Retail

Virtual Gaming Grows Into A Force For Tourism And Even Atlantic City

Pokemon Go on smartphone

With every passing year, it becomes harder and harder to talk about, or even think about, the global digital and mobile ecosystem without considering the place of gaming within that world. And now comes along another bit of news that further drives home that point.

According to a report from VentureBeat, U.S.-based Niantic, the company behind the mobile and augmented reality gaming behemoth Pokémon Go, is touting its growing role in the global tourism industry (which, as PYMNTS readers know, is undergoing its own digitally-fuel period of innovation and disruption).

The success of Pokémon Go and other such “walking games” has, according to that report, fueled at least $249 million in “tourism revenue for the cities on its event list for 2019.” The event list refers to locations where the company holds live events related to those games, which require on-the-ground, geographically-specific interaction from players to accumulate points and other rewards.

More Cities

Those events last year reportedly took place 77 times in 32 countries, attracting some 2.7 million people from some 60 countries. “The company estimated the total impact for the cities hosting the events were $120 million for Chicago, $71 million for Montreal, and $54 million for Dortmund, Germany,” the report said. “This means that Niantic has done something unique in gaming. Through large-scale live events, hundreds of thousands of players from around the world have come together to play games, explore the world, and share experiences.”

Already for 2020, Niantic said it has added St. Louis, Philadelphia and Liverpool to the gaming event list.

Live events in gaming — think of them as an example of a deeper, perhaps even omnichannel push in the world occupied by Niantic and its competitors and peers — are certainly not the only innovative effort taking place in that expanding corner of commerce and payments. Gaming is also moving further into the real, physical, even brick-and-mortar world via other avenues — some of which could prove to be significant with a bit of skill and luck on the part of backers.

Take malls, those once all-but holy centers of U.S. retail and culture, but which these days are often clinging to life thanks to the rise of eCommerce and other factors (including the rise of at-home retail activities and connected commerce, both a recent and ongoing focus of PYMNTS research). And all that involves another growing area of the gaming world, eSports.

Southern Accents

One recent example involves Allied Esports and Simon saying  that the Mall of Georgia, which is located in Buford, Georgia, itself part of the greater Atlanta area, will host the companies’ initial eSports venue, according to a press release. The plans boil down to this: Inside the mall will exist a two-level, 13,000-square-foot facility designed as a destination for players of all ability levels. The venue itself will offer amateur and professional eSports tournaments, along with other events. The redevelopment is expected to begin in the second quarter, which the grand opening anticipated to take place before the holiday shopping season in 2020. The gaming part of the mall will reside alongside some 200 retail stores there.

“We’ve long felt that the gaming and esports communities in the Southeast, especially the greater Atlanta metropolitan area, are vibrant and growing, and believe we have a location at [the] Mall of Georgia that will serve as a dynamic hub for esports experiences in the region,” said Jud Hannigan, CEO of Allied Esports. “We’re excited to launch this first-of-its-kind on-mall venue, and [to] continue to develop and expand on this new concept for additional Simon destinations.”

Another recent example from the world of gaming, this one from New Jersey, serves to show the potential stakes involved with this form of commerce and payments — stakes that promise to increase in the coming years, assuming current trends hold. This example involves online and mobile forms of gambling, which continues to spread and develop in the U.S. thanks to a U.S. Supreme Court decision that opened the door for that expansion. Atlantic City casinos, as well as their online partners, have brought in $433 million from virtual games through November this year and could arrive at as much as $460 million by 2019’s close, which would mark a 66 percent rise from the prior year, The Wall Street Journal reported.

Digital and mobile forms of gaming take various forms in 2020, and with the rise of augmented reality and other technologies, it’s easy to see how further growth is all but assured.

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