Are competitive gaming venues the new nightclubs?

competitive gaming venues
13th January 2021Research & Insights

Accelerated by the COVID-19 pandemic, a new generation of competitive gaming venues, which offer the complete ‘eat, drink and play’ experience, are re-shaping our global night-time economy.

With COVID-19 forcing nightclubs throughout Europe to remain closed due to the limitations on managing social distancing, could this be the final nail in the coffin for the traditional nightclub – an industry which, according to the International Music Summit, saw a 21% drop in UK venues at the end of 2018?

In contrast, we’re seeing a continued acceleration in the number of competitive gaming venues opening, despite the pandemic.  Taking the best of a bar and casual dining offer coupled with a fun, inclusive competitive gaming line-up, these venues can be easily managed when it comes to keeping their customers safe.  Both their ability to manage customer flow via pre-booked time slots and also the implementation of additional hygiene measures is helping to keep them ahead of the curve.

Says Samantha Catford, SHUFL European marketing manager: “Even before the pandemic, we were already seeing a definite shift towards experience-led socialising where competitive gaming activities take centre-stage and, on the flipside, a move away from the traditional nightclub with several big-name closures. This has been driven by the Millennial and Gen Z consumer preference for drinking less alcohol and wanting more from their nights out.

“Since the pandemic, this trend has accelerated and we’re seeing the emergence of some really smart competitive gaming operators, who are meeting customer demand safely and will stand the test of time.”

The UK’s New Kids on the Block

Some of the most exciting additions to the UK night-time economy in recent years have been competitive gaming venues.  They are satisfying the experience-hungry next-generation consumer by fully embracing the experiential night out, combining the best of social gaming – shuffleboard, modern darts, bowling, beer pong, ping-pong and crazy golf – with an enticing food and drink offer.  This dynamic, new wave of operators are snapping up former retail sites, as part of the evolution of the cityscape.

Always one step ahead of the competitive socialising curve, our old pals at Roxy Ballroom have been rocking our shuffleboards since 2018, offering a customer-first, mould-breaking sip, snack and play experience.  One of the big success stories of the hospitality industry, they have an ambitious growth strategy and now have a dozen venues across the UK, delivering one of the most innovative gaming-centric nights out.

Another of our partners, bowling specialist Lane 7 asks customers to “forget Formica tables, moulded seats and plastic hot-dogs”.  Instead, they offer a first-class bar and street food dining offer coupled with a full line-up of entertainment to complement the ten-pin bowling, including: crazy golf, pool, ping-pong, beer pong, karaoke and shuffleboard.  Their Leicester venue now features two of our16-foot shuffleboards. The result is an amazing atmosphere and a monster night out.

Self-styled ‘adventure bar Boom: Battle Bar in Norwich – and more recently in Cardiff – serves fancy cocktails and snacks to accompany its extreme gaming experience.  Customers can try their hand at Axe Throwing, Crazier Golf – featuring loops and catapults, Skee-Ball – a fast-paced bowling style game where you can battle your friend – and, of course, shuffleboard (we’ve got two 18-footers in Norwich and a 22-footer in Cardiff).  Additional sites in Liverpool and Glasgow are planned for this year.

A global trend

It’s not just UK consumers that are hungry for experience-led nights out, we’re seeing the same trend sweeping through Europe and beyond.

In Scandinavia, our long-standing Swedish partner O’Leary’s has developed their brand offer to include a number of complete bowling and gaming entertainment centres, which respond to the demand for experiential nights out.  O’Leary’s Skein in Norway, for example, has two of our 22- footer Grand Champion tables alongside our modern dart technology, ten-pin bowling, pool, air hockey and retro arcade games.

SHUFL’s own modern darts brand Oche brings together a traditional game combined with modern technology that allows you to play a number of different darts games.  Great for groups of friends or work colleagues, an Oche (the line behind with the player stands to throw his/her darts) is the private booth where you play darts, order food, eat and hang out with your group inside the venue.

There are currently Oche venues in Oslo, Amsterdam and Brisbane, Australia.  Oche Fortitude Valley in Brisbane opened in 2019 offering modern darts accompanied by classy cocktails and tasty morsels for your free hand.  Did we mention that you can also squeeze in a game of SHUFL while you’re there and take part in their regular Wednesday SHUFL tournaments?  New Oche venues are launching soon in Gothenburg, Sweden and Miami, Florida.

There’s no doubt that this new breed of competitive gaming operator is raising the stakes when it comes to the global night-time economy:  offering a customer-first experience with interactive fun gaming, imaginative food and drink and prioritising customer safety.

Here at SHUFL, we call that Game On!