When I was younger, and competitive gaming was still a fairly niche hobby, I found such delight in going to a LAN center with my friends. Sure, we could all play online together from our houses, communicate over voice chat (if we had that luxury - otherwise, type chat was it), and just play the game. But when we all came together at quality LAN center, got to play on a top-end gaming rig that we certainly couldn't afford at home, and experienced the games together, in-person, able to talk and joke and laugh and strategize in real-time, the game transcended from a simple hobby in my bedroom and became a great bonding experience between us all.
But as time went on, the technology to build these top-shelf gaming rigs became cheaper and more affordable. People were able to build their own, with no need to go out or pay an hourly fee to game on somebody else's equipment. Additionally, games were starting to be distributed digitally via platforms like Valve's Steam, rather than with physical copies. Slowly, but surely, our beloved LAN centers started to shutter up, and disappear - rest in peace, Gamers' Asylum. Once again, we were bound to the darkness of our rooms in order to game with our friends. Indeed, the hobby that we were most passionate about made us appear to be shut-ins, simply because there was nowhere for us to go in order to socialize while doing what we loved. We gamed, we pwned noobs, and got pwned ourselves plenty of times... but for what? What were we investing these hundreds, or thousands (looking at you, DOTA2) of hours into, if there was no way to share the experience, conquer an event, or even high five your friend after an amazing play?
And then, it happened. We began to see more and more tournaments appearing, boasting larger and larger cash prizes for winning teams and competitors. Hundreds of thousands of dollars. And then millions of dollars. The 2019 DOTA2 International recently dished out a jaw-dropping $34,330,068 to its competing teams. Fortnite's recent World Cup boasted a prize pool of $30,000,000. Suddenly, gaming isn't just about being number one on a leaderboard, or making that sweet play. Gaming, ladies and gentlemen, has become a bona fide career path, if you're good enough. And parents have taken notice.
Many of these games, however, rely heavily on teamwork. Intense collaboration between people with varying skillsets, all contributing their particular strengths in order to build a unit that can tackle competition, move up the leaderboards, and eventually even brand themselves a team, with custom jerseys and all. Friends and teammates find themselves needing a place where they can come together in-person in order to perform this collaboration; where the human element may get lost when several people are talking over a microphone at their glowing monitor, physically getting together as a group provides a sense of cohesion and unity that you simply can't find online. But where, oh where, can these players go in order to find this human element? Where can they meet like-minded players who are also seeking committed teammates who want to give it their all and be the next big thing fighting for that multi-million dollar prize pool? Where can parents feel comfortable letting their kids get out and socialize while bettering themselves? Enter, the LAN Center Renaissance. I'm not ashamed to admit that saying that gives me goosebumps.
This has left a void needing to be filled, and while there are some such establishments popping up here and there, one particular brand has pushed in the chips and is going for the big potential reward. Simplicity Esports and Gaming Company, trading under the ticker $WINR on the OTCQB, is not wasting any time in establishing an impressive footprint from coast-to-coast in the United States. With an original goal of establishing 50 "brick and click" gaming centers by EOY 2020, a recent acquisition of an impressive company by the name of PLAYlive Nation (PLAYlive Nation - Your Premium Social Gaming Lounge), which boasts a whopping 44 centers presently in operation and with 9 more slated to open by EOY 2019, Simplicity is on track to beat their physical location roadmap by a full year. These 53 centers, combined with Simplicity's original two locations in Boca Raton, FL and DeLand, FL, establish a footprint of 55 centers, with many more slated on the PLAYlive website as "Coming Soon."
In addition to this, Simplicity does have several professional teams that compete across the digital landscape in various titles. It will be interesting to see if there is some sort of symbiotic relationship between professional sponsorship and the grass-roots, amateur-level competitions that one would expect to take place in these centers as Simplicity further establishes their brand and brings their operation into full gear as time goes on.
Whatever happens, it is truly an amazing time to be an aspiring pro-gamer, as one can only anticipate that more and more money will continue to pour into esports and gaming in general, marketing will undoubtedly grow exponentially as the demographic swells, and competitive events become more readily accessible to those who think they have what it takes. It provides incredible potential opportunity, both for the player, and for the investor.
Disclosure: I am/we are long WINR.