The Dallas/Fort Worth area is a hotbed for esports, and now the area’s hub for national and international travel is home to the world’s first airport video gaming lounges.
That’s according to Jordan Walbridge who co-founded the company Gameway with his wife Emma.
“Gameway’s purpose is to make airports entertaining,” said Jordan. “I was shocked that it hadn’t already been done before. Everyone who I talk to, they’re like, ‘Why hasn’t this been done before?’ I’m just glad that I’m the first!”
Photo Credit: DFW Airport
“Fifty percent of Americans play video games at least three hours a week or more and within that the average age is a male who’s 35 and a female who’s 44 years old. When you look at the average traveler coming through here, it’s about the same and, this gaming community has come up playing Nintendo, maybe as early as Atari.”
According to the gaming industry advocacy group the Entertainment Software Association (ESA), Jordan’s numbers are close. A recent ESA report found that the average age of someone who plays games is 31 years old. The margin between genders is nearly equal, with 52 percent male and 48 percent female. There are more gamers 36 and older than there are between the ages of 18 to 35 or under the age of 18.
Gameway recently opened two gaming lounges at Dallas/Fort Worth International Airport (DFW), one at Gate 16 in Terminal E and the other at Gate 42 in Terminal B. The lounges are equipped with Xbox One consoles preloaded with 19 games, including Fortnite, FIFA 18, Call of Duty WWII, NBA 2K18, Minecraft, Madden, Overwatch, Rise of the Tomb Raider, and Rocket League. Games are played on 4K TVs using noise-canceling headphones all while the user is resting in comfortable seating.
The larger lounge is located in Terminal E and has 22 stations while the one in Terminal B is slightly smaller with 14 stations. Lounges are open daily from 4:30 a.m. until 10 p.m., and the cost is 42 cents per minute or $20 for unlimited play time. Users can log onto their own accounts or play on Gameway’s.
Photo Credit: Stuck at the Airport
The DFW Airport locations are the first lounges created by Gameway.
“I think Dallas chose us,” said Jordan. “We pitched it to a lot of airports, but it was DFW that saw this and insisted that they wanted to be the first in the country to do it. DFW really pushes for a great customer experience for every single passenger, and I think Gameway aligns well with what they want.”
Emma Walbridge came up with the original idea. Her background is hotel management, and she recognized that the best way to fill and maximize the resources of a video game lounge is to place it somewhere with high foot traffic and people looking to fill downtime, like an airport.
So, while the airport setting was Emma’s idea, Jordan specifically selected the hardware for a very personal reason.
“I was in the army for eight years, and I was deployed to Afghanistan,” said Jordan. “When we’d get back from a really hard mission, we would come back to our base, and we had all these original Xboxes linked up together. So, we had these little tiny TVs, and four people can play Halo per TV, so we had 16 guys playing Halo. So, that’s how we unwound and de-stressed from some really difficult days. Since then, Xbox has held a really special place in my heart.”
But Nintendo and Sony fans should not feel worried. The Walbridges have plans to not only expand to include more games and game systems but also to reach into new locations. Initially, they will move into the remaining terminals at DFW and then on to other airports.
“We think of Gameway as a global company, so we want to first expand to JFK or LAX or to Chicago, but also London, Dubai, Hong Kong, and Beijing. Those are places also that have boring airports, and we can bring the excitement to there as well,” said Jordan.
It should come as no surprise that the DFW Airport is home to these gaming lounges. The entire DFW area is in the midst of an esports boom.
Photo Credit: Guide Live
For example, the area is home to the SMU Guildhall, the number one school for game design according to The Princeton Review.
“A lot of people in the industry know us, and they know what to expect when they hire one of our students. For example, in 2017, one of our classes did a VR game. We had a local developer take a look at the game, and they were so blown away by it they hired the entire team upon graduation,” said Mark Nausha, the Deputy Director of GameLab at SMU Guildhall.
Guildhall is also co-hosting the debut of a two-day esports festival called OP Live Dallas on September 22-23, 2018. The event will feature high-level professional competition, a 16-team collegiate tournament, and a showcase for the work of Guildhall master’s degree candidates in interactive technology. It will also provide education for students and their parents about how to break into the video game industry.
“We are going to have a lot of booths that illuminate the opportunities that gaming provides from a competitive play standpoint to how to design games, become a caster, become a pro. We’re going to have talks given by people in various facets of the industry, from people that develop the games to pros that play games for money to casters and influencers. We’ll give this broad stroke approach to the different career opportunities for people who have a passion and desire to do such things and make it real and tangible to them. And, of course, there will be all the entertainment value that comes with it. There will be lots of things for fans to do,” said Nausha.
Additionally, two facilities dedicated to esports are opening – one in Frisco and the other in Arlington. The latter will take 100,000 square feet of space at the Arlington Convention Center and convert it into the country’s largest stadium dedicated to competitive gaming. The remodeled arena is expected to open by the end of 2018.
The vast majority of the area’s major league team owners also have esports investments:
- Jerry Jones, the owner of the Dallas Cowboys, and John Goff, a real estate investor, teamed up to acquire a majority stake in compLexity Gaming and moved the team’s global headquarters to The Star in Frisco. The Cowboys also have a team in the Madden NFL Club Championship, which kicks off in a few months.
- Kenneth Hersh, a co-owner of the Texas Rangers, is an investor in Team Envy, which runs the Overwatch League team Dallas Fuel. Currently, the Dallas Fuel operates out of Los Angeles (as does every Overwatch League team), but it will make the move to its hometown by 2020.
- Another co-owner of the Texas Rangers, Neil Leibman, is invested in an entirely different esports organization: OpTic Gaming. Originally based in Chicago, OpTic moved its organization to Dallas in the winter of 2017.
- Mark Cuban, the owner of the Dallas Mavericks, is also the owner of an NBA 2K League team, Mavs Gaming, and has invested in the competitive video game wagering start-up Unikrn.
Cuban recently stated his belief that esports will be a major growth factor for the Dallas/Fort Worth area. “Literally, like oil and gas was a big industry for the region 50 years ago, 100 years ago, esports can be a fueling industry for this region,” he said.
For more on our thoughts about the latest gaming and esports opportunities in Dallas/Fort Worth or worldwide, give eGency Global a call at 972-323-6354.