Retail giant Sports Direct will introduce e-sports areas in some of its stores after a deal with Game Digital.
Customers will be able to pay to play video games in the huge retail outlets while competitions will also be held there.
The billionaire founder of Sports Direct Mike Ashley already holds a 26 per cent stake in high street video game retailer Game and his firm has now agreed to pay £3.2 million for 50 per cent of its Belong business, which provides gaming arenas.
Sports Direct will also provide a £55m loan to Game’s Spanish arm with the aim of developing more eSports venues in that country.
Game Digital launched Belong a year ago to diversify its flagging retail business. It announced a £10m annual loss in November.
Belong has 19 venues to date and is planning 16 new arenas for this year. There has been no indication of how many of these will be in Sports Direct stores.
The company hosts e-sports festivals under the name Insomnia, where it invites locally-named ‘tribes’ of gamers such as the London Lionhearts and Preston Invincibles to compete.
“As more consumer focus and spend moves to experiences, we are well advanced in delivering unique, world class gaming at both local and national level,” said Game chief executive Martyn Gibbs.
“Having launched the Belong brand just over a year ago, we have now opened 19 arenas and are very encouraged by the popularity and performance of these locations.”
Sports Direct chief financial officer Jon Kempster said: “We are very happy to partner with Game in building an increased presence in the e-sports market through the Belong brand.
“This is a very good example of building a commercial relationship via our strategic investment approach.”