For Fabien Devide and Nicolas Maurer, cutting the ribbon to their new state-of-the-art esports facility in the middle of Paris is a momentous occasion, and one that tops five years of hard work since forming Team Vitality. A crowd of family, friends, staff, players, journalists, and influencers huddle round to watch and applaud as V.Hive officially opens its doors.
The V.Hive is many things; It’s a merchandise shop, it’s a cafe, it’s a 27-station gaming room with top spec PCs, it’s an office and conference space for staff, it’s a state of the art streaming and content creation facility, it’s even a 12-seat cinema. It is the whole of Vitality brought together and dropped into almost 1,000 square metres in a spot on a busy Parisian high street.
And it’s not just a new office for Team Vitality staff either, it’s an incredible space for the organisation’s fans, too. On the surface, it is a mecca for all things Vitality, offering a physical space for its core supporters to gather and socialise.
Being a haven for Vitality fans is one of the main drivers behind this project and why the team’s founders wanted to bring it to life.
“What is a top esports team?” Maurer ponders when I ask him whether V.Hive will firmly establish Vitality as one of the world’s biggest esports brands. “It’s a team that engages lots of fans everywhere. Fans that follow you when you win and follow you when you lose. Fans that want to engage with you. This place will help a lot with that by creating this connection that I think is sometimes lacking in esports. So, this is key to us. It’s a big, big step in the right direction towards where we want to go and we’re so proud of the place.”
This direction appears to have taken immediate effect. During the opening party a man, decked out in Vitality merchandise, stares around the space in wonder. “Look at this,” he shouts to me over the music. “It’s so incredible, man! I love it.” It turns out he isn’t just any old Vitality supporter. He’s ‘SupeRouux’, the head of an online group of Vitality super fans called the Golden Hornets. Yes, he may have been several glasses of champagne deep at this point, but his excitement for the place was intangible.
While V.Hive aims to build on its own following and elevate its own position in the global esports scene, this is not some inwards-facing vanity project that it may appear to be on the surface. That’s because V.Hive in fact serves an alternative purpose; one that all of esports can benefit from.
“I believe V.Hive will change the perception of esports,” Maurer says. “A lot of people still don’t get it, so now we have a place in the centre of Paris, you know, huge logo, lots of lights. People will see us and start to realise, just from having our own space in a location like this, how powerful esports is.”
This sentiment is echoed by Chi Bhatia, senior designer at HKS Architects, the company who designed V.Hive. He believes the building acts as a way of legitimising esports and can help educate those who are outside the existing community.
“Take someone who has no clue what esports is,” Bhatia says. “That person will walk past and suddenly realise that it’s a real thing and it’s at a scale that they can touch and feel that isn’t alien to them. It makes the conversation of ‘what is esports’ more palatable, because trying to learn about esports digitally often makes it seem so out of the ordinary.”
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Bhatia believes that a facility like V.Hive will now set a new benchmark for what physical esports infrastructure should be and that, due to it being the first facility of its kind, it will act as an advertisement to potential esports investors to show them what esports can offer.
“I really think this sets the precedent,” Bhatia tells me. “It is kind of like a lab this build. It’s an experiment, but I think that’s a good thing. When you talk about architecture and you think of the first bridge or the first skyscraper, this is, in my mind, the same for the esports community… And maybe even more so the esports investment community.”
Another of HKS’ clients, US-based esports organisation Team Envy, this week revealed that they too had secured a site for a new facility at a prime spot in Victory Park, Dallas. It will be interesting to see whether their project takes any inspiration from V.Hive.
While V.Hive will help Vitality’s brand grow and look to grow their own fanbase, what this project actually does is signal the start of the next new era in esports’ development. I don’t want to get to romantic over a building, but it really is so much more than that.
Yes, it’s new and shiny and has a cinema and cool digital banners… but it manages to do something remarkable in serving a purpose not just to the organisation’s die-hard, esports-centric fanbase but also to the person who knows nothing about what Vitality is.
What’s more, a few kilometres away towards the outskirts of the city, Vitality is close to finishing a new training facility for some of its esports teams at the home of French sport, the Stade de France. Not only will this performance centre bring more focus on physical and mental training for Vitality’s athletes, it also thrusts esports into the eyes of a different audience to further educate those outside of the scene and prove to investors that esports is growing up.
So when Devide and Maurer cut that ribbon to a yellow and black Vitality paradise, they didn’t just open it up to Vitality fans or gaming enthusiasts. They opened it up to the entire industry, kickstarting a new chapter in the evolution of esports.
V.Hive is many things. But what it really is, in esports terms, is revolutionary.