It is estimated that around 30 million tourists visit Budapest each year. While it is easy to see them flocking to the main tourist destinations, many come to the city for reasons not always as visible. One sector that is attracting new residents and holidaymakers is the city’s thriving eSports and gaming scenes.
When traveling on the metro or 4/6 tram, you may walk past small groups of uniform-clad tourists. Typically organized in groups of five, their insignias and shirts are reminiscent of a football or rugby team. Yet they are not here to visit one of the many traditional sporting events: they have arrived to do some serious gaming.
Large events are taking place regularly in the wealth of eSports bars and cafes in the city. The first of these, Barcraft, arrived in 2015 close to Corvin Promenade. Quickly expanding to more locations, others such as Infinity Esports Bar and the InGame Lounge arrived to cater to the needs of social gamers.
Buoyed by organizations such as the Hungarian Esport Championships, events taking place in these spaces are bringing tourists to the city from across Hungary and Europe. No official figures are available regarding how many arrive or the revenue they bring. Yet anyone who doubts the attraction of these events only needs to look at the level of sponsorship they are attracting. Volkswagen, Monster Energy, and K & H bank are all regular sponsors of the Hungarian Esports Association.
It is not competitive gaming bringing people here either, but long-term employment in the industry. Budapest has long been a haven for global business with its attractive city and low cost of living. A new digital nomad visa put in place by the government is set to bring more workers to the capital, particularly those who can work from a laptop such as game developers.
Many key players in the iGaming sector operate out of the capital. The Betsson Group, a driving force in the iGaming field, is currently undertaking a large recruitment drive in Budapest. In addition, review websites such as CasinoSmash, which list the best online slot sites, are filled with titles created by Budapest-based developers. A prime example of this is King’s Mask, a major slot game found on many of its recommendations, that was created by Play’n GO, which has offices here.
There are also numerous PC and console game development companies. Neocore Games is a major player in the field. Operating from their offices at Deak Ferenc, they are behind many of the titles licensed from the global role-playing company Games Workshop.
However, you don’t have to be a whizz at League of Legends or CS:GO to benefit from the city’s gaming scene. For casual enthusiasts who want a hit of nostalgia, the Flipper Muzeum currently ranks at number 10 out of 712 things to do in Budapest on Tripadvisor. In its underground location at Radnóti Miklós u. 18, it houses over 130 vintage and modern pinball machines, along with a host of classic arcade games.
One of the lesser-known events, though grand in size, is the annual Arcadia Game Exhibition. This year it will take place at the Hungarian Railway Museum from September 23rd to 25th. More than 300 arcade machines travel to the venue from across Europe, along with pinball machines and retro consoles. For long-term employment, competitive sports, or just a unique day out, Budapest’s gaming scene is alive.