When lockdown orders were imposed on the UK in March 2020, more than a week after several other European nations, bars and restaurants were some of the worst-affected parts of the UK’s services-dominated economy. Platform, an independent gaming and esports bar-restaurant based in East London, was no exception.
Instead of falling by the wayside however, Platform’s Swiss co-founder brothers Tomaso and Nicolò Portunato, CEO and COO respectively, made the most of the downturn by giving the venue (shown below pre-lockdown) a new lease of life.
Now, with lockdown restrictions beginning to ease, the bar has reopened in serious style with a new venue design, menu and branding. Here we find out more about Platform’s refreshed look, and why the co-founders decided to make such changes.
RELATED: Esports Insider and Platform announce WFH League
“It’s been very strange to close for our first anniversary, but we’ve been working very hard through the lockdown to reset and refresh our branding and offering,” said Nicolò. “Booking has been very good for the reopening weekend taking into consideration that August is [usually] the worst month of the year for us.”
Open once more since August 1, Platform has implemented a number of precautionary measures to keep guests as safe as possible amidst the ongoing threat of COVID-19. Along with reduced opening hours (they’re now open Wednesday through Sunday), PVC separators have been put in place to divide gaming stations, and staff will meticulously clean peripherals and other points of contact in between sessions to limit the transmission of the virus. Although walk-ins are welcome they’re also limited, so Tomaso and Nicolò advise guests to book a slot online.
Whilst the threat of the virus and government restrictions impede on Platform’s ability to host larger social events such as The Esports Watering Hole, an event that was hosted in association with Esports Insider last year, Tomaso and Nicolò are determined to provide locals with a fun, safe environment to meet up at a social distance and watch esports.
Talking to ESI earlier this year, Tomaso stressed the importance of a safe environment: “If the government takes measures that we feel are not safe for our customers and our staff, we won’t follow them straight [away]. Say they say, ‘Right, a hundred people is okay’ and we don’t feel like it’s the right move, we’ll put our own limits of maybe 50 people at the same time.”
Back in May, Platform attempted to recreate its event atmosphere with the inaugural season of the WFH League; a fun, light-hearted corporate competition, wherein players represent their companies. WFH League is jointly owned and operated by Esports Insider, and the first season featured companies such as Barclays, Noblechairs, Kontrolfreek and more across FIFA 20 and Counter-Strike: Global Offensive (Wingman).
One main aim of this, as well as being a way to bring corporations more into the “world of esports” and provide a fun networking opportunity, not to mention a respite from the strain of lockdown, was to raise money for UK-based gaming charity Special Effect. In total, more than £1,200 was raised.
Tom Donegan, Team Leader Fundraising and Communications at Special Effect said: “We loved being a part of the first tournament so much and it was genuinely heartwarming to see everyone involved rally behind the cause: teams, casters, and organisers all joining forces to raise much-needed funds and awareness for Special Effect!“
Whilst we await further exciting events at Platform when restrictions are relaxed, stay tuned to ESI for more information on Season 2 of the WFH League.
As well as preparing to reopen, Tomaso and Nicolò have spent time during lockdown refreshing their website, the venue itself, and their menu. With new font and restyled assets, Platform appears to have completely redesigned itself – at least in promotional material and on its website.
When we spoke with the brothers, they summarised the rebrand as: “Unpredictable and vibrant while being inviting for gamers and non-gamers – redefining traditional gaming as we know it. The entire experience features nods to childhood video games and catchy slogans, immersing you in a joyful universe.”
Only time will tell whether the public will feel comfortable enough to venture out of the safety of their homes in their near future and congregate in non-essential functions, but the footfall from new and existing customers will be essential for Platform’s success. The expectation is, with precautions in place, Londoners will feel safe enough to visit the rebranded venue.
Since reopening last weekend, Nicolò commented that things have gone well: “We were busy on Saturday and we did better than the same Sunday of last year. Response was really good; we had regulars who came back and they were surprised about all the improvements made, particularly on food. We could not hope for a better reopening weekend; the team spirit was amazing and customers were very glad to see us back open.”
The industry reopens
Industry stakeholders from across and around the esports and gaming industries appear to be betting on consumer confidence rising in the coming months as more announcements concerning physical venues have been disclosed. Last week, esports infrastructure company Vindex acquired the Belong Gaming Arenas brand and all associated IP with the intention of developing Belong’s presence beyond just the UK.
ESI sat down with Mike Sepso, Vindex CEO and co-founder, to find out more about the deal and why exactly Vindex intends to invest $300 million over five years to build 500 arenas in the US, and an additional 1000 globally.
Kinguin on the other hand has opened the Kinguin Lounge, a new facility in Gdańsk where the public can watch live esports and play games. This makes it two Kinguin venues in Poland, alongside the Esports Performance Center in Warsaw, and the company has also opened its LOUNGE program for business and individuals alike.
At ESI Digital Summer, Viktor Wanli, CEO at Kinguin – the conference’s Presenting Partner – will be speaking on a venues-focused panel alongside Platform’s Tomaso plus representatives from Team SoloMid and ARAM. Find out more about the event, which will take place August 17 to 21, right here.