It’s taken a while for shopping center operators to realize that video games were more than the fleeting obsession of young males eager to put in their 10,000 hours to up their scores in titles with cult-like following. The sector has gone mainstream, fueled by the immense popularity of market leaders such as Fortnite and a growing fascination for esports, or organized gaming competitions among pro players and teams that are hosted on digital video streaming platforms like Twitch and YouTube Gaming as well as major networks like ESPN. Soon, Mall of America (Bloomington, USA) will be able to claim a slice of that sector’s pie. It recently announced a partnership with Wisdom Gaming to bring to its property an 1,800sq.ft. broadcast studio with seating for a live audience, a retail shop, and a lounge with F&B options, a marked addition to its tenant mix.

“Tapping into the esports landscape has been something we’ve had on our radar for a long time. However, we wanted to ensure that we were approaching this audience in a holistic way,” said Jill Renslow, EVP of business development, for Mall of America. 

“We are thrilled to partner with Wisdom Gaming, leveraging their expertise in the space to establish Mall of America as the premiere esports destination hub for guests and global esports fans alike.”

Besides welcoming fans, the new split-level space to open early this year on the mall’s fourth level will also serve as a home base for esports teams operated by Wisdom Gaming’s Torrent arm and Minnesota Varsity League, which supports high-school esports. And the latter aren’t the only proverbial players in town. Gwoop, also out of Minnesota, is working with approximately 1,000 school programs across 40 American states and raised US$1.85 million in seed funding this past November to help further develop its esports training platform. 

With Millennials, Gen Zers, and Alphas now grabbing more of retail marketers’ attention, the Mall of America/Wisdom Gaming partnership is reflective of clear market trends rather than a leap of faith into a cool techno niche. Insider Intelligence1 had projected the esports ecosystem to surpass US$1 billion for the first time in 2021, while Newzoo figures it will hit US$1.8 billion this year. The revenue sources behind the growth range from media rights and live-event ticket sales to merchandise sales and in-game purchases. While the Asia-Pacific region remains the top market (approx. 57%), North America and Europe follow, with Latin America currently recognized as the fastest-rising market. As for the future of esports, it will likely be powered by mobile—that segment of gaming accounts for 43% of the market. Not surprisingly, China is said to already have a thriving mobile esports scene.

Mirroring the gaming industry as a whole, esports are gaining momentum on the mall floor, with several shopping centers now adding them to their special event rosters, tenant mix, and amenities to enrich the visitor experience and generate incremental income. As Mall of America noted, the Wisdom Gaming facilities at its property will give brand and media partners a platform to connect with esports communities through component naming rights, advertising, and sponsorships, creating new revenue streams for the mall.


(1). “Exports Ecosystem in 2022: Key industry companies, viewership growth trends, and market revenue stats.” (January 3, 2022)