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Is China about to drive innovation West?

Waynoo - the next big thing?

China, game on. Well Wanyoo, to be more specific, is about to launch the first eSports Studio in Europe. To non-gamers, we’re talking computer gaming lounge on the high street, with a strong social dimension. The customer is computer gamers and their entourage.

If Wanyoo is a fraction of its success in China, UK high streets draw breath, and be prepared to witness the kind of innovation we’ve hitherto abandoned to the retail savy of the Americans, think Apple, Starbucks, Abercrombie & Fitch, Nike Town and Tesla, or the Aussies with their luxury shopping experiences – Westfield.

I joined the press pack for the Wanyoo launch. Of course, these days that cohort is made up of hipster bloggers and some sharp-suited dudes from the mainstream press – I heard the venerable Telegraph mentioned.

As I wandered through this soon-to-be, gaming Mecca, it reminded me of a blog I wrote a few years ago, pondering when China would emerge from its roots in low cost production, to bring creativity and premium innovation to the West. That time may be coming.

As I suspected then, it might not simply be walking in the footsteps of the Japanese, who back in the ‘70s, revitalized countless existing product categories with new thinking. Wanyoo’s eSports Studio, has the making of something original – creating a new category with an accent on premium from the get-go.

Wanyoo’s tapping into the computer gaming Zeitgeist. They’re taking gaming from the living-room couch and bedroom snug, which have been the bastions of Xbox and Play Station, to a premium retail experience with an emphasis on social interaction. Bring together the players and their entourage (gamers have their groupies, girlfriends and boyfriends, too) and combine with a social experience, and you have Wanyoo. The Wanyoo eSports Studios have juice bar, food and chill-out zones.

Wanyoo are creating the ultimate, high-end gaming experience, combined with premium fast food service.

There are things that could be improved, to make the offer even better (but more on that later) first consider these qualities.

  • The latest PC gaming tech with ultra-high, speed bandwidth.
  • Armchair comfort. They want the clientele to settle in and play for hours.
  • Ultimate keyboard. The keys on the console feel like they’re floating on a cushion of air. Amazing keyboards. I don’t usually get excited about this stuff but their keyboards are what Air is to Nike.
  • And no need to get out of your comfy chair, or miss any multi-player game-action. A hot button by your console, promises to have hospitality staff with you inside 40 seconds. How? All the staff have smart wearable devices to direct them to your game station or suite.
  • Pro-gaming suites, air-conditioned and kitted out for hard-core gamers with aspirations to play in international competitions.
  • Curtained cubicles, ideal for two buddies or couples to play and hang out.
  • Air-conditioned, group-gaming suites with sofas for the gamers’ entourage to hang out.
  • Chill-out zone for mobile phone gaming.
  • Themed spaces ideal for just socializing and capturing selfies.
  • Trendy café / food and juice bar, all with a premium vibe.

Wanyoo is more than a social gaming destination. There’s also a vision to enable computer gamers to transition from hobby to career, with links to pro-players, events and competitions.

Concepts, like Wanyoo’s eSports Studios, could breathe new life into struggling high streets, which are succumbing to the relentless march of e-retailing. Surely a retailer like HMV, could have morphed into a proposition along the lines of Wanyoo, rather than implode in a whimper.

Could the Wanyoo eSports Studio be improved? Well, it’s early days but I came away thinking there’s scope to improve the format. Some of the spaces, whilst premium, were soulless. Too bland. Plenty of cool tech but some neo-industrial or designer touches might give the spaces a more hipster quality.

Some gaming suites could be modular to customise the space for female gamers; eg maybe wall panels could be flipped around to theme the space with images of contemporary, celebrity female gamers. Just like Nike Town would immortalize their iconic sports stars. Same, of course, could be done for the boys.

Some VIP suites could have glass fronted fridges, stocked with drinks, which like hotel fridges, record when you remove a can of soda or snack. You pay on the way out or seamlessly by app. This might appeal to some clientele. 

Many millennials, in well-paid careers, love gaming but after work will go out with colleagues to places like Swingers (aka indoor mini-golf with bar and catering) or the ping-pong mecca, Bounce, with their bars and fast food eateries, catering to groups. There’s an opportunity to appeal to that 25 to 35 year old, social cohort. However, Wanyoo would need suites that offer a booze licence, or spin-off the concept with a version that is for an older, drinking age consumer. Of course, there’s an argument that says drink around hardware is a recipe for disaster. The solution might be innovation in how the drink is provided. 

Staffing seems to be currently, Chinese, or mostly Chinese. There’s a risk that the first venue, on the edge of China Town, will attract mostly young Chinese office workers and students. There’s a good chance Wanyoo will need a cosmopolitan culture to really thrive.

The Wanyoo concept has huge potential, and I’m sure will evolve. It might not be a long wait for products labelled, ‘Designed in China’.

Andrew Reid

Andrew Reid

Andrew Reid is a strategy director at Shelton Fleming, a creative agency that works with the world’s top brands. The agency is known for intelligent live events that give brands a personal connection to audiences.

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