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Mike Hillen is no stranger to the German-speaking e-sports scene. Anyone who deals with gaming in this country will quickly come across the name of the Osnabrücker - whether as a gamer, streamer, promoter of young talent or entrepreneur. As such, he is now doing business together with ECE - and brings online gaming into stationary retail with the concept "Esport Arcade".

Mike, with the Esport Arcade you dare to take the step into the shopping centers. A permanent e-sports store is also a novelty for ECE. How did it come about?

It's no secret that e-sports is more than just hype. Neither is the fact that ECE is constantly on the lookout for new trends for its centers. So we found each other relatively quickly within the framework of a project group and realized that there are a lot of interesting approaches that not only advance ECE in its core objectives, but can also bring a lot of added value for gamers and e-sports fans in the many different shopping centers. Since the beginning of 2020, we have been working on the concept and planning and have now come up with an exciting concept.

What exactly is behind the Esport Arcade?

Gaming, i.e. gaming on the latest consoles and PCs, will of course remain a central element of the store. But the Esport Arcade is intended to be so much more. It has a central event area, where we offer our own events, tournaments, public viewings, influencer events, but also karaoke evenings or board game meetings. In the retail sector, we offer everything a gamer's heart desires, coupled with the option to test the hardware directly on site. Of course, a small streaming studio is not to be missed either. All this is rounded off by a nice gastro area, which invites you to linger and let the hour or two pass by in a flash.

Why this holistic approach?

We want to get as many center visitors as possible excited about e-sports. Visitors who are already infected with the gaming virus, but also beginners, families or companies who want to use the event areas. The Esport Arcade should and must therefore introduce visitors to the topic of e-sports and gaming with all its different facets without fear of contact. Due to the different areas, there is something for everyone.

Keyword Company: How much B2B is there in the Esport Arcade?

Of course, our offer is not only aimed at end customers. In addition to our own products, we offer a lot of whitelabel opportunities and see ourselves as a permanently open small gaming fair. We have changing activations on the area and offer business customers the opportunity to place themselves there with their own product or as a sponsor or partner. On top of that, modern technical installations allow for "ready-to-go" live streaming, which makes every activation and event very easily accessible to a huge audience online. So we are not only looking forward to every single gamer out there, but also to interesting B2B projects that hardly set any limits to your own creativity.

Why is Limbecker Platz in Essen the right location for this?

We and ECE are not the only ones who want to establish a trendy topic permanently in stationary retail. As an investor, Union Investment is also always interested in innovative concepts in its centers. In Essen, we have a good foundation to address a young, tech-savvy and consumer-friendly target group and to gradually expand this group of visitors.

In addition, Essen is one of the ten largest cities in Germany and the Rhine-Ruhr region is known for many companies that are involved in e-sports. Nearby Cologne is a well-known spot for e-sports topics, among other things due to the world's largest computer and video game trade fair Gamescom.

Hand on heart: Despite the Corona pandemic, how have you remained optimistic that the Esport Arcade will eventually take off?

When you have a project in real estate development that slides into a global situation like the Corona pandemic, nothing feels "normal" at first. You need a lot of stamina, spontaneity and planning confidence to still come up with a profitable business plan and concept. I don't want to conceal the fact that there have been a few sleepless hours. But ECE, with all the lovely people we worked with, proved to be a very good sparring partner. We have had to show many times how flexible we are and are going into this project with a well thought-out concept and great prospects.


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