GameStop is offering its customers the chance to get a taste of esports and competitive gaming with its latest partnership. The video game retailer is teaming up with Warner Bros. Interactive Entertainment for the Injustice 2 GameStop Hometown Heroes tournament, which will be used to market the upcoming May 16 launch of the fighting game, developed by Netherrealm Studios.
The tournament will offer an all-new way for amateur players in the United States to participate in an esports program and battle for cash prizes. Operated by ESL, open online qualifier tournaments will begin June 4. Eight Regional Finals tournaments will take place in local GameStop retail locations on August 12, leading up to the finals, held at the GameStop Managers Expo at the Venetian Convention Center in Las Vegas, Nevada on August 27.
Eric Bright, senior director of merchandising at GameStop, told AListDaily that a lot of the esports competitions around the world today are focused exclusively on professional gamers.
“We’ve learned over the years that we want to provide an opportunity for amateur game players to get involved and compete against each other for incredible prizes, hence the name ‘Hometown Heroes’ for this esports tournament with Warner Bros. and Injustice 2,” Bright said.
Bright said this tournament has been in the works for about a year, as the retailer and Warner Bros. Interactive Entertainment have been mapping out the competition. “We’ve always had an interest in participating in esports, but we wanted something that our consumers would be able to play, instead of playing against a pro or being intimidated by some of the world class players that are out there,” Bright said.
GameStop is tapping into ESL’s network of pro gamers to help customers prepare for this competition. “We’ve teamed up with two pros that are going to be out there to provide tips to players,” Bright explained. “On the West Coast, we have Michael ‘Michaelangelo’ Lerma and on the East Coast, we have Bryant ‘Kitana Prime’ Benzing. Both of them will be on GameStop’s Facebook page providing tips to players in our Hometown Heroes competition to compete and progress through the tournament structure.”
Bright said that the theme of the pros helping the amateurs compete in Injustice 2 will continue with GameStop PowerUp Rewards customers. GameStop has over 50 million PowerUp Rewards members and those customers will have the opportunity to get personal online training sessions just before the finals with one of these two pro fighting gamers. Lerma and Benzing will use GameStop’s Facebook page to relay details directly to gamers.
GameStop is also communicating directly to its fan base through Facebook Live. Last week, the retailer featured another pair of ESL pro fighting gamers to announce that Darkseid will be a playable character in Injustice 2, and Bright believes Facebook Live will also be used to host the Hometown Heroes Finals from Las Vegas in August.
The idea to tap into the annual GameStop Expo with this tournament came about after an experiment at last year’s Anaheim event, which drew over 2,500 hundred attendees.
“One of the catalysts of how we got to this was hosting a tournament for Ready At Dawn’s Deformers game, which is a GameTrust title that just released,” Bright said. “That event offered fans a first chance to play the game and compete, and it was a huge success.”
This marks the first time GameStop is combining its online presence with physical retail using a tournament structure. It is also the first time the GameStop Expo will occur over a weekend, which is expected to attract a large fan base.
“The GameStop Expo is one of the largest collections of the entertainment software, hardware and collectible companies all coming together for consumers,” Bright said. “We open our doors and let our customers experience it. It’s unique in retail.”
Back in October 2015, GameStop partnered with Nintendo to host a Super Smash Bros. 3DS National Open Tournament across 15 stores in the US, with the finals taking place at the Nintendo World store in New York City.
“Things have evolved since that Nintendo tournament,” Bright said. “Now we can take advantage of players playing online via dashboards and then bring people together as we host eight regional tournaments around the country. Once they qualify from the online competition, from there the top four players in each region will play inside of GameStop stores before moving to the GameStop Expo.”
Injustice 2 also gives GameStop and the esports ecosystem another fighting game on console to help grow that audience.
“There’s a lot of demand for gamers who want to compete in esports through a console,” Bright said. “This is a great way for us to partner with Warner Bros. and bring in our customer base that’s interested in such an opportunity. There’s huge potential here.”
Bright said this tournament also ties into the GameStop brand, which focuses on giving power to the players. It’s something that every customer who walks through the retailer’s doors can participate in and compete for cash and prizes.
“There’s definitely appeal to open up special opportunities for our customers to allow them to experience video games in a whole new way,” Bright added. “Look for us to explore more things like this to excite customers overall. We’re excited about the potential with esports.”