Local business riding the digital game tide - SanTan Sun News SanTan Sun News

Local business riding the digital game tide

August 24th, 2018 development
Local business riding the digital game tide

By cecilia chan, Staff


Zach Riding sits before a computer screen with earphones on, his eyes fixated on his character’s avatar in the latest popular shoot-’em-up survival game.

It was grand-opening day at Pure Esports near Cooper and Baseline roads, the first esport center in Gilbert, and Riding couldn’t be happier.

“I play ‘Fortnite’ at home on my Xbox and TV, a 55-inch Samsung, but the quality is not as good,” the 28-year-old Gilbert resident said. “Playing on a PC monitor is the best way to play a game. Basically, this is how the professionals play.”

Pure Esports is Daniel Artt’s flagship store – one he hopes to replicate with franchises Valleywide.

The 2,200-square-foot building, sandwiched between a wig shop and a Chinese restaurant in a strip mall, houses 50 gaming stations. Each station is outfitted with the latest and best equipment, such as an $1,800 computer monitor and a $300 chair to give a professional playing experience, according to Artt.

“They have the newest Xbox,” said Riding, who spent five to 10 hours on his day off to game. “And this monitor is probably one of the best, top-of-the-line equipment. These guys know what people want.”

After working a decade in a corporate environment, Artt said, he sat down one day to figure out what he wanted to do for the rest of his life and decided to do something he loved.

And Pure Esports was born.

“I still play video games and I am 32,” Artt said.

His sister Lucy Artt-Mulligan, also is a Gilbert business owner, operating IDance Studio and Performing Arts the last four years.

Esports, or competitive electronic sports, is projected to grow globally to a more than $1.1 billion industry by 2019, according to Goldman Sachs’ Global Investment Research.

“We’re riding that wave,” said Artt, a Gilbert native who now lives in Mesa. “This is video gaming, but instead of it being a lonely activity in a house or basement, it’s a way for kids to have a safe area to socialize with friends and either do casual play or do some competitive play, hone skills and participate in events and tournaments and win something at the end of the day.”

And, he said, because gaming equipment is expensive, his business offers a low-cost way for people to enjoy the activity.

Esports, well-established in Asia with gaming centers as ubiquitous as Starbucks, is making its way to Europe and the United States, Artt said.

In South Korea, esports is a major pastime, with top gamers achieving celebrity status. “We haven’t seen the peak (here),” Artt said. “I am hoping to pioneer that effort.”

He plans to hold Pure Esports’ first two tournaments at the end of August, featuring “Fortnite” and “League of Legends.”

Esports is male-dominated but in the last couple of years, as it’s become more mainstream, females are taking to it, Artt said, adding he expected to see mostly young adults and high school-age students among his clientele.

Esports’s market share is still mostly millennial males, according to Nielsen, a global measurement and data analytics company.

A recent Nielsen report found two-thirds of the U.S. general population 13 and older are considered gamers, an increase to 66 percent in 2018 from 58 percent in 2013. Gamers are spending 11 percent of their leisure time either playing video games or engaging in esports, according to Nielsen.

Worldwide, there are over 2.6 billion casual gamers today, up from 100 million in 1995, according to Goldman Sachs.

Goldman Sachs attributed the explosive growth to a number of factors, including the ubiquity of mobile devices and the evolution of the gaming business model.

Additionally, viewers are helping fuel esports’ surging growth with a global audience expected to reach 380 million this year, according to Esports Charts, which monitors the industry’s trends.

A Nielsen fan study showed the Western esports audience is 71 percent male, with an average age of 26.

Esports also is gaining a foothold on college and high school campuses.

Arizona State University’s Real Dream Team of gamers won the Heroes of the Dorm championship in 2016, taking home prizes and scholarship money.

Teams from 390 colleges nationwide and Canada competed that year in online matches before a sold-out arena in California and broadcast on ESPN.

As esports gains popularity, more than 30 U.S. colleges and universities such as University Utah and University of California, Irvine now offer scholarships for gamers, according to Scholarship.com.

High School Esports League also is creating esports teams on secondary-school campuses throughout the country to compete nationally.

A further testimony to esports’ widespread acceptance is the announcement that it is to be an official medal sport in the 2022 Asian Games in China.

Gilbert was a prime location for the business, according to Damian Artt, who was present at his son’s grand opening.

“Gilbert has more PCs per household than any other medium-size city in the U.S.,” he said. “Gilbert’s high percentage of PC homes means they are very technical and they are more attractive to this type of entertainment than Whac-A-Mole.”

Daniel Artt said there is one similar business in the Valley and as others jump on the bandwagon, he has plans to stay competitive.

He’s currently selling gaming peripherals such as keyboards, headsets and mouse pads and hopes to grow that inventory. He also plans to repair computers and offer custom-built gaming PCs.

And, he plans for the ability to bring gaming equipment on-site to businesses for corporate team-building exercises.

“I want to make this place magical through events and challenges,” Artt said.

The big secret to success, however, is for Pure Esports to be part of the community, and that means making it a friendly, inviting place where the staff knows customers by their first name, according to Damian Artt.

Riding, who lives a half-mile from Pure Esports, said he’s planning on coming in once a week.

Although he can communicate with other players while gaming at home, it’s not as fulfilling as coming to a center, he said.

He explained he can go down the line of players next to him, asking others to play in a squad.

“This gives you a place to be together than in a house, where it’s kind of lonely,” he said.