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The Evolution of eSports Venues

As long as games have been designed to have a high score, people have been competing to win them. Video games are no different, and the evolution of eSports from a room of computer enthusiasts to a packed arena of dedicated video game fans happened rapidly, and the momentum is picking up steam. 


Long before the term eSports existed, there were video game competitions, with the earliest taking place in a classroom at Stanford University in 1972. As video games became more complex than simple vectors simulating ping pong, competitive gaming became more popular. In 1980, just eight years after Stanford’s pilot competition, the Space Invaders Championship pulled in more than 10,000 gamers from across the United States.

While the next advent of gaming wouldn’t happen until broadband speed internet became widely available in households, the natural evolution of faster internet and better connectivity led to tournament play and live-streaming video. Fast forward to today where professional eSports leagues have organized and pro sports leagues and franchises are driving a new level of competition by incorporating eSports into their consortiums. For example, the NBA will sponsor its inaugural NBA 2K League this May.  


Increasingly, gamers and organizers wonder how venues will develop to best serve the sport and its fans. Today, eSports is generally played in three different types of venues, which have pro’s and con’s.

Convention Centers

Thanks to their inherent design, large open spaces at convention centers are among the first venues where eSports competitions have been played. The convention center can be used for “play-in” style tournaments with multiple matches at the same time. A major downside for this type of venue is that seating, tables, and stages need to be brought in and taken out. The Austin Convention Center is an example of this type of venue being used for eSports, most notably for DreamHack Austin. Since DreamHack “Bring Your Own Computer” event is a player-centric tournament, there isn’t much consideration for spectators. Instead, the event floor is filled with participants. Inversely, Cobo Center in Detroit, a convention center which ROSSETTI designed in 1960, hosted the Big House 7 competition. This tournament had temporary seating for spectators with an end stage for the participants. 

eSports Specific Venues

Venues built solely for eSports are an attractive alternative for this fledgling industry, but not without some drawbacks. These facilities are relatively small with a seating capacity ranging from 300 to 1,000 seats. Unlike convention centers, the hi-tech equipment needed for a tournament is built-in, however the experiential quality is weaker since these venues are more focused on the player and broadcasting side rather than the spectator experience during tournaments. LCS Battle Arena and Blizzard Arena (both owned by IP holders) can fit up to 1,000 spectators, but doesn’t support family-related activities beyond the main event. Other venues, such as OGN E-Stadium in Seoul, South Korea, is operator-owned, which allows many different stakeholders to have input. There has been little offering in terms of guidelines for these types of venues to maintain design consistency.  The Overwatch regular season matches will play in the Blizzard Arena from this 2018 inaugural season while the post-season and all-star events will likely be held in larger venues with a greater number of spectators.

Traditional Sporting Venues

Existing professional sports arenas are an additional typology for housing eSports competitions. Their existing infrastructure and ability to easily adapt to a variety of events, including eSports, has created an exciting atmosphere for large eSports tournaments. Arenas can also provide a variety of stage styles. End-stage setting is common for eSports events, but may not be ideal for the audience ringed around the stage. Center stage setting is also popular and easily possible in a sporting venue with a center-hung jumbotron. Arenas often need additional IT and power support for a major eSports competition. Loading and marshalling the equipment can be difficult in some arenas. More importantly, the upper bowls are typically empty due to the poor spectator viewing relationship to the players, commentator and screens. During an eSports competition, the screens become the major view point rather than the players themselves.


ROSSETTI’s Inverted Bowl arena concept will greatly improve the live entertainment experience and is especially well suited for eSports. 

The design for the Inverted Bowl eliminates the upper bowl and catapults tiered balconies forward, bringing spectators 50% closer to the action. The configuration provides optimal viewing proximity to the large event screens hung from the ceiling, as well as to the players on-stage. Fans also can engage in the dynamic non-stop action of eSports through multi-media options within the social spaces. 

The smaller footprint of the Inverted Bowl provides a more scalable solution for stand-alone eSports venues to be located in urban areas. ROSSETTI is continuing to explore customized design ideas for new e-Sports venues, as well as renovating traditional arenas.