The Endeavour Group’s digital wing, endeavourX, has invested $3m into gaming and entertainment venue Fortress, described as ‘a pub for zoomers’.

‘Gaming’ tends to mean one thing in Australian hospitality, but Fortress is focusing on something rather different. It is said to be the largest video games and esports entertainment location in the Southern Hemisphere – with no gambling element. The new venue is found in Sydney’s Chippendale suburb, as part of the Central Park Mall.

Fortress Sydney, which opened on 8 April, occupies nearly 3,000 square metres, and contains a 200-seat esports arena for tournaments, an old-school arcade, high-performance gaming PCs, board game areas and games console suites. The venue also boasts two hospitality areas – The Tavern, a fantasy themed pub; and 2315, a futuristic cyberpunk bar.

Madeleine Horsburgh, senior marketing manager for Fortress, gave more detail on the nature of these ‘pubs’.

“The spaces in Fortress are carefully crafted to transport guests to different worlds. Everything draws from our own Fortress IP, and there has been meticulous attention to detail,” she said.

“While these settings are extraordinary, they still cater to the usual range of bar and pub activities, from date nights to work functions.

“‘The Tavern’ is fantasy themed, complete with an impressive long wood bar, pub-style meals, and plenty of tables for dining or gameplay. ‘2315’ is a futuristic sci-fi bar set in a world ruled by AI, offering a unique drink selection focused on romanticising 21st-century emotional sensations.”

Endeavour Group CEO and managing director, Steve Donohue, explained what had attracted the group to the concept.

“Fortress brings people together in a technology-led space, while still offering the best things guests expect in a traditional hospitality venue. Technology will continue to change the nature of hospitality and socialising, and Fortress has found an innovative way to use technology to enable a combination of gaming experiences and human connection.

“Our vision is to be the leading platform enabling social occasions, and we are committed to continuing to innovate to bring people together, which is why this investment aligns so well with our strategy,” the Donohue continued.

Fortress was founded by three Melbourne tech and entertainment entrepreneurs (Jon Satterley, Adrian Giles and Ryan Trainor) in 2018, and aims to tap into the growing gaming market in Australia. According to market analysts Statista, revenue in the esports market in Australia is tipped to hit US$17.92m (nearly AU$27m) this year, with a CAGR of almost eight per cent. More ‘grown ups’ are playing games too, with the average age of a person who plays video games sitting at 35 years old.

Horsburgh said she was delighted by the community’s early reaction to the venue.

“We couldn’t have asked for a better early response to Fortress Sydney. The enthusiasm was palpable, with hundreds of people queuing from 7:30am and thousands attending on the opening weekend. We’ve been inundated with positive feedback and user-generated content from our excited community.”

Horsburgh also highlighted the changing face of gamers.

“As anticipated, Fortress has attracted a diverse range of demographics, all united by their shared passion for games and entertainment.”

Looking ahead, the marketing manager is bullish about the potential of the Fortress model.

“Fortress is the first of its kind, a venue offering unparalleled experiences that evolve alongside the community,” Horsburgh said.

“We foresee increasing demand and a bright future for experiential spaces like Fortress, where cutting-edge technology is integrated with hospitality. Our venue resonates with modern consumers and their desire for innovative entertainment, retail, and in-person social experiences.”

As for further developments, Endeavour’s stake is a minority investment but one that gives them ‘a seat at the table’, according to reporting by The Sydney Morning Herald. The same report details that Fortress and Endeavour are in talks to introduce aspects of the Fortress experience to Endeavour’s Australian Leisure and Hospitality (ALH) pubs and venues.

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