Belong Gaming Arenas reportedly ceases US operations as UK website goes offline

UPDATE 05/06/2023: A Belong community manager confirmed on Discord on July 5th that Belong Gaming Arenas’ UK arenas are still trading as normal. The website has also since come back online.

new gaming centre in King of Prussia in Philadelphia by Belong Gaming Arenas
Image credit: Belong Gaming Arenas

Gaming centre chain Belong Gaming Arenas has ceased its operations in the United States, according to a report by The Esports Advocate.

Part of the company’s website has been taken down for maintenance and several posts on social media appear to confirm the shutdown.

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Belong had six venues in the US and had grand plans to expand substantially in the country.

The Esports Advocate reported on July 3rd that a majority of US-based staff had been told they’d been laid off. A Belong representative confirmed to the news outlet that it had ‘suspended’ operations in the US.

At some point between July 3rd and July 4th, the UK Belong Gaming Arenas website was taken down. The website currently reads: “We are currently down for maintenance. Please come back later.” Strangely, the US version of the website is still accessible. The Twitter handle that the temporary website links to also appears to have been deleted.

Several posts on social media appear to corroborate the shutdown. “Belong gaming arena schaumburg [Chicago] is closing down”, one user wrote. “Just got an email today as well that Belong Gaming Arenas are shutting down”, another posted. Additionally, a US-based Belong employee also confirmed on Twitter that he’d been laid off.

Belong Gaming Arenas did not respond to a request for comment from Esports Insider prior to publication.

In a June 2021 interview with Esports Insider, Belong Gaming Arenas’ then-parent company CEO Mike Sepso revealed Belong had plans to open ‘hundreds’ of venues across the US.

With its ambitious expansion plans, the company invested heavily in the idea that there would be a shift towards in-person gaming, despite announcing the plans during the then-ongoing COVID-19 pandemic and its associated restrictions.

The company would go on to open locations in Houston, Dallas, Nashville, Chicago, Columbus and Philadelphia. In late 2022, Belong pivoted to a franchise model for its US locations rather than owning them outright.

It is not clear what the shutdown means for those franchises, though none of them have posted on social media since The Esports Advocate’s report.

Belong and its associated IP was purchased by Vindex from its previous owner, video game retailer GAME, in 2020, though GAME continues to operate its UK venues. It is not clear what will happen to the UK’s arm.

When ESL FACEIT Group bought Vindex in March this year, it said Belong would be spun off into a standalone entity that would work independently.

Jake Nordland
Jake is Esports Insider's Features and Trending News Editor. Part of the ESI team since early 2021, he's interested in politics, education and sustainability in esports.