Over the past year or so, the effect that esports has had on the PC retail channel in the UK is nothing short of remarkable. Beyond simple sales, esports has more or less changed the entirety of gaming retail from the ground up, from approach to execution.
Take GAME, for example. The High Street retailer’s foray into esports has been well-documented with its Belong gaming arenas in a variety of its stores (each having its own clan name and insignia), but that effort has also translated to its in-store setups as well.
I was recently in a GAME in Kingston and, aside from the large chunk of the store dedicated to the arena, I was surprised to find that a lot of its floor space – I’d go as far as to say almost half – was dedicated to PC gaming.
Everything from fully-fledged systems to mice and keyboards and everything in between was taking up space that had previously been dedicated to boxed console games. And there wasn’t a lack of people interested.
It was probably the busiest and most populated I’d seen a GAME since the heyday of the Xbox 360 and PlayStation 3.
"Retailers are using the lure of esports either as a means of attracting new customers or engaging further with those it already has."Jonathan Easton, PCR
But it’s not just the traditional gaming retail world that’s benefitting from the surge of interest in esports. Other more general tech retailers are also seizing the opportunity. On another recent visit to my local Maplin, I saw a screen playing footage from Overwatch that had been captured by staff who had used the peripherals and components being sold. The display was definitely on a much smaller scale than what GAME had going on, but both are using the lure of esports either as a means of attracting new customers or engaging further with those it already has.
Outside of those established High Street names, esports is playing a huge role for system builders in particular. Overclockers, for instance, sells systems that are specifically branded for a particular game, and in most cases these are competitive titles such as Overwatch, CS:GO and Rocket League.
But further up the foodchain, distributors are also catering to the growing demands of their retail partners’ customers. I remember speaking with VIP’s MD Rich Marsden and Target Components’ marketing executive Scott Frankling on separate occasions about how esports is a big driver in the UK retail channel, and will be for a long time.
As we’ve seen from the number of blue chip firms wanting to get involved in the space – the $525m acquisition of Corsair by a private equity firm still fresh in the memory – there is plenty of money and long-term viability in esports.
The UK may be a bit behind some of our European neighbours, such as Germany, but there is huge room for growth, particularly for retailers.
Jonathan Easton is the editor of MCV's sister title PCR, the UK’s leading monthly magazine for the tech channel. His passions in tech include gaming, audio and virtual reality. He is currently hooked on Everybody’s Golf