OVERLAND PARK, Kan. -- Walmart is adding a new enterprise to its long list of services. This one might be a win for shoppers, kids and anyone who plays video games.
The Overland Park location off 159th Street and Metcalf Avenue is opening an Esports Arena on Saturday.
The walls are black, the lights are low, and the lights are popping. Much like a casino or an arcade, the newest storefront inside south Overland Park’s Walmart is an unfamiliar concept.
Tyler Endres is the CEO and founder of Esports Arena. Based out of Orange County, California, he started this concept there.
“We’d been running tournaments and hosting video game nights every night of the week, and it’s because I, myself, wanted to become a professional video gamer back in the day, but never really had the talent to do so," he said.
"We wanted to develop a concept where people can come and compete at a local level. Since then we’ve opened up in Oakland, California, and we have a presence on the Las Vegas strip as well actually.”
It was about that time Walmart approached Endres.
“Walmart sort of caught wind of our business and had approached us for a meeting and asked us if they think this would work inside a Walmart store," he said.
"Originally I had some thoughts about the concept, but really the overall concept itself makes sense. The ecosystem that we could build utilizing Walmart’s platform and real estate was something that I think they liked and something that we obviously really liked as well.”
In a time when corporations battle online retailers, it made sense to appeal to different types of people in additional to traditional shoppers.
“We bring in a much younger demographic, a much younger clientele that your typical person who goes shopping in general," Endres said. "This is somebody who likes to stay at home. This is somebody who likes to order online. So we’re bringing them out to come out and play video games with the community and come to a Walmart store, which is awesome."
Just $5 buys you an hour of play time at your own gaming station. You can play your own game or participate as part of a tournament. But for the first couple weeks, it’s free to play.
“Video games are such a communal sport, and it’s something that like -- it doesn’t matter who you are, what you look like, you’re coming here to play video games because you want to be part of that community," Ednres said.
Elam Giarratano isn’t a professional gamer yet, but at 13 years old, he loves this concept and so does his mother.
“The more mainstream we can get to get it to parents and get them to realize that video games don’t rot your brain like we used to think when we were growing up, the better," Amanda Giarratano said.
"Elam started playing Fortnite. He did really well in the arena competition and almost made it to the World Cup. He didn’t qualify, so we decided to take him just to watch it, and it really was an eyeopener for us as his parents to see this whole brand-new world of gaming and what’s out there for kids. The more we can get it out there to parents and kids, the better.”
Amanda said her son competes and is learning life skills that will help him with career choices when he’s older.
“I do coding and after learning how to code, I can figure out, ‘OK, this is what happens when you input that into a video game. That’s what happens,’ and I can see that, so it does help with other things in life, too," Elam said.
The Overland Park location is one of just seven in the U.S. so far, but the vision is vast and the idea is next level.
“I think this is going to be something that’s here to stay, and we’re continuing to look at more spaces with Walmart and hopefully grow to be much bigger than just our seven locations that we have today,” Endres said.
When the arena opens Saturday at noon, there will be Fortnite and Super Smash Bros. tournaments. Plus gaming influencers sponsored by Gatorade -- Fooya, Clintus, Dirty and Censor -- will be in attendance.