Sunday night, I attended the soft launch of The Wall Gaming Lounge inside of the Rio Hotel & Casino in Las Vegas, NV. The Wall was created in conjunction with Caesars Entertainment eSports as part of an initiate to push eSports inside of the Caesars properties. They truly doubled down on the idea of a lounge and have created a space that caters to both casual and hardcore gamers. The Wall’s cyberpunk 80s lounge style includes nooks, couches, tabletops, a wall of built-in seats, oversized chairs, and more.
Not Another Esports Arena: Big Plans for the Future
With The Wall opening on the heels of the Esports Arena (ESA) inside of the Luxor Hotel & Casino, manager, Joe Huballa, was quick to point out that they are looking for a different market than the ESA. Now, that doesn’t mean they aren’t looking for pro-gamers or eSports events. In fact, one of the really amazing features at The Wall is the ability for pro-streamers and pro-gamers to set up streams inside of the lounge—streaming out to the internet as normal, but also to televisions inside of the venue and on the casino floor.
Joe has been hard at work with the newly created H1Z1 League and teams, working with pro-players to help test out the equipment and streams…even running five different simultaneous streams at one time. In fact, while Joe was showing me around The Wall, “Aw naW” from SET TO DESTROY had an issue that Joe resolved in a matter of minutes. This shows how much Joe and the Rio are working to get things ready during this soft launch. They are seizing the opportunity to work with the H1Z1 players in residence at the Rio and making sure the kinks are worked out before the grand opening.
This was only “Phase 1,” with two more phases to roll out. This means even more areas for streamers and pro-teams to set up shop, more televisions, more space, more consoles, etc. There are lots of possibilities—for example, streamers might have the opportunity to either test out their stream or setup some sort of residence.
Which Gaming Platforms will be Available at The Wall?
With all this attention being paid to PC players, you might feel like the console gamers are being left out. That is not the case at all. According to Joe, consoles will be installed shortly with a variety of games. In addition to this, he envisions console tournaments as well. Actually, tonight was a dry run of a Smash 4 tournament. You might think this is pretty straightforward, but there were a few things they had to figure out in regard to sign-ups, payouts, etc.
There were a few casino guests who stopped by to check out the Smash 4 tournament as they were walking through the casino. My favorite was an elderly couple who were curious as to what was going on and what game was being played. They asked questions and watched for a bit; they left smiling. It was great to see.
Joe Huballa and his Vision for The Wall Gaming Lounge
Joe told me that, “showing off the potential of the venue, getting out the kinks, and working with both pro-streamers/gamers and locals tournament organizers (TOs) to get things smoothed over before the grand opening“ is what the soft launch is all about.
And that’s just what he is doing. I will say that I was doubly impressed with Joe’s commitment to the local competitive scene and to the local gamers. He used to run events and tournaments and is well known in the Smash community. He spoke about how he used to take the profits from these tournaments and help local streamers and gamers build computers. He also helped pay for other things to keep them going. With this type of background, and now with this opportunity at The Wall, Joe is set to continue helping the eSport community.
Why is The Rio Devoting so Much Space for Hardcore Gamers?
With the focus on hardcore gamers and streamers, Joe was quick to point out that the casual casino guest or local would not feel alienated in this space. The Wall is like a sports bar. There will be food, great drinks, televised eSports competitions from across the world, all of which will create an atmosphere that cannot be missed.
If you’re familiar with the Rio and want to know just how big the venue is and how much faith the Rio is putting into eSports, the Phase 1 space is currently occupying what used to be Hamadas. It will expand to include McFaddens and a bit more space. That’s quite a sizable chunk of real estate on the casino floor. Phase 1 looks like it’s going to be a success, and I’m really excited to see how casual and pro-gamers use the space when Phase 2 and Phase 3 roll out.
What Makes The Wall Different from Every Other Esports Venue Popping Up in Vegas?
There are a few things that set The Wall apart from other video game/eSports venues in Las Vegas. One is “The Wall.” This is a row of taps that will include your standard fare of beers, specialty and seasonal beers, coffee, espresso, Red Bull, Gatorade, iced tea, sodas, and more. When you register at The Wall, you get a card. This card allows you to add money; then, you can use it on the wall of taps. It will eventually allow you to order food as well. Think of it like Apple Pay or one of those bracelets at Disney World. No cash exchange, only quick and easy payments.
The second thing is the parking. Parking is free at the Rio. This might not seem like a big deal but, trust me, it is. If you’re going to the ESA a few nights a week to compete or watch, parking can quickly add up to well over a hundred dollars a month in parking fees alone. Free parking at the Rio will be a big incentive. Here’s a tip—park at the Masquerade Parking Structure and you will be at The Wall in less than two minutes.
The third thing is that younger players, people under the age of 21, aren’t kicked out at 9pm. This is a big deal because most of the eSports scene is actually under the age of 21. There are a lot of high school kids and young college kids, and this has been a major hurdle for other venues on The Strip as it limits tournament times and days.
How Much will a Trip to The Wall Cost Me?
The lounge costs are pretty standard. They have hourly, half-day, and all-day options to purchase. They have discounts for locals, military, seniors, and more. After speaking with Joe, it feels like locals are going to get a pretty sweet deal when everything is finalized.
I’ll be covering The Wall in all Phases, and, hopefully working to cover future events.
You can listen to Beyond Beta Podcast on iTunes, Google Play, iHeartRADIO, or Spotify, and check out my progress in eSports at www.BeyondBetaPodcast.com. You can follow me on Twitter @SteveJShockey, or follow the podcast on Twitter @BeyondBetaPod.