After a week where Drake, Scooter Braun and Michael Jordan made investments in eSports companies, it appears that the market for competitive online gaming is as hot as it gets. And the funding numbers corroborate that: North Carolina-based Epic Games announced a $1.25 billion capital raise last week, bringing total venture funding in the space to above $2 billion in 2018.
And eSports is different from many tech-driven industries in that market activity is not concentrated on the West Coast. In one recent analysis by WalletHub, Atlanta was ranked the top city for “Gaming Environment” in the U.S. and the #3 best overall city for gamers.
Atlanta business leaders are trying to capitalize on the market. In addition to the 115 game development studios located in and around the city, corporations such as Cox Enterprises — which purchased its own professional eSports team in the Overwatch League this year — and big brands are also interested in getting in on the action.
The intersection of all of this activity is what inspired Allie Young to develop a concept that would bring gamers, studios, and brands together in one space. That idea has come to life in Axis Replay, a 12,000-square-foot space adjacent to the BeltLine in Atlanta’s Inman Park neighborhood.
Young, a gamer herself who met her husband while playing video games, calls Axis Replay a “social gaming club.” She cites figures from the Entertainment Software Association that say more than half of frequent gamers play with others, 40 percent with friends.
Axis Replay will give these social gamers a place to congregate. Individuals can join the club as members, by day pass ($30), or a monthly ($149) rate to access the facility. Inside, you’ll find some of the same amenities as a co-working space or members club: super-fast Wifi, private meeting rooms and desks, a cafe with coffee and food, and a bar.
But Axis Replay also will have some pretty unique amenities, including 100 PC gaming systems, console and tabletop gaming, and a space to host small eSports tournaments. They’ll host events like new product demos and game launches, and showcase brand-new technologies like virtual reality gaming.
Young tells Hypepotamus that she wants to create a place where everyone is comfortable — from hardcore gamers to corporate brands. Currently, she says, social eSports are limited to tournament spaces and arcade bars, which aren’t known for being family-friendly.
“When you walk into a Topgolf, for example, you’re in a space where you can take clients to and you’re comfortable, but you also can take your family on the weekends. That’s kind of what we are going for,” she says.
Though Axis Replay will open to the public in early 2019, they are helping host the first-ever Esports Week Atlanta, taking place November 14-18. The event, presented by Axis Replay, RIISE Ventures, and Atlanta-based game studio Skillshot Media, caters to those looking to gain exposure into the eSports world.
The invite-only event includes tours of local eSports hubs, including Skillshot, Hi-Rez Studios, and Turner’s ELEAGUE, as well as panels with industry leaders from Turner Sports, Coca-Cola, Riot Games, the American Video Game League and more. It ends at the monster gaming festival DreamHack Atlanta, the U.S. version of the Sweden-based DreamHack, which attracted 25,000 attendees last year.
M. Cole Jones, RIISE Ventures Managing Partner and one of the principal organizers of Esports Week Atlanta, anticipates 75-100 attendees. “We want to show how some companies have been able to leverage eSports so far to create great ROI,” he tells Hypepotamus.
Following Esports Week, Young is planning a launch event and is in the process of setting up regular tournaments and securing partnerships for the public opening next year. She also already has plans to bring the model to other cities. Her ambitious goal? Open five locations in the next 10 years.