Underground eSports Bar in London

Posted on: Mar 23, 2018 By smartlaunch in Tips, this is Alt text

200 meters from Shoreditch train station is Red Bull Gaming Sphere, London’s new eSports bar Engadget reported. It appears to be a typical eSports venue: neon-strewn PCs, large TVs, chunky headsets and the latest Nintendo, Sony and Microsoft consoles. But this isn’t a stadium designed to compete with the Gfinity Arena or ESL’s Studio 1 in Leicester. There are no seats, for instance, beyond a few cube-shaped blocks scattered in front of a 190-inch wall-mounted TV. It’s something else, a strange hybrid of eSports arcade and Twitch-friendly streaming studio. The hardware inside is undoubtedly impressive, but on opening night few are sure what it’s actually for.

The Sphere is near the Fnatic concept store that was run temporarily on Redchurch Street. Descend the stairs and you’ll find a swanky bunker with a bar and various gaming stations that can be reconfigured depending on the event. There’s a mixture of sofas and gaming chairs, catering to both serious and casual play, as well as VR headsets and a couple of racing rigs complete with wheels, pedals, and wrap-around displays. The centerpiece, though, is a clearly defined “red” and “blue” area for team-based games such as Overwatch and Rocket League.

It feels more like a gaming hangout than a stage where the next Dota champion could be crowned. Which would seem like a problem given how the eSports industry currently operates. Typically, players will practice at home until they reach an in-game ranking that grabs the attention of a professional team. They’ll then be whisked away to a team house, or kept on the roster for a squad that plays at the highest level. Those two extremes — playing at home, or professionally on a large stage — have negated the need for smaller venues.

Still, it’s a concept that retailer Game has already experimented with through its ‘Belong’ in-store arenas. These spaces make sense, though, as a way to bring players and potentially business through its doors. Red Bull sponsors multiple players and teams, but it’s not clear if they’ll be using the Sphere for practice or competition.

Riot Games, the developer behind League of Legends, has some ideas of how to make use of the space. “Maybe we’ll always use the Red Bull Gaming Sphere as a kick-off event for each quarter,” Mo Fadl, head of UK eSports for Riot Games hinted.

Mo Fadl thinks the venue could be used for community-centric events such as player meet and greets and interactive ‘ask me anything’ streams. “Suddenly we have a space here where we invite maybe the biggest streamer in Europe, the biggest teams in Europe, pro players coming down, and then normal community guys have a chance to meet them,” he said. To build a better relationship with the fans, it could hold smaller exhibition games between a professional team and rookie squads. As Forge of Champions grows, it could also host early match-ups in large, anyone-can-enter tournament brackets.

“For that, we need locations,” Fadl said. “This is a perfect location where we can say ‘Guys, three times this week we’ll have tournaments happening in the Red Bull Gaming Sphere in London. Come here and play.'”

The Sphere won’t be open 24/7 like a gaming bar, but there will be a “Friday Night Brawl” every week from 5 to 10pm. The game will change with each brawl and the winner, at least on March 23rd, will walk away with a £100 (roughly $141) cash prize. Attendance will be limited to 32 players, however, who have pre-registered online. The beverage brand will also be hosting casual “practice quarters” every other Thursday, starting with some Street Fighter V sessions in April, and workshops with Dota 2 analyst Purge.

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