I recently had the opportunity to work on an exciting new project happening in partnership with Westfield Corporation. With retail outlets, particularly malls, clearly having a tough run due to online shopping cutting into their customer base, there is a new set of companies aiming to reduce that trend by enriching retail experiences beyond simply shopping. One organization at the forefront of this conversation is ESC Games. Founded in 2015, the company has created a social gaming experience that is not only reimagining what "social" gaming looks like but is changing the framework of the shopping experience. I had the chance to work with them recently and took the opportunity to sit down with their CEO, Todd Swidler, on what's next in this rapidly growing space.
Damian Bazadona (DB): Tell me about ESC Games. How does ESC Games view itself? A gaming company? An entertainment company? Something different?
Todd Swidler (TS): ESC Games is a pioneer in the gaming and entertainment space, comprised of an operational product business that designs and constructs the ESC Game Theater, our inaugural product, as well as the ESC Game Studio that develops the games.
The ESC Game Theater is a mashup of a movie theater, concert, and pickup basketball game where anyone can compete in wildly fun, casual video games on a massive screen -- a completely new type of social gaming and entertainment experience that a whole family, group of friends, colleagues or strangers can enjoy together. It features a movie theater-size screen (11' H x 30' W), 7.2 concert-quality surround sound, and more than 70 multi-color LED and strobe lights, including synchronized lighting effects driven by game play. A live emcee adds to the excitement and quickens the learning curve by offering tips and advice, providing play-by-play commentary and encouraging teamwork. It's a first-of-its-kind, multiplayer video gaming platform built for team and tournament play. You can think of the Game Theater as a custom-built mini-eSports arena.
DB: Gaming is a very competitive market. What's the edge for ESC Games?
TS: We've developed a proprietary video gaming platform where dozens of players compete in casual games and short eSports-style competitions in the same venue. Our custom-built hardware infrastructure, including touchscreen controllers, software, and an initial portfolio of ten games (including an additional two games developed by Warner Bros.) create an unparalleled social gaming experience. The companies that partnered to incubate ESC Games have managed the live event production for the Olympic opening ceremonies, Super Bowl halftime shows, and various major concerts. The other partner company builds immersive, technically advanced social experiences for museums, global events and corporate HQs around the world.
DB: Knowing that in malls, there is such a diverse range of people - who is the customer for your platform?
TS: The ESC Game Theater has broad appeal to a wide range of ages. It's really for anyone seeking a fun entertainment option or for those interested in casual team and tournament gaming experiences.
DB: I have personally been involved in watching the exciting launch of your partnership with Westfield Corporation. Now that you've had thousands of people experience ESC Game Theater, are there any significant takeaways or surprises?
TS: Our Game Theater at Westfield Garden State Plaza in Paramus, NJ is our first project in partnership with Westfield Corporation (one of the leading mall operators in the world). We've learned a great deal being in a retail environment and have had to evolve some core processes. Aside from operational learnings, we've seen our tournaments be a big success; it shows there is a market for more casual eSports-style team tournaments. We've always known people love to win, but didn't realize how popular some of our branded prizes would be. Considering we're very new to the market, it's encouraging to know how much people love the Game Theater (once they play) and our brand.
DB: What's next for ESC Games?
TS: We're very excited about our future. The reaction so far has been really amazing -- maybe even beyond our expectations. Once people experience the Game Theater in-person, they get it and love it -- that's a universal reaction from players, press, and potential business partners. So our goal is to expand quickly and carefully by partnering with a select group to expand Game Theater locations on a national and global scale. We also have exciting plans for game development through our ESC Game Studio team, working with advertisers and 3rd party IP holders. We're off to a great start.