How can pubs make the most of eSports?

By Stuart Stone contact

- Last updated on GMT

Casual gaming: harnessing the fun of computer gaming can offer pubs the chance to turn a profit
Casual gaming: harnessing the fun of computer gaming can offer pubs the chance to turn a profit

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Since May 2014, IT engineer Tino Moreno, founder of FifaPub, has been organising and hosting pub-based tournaments using EA Sports’ football title.

Market researcher Newzoo predicts that eSports revenue will end 2017 at around $660m (just over £496m) with a total audience of 385m people.

More and more professional football clubs are getting into eSports, namely through the FIFA football video game series – which was played by 1.6m people over the first weekend after its release.

Manchester City signed their first gamer in 2016 to represent them at tournaments such as the eSports International Cup to be hosted by Spanish Club Levante on 9 December – which also includes European giants such as Ajax, AS Roma and Paris Saint Germain.

But how can pubs throw their hat into the virtual ring?

Tino Moreno, founder of Fifapub, thinks that for pubs to make the most of this trend, they need to take a step away from the ultra-competitive side of the game and create a more relaxed environment.

“FifaPub, at the end of the day, is a social thing, it's not about people going there and playing video games like crazy and qualify for big world finals. If it was a load of serious teenagers playing video games, nobody would eat or drink – that's not the model we want. It needs to be social otherwise it won’t be sustainable."

Alongside one-off competition nights, FifaPub hosts three to four seasons per year. Each season lasts for about two months with casual gamers meeting at a pub to play once a week before a grand final to round off the competition.

It's a model that seems to have worked well. Since starting in 2014, around 2,000 people have attended FifaPub events – which at present are only held in London.

At first, Moreno would simply visit sites and pitch events directly to publicans. However, FifaPub’s presence on Facebook has led to pubs and operators contacting them directly – asking if they can host a meet-up or tournament at their venue. For example, Rileys Sports Bar, Haymarket, near Trafalgar Square, central London; and EXP Leisure, Stratford, east London; have become regular haunts. 

"We want to keep it a bit secret – getting young professionals to go there and play – but also offering three hours where you are going to play a minimum of five games.

“Other tournaments host one-night events where you pay a big entry fee, play one game, lose and go home – the venue doesn't get anything because people don't want to drink because they know if they lose they go home early having paid a big fee.”

With FifaPub owning all games and equipment – it has amassed eight TVs, 32 controllers and invest in multiple copies of the latest Fifa release – Moreno highlights that hosting a tournament doesn’t require huge investment from pubs.  

"With a small space, we could bring something else to the pub's business – they wouldn't have to have a special room – we'd often just take a corner of the venue that they didn't use."

“I like us having tournaments in pubs – as little as two consoles, two TVs and then gathering up to 16 people, which is really profitable for the venue – we’ve seen pubs take more than £300 per night including £10 entry per person.”

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