One of the pastimes that has seen growth during the pandemic lockdown is gaming—but not the kind you’re thinking of.
Since stay-at-home orders began in March, video game sales have skyrocketed and viewership of video game streams online has increased.
For a few years now, Strip casinos have been using esports to try to draw a younger crowd. Could the pandemic be the accidental boost esports need to really take off?
Christopher LaPorte is hopeful. He’s the founder of Reset, a Las-Vegas-based consulting agency with a focus on video games, esports and nightlife.
“There is a runway for success for this platform; however, it is still a normalization challenge that we have,” LaPorte told KNPR's State of Nevada.
LaPorte explained that esports is when people play video games against each other or in teams. It can be very competitive and very lucrative. He said some titles can offer as much as $32 million in prize money.
Some of the top video game players can make millions just from streaming their games on Twitch, which is a platform where players stream themselves playing video games live.
“There is big business behind this. It’s just a matter of when do North American audiences see how big this is and not relegate it just, ‘This is what kids are doing today,'” LaPorte said.
He said part of that growth is because of Twitch.
“The idea of watching video game content online is also what kind of pushed the esports format to mainstream audiences because it was that much easier to catch your favorite video game being played at high levels,” he said.
And Twitch has recorded two-times as many people watching it than what it had in December of last year, LaPorte said.
When LaPorte moved to Las Vegas in 2005, the city hosted its first esports tournament. In 2019, the same tournament drew 12,000 people to the Mandalay Bay Events Center.
For years, Las Vegas has been looking to tap into the esports and video game industry.
Betting is allowed on esports and LaPorte said that increased during the lockdown, but funny enough, the bets were mostly placed on esports based on traditional sports like "FIFA," the soccer game, and "NBA2K," instead of traditional esports games like "League of Legends" and "Dota 2."
Another way the city has looked to cash in on the high level of interest in video games, especially in younger tourists, has been introducing video game elements into traditional casino games.
There are some skill-based games at some casinos but LaPorte believes there is a way to really make it work.
"If you create what I like to call the mousetrap, this video game center or video game section, on the casino floor, you are may be able to pull off Number 1 – a way to attract a younger audience and Number 2 – a way to develop esports so it could be that sports betting opportunity that right now is still kind of in its infancy,” he said.
LaPorte believes casino executives need to understand that video games are part of pop culture and the customers of the future have grown up playing them so they'll want that same excitement and entertainment when they walk into a casino.
Christopher LaPorte; founder, Reset
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