6 Ways to Attract Esports Fans to Your Bar

For a growing number of people, competitive video gaming is where it's at. Learn how to cash in on the trend.
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Add a gaming station to your bar, like gaming pub Battle and Brew did, to entice esports fans to stay a while. (Photo: Battle and Brew)

Sports fans have always flocked to bars to watch the big game. But these days, some of those games take place not on a field but on gaming platforms, played by big-league video gamers competing in front of a crowd. These types of games, known as esports, are becoming big business.

Related: 5 Ways to Lure Football Lovers to Your Bar or Restaurant

According to gaming market research firm SuperData, the competitive gaming market reached close to $900 million in revenue in 2016. Nearly 214 million people globally watched esports events in 2016.

As more millennial gamers reach drinking age, bars have a unique opportunity to attract this growing market segment. Here’s how.

Stream esports competitions

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Stream esports events on the TVs in your bar via free platforms such as Twitch or Beam. (Photo: Battle and Brew)

Atlanta gaming pub Battle and Brew shows esports events every day on its TVs, streaming them from free platforms such as Twitch or Beam. But sports giants like ESPN and Turner Sports are also getting on board, broadcasting more live video gaming competitions.

Amanda “Bunny” Aug, Battle and Brew’s marketing manager, said one way to boost the in-bar viewing experience and attract more gamers is by getting a virtual ticket for the bigger gaming competitions. In addition to the free primary stream for the event, a virtual ticket gives you access to more content options, letting you choose which match or which panel you want to show.

Bars can sometimes get virtual tickets to these events for free or at discounted rates, Aug noted. Game companies are always looking for places to stream their content so they can reach new audiences and build the gaming community.

Go geek with your trivia

If your bar already hosts a weekly trivia night, consider dedicating one trivia night each month to “geek” trivia.

Battle and Brew puts on a geek trivia night every Wednesday featuring categories like “Star Wars” and “Science.”

Host a cosplay contest

Some members of the “nerd” crowd love to dress up as their favorite characters from video games, TV shows and comic books. Bars can play to this set by hosting cosplay events and costume contests.

“When we first started doing geek trivia, people would dress up,” said Aug. “We wanted to encourage that in its own separate event, so the second Saturday of every month we hold a cosplay night, where we encourage the community to come out in costume and party.”

Related: 5 Trends That Could Set Your Bar Apart

For cosplayers, Aug said a bar night serves as a great test run to make sure their costumes are ready for bigger events and conventions, such as Comic-Con, E3 or Dragon Con. “Cosplayers want to wear their costumes out to our events to test them and make sure they’re not going to fall apart, that everything is going to fit together and their makeup is going to last.”

Add a gaming station

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To incorporate a gaming station into your bar all you need are a few gaming consoles and a TV. (Photo: Battle and Brew)

If you want gamers to stick around for a while, think about adding a gaming area to your bar.

A gaming station doesn’t have to be a huge investment. Just dedicate a TV and some space and buy a couple of consoles and several popular games for patrons to choose from. Or, focus more on gaming nostalgia and bring in your old Super NES, Sega Genesis or Nintendo 64 from the basement.

Related: Why Gamers Make Great Business Owners

Most non-themed bars will let patrons play video games for free once they’ve made a purchase, said Aug. But if you have the room and equipment, gaming stations can also be a revenue source.

Just as with HBO and pay-per-view boxing tournaments, your bar must adhere to licensing requirements for video games, so you can’t charge customers for playing the game. You can, however, charge them for using the space. For example, Battle and Brew charges a flat rate of $9 per hour for use of their gaming stations, regardless of whether the group plays a game or not.

Get creative with karaoke

Revamping the typical karaoke experience with video games is another way you can attract more gamers to your bar. Performance-based video games like Rock Band and Band Hero let groups of up to six players work together to perform songs, broadening the appeal to those who may not be huge karaoke fans.

Try out tabletop game nights

While they appeal to a different breed of gamer, Aug said board game or card nights are another way to bring in more traffic to your bar, especially on nights that tend to have less traffic.

“Just keep in mind,” she said, “if someone’s going to be playing a board game they might be there for two to four hours.” On a slower night when you don’t have to turn tables quickly, you probably don’t mind if someone sits in a booth for several hours playing a board game and drinking the hours away.

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