The Dallas Cowboys know first-hand what a top-of-the-line team headquarters and practice facility can do for an organization’s business as well as its players and employees, opening the 91-acre, $1.5 billion The Star in 2016.
After the Cowboys acquired a majority stake of esports organization Complexity Gaming in November 2017, CEO Stephen Jones saw an opportunity where a new facility could help take things to the next level.
That led to the creation of the GameStop Performance Center, an 11,000-square-foot facility on The Star campus dedicated to the esports organization, which opened on September 16.
“Hats off to [Complexity Gaming CEO] Jason Lake for really designing something where our [esports] players – who play on a various number of teams – come to work every day and feel like they’re part of something world-class,” said Jones. “Not unlike what our Cowboys football players do every day – they come to the Star and they’re involved in the best of the best and we’re giving them the best chance to succeed.”
The Cowboys-Complexity relationship was sparked when Jones saw an opportunity to reach two key demographics for all sports teams: millennials and gen z. Given Complexity Gaming’s wide-ranging appeal to gamers, with divisions in games like Rocket League, Fortnite Battle Royale, Madden NFL, etc., Jones said he felt a relationship would be beneficial for both companies: the former could increase its brand recognition outside of its supporters, and the latter could broaden its business portfolio.
Founded in 2003, Complexity Gaming has been one of the longest still-standing esports organizations, winning 140 championships across a variety of games. However, even with that pedigree in gaming, CMO Cam Kelly said that the Cowboys’ involvement has only furthered the company’s trajectory.
“Every facet of their business has given us an accelerated injection of octane into our business, which has been tremendously successful for us,” said Kelly. “To be honest with you, we’re just getting started. I think the opportunities keep coming and we’re handling them as quickly as we can – but it’s been really exciting.”
After the acquisition, Complexity Gaming localized its operations to Dallas – adjacent to AT&T Stadium, which attracts roughly two million monthly visitors. When deciding on a location, it was offered the opportunity to work in the same office space as Cowboys officials, says Chief Revenue Officer Daniel Herz. Instead of sharing a workspace with Cowboys workers, Complexity Gaming opted to create one in a retail area alongside 26 other restaurants and stores.
Within a year, construction broke ground on the GameStop Performance Center in October 2018. It was essential for Complexity Gaming players to have a professional work-life comparable to its new NFL neighbors, said Herz. That included necessities such as high-quality food and training facilities as well as sharing a local sports medical center with the Cowboys.
Even before opening its inaugural headquarters, Complexity Gaming is already seeing positive results from this. The GameStop Performance Center held two events in conjunction with the United States Army, EA Sports’ Madden video game, and Fandom, a fan-first global-entertainment platform. In total, over 30,000 people streamed the occasions, said Kelly. He also said that since announcing the performance center, website visits and merchandise sales have more than tripled, with an additional 30% uptick in content and social media engagement.
“For us to have a focal point that our fans could touch and see was important,” said Herz. “We saw that with the Cowboys’ Headquarters where if you walk into the lobby – you can see out onto the practice field and to your right is a glass wall that has [Cowboys Head Coach] Jason Garrett’s [press conferences] there. So the ability for us to have a location that was for our players – but also for our fans – to come to celebrate, hang out and enjoy what we love so much was extremely important to us.”
Similar to the Cowboys, GameStop saw esports’ budding potential. Under the recent appointment of CEO George Sherman, the video game retailer wants to become a cultural and competitive hub for gaming, says Chief Customer Officer Frank Hamlin.
Since partnering with Complexity Gaming, GameStop has also formed ones with Overwatch League’s Team Envy – which is also Dallas-based – and the Collegiate Star League to host online and on-campus esports tournaments across the United States. Even though it’s too early to gauge the GameStop Performance Center’s long-term upside, Hamlin doesn’t want that to overshadow its purpose.
“It’s less important to us for us to have our name on the building or a name on a jersey or attendance at one of the professional events,” he said. “What we’re trying to do is expand the love and create motivation and aspirations for our customers to – on an amateur basis – get the same thrill of competition that the pros are getting.”