Five Below is teaming up with Nerd Street Gamers, a esports infrastructure company with direct ties to South Jersey, to bring interactive gaming experiences to more communities nationwide, including possibly the Atlantic City area.

The two companies have created a partnership that will see the development of Localhost esports spaces connected to Five Below stores, which will also give customers access to gaming equipment.

A multistore pilot project is planned for 2020. It is not yet known which Five Below stores will be chosen for the pilot, but there are plans to expand to more than 70 locations depending on the success of the initial endeavor.

Rob Johnson, the chief operating officer of Nerd Street Gamers, who is from Margate and graduated from Atlantic City High School, said locations are being chosen based on population density and proximity to colleges.

Nerd Street is going to try a mix of Five Below stores in different areas in an attempt to quickly learn what types of locations work best.

Johnson noted that many Five Below stores are in play to receive a Localhost space, and with the steps Atlantic City has taken to host esports events, South Jersey could be an attractive location for Nerd Street.

“We want to expand to as many areas as possible, and that very much includes Atlantic City and the surrounding areas,” Johnson said. “We’re very excited to do work with Atlantic City.”

Several people involved with Nerd Street and this project have roots in South Jersey.

In addition to Johnson, project investor George Miller is an Atlantic City High School graduate, and Paige Funk, Nerd Street’s vice president of marketing, graduated from Holy Spirit High School.

“Gaming is a trend our younger customers are actively enjoying, and working with Nerd Street Gamers will help us to provide an exciting gaming experience that appeals to our core customers and beyond, while also showcasing our extreme value technology-related products and accessories,” said Joel Anderson, CEO of Five Below.

Nerd Street Gamers is looking to create opportunities for gaming on professional-grade equipment in more areas across the country.

“Nerd Street believes that gaming brings a social experience, and that people would enjoy playing in person instead of online with the anonymity of the internet,” Johnson said.

“It’s like training on a soccer field. You can do it by yourself, but playing together and competing together is much better.”

At the Localhost spaces, customers will be able to rent gaming PCs at low hourly rates and play in a community-focused environment. Part of the desire for this was, according to Johnson, how inaccessible gaming can be.

“Competitive gaming shouldn’t only be an option for the upper-middle-class and above,” Johnson said. “We want everyone to be able to experience this.”

This sentiment was echoed by Nerd Street Gamers Founder and CEO John Fazio.

“Too few have access to the type of equipment and internet connections required to compete at the top levels, and by addressing that at a national scale we can increase real-life opportunities for millions of people,” Fazio said, adding the company envisions a world “where esports is accessible and inclusive to everyone.”

In addition to renting out equipment, the Localhost locations will provide opportunities for public spectating events and tournaments, such as the esports National Championship Series.

“We’ve held over 1,000 esports events across the country in 2019, and we’re looking to increase that even more as we continue to grow,” Johnson said.

Just last month, NSG opened Localhost Wells Fargo Center in Philadelphia, the first public gaming facility in a pro sports arena, and announced Localhost Rowan University, one of many projects to bring professional-grade esports training facilities to universities across the country.

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