History tell us it takes nearly 50 years for a game to be recognized as a professional sport. As Atari’s Pong, the groundbreaking arcade game of the 1970s, approaches its 50th anniversary and eSports captivates sports fans worldwide, this adage is also proving true for non-traditional competitive sports.

In 2017, revenue from eSports exceeded $655 million, and
this number is expected to have touched nearly $900 million in 2018. As eSports
expand, venues are starting to explore what their purpose-built arenas will
look like and how they can attract this next generation of fans while
satisfying the distinct needs of competitors.

Because most traditional sports are played in similar ways, strategies for innovative venue design have tended to focus on the needs of fans and sponsors. But eSports require a completely different mindset. Traditional bowl design methodologies simply don’t support an eSports event.

With so many different types of competitions, a layout that works for one game might require radical transformation for another  

Team games like Counter Strike, for example, require players to watch individual screens, while player-versus-player matches like Street Fighter require competitors to share a setup.

Given these unique, ever-changing requirements, we believe
there will be a move towards more circular, scalable venues that can be
sectioned off and configured to accommodate the specific needs of each
individual game. To ensure the venue can cater to any eSports event, we
envisage a player infrastructure that can be easily added, removed or shifted
around the arena as needed. To generate excitement and foster team loyalty,
these player components could even be positioned among spectator seats.

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ESports venue design requires considerably more digital
inventory than traditional sports. This inventory in an eSport-specific venue
could include personal screens, feeds that display player statistics across
signage throughout the arena, lighting and in-venue effects that enhance the
fan experience and infrastructure required to live stream events for global

As one potential solution to the vast technology needs of an eSports event, HOK has designed large, movable, petal-shaped screens that can be used for lighting and effects as well as content displays. These enormous surfaces hang above the seating bowl, doubling as ‘team screens’ and giving spectators a feeling of being in the centre of the action. 

ESports communities are built and fostered online, with events offering opportunities for members to meet and engage in person  

ESports communities are built and fostered online, with
events offering opportunities for members to meet and engage in person.
Concourses and plazas should be flexible to host community activities in
addition to facilitating a memorable event experience. To cater to the fan
base, HOK has explored altering the layout of the main event space to
incorporate a mix of seating and safe-standing lounge areas. This enables
spectators to enjoy a variety of activities around the venue without missing
the headline event.

As industry requirements and technology advance with the
rapid growth of esports, venue renovations and purpose-built facilities need to
keep pace. Existing stadiums attempting to cater to eSports will need to
experiment and innovate to compete with purpose-built venues already emerging
around the world.