Add that with the fact that Downtown Grand Las Vegas has opened their own e-sports lounge and the signs point to Las Vegas developing as an eSports city soon. Every Friday, the casino also runs eContests in which entrants pay around $15 to compete against other players in games ranging from Madden to Mortal Kombat for cash prizes. This events regularly draw as many as 50 players with an equal number of spectators. When Seth Schorr, the chairman of Downtown Grand, was asked about why he decide to implement the e-sports lounge, he said “It’s undeniable that the landscape of gaming is changing, along with every other industry because of advanced technology and consumer behavior… I feel it is my duty to my company and its investors to keep Nevada relevant by changing with the times and coming up with new ways to make the gambling experience more compelling.” This could lead to Las Vegas becoming the hub for all e-sports betting in the country.
Seth Schorr is the first to admit it. Of the estimated 93 million Americans who play video games, he has never really been one of them. Truth be told, if it weren’t for relenting to his 6-year-old son Dax’s persistent requests to sit down and play Star Wars Battlefront, Schorr’s time spent with a game controller in his hands would be next to nil.
But Schorr isn’t blind to the tremendous influence the eSports market could have in Las Vegas, where he serves as the owner of Fifth Street Gaming and chairman of Downtown Grand Las Vegas Hotel & Casino. In fact, his eyes are more wide open and optimistic regarding the enormous potential than perhaps anyone in the entire casino industry.
“It’s undeniable that the landscape of gaming is changing, along with every other industry because of advanced technology and consumer behavior,” the 39-year-old Schorr explained. “I feel it is my duty to my company and its investors to keep Nevada relevant by changing with the times and coming up with new ways to make the gambling experience more compelling.”
Last year, Schorr and his staff began implementing a strategy in which competitive and professional video gaming would become a part of the guest experience at Downtown Grand, located on the site of the former Lady Luck Hotel & Casino in the center of the Downtown 3rd metropolitan district. In February, it became the first casino Schorr is aware of to open a dedicated space for video games. Right dab in the middle of the casino floor for all to see, Downtown Grand now has an eSports Lounge, in a room previously used for high-limit gaming, which can now be found next to Furnace Bar. The 1,140-square-foot lounge is ideal for five-on-five team competitions with a bank of 10 PCs, as well as Xbox and PlayStation consoles. Within the next month, classic arcade games will be added, as well as a Nintendo 64 console, an attempt to appeal to the late-30s/early-40s demographic who grew up with that wildly popular game attached to their TVs.
Every Friday, the casino runs eContests in which entrants pay a fee of around $15 and compete against others in games like Madden, Street Fighter, Mortal Kombat and NBA2K for cash prizes. The events regularly draw as many as 50 players with an equal number of spectators.
“It’s really cool to walk by on a Friday night and see two people playing Mortal Kombat head-to-head with 40 or 50 people standing around cheering them on,” Schorr said. “What’s great is that we’re finding that something like this really fits quite naturally in the casino atmosphere. It brings tremendous energy to the casino floor, which is always a good thing.”
The IS-7 thunders over the rubble of a ruined cottage just as a T110E5 comes crashing through the trees. They simultaneously fire on the Spahpanzer Ru 251, which is rocked by explosions but manages to hang on. As the attackers reload, the Ru 251 wheels backward, searching for cover. But an SU-152 is waiting to deliver the kill shot. In a fiery blast, the Ru 251 ceases to exist.
That’s a lot of twisted metal carnage, but Angela Abshier, director of resort marketing at Downtown Grand, isn’t frantic about the destruction. She’s not even worried about turning around the Fremont Room for the wedding scheduled later that week. All of this destruction is virtual, part of a paroxysm of digital combat that will culminate in crowning a new champion of Wargaming.net League North America, or WGLNA.
Cyprus-based Wargaming offers four main games: World of Tanks, World of Warships, World of Warplanes and Master of Orion. The mayhem at Downtown Grand is confined to World of Tanks, a massive multiplayer online game that, as the name suggests, pits teams of tankers against each other. Players select which one of more than 350 historical tanks they will use, then square off. The game is free to play, but players can buy add-ons to augment their experience.