FORT WALTON BEACH — It all started with Pong.
Remember that game? I don’t because I wasn’t around upon its inception but the premise was simple. Opposing players would bounce a ball back and forth until someone missed.
It’s safe to say that video games have become far more innovative since the 1972 Atari-released game, including the business surrounding it: esports.
As it inserts itself into mainstream entertainment, esports is one of the fastest growing industries in the world according to Business Insider. By 2022, it is estimated that there will be 645 million viewers of esports, more than Netflix, Hulu, HBO and ESPN combined (Yahoo).
That growth will now reach the Emerald Coast, as Contender Esports Gaming Center will be opening in Fort Walton Beach in July. Locations will also be opening in Space Coast and Orlando later this year.
“It’s more of a community center,” said Joseph Markey, store manager. “I miss the days of old school LAN parties and everyone is in the same room. Kids these days don’t have that experience. It’s a whole different level of camaraderie when you’re playing in the same room as a team.”
The facility will include 52 gaming stations, eight Nintendo Switch’s and five Xbox’s. It will also serve as a place for tournaments across a variety of games such as “Super Smash Bros.”, “Apex Legends”, “Valorant” and “Rocket League”.