Fortress Melbourne has opened, so what should you expect?

Posted March 13, 2020

Today (March 13, 2020) marks Fortress Melbourne’s grand opening. It’s a day a lot of us have been excited for ever since it was announced last year. And at the time of writing, the massive gaming venue is already bustling with day 1 patrons eager to join in the celebrations and see what Fortress is all about. But what should you be expecting from Fortress Melbourne?

We had an opportunity to take a look at Fortress before the venue’s grand opening. It’s strange to see such an ambitious project come to life and yet here we are. Spanning two stories in the heart of Melbourne’s CBD at Emporium, there’s a lot to discuss about Fortress and the impact it may have on the local gaming and esports scene.

Fortress Tavern

Fortress claims to be “The Southern Hemisphere’s biggest esports and games entertainment venue.” After seeing the space for myself, I can’t possibly argue against that claim. The sheer size of the venue is staggeringly impressive which means they’re able to deck the place out with plenty of gaming goodness. Bars, PC gaming areas, arcade machines, streamer pods, an esports training room, an esports stadium, and a tavern for food, beverages and board games. There’s a lot going on in Fortress.

Opening day is also filled with a lot of celebrations, prizes and special guests. So if you don’t mind battling against the crowd, Fortress could be a good way to end your Friday evening.

Fortress Arcade

When chatting with Jon Satterley, CEO & Co-Founder at Fortress, we got to understand a bit better the type of person Fortress was built for. First and foremost, Jon and the rest of the Fortress crew understood that there’s a bunch of different markets who would be interested in a venue like this. They also understood that a venue of this size could certainly cater to multiple demographics with some patrons coming in to utilise the gaming areas, whilst others may only be interested in the food and beverages. Jon explained the pricing structure of Fortress, separating the potential patrons into two different categories – the more casual / occasional user, and the more dedicated / hardcore user.

It was interesting to hear Jon’s breakdown. A casual user could see Fortress as an option alongside other entertainment choices such as bowling or an escape room. These people would be willing to spend more money but less likely to return frequently enough to be considered a regular. A hardcore user may be returning much more frequently and utilising the space in lieu of their regular LAN Cafe or boardgame meetup space. As a way of catering to both markets, Jon explained their membership options and the rather complicated pricing structure of the venue.

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As a basic breakdown, the following is what you can expect to pay from Fortress Melbourne at the time of writing. Information comes courtesy of Stevivor. Concession rates will differ.

Casual PC Gaming:

  • $13 per hour
  • $38 for 4 hours ($9.5 per hour)

 

Board Game Hire:

  • $10 per hour

 

Streamer Pod Hire:

  • $41 for two hours
  • $59 for 4 hours

 

Tavern VIP Booth:

  • $27/pp for 2 hours with a minimum 6 person booking
  • $58/pp for 2 hours with a standard drinks package and a minimum 4 person booking
  • $74/pp for 2 hours with a standard food & drinks package and a minimum 4 person booking
  • $97/pp for 2 hours with a premium food & drinks package and a minimum 4 person booking

 

Fortress Fanatic Membership – $60 per year. Includes:

  • Fortress Fanatic Lanyard
  • Fortress Fanatic T-Shirt
  • Access to a private discord channel
  • Access to the member portal
  • Access to exclusive content
  • Access to member-only events
  • 2 hour PC game pass

 

Power User Membership – $12 per week with a minimum 3 month term. Includes:

  • All of the Fortress Fanatic benefits
  • LAN Station – $5 hourly rate
  • Access to the in-venue Leaderboard
  • Collectible Membership Pin
  • Membership card and lanyard
  • 15% Discount on Fortress Merchandise
  • Early access to Fortress Merchandise
  • Free Fortress t-shirt/cap/beanie after 6 months of continuous membership
  • Free Fortress hoodie after 1 year of continuous membership
  • Early bird information and offers on Fortress events
  • Priority Queuing at events
  • 10% Discount on Fortress Academy classes
  • Tavern Meal on your birthday
  • Monthly membership specials
  • Access to the membership loyalty system
  • Foundational Offer: The hourly rate for standard LAN usage is reduced to $4.5 over the lifetime of their membership

 

Adventure User Membership – $12 per week with a minimum 3 month term. Includes:

  • All of the Fortress Fanatic benefits
  • Game booth special access
  • One 4 hour Pod pass
  • Pod – $11 hourly rate
  • Free access to the Board Game Library
  • Access to the in-venue Leaderboard
  • Collectible Membership Pin
  • Membership card and lanyard
  • 15% Discount on Fortress Merchandise
  • Early access to Fortress Merchandise
  • Free Fortress t-shirt/cap/beanie after 6 months of continuous membership
  • Free Fortress hoodie after 1 year of continuous membership
  • Early bird information and offers on Fortress events
  • Priority Queuing at events
  • Free entry to selected weeknight social events
  • 10% discount to Fortress events
  • 10% discount for Fortress Academy events
  • Tavern Meal on your birthday
  • Monthly membership specials
  • Access to the membership loyalty system
  • Foundational Offer: They receive free access to VIP booths in off peak periods for the
    lifetime of their membership

 

Fortress LAN Cafe

Hearing the pricing breakdown of Fortress was met with mixed emotions at the preview event. On the one hand, a venue of this size in such an expensive location needs to prioritise revenue and sustainability. On the other hand, a spreadsheet was the best way to understand the complete pricing structure. And the above doesn’t even cover merchandise costs, special events and ticket sales from the esports arena. Memberships and multiple tiers of memberships are also quite a daunting realisation. Although Jon was quick to reassure us that Fortress was for everybody. You could stroll in off the street, not pay a dime, and take in the wonder of Fortress.

I’m glad multiple demographics are being tailored to here. Although I am worried that I’m not one of them. For all the talk of both casual and hardcore attendees, I’m not convinced I fit into either bracket. As somebody who may make their way into the city once a week at the most, and isn’t likely to walk in to Fortress on a regular basis, I would never consider purchasing a membership. That’s just money being spent with no usage. However I’m also a person who has frequented enough LAN Cafes and boardgame bars to know that the prices Fortress is charging are considerably more than the standard rate. Now don’t get me wrong, the venue is far nicer than its competition, and therefore worth more to the consumer. But I still couldn’t ever see myself paying to use huge portions of the Fortress experience at the prices that are being asked.

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The venue is absolutely utilising top of the line equipment. The PCs are ludicrously powerful and the venue is completely decked out with custom made equipment that will allow things to be moved around to keep the space adaptable. The arena, for instance, can be collapsed into the wall to make more space when it isn’t being utilised.

The sheer size and scope of Fortress is astonishing. It makes the business both incredibly risky but also filled with so much opportunity – at least from an outside perspective. There’s so many different events that can take place within Fortress. It’s not just esports competitions either, with big gaming entities and publishers potentially looking at this space as a convenient spot to connect with the local gaming community. What does this mean for Fortress’s future? Honestly I have no idea. But I’m incredibly excited to find out.



Elliot Attard

About the Author

Elliot Attard

PC gamer, TV show binge-watcher, music lover and elite member of high society (but not really) - Elliot possesses all of the qualities needed to project his word thoughts straight into your eye holes.