Massively Multiplayer Online (MMO) video games are very popular in China. Combine that with the country’s culture of fakes and copycats and you get lots of unofficial merchandise and even venues inspired by popular virtual reality universes. One such place was the World of Warcraft-themed restaurant on Chaoyang Road, in Beijing.
Opened in 2008, by a businessman who just happened to also be a huge fan of Blizzard’s fantasy universe, the unique World of Warcraft restaurant was designed entirely around the MMO and its original opening cinematic. Created as a ”comfortable gathering place for fellow gamers”, this place had Warcraft-inspired decorations, dishes named after locations in the game and plasma screens showing live footage from the MMO world. The large banner above the entrance featured the game’s logo, an Alliance mage and a Horde warrior, as well as the crests of the two playable races. This would have probably been enough to attract the millions of Chinese fans who live and breathe World of Warcraft, but the entrepreneur really went all out trying to make the restaurant itself appeal to die-hard gamers.
There were armored Alliance warriors guarding the main dining area called ”The Hall of Snow Storms”, the walls were decorated with colorful artworks depicting scenes from the World of Warcraft universe, and there was even a fake towering tree right in the middle of the restaurant, symbolizing the presence of Night Elves. Scenes from the popular online game were played on plasma screens placed strategically around the eatery, the cutlery came wrapped in napkins shaped like weapons from the game , and the menu included WoW-inspired dishes like Ogrimmar Pork Chops, Dun Morogh braised prawns or Darnassus shark fin. The restaurant also issued membership cards to its loyal diners, who could enjoy discounts if they gathered enough prestige points.
This World of Warcraft restaurant really does sound like the dream eatery of any avid gamer, doesn’t it? So why did it fail? Yes, unfortunately Beijing’s famous WOW-themed restaurant is no more. According to some reports, owners were forced to close down the place in early 2011, because of the harsh economic climate, and the decorations were either sold to fans or leased to businesses who wanted to use them. Apart from the reasons invoked by management, my own little research revealed many World of Warcraft fans were actually displeased with the overall service of the restaurant, which ultimately affected its profits.
But there’s no point in crying over split milk, especially since there’s a new MMO-themed restaurant in China, this time centered around the free-to-play League of Legends. Called Demacia, it opened last month, in the bustling city of Chongqing and features tons of elements from the video-game, including life-size statues and staff dressed as popular characters like Ezreal or Twisted Fate. The menus feature beautiful artworks inspired by the League of Legends universe, and bizarre dishes like “Deep Fried Skarners,” which are really scorpions, ”Braised Cassiopeia”, made of snake meat, or ”Water Cooked Fizz”, containing delicious frog.
At the bar, gamers can order signature cocktails based on health and mana potions from the game. There are also gaming stations, where patrons can play League of Legends for the chance to win discounts as well as other cool prizes. According to media reports, owners have invested around $160,000 into the unique restaurant. Just like in the case of the old World of Warcraft restaurant, no one really knows if this place is actually licensed to use all copyrighted elements. Let’s just hope it doesn’t share the same fate…