MediaMation has built a network of one-hundred-and-fifty 4D motion theaters around the world and is adding ten new theaters in a month. While the primary use of these MX4D Motion EFX Theaters—which feature seats that are programmed to match the on-screen action and special effects to impact all the senses—is for watching movies, Dan Jamele, CEO of MediaMation, told [a]listdaily that he’s building a new network for eSports competition.
“We’re focusing on micro tournaments, not the big playoffs,” Jamele said. “We have an avid audience of gamers that want to do something like this. We won’t compete with ESL’s 20,000 seat stadiums, but there are other players that push the regional, collegiate and weekly competitions that give players a place to go.”
Jamele is currently in talks with Riot Games and other developers about this new eSports opportunity. “We’ll have options for clients for micro eSports tournaments with full spectator motion as you’re watching, providng a network of venues for eSports,” Jamele said. “We’re hoping to have an announcement in Q1 2017 to open a flagship location, and with that comes a lot of gravitas.” A typical MediaMation theater has 100 to 150 seats, so there is great opportunity for regional eSports, gamers compete locally.
What separates these theaters from the Regal Theaters Coca-Cola has used in recent years to host League of Legends Worlds viewing parties is that they’re interactive. The motion control seats feature front air and water blasts, leg and neck ticklers and seat poppers, while overhead effects like wind, rain, snow, bubbles, scene and lightning strobes are timed to the action. While Coke currently focuses on watching pros play, MediaMation is offering a network for amateurs and college players to compete in front of an audience.
Theaters have experimented with eSports in the past. On August 23, 2015, ESL and By Experience, in association with Fathom Events, brought the ESL One Counter-Strike: Global Offensive finals from the Lanxess Arena in Cologne, Germany to cinema screens across the US and around the globe in over 25 countries. The companies also created exclusive behind-the-scenes content for theater goers, but that event hasn’t been repeated.
On September 21, 2015, Canadian theater chain Cineplex Entertainment bought 80 percent of Canadian eSports company, WorldGaming, for $10 million and invested an additional $5 million into developing an eSports league for its theaters. At the time, Pat Marshall, vice president of communications and investor relations for Cineplex told Fortune, “The eSports audience is an audience that comes to our theaters, but maybe not with the level of frequency they may have in the past. This is an opportunity for us to increase that frequency.”
Riot Games recently partnered with Super League Gaming to bring the City Champs amateur League of Legends competition to theaters in 12 cities by the end of Q1 2017, with plans to grow to 20 cities by the end of next year. Super League is also launching City Rec in 2017, which will allow anyone to come into theaters and play League Unlocked.
The latest company to enter the world of big screen eSports is ESC Games, which has launched a 750-square-foot ESC Game Theater in Paramus, NJ with plans to expand around the country. That theater features exclusive casual multiplayer games like Robot Basketball, Astro Beams and Pixel Prison Blues that up to 30 people can participate in at once using wireless touch screen motion controllers within a special effects-filled room.
MediaMation also has further eSports plans. The company recently debuted a new multiplayer ride-based virtual reality game called Ion Torq, which will be available in theme parks and arcades later in 2017. The multiplayer ride, which uses actual ATVs and runs on either Oculus Rift or HTC Vive, features 3D Live’s mixed reality LED screen, which allows spectators to experience a holographic version of what the riders are experiencing inside the VR game.
Nathan Huber, co-founder and CEO of 3D Live, told [a]listdaily that screen open up new opportunities for eSports, and not just for this motion-based rides, but for theaters and even stadiums. “It brings the audience closer to the video game action,” said Huber.