Ubisoft, Gameloft, Eidos and a score of independent video game developers have all set up shop in Montreal. The city is often referred to as a mecca for game development, but there has never been a place for the people who pour hours into the final product. “There are a lot of gamers in Montreal. They’re just all at home and we wanted to give them a reason to step out and find a new way to socialize,” said Esports Central President Delilah Kanou.
Esports Central, which opened its doors at the end of May, is looking to change that narrative. Kanou said that people who come to the 14,000 sq./ft gaming centre will be afforded a luxury many gamers are not. The centre, located on the second floor at 1231 Ste. Catherine Street West, boasts 94 top of the line PCs, 25 consoles, six D-Box racing simulators and an Omni VR section. Kanou believes Esports Central can be instrumental in the growth of gaming culture in Montreal.
“It’s like building a basketball court in a park and then someone develops his skills from there,” she said. “But you’re giving them the tools to do it, right? So we’re giving the tools.”
Anthony Côté, Esports Central’s brand ambassador, says the plan is for the centre to act as much more than a hub for competitive Esports players. With a fully licensed resto-bar, a sprawling lounge area that extends across the back wall, and a shopping section, Esports Central is a place where gamers and non-gamers alike can feel comfortable.
“We have from A to Z — the father that wants to have fun with his son, to the gamer that’s looking to play with his friends, to the hardcore Esports player that wants to do a tournament,” said Côté.
Stephanie Yan, a member of Team Sailor Scouts, an all girls Overwatch team from Montreal, was on hand for the centre’s grand opening. Yan and the Sailor Scouts recently announced a partnership with Esports Central.
She believes that the centre represents a major moment in Montreal’s gaming history. The Sailor Scouts plan to use the facility as their official gaming house. Yan says her team wants to host all-female coaching sessions and events in the future.
“This is the biggest [centre] in Canada — not Montreal, not Quebec — and it’s really cool,” she said. “So for Montreal, it’s really going to push the boundaries for Esports as much as having Ubisoft here is good for the economy, it’ll be on the same level.”
And that’s all Kanou really wants to do — push boundaries. She isn’t bothered by the male dominated industry. And she doesn’t have a problem with boys and gaming. Her focus has remained true since they began developing Esports Central four years ago. “We’re introducing everyone to a form of Esports and that’s really what we want to do,” said Kanou.