WeWork in early stages of forming electronic gaming arm: Sources

Play By We may offer entertainment services such as "providing online competitive, professional video games", including conducting contests, games, tournaments and exhibitions, according to WeWork's trademark application. PHOTO: AFP

NEW YORK (BLOOMBERG) - We Co, the beleaguered parent of office-sharing giant WeWork, has been quietly building an electronic gaming business.

After branching into co-living with WeLive, fitness with Rise By We and education with WeGrow, the money-losing start-up is seeking a Play By We trademark, according to an application published by the UK's Intellectual Property Office last week. It has also hired a handful of staff, according to people familiar with the matter, who asked not to be identified because it's private.

The fate of the employees isn't yet determined, and a decision hasn't been made about the viability of the early-stage business, one of the people said. WeWork is reeling from a botched initial public offering that led to the departure of co-founder Adam Neumann, and is planning thousands of job cuts as it prioritises profitability and aims to "right-size" its operations, in part by homing in on coworking. The company last week accepted a US$9.5 billion (S$12.9 billion) rescue package from Japanese conglomerate SoftBank Group Corp, its biggest shareholder.

A representative for WeWork declined to comment.

According to its trademark application, Play By We may offer entertainment services such as "providing online competitive, professional video games", including conducting contests, games, tournaments and exhibitions. The application also suggests the venture could provide facilities for video-gaming events, conferences, meetings and trade exhibitions, and, naturally, shared office space.

Although it's been building the venture in stealth mode, WeWork has shared some information about its gaming business with the public, through two now-expired job postings on LinkedIn.

For one role - a content and experience manager for Play By We - the company was seeking a candidate who could "ensure we engage with our members, from casual to professional gamers and creators in general, dedicated to building the global physical community for the esports gaming market". The person would "conceive and execute a strategy to integrate the business in the current esports gaming universe".

For another position, a New York-based delivery project manager, a successful applicant would have the opportunity to manage a development team of architects, designers and construction and logistics staff.

Electronic gaming and specifically e-sports have been growing in popularity. Goldman Sachs Group has predicted e-sports' monthly audience size will grow to 276 million people in 2022 from 167 million last year.

Real money is at stake: Three months ago, a teenager won a US$3 million grand prize at the Fortnite World Cup in New York, and ESPN in 2018 signed a multi-year deal to air Activision Blizzard Inc's Overwatch league playoffs and finals. Teams in the league are owned by investors including billionaire Robert Kraft, also the owner of the New England Patriots football team.

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