Esports and Architectural Design: A Stadium, a Theatre Performance, or Both?

While it is not a secret that architects love to design, what is great design without masterful execution? YWS believes that design begins at the macro level, which then transitions into the micro needs, while filling in every detail along the way. To do this successfully, there are many pieces to consider. In this article, we will highlight the importance of understanding our client’s business model and their brand and tying that into creating a unique storyline for their venue to capture engagement and maximize revenue. There are designers that create what they like, with the hope that it is liked by their clients… then, there are those of us that want to understand our client’s business model, and define our design by keeping their brand at the forefront of our planning. We then have to ensure that every component of the design appeals to not only our client, but also to our tertiary customer, or in other terms, our client’s client. This simple, yet important process is only the beginning of great design.

Esports is a rapid growing industry, and there is a lot of opportunity to be a part of it. To clarify the level of opportunity available, Lagardere Sports and Entertainment released supporting statistics in a recent article: “Every year Esports is achieving new revenue records. In 2017, revenue amounted to $696 million – an increase of 41.3% in comparison to the previous year, and market trends predict continuous growth. By the year 2020, Esports will have over 500 million fans worldwide, which is more than established sports such as Basketball or American Football have right now.” – (read more here:

The concepts for designing should be derived from understanding the target customer. What are the food and beverage offerings that will appeal to them? What about additional offerings that will create engagement for the customer within the space? At one time, these questions were measurable based on studying target demographics; however, we have seen a large shift in this type of research as it relates to esports. We have found that a more relevant market research component is studying the psychographics. Rather than defining a customer, or audience, on factors such as age, gender, income, etc., we have evolved into researching more intangible forms of characteristics. Psychographics encompasses many different demographic types, but those that all have similar preferences, interests, habits, and emotions. We recently engaged GfK Research in a market study for us. The purpose of this study was to understand the DNA of the esports target, and what it means for the future of e-gaming, wagering and other entertainment. There isn’t another offering out there that is quite as unique as an esports venue, and we needed to get it right.

Now, let’s talk more about design, as it relates specifically to esport venues. Would this type of venue need to be crafted as a traditional sports stadium, a theatrical performance event, or perhaps… is it a bit of both, and more? When designing a traditional stadium, your focus is primarily on physical attendance with broadcasting capabilities, while your esports stadium is quite the opposite. Yes, physical attendance is important and must be included into the design, but the primary focus should be on the non-physical and streaming viewers. To accurately depict this statement, Paul Armstrong wrote an article for Forbes highlighting that “The Intel Extreme Masters World Championship 2017 reached more than 46 million unique online viewers. To put that figure into context, per Nielsen, the Trump inauguration television audience was 30.6 million.” To delve in just a little deeper to statistics, this same event had more than 173,000 attendees, which equates to about 100,000 more in attendance than at the 2017 Superbowl! We are, in fact, witnessing a movement within our generation and how they are receiving information and consuming technology. In our experience, and research, we have found that while some traditional stadium aspects still remain relevant to the space, the need for broadcasting, audio and visual capabilities make these types of spaces need more of a theatre focused design style. It is important to understand the opportunity zones and sightlines needed for filming, broadcasting and streaming during an esport event. Opportunity zones and sightlines depict where the prime locations are positioned for configuring “filmable” settings within your space. These zones must be coordinated into the design process with an understanding of how the physical space relates to the aspect ratios of your viewing audience.

Another vital consideration when designing for a space that requires enhanced attendance for large events, while maintaining activation during breaks in between those events, is applying market research. There are always going to be your standard business models that incorporate your food and beverage components and others alike; however, once we understand and define where the box is for our clients, we like to think outside of it, seeking out opportunities that are beyond traditional. While additional revenue streams are crucial, customer engagement is the needed counterpart in order to see a true return on investment. Again, this goes back to the question we first posed: What is great design, without masterful execution?

But, how do we do it? Our team designs a distinctive storyline for every project that we are entrusted with. This storyline is based on the brand and vision of our client. From the arrival sequence to the experiences within the space, a fluid transition caries you through as you explore each new event within the story we create. Every sensory que, fully submerged. We then incorporate eight “hero shots” or “social moments.” These moments are derived from understanding how social media interacts with design, our client, and their customer. Consumers want to create memorable moments, they want to share them with their social eco-system and then re live them through photos and videos. As designers, we have to incorporate these social moment “hero” shots, and we have to make sure that they are sharable. The same GfK study stated that 53% of sports gamers agree that “Experiences are more important than possessions.” This means that capturing these experiences and sharing them is more important than ever before. The number eight is not a magical number selected at random. There is psychology behind why we choose to incorporate this many facets into the design of our story line. Out of eight moments, only two or three will be “remembered.” Your venue needs to be recognizable, and memorable. The Bellagio Fountains or Cirque Du Soleil shows for example. When you visit, these are the memories you remember. These are the moments that you choose to share.

Great design drives customer experience and client revenues. Understanding your client’s desires is key to understanding the experience they desire and therefore, the opportunity zones that they want. It allows your customer to share these moments in the best possible light, thus driving more customers to your venue. Great design is encompassing every single detail. Whether operational, aesthetic, in house, back of house, and everything in between – our team has a need to design right. Right for our clients. Right for their customers. Just right.