The Valley Group

Game Changer: The big opportunity in competitive socialising

June 1, 2023

Competitive socialising has gained significant traction across the UK and US over recent years, with Europe following quickly behind. We are seeing a wave of new ‘arcade bars’ opening in key cities offering customers a striking environment to experience interactive entertainment along with friends, family- even couples as a trending ‘date night’ destination. Our insight team hit the arcades to find out more.

Level Tap

Liverpool saw the opening of its first competitive gaming venue this month, offering an interactive experience led venue for gaming and E-sports spectating. The concept is based around a rental mechanic, with the hourly hire of console booths, lounges and simulator seats available, along with an extensive selection of titles to cater for a wide range of gamers. We were some of the first through the door when it opened to check out the new space. The venue is held within a dark basement on Hanover St, with no windows or natural light it delivers the intentional ‘concept less’ feeling of time. An at seat food and bar service is available through call buttons within lounge areas, so no need to miss out on any action, while the top mezzanine floor offers a base for streamers and competing teams broadcasting across TV’s and projectors around the venue.

This creates the ultimate captive audience for brands. With high dwell time of  players and spectators it offers the chance to engage directly with new and seasoned gamers, whilst offering unique opportunity to allow customers the chance to trial new games and consoles.

“Liverpool is increasingly becoming a huge gaming centre, with a renowned status for games development. Here, we’re looking to create a home for those passionate about Esports and gaming, enabling them to play, watch and socialise together.”

Adam Rydings, Level Tap founder

Pixel Bar

With sites across Leeds and Manchester, Pixel Bar is a neon lit space dedicated to gaming and ‘nerd culture’. By far one of the busiest venues our team visited, we were queuing for an hour for a booth (7pm on a Monday evening?!), pre booking is highly advised!

With an even gender split in demographic, this Gen Z hot spot operates an hourly charge mechanic- priced by booth not per person to encourage large groups, along with access to ‘free to play’ arcade games.

Fancy a Jigglypuff? Pixel have created cocktails inspired by gaming characters across the worlds of Pokemon, Minecraft and Yoshi to name a few. These multicoloured ‘Instagrammable’ cocktails are served with collectable Pokemon cards, candy floss and even the odd dance move (by the bartender). Incentivised TikTok sharing mechanics, along with cocktail mixing theatre help gain social media traction on the right channels. More niche in terms of audience, but with extended opportunities for brands within food and drink along with an active audience across social, if brands can deliver campaigns with authenticity- the prize is worth it.

41% of Gen Z (aged 8-23) have been to a competitive socialising venue before and 47% would like to go in the future (KAM Media 2021)

Arcade Club

As we emerged from the intensity of Pixel, Arcade Club offers a more approachable entry to gaming. Over the past 8 years the concept has grown from 30 arcade games to operating across 3 sites in the North of England, with a focus on events and tournament hosting facilities, helping to connect gaming communities across the world. By far the most value driven approach, £17 offers unlimited access to all arcade games for a full day. Food and drinks are priced at student rates, which undoubtably contributed to the packed-out venue we experienced, filled with couples, families and large groups.

The most popular games? Mario Kart 8 Duluxe and Mortal Kombat had constant queues of spectators waiting, with the classic nostalgia becoming too hard to resist.

The size of the prize?

Our thoughts…

The appeal of arcade bars is now to a wider demographic than just ‘pro gamers’, fuelled by TikTok trends such as ‘date night’, the adoption of younger audiences is a sweet spot for brands. Gaming venues have high footfall and high dwell time, with the ability to reach an audience increasingly difficult to connect with via a saturated digital world.

Concepts such as Level Tap offer premium environments for brands, with broadcasting capabilities to connect communities on a global scale. Owning these spaces gives a valuable competitive advantage, we feel there is a huge opportunity to leverage brand partnerships across tournaments and venue in-house media.

Thinking creatively and building brand ‘moments’ across all touchpoints, including food and drink, offers emotive engagement for brands, delivering sharable content with a purpose while driving footfall into venue. The rental mechanic adopted across most venues gives the opportunity for brands to capture new audiences. With incentivising through collaborations and new product launches, the potential is huge.

An exciting new opportunity for brands. Game on.

Feeling inspired? Let us know your thoughts, we love to chat