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Innovation at the Drive-in: A New Kind of Esports Arena

Given the impact the Covid-19 pandemic has had on the way social gatherings are handled in the U.S. and the world over, it’s not surprising that people are finding new ways to safely come together. As quarantine and social distancing measures have continued to be necessary, the resurgence of drive-in movie theaters have allowed movie fans to still experience the joys of watching films collectively, on the big screen. Now, it seems, a new drive-in esports arena will offer the same experience for gamers.

Esports
Image Courtesy of Getty Images

A recent event that was held in Shelbyville, KY this past Labor Day utilized the Covid-safe set up of drive-in movie theaters to host a live esports tournament. As reported in an article from Louisville Business First, the “Smash Up Louisville – Film and Fight” event was hosted by USA Drive-Ins, a division of Harena Data LLC. Harena Data is the company behind GYO Score and, according to the USA Drive-Ins website, has a background in “esports, event management, motion picture production, and telecommunications.” The event featured the screening of a video game movie alongside a social gaming event and an esports tournament.

USA Drive-Ins/Harena Data collaborated with Horizon Group Properties—a real estate company based in Rosemont, IL—to make the event happen as well as to bring similar events to  Gettysburg, Pennsylvania; El Paso, Texas; and Laredo, Texas. By bringing these drive-in esports events to different cities across the country, Horizon Group and USA Drive-Ins/Harena Data may well be forging new ground in regards to making live esports events safely accessible to the public. Will other organizations follow their lead?

It seems like they just might. In order to make the Shelbyville event happen, USA Drive-Ins/Harena Data and Horizon Group Properties partnered with Taikai Esports and Louisville colleges to organize the Super Smash Bros. Ultimate tournament portion of the event. The potential for collaborations between esports organizations and drive-in theaters across the country is sure to be alluring for a general populace hungry for safe, socially distant ways to come together. 

Given the unprecedented nature of the current moment, industries of all kinds are looking to innovate in order to meet this demand for safe ways to congregate.  While the current resurgence of drive-in movie theaters is one such example, another is the socially distanced, immersive art exhibits museums have created. If gaming is able to tap into this spirit of innovation, it could mean big things for the already booming industry.

Image: A Socially Distanced, Immersive Art Exhibit – Courtesy of: Now Toronto

The esports industry is in a unique position regarding the impact of the Covid-19 pandemic. Due to the virtual nature of gaming, the lack of interpersonal contact for viewers via streaming, and other such factors, esports has been able to pivot their programming to safely adhere to social distancing and quarantine protocols without much disruption. While traditional movie theatres and sporting events have been effectively shut down by the pandemic, esports has seen unprecedented growth. 

The gaming industry can’t merely ride the wave of its Covid-19-spurred surplus if it wants to take full advantage of the moment. If esports was finally starting to find equal footing with the traditional sports industry in terms of sponsorship opportunities and the success of live tournament events, the global pandemic put an end to that trend. However, with the new prospect of drive-in esports events, the gaming industry may just be able to continue to close the gap.

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