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[On the Radar]: Ready, Planet One

A new esports venue throws open its real and virtual doors at Sinar Mas Plaza
Jul 29, 2021 | 19:00 Thu
Photos: Brandon McGhee
On The Radar: On the Radar is a SmartShanghai column profiling new restaurants, bars, and other new places you might like to know about. Sometimes we stumble across these venues and sometimes... we are invited. As such, these are our first impressions and not a formal review.

What Is It:

A long time coming, really, given the popularity of video gaming in Chinese youth culture and Shanghai’s own importance as a gaming and tech hub in a country with far, far more gamers than anyone else.

Planet One is an esports venue, bar, and restaurant. A first mover in the local market, Planet One is riding an international wave that has, in the past five years or so, seen the mainstreaming of esports — professional video game playing — in the public sphere, with massive esports bar chains popping up all over Europe and The States catering to this emerging market. You've got places like Meltdown in Paris, Platform in London, and Planet One in Shanghai. 

In the simplest terms, beyond the neon lights and state-of-the-art hardware, an esports bar is basically a sports bar for esports. The bigger international video games — for example, League of Legends, DotA 2, Overwatch, and Counter-Strike: Global Offensive — are organized like traditional sports, with their own ESPN-covered international tournaments and championship events, their own Nike and Coca Cola-sponsored star athletes and teams, and their own legions of fans looking to experience the action in a communal bar setting. In 2019, global esports revenues topped 1.1 billion USD.

So, video game tournaments, industry events, and special championship screenings of professional esports yes, but just like a traditional sports bar might have darts or pool on offer for the punters, an esports bar has their own kind of bar games you’re heading down specifically to play.

It’s just that they’re the kind you can’t play in your basement at home because they involve putting on a 3 million RMB ‘Johnny Mnemonic’ virtual reality headset and quelling a robot uprising in a futuristic, neon, post-apocalyptic cyberscape.

We’ll enumerate the different gaming / activities sections at Planet One below.

Area:

It’s on the first floor right across the front entrance of Sinar Mas Plaza, a suitably serene, posh, slick, and undulating mall right next to the W Hotel.

Atmosphere:

It’s a big, open concept, vaporwave arcade from the future. Neon blue, pink, and purple everything. Screens everywhere. The front reception bit with the seating and serene graphics of the venue logo over natural scenes kinda makes you feel like you’re in a cocktail bar that's popular with the staff of people who work at ‘Total Recall’.

The Games and Stuff:

The VR Gaming

The main attraction is the “Spectator Arena”, which you see right when you enter, and the Virtual Reality Gaming it's set up to screen. Organized like a lounge-y movie theatre, you’ve got a gigantic screen at the back, and five, floor-to-ceiling transparent LED walls on either side. Each of these five walls on either side is a port for Virtual Reality Gaming. The player is on the other side of the wall and the audience is in the central area, looking at what’s going on inside the game from a third person viewpoint. In the case of team matches and group races, an overall, computer simulated edit of the action is shown on the big screen.

The games are from venue partner Netease, these days the world’s second largest video game developer. They’ve got about 20 titles so far, running the gamut from first person shooters, to a Creed boxing game, to spring vector, beat saver and more. The interactive menus are, for the moment, available in Chinese only but they've got staff on-hand to get you sorted.  More titles come in quarterly.

The Formula 1 and Drone Racing Sims

Planet One has partnerships with two specifics esports leagues and the official simulators to match: The Formula 1 Esports Series and the Drone Racing League. The physics of both games are tailored to match as closely as possible the real experience of driving an F1 race car or piloting inside a speeding drone. In the future, when the Formula 1 comes back to Shanghai, expect special events with the celebrity drivers coming down to race people on the sims. Planet One is also an official qualifications venue for the esports league if you're looking to go pro.

The Kwazy KTVs

Planet one has two baller private party KTV rooms with 100-inch LED screens and MK360 projectors, which basically turn the rooms into mini teamLABs. Content is projected 360-degrees all over the walls and ceilings.

It’s pretty trippy.

Keepin' It Future with Digital Beer Pong

It’s beer pong from the future. Official “PONGConnect” tables, the world’s first esports platform for beer pong. FINALLY. Legitimacy for the solemn and noble sport of Beer Pong. It’s got a digital interface, automated ball detecting technology, and a smart phone app to track your GLOBAL RANKING…

… in beer pong.

Never too late to change your career path. 

Laser Tag Pew Pew

Laser Tag seems kinda quaint at this point. But they’ve also got that. The laser tag arena at Planet One isn’t as big as other places, so this one’s more about trying it out while you’re down there playing, doing, eating, and drinking all the other stuff. They do, however, have mapping technology to change the appearance of the walls .

Food and Drink

One of the partners at the venue is one of the founders of Element Fresh, and the food is casual Western.  A sampling of the menu:  "Pan Seared Blackened Tuna" (68rmb); "Fish & Chips" (72rmb); "Grilled American Pork Ribs (880g share-size)" (388rmb).  

Bar snacks are 28rmb-68rmb.

Drinks! Are dirt cheap and made by a robot.  38rmb to 48rmb for all the cocktails. (!!)

They taste unencombered by human error, unlike... oh say J. Boroski.  

Damage:  

Prices on gaming are as follows:

UNLIMITED GAMING PER HOUR: 1 hour = 220rmb; 2 hours = 299rmb; 3 Hours = 399rmb.

SINGLE ITEM GAMING: XR / VR, F1, DRL Gaming= 50rmb Minimum Top-up (charged by the minute gaming)

Digital Beer Pong = 50rmb (includes 2 players)

Laser Tag = 100rmb / per player

Immersive KTV Party rooms starting from 288 per hour for the smaller one and 588rmb per hour for the big one. 

Multi-hour discounted IPR packages and all day unlimited gameplay packages available.

Who’s Going:

One of the things about sports bars (and the same for esports bars) is that it all just can't be about sports.  Creating a sense of commuity interaction is the key to making these kinds of places work.   Planet One has some ambitious plans to contribute to Shanghai's gaming and tech community with industry events, special panels and expos, creative product launches, and digital artist programs. We're interested to see how those develops.  

 

But yeah, they've also got some crazy-ass virtual reality games and you can even box Clubber Lang and Ivan Drago in that boxing one.

So! 

***

Planet One is at 588 Dongchangzhi Lu on the first floor of the Sinar Mas Plaza.

TELL EVERYONE

Editorial Policy: At SmartShanghai.com, all of our editorial content is conceived of by our team who live in and critique this city, for our readers who do the same. We don't accept payment for content, unless clearly labelled. Read our full editorial policy here.
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