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Gaming, Gamification and the Real Estate Sector - PropTech

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Chris Barkley's article first appeared in the June print edition of Property Investor News

Hundreds of millions of people on the planet are now regularly playing online games with numbers set to increase exponentially. The UK is already starting to follow the lead of countries such as the USA and China in cashing in on real estate opportunities arising from this rapidly expanding community.

Separately the demand for traditional real estate is changing. A change in working practices means that spaces often now need to be multi-functional and fully flexible. One means of achieving this is by the introduction of virtual reality to our everyday environment– a concept known as gamification.

This article explores the impact of gaming and gamification on the future of real estate.

The rise of gaming and the need for bespoke real estate space.

Whilst historically gaming may have been seen as something done in isolation, the revolution that has occurred in recent years in the gaming sector has turned this perception on its head. Gaming attracts a widespread demographic and communication has become an integral part of the gaming process with huge online communities arising worldwide. Professional gaming is also on the increase with many people earning significant sums by forging careers in the industry.

With this increase in participation the real estate sector is seeing a demand for both temporary and permanent infrastructure to support the gaming industry, with professional gamers requiring spaces to give and receive training and local online communities wanting to congregate in ‘pop up’ style gaming facilities. In addition to this, larger gaming venues are also on the increase where gamers can meet and make use of the enhanced technological infrastructure of the bespoke venues whilst also meeting other gamers and competing. If we start to see arenas emerging on the scale of those in cities such as Los Angeles then the knock on effect will result in increased demand for additional hotel, retail and catering spaces for the thousands of people who attend and partake. Whilst we are yet to see anything on this scale in the UK if the trend continues in the same vein as the USA, it seems it will be only a matter of time.

Gaming also presents opportunities for struggling sectors, such as retail. Investors and occupiers in the retail industry have been badly hit in recent years. Shopping centres in particular are going to need to shift their focus to providing more of an “experience” in order to attract those shoppers who have retreated from the high street in recent years and now prefer to shop from their desks. The gaming industry generally attracts younger people with a high level disposable income and such offers some potential solutions for retailers. Particularly when it comes to attracting shoppers and repurposing existing spaces to include gaming facilities.

Whilst there is obvious interest from the real estate industry in the growth of the gaming sector, the gaming market in the UK is still in its very early stages. Given the turbulent times we are currently living in it remains to be seen whether developers and investors will take the plunge. Who knows, perhaps COVID19 and the resulting rapid increase in engagement with online interaction will accelerate the process.

The use of ‘Gamification’

Gaming technology and its interaction with real life situations is likely to play more of a role in the way we work in the future - for example office space. Virtual divides are already being used in some offices to give the impression of separate areas within open plan. The virtual divides allow for ultimate flexibility with the ability to create rooms an ‘zones’ simply by using a control making one room suitable for multiple purposes.

Virtual office space which can be accessed by people working from home is also a concept that is likely to become much more advanced. We are all used to interacting via platforms such as Zoom following the onset of COVID19. However, ‘gamification’ of these platforms could bring a whole new look and feel to working from home. Potentially allowing workers to feel like they are sat in an office and interact with those around them as if they were actually in the same room. This could potentially overcome some of the more obvious down sides of home working, allowing people to build team relationships, have ‘face to face’ client interaction and absorb the expertise of colleagues, whilst simply plugging into a virtual office from home.

With regard to gamification in retail, the impact on human psychology when interacting with technology should not be underestimated and numerous studies have already shown that it increases drive and engagement and that the ability to retain information is significantly enhanced. We have seen gamification used in e-learning/corporate training for some time and already retailers are starting to explore the benefits of gaming for marketing. A number of the well known fashion houses have incorporated gaming into their marketing with customers able to interact online with branding, play games and win credits to obtain shopper discounts. On a more practical level, furniture retailers now utilise technology to allow customers to fit out a virtual houses and enable them to visualise merchandise within their home and numerous fitness retailers provide apps linking goals and achievements to the sale of their products.

This synergy between the virtual and the real looks set to be a firm fixture of the future of real estate.

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Chris Barkley 

This guide is for general information and interest only and should not be relied upon as providing specific legal advice. If you require any further information about the issues raised in this article please contact the author or call 0207 404 0606 and ask to speak to your usual Goodman Derrick contact.