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Esports gets in on the drive-in boom

The $1bn competitive videogaming sector is getting a piece of the drive-in action, with four esports arenas launching in the US this year

By IQ on 05 Aug 2020

Drive-in gamers can compete in Super Smash Bros and other esports favourites

Drive-in gamers can compete in Super Smash Bros

image © Bandai Namco Studios

Inspired by the success of drive-in concerts and cinemas, a new company, USA Drive-Ins, is launching the first-ever drive-in esports arenas.

USA Drive-Ins, a division of esports analytics firm Harena Data, has partnered with property company Horizon Group to develop esports arenas in four US cities. The first – in Gettysburg, Pennsylvania – will launch at the Horizon-owned Outlet Shoppes shopping centre this Labor Day weekend (5–7 September), with venues in Louisville, Kentucky, and El Paso and Laredo, both in Texas, set to follow later this year.

The Gettysburg event will feature three-different forms of drive-in gameplay: car play only, in which attendees connect to games via their smart devices without leaving their cars; hybrid car play, where players qualify using their own mobile device or Nintendo Switch console, with those who make the cut then invited up to the (socially distanced) stage to compete head to head; and stage play, a competitive mode, broadcast on the arena’s projector, for the best players, who are entered into a tournament to battle on games such as Super Smash Bros, Fifa, NBA 2K, Mortal Kombat and Street Fighter.

The launch of USA Drive-Ins comes in the wake of the explosion in drive-in shows that followed the shutdown of concert touring in March. The concept originated in Dusseldorf, Germany, with venue operator D.Live, and quickly spread around the world, allowing artists and promoters to put on concerts while traditional music venues are closed.

“Our first trial will mimic the cinemagoing experience but maintain the comfort of gaming in your own space”

“Our first trial will mimic the cinemagoing experience but maintain the comfort of gaming in your own space,” comments Bill Dever, chief strategy officer of Harena Data.

“Along with high-tech concession stands, we’re offering clean bathrooms versus the standard port-a-potties that drive-ins have. They will be disinfected frequently and limited in maximum occupants at one time.”

Like drive-in concerts, the esports events will allow gamers to offer food to their cars by smartphone, choosing from touch-free menus, adds Dever.

According to Futuresource Consulting, the esports, or competitive videogaming, sector, will reach a value of US$1 billion this year. Gaming has been one of the biggest winners of the coronavirus pandemic, with videogame stocks becoming increasingly hot property as locked-down consumers turn en masse to games for their entertainment fix.

IQ revealed that more than three quarters of a billion people – each one of them a potential concertgoer once the live business restarts – play video games regularly.


This article forms part of IQ’s Covid-19 resource centre – a knowledge hub of essential guidance and updating resources for uncertain times.

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