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What Happens In Vegas

Las Vegas, built on gambling and embellished with rock-star residencies, Broadway musicals, magic acts, adult entertainment and exclusive nightclubs, has a new game in town with a different demographic.

Esports Arena Las Vegas christened its new home at Luxor Hotel & Casino with a sold-out special event on April 21 featuring streaming sensation Tyler “Ninja” Blevins, one of the best “Fortnite” players in the world, with millions of social media followers.

More than 1,500 fans came to watch or compete against Blevins in the battle royal title at the 30,000-square-foot, multilevel arena—the latest expansion for Santa Ana-based Esports Arena LLC.

“This past weekend really showed what we can do,” Chief Executive Tyler Endres told the Business Journal last week.

Spectator tickets were $25, and gamers who took on Ninja in 10 live games spent $75, several of them taking home a $2,500 prize for knocking out the esports star in competition. The event drew a Twitch record with more than 644,000 concurrent viewers.

The six-hour event drew more than 2.3 million viewers in total.

Blevins set the previous Twitch record in March, when more than 635,000 concurrent viewers clicked his channel for a late-night “Fortnite” stream joined by rapper Drake, who has more than 34 million followers on both Twitter and Facebook.

More than 100,000 members pay $4.99 per month to subscribe to Ninja’s Twitch channel to watch him play and talk about video games and pop culture.

Twitch.tv is the world’s largest livestreaming site for gaming content, with more than 100 million monthly visitors. Last year it signed a deal with Blizzard Entertainment Inc. that will pay the Irvine-based publisher more than $90 million to broadcast matches for two years for the Overwatch League, launched by Blizzard in January and based on its billion-dollar, first-person shooter game.

The Setup

Esports Arena Las Vegas features a stage for competitions, a 50-foot LED video wall, retractable seating, PC and console gaming stations, a professional production studio, as well as virtual reality installations, retro gaming consoles, a vintage video game cocktail bar, luxury VIP lounges and a gamer-inspired menu created by renowned chef José Andrés.

HyperX, the gaming unit of Fountain Valley-based Kingston Technology Inc., is the official peripheral and arena partner, outfitting stations with accessories, including its Cloud Revolver headsets, HyperX Alloy first-person shooter keyboards, and HyperX Pulsefire FPS mice.

“We knew this was going to be a premier gaming destination that we wanted to be a part of,” HyperX Global Strategic Marketing Manager Annie Gérard told the Business Journal. “We wanted every gamer coming to the arena to have the most immersive experience and competitive edge against their opponents.”

That type of sponsorship is a first for HyperX, which sponsors over 30 gaming organizations, 100 professional teams and more than 550 professional players, as well as several top-tier esports tournaments and events around the world, including Eleague and Intel Extreme Masters.

Kingston is OC’s largest consumer electronics maker, with estimated 2017 revenue of $6.7 billion.

Expansion

Esports Arena made a splash in 2015 with the establishment of the first dedicated gaming venue in North America in downtown Santa Ana, which typically draws hundreds of members from around the world for its weekly events and competitions.

A multimillion-dollar investment last year by Beijing-based Allied Esports, which took a majority stake, fueled the Las Vegas expansion at the former site of the LAX nightclub.

“This is Allied Esports and the Esports Arena’s flagship location,” Endres said. “Everything we do will culminate and finish in Las Vegas on a national scale.”

Allied’s network includes the Esports Arena, Wangyu Esports in Beijing, and a mobile esports truck and studio in Europe.

The Santa Ana location was established for a niche segment, but has diversified revenue streams beyond the close-knit gaming community. In the last few months, the company’s held Havoc Thursdays, when the arena turns into a nightclub with DJs.

An April 21 event featuring comedian Adam Carolla in a live VR podcast with actress Heather Dubrow of “The Real Housewives of Orange County,” drew more than 300 people who paid $25 to $50 for tickets.

In September Endres hired Frank Kelley, former general manager of the Irvine Improv, as director of operations to bring new business and events. The company will soon offer a VIP membership, which may include an apparel rollout program with custom-designed clothing. It has 300 to 500 members who pay at least $20 per month for venue access and other amenities and promotions.

“We’ve been an underground scene for a very, very long time,” Endres said. “We need to be more mainstream and get ourselves out there.”

Next up: the Bay Area, where Esports Arena Oakland will open on May 12.

The 16,000-square-foot venue at Jack London Square is in the city’s waterfront business district.

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