Every sports culture phenomenon needs a home and soon eSports will have just that with a planned 15,000-seat permanent gaming arena for Hengqin Island in China.
U.S.-based Major League Gaming, led by president and co-founder Mike Sepso, couldn’t say no when Lai Fung Holdings Limited and eSun Holdings Limited approached him about plopping the world’s first large-scale gaming arena inside the V-Zone, a video game destination planned as a centerpiece of an $18 billion “Creative Culture City” off the coast of casino-laden Macau in Zhuhai, China.
MLG tells SI.com the design process for the arena expected to open in 2017 will kick off soon, but expect a layout that showcases the players while giving special treatment to broadcast and production, since all competitions will stream live via MLG.tv.
“It will be built with the most state of the art gaming and broadcasting technology available to provide players with the ultimate stage for competition,” Sepso says. “We aim to bring spectators into the action and provide an unparalleled visual experience.”
In that process, we won’t see a traditional sports arena layout, but something more akin to a large theater, with spectators likely on a stage and a giant screen rising above them.
Hosting large theater-style events for gaming competitions isn’t new. In fact, in June MLG will host an invitational in Austin, Texas, during the X Games—a first for eSports—and later that month the MLG Championship will play to roughly 20,000 spectators inside Anaheim’s convention center.
But China? That will give gamers a home arena, a 365-day destination that includes the arena and all things eSports, including an expo area, creative workspaces, gaming-themed restaurants and retail, Sepso says.
What games will the V-Zone area feature? Well, 2017 is a long way off in the gaming world, but whatever it is, 15,000 spectators will have their own home. Tim Newcomb covers stadiums, design and gear for Sports Illustrated. Follow him on Twitter at @tdnewcomb.