Lance McGhee is capitalizing on the city’s booming esports industry.
Back in August, Detroit hosted the 2019 League of Legends Championship Series Summer Finals, one of the biggest esports events in North America – winners took home a $100,000 purse and qualified for the world championships in Europe.
Lance McGhee took this as proof of the city’s burgeoning gaming scene and, when he came into possession of a dilapidated building in the Fitzgerald neighborhood, an idea stood out. “I got possession of this raggedy building through foreclosure and I asked myself,” McGhee says, “‘What will people pay to do? Will they come to play video games in a community setting?’”
Reliving fond memories of blasting aliens on Atari in the Buffalo projects, McGhee decided to put another esports stake in Detroit soil. His Playa vs. Playa Gaming Lounge opened last month thanks to contributions from Comerica Hatch and the Detroit Economic Growth Corporation, coupled with $20,000 of McGhee’s own money.
“I took a mortgage out on my house, but it’s good, because I believe in this venture and I’m already seeing returns,” he says. Casual players and serious gamers alike are invited to choose from 10 different console systems and games from Nintendo to virtual reality, Street Fighter to Fortnite.
Students can even earn discounts for good grades. “Feedback from real gamers drove our design, down to the height of the monitors. There’s crazy lights, awesome murals. My lounge has to be better than anything in the ’burbs. We want to wow you,” McGhee says.
He plans to foster his own superstar team of seven young gamers at Playa vs. Playa, because he knows the best time to bring the billion-dollar esports industry to the city is right now. “Four schools in Michigan alone offer scholarships for esports. Not only can you make money playing, you can stream, produce videos, learn all kinds of skills. We’re a mile or so from Mumford,” he says – just minutes from their target teenaged market. “Strategically, we’re in the best place we can be.”
15850 Wyoming Ave., Detroit