Nellie Bowles, New York Times, reporting on the increasing popularity of esports, and the businesses springing up to capitalize on the fervor:
Across North America this year, companies are turning malls, movie theaters, storefronts and parking garages into neighborhood esports arenas. […]
“The movie theater!” said Ann Hand, the C.E.O. of Super League Gaming, which converts movie theaters into esports arenas, and has raised $32 million from investors. “It has that thunderous sound, and it’s empty a lot of the time.”
For the Super League Gamers, the events can accompany or replace traditional sports. It’s a new Little League and Minor League for today’s athletes. Each city plays together as a branded team — there’s the Chicago Force, the New York Fury, the San Francisco Ionics. So far, there are 50,000 players.
Parents accompany younger players, and the real-life experience opens their eyes. “The most common piece of feedback was that they knew their son or daughter loved this game, but they had no way to understand the game or know if they were any good at it,” Ms. Hand said. “Like, ‘I didn’t know my son or daughter was that competitive.’”
By 2019, she expects to be in 500 venues.
I like watching streamers play games like Fortnite or Overwatch in the same way I enjoy watching Liverpool play on Saturdays. At the end of the day, it’s all entertainment.
However, what’s particularly interesting about esports is that the competitive scene isn’t limited by geography in the same way that physical sports are; this allows esports players to improve more quickly because they’re able to go against a worldwide pool of talent from the start. That said, part of what makes physical sports so popular is their regionality. It’ll be curious if esports benefit from these revamped local venues (remember how popular the arcade scene was?) or if the malls and theaters are empty again in a year’s time.