Once upon a time, eSports seemed like a pipe dream. Who would tune in to watch other people play video games?
As it turns out, the answer is “thousands and thousands of people.” The desire to watch others play games has put apps like Twitch on the map. And emerging technology like Google Stadia is designed to make streaming gaming sessions easier.
Now, various colleges and universities have adopted varsity eSports programs. They hope eSports will be a way for educational institutions and students alike to reap some serious profits.
That gamble is about to pay off. And that’s because eSports are going to completely redefine college athletics around the world.
New Athletics Programs
While it’s in the spotlight now, offering varsity eSports competitions is not all that new. Many universities have been doing this for years. However, once eSports became a billion-dollar industry, more and more places of higher education wanted to get in on the action.
These universities have peeked into the future and realized a simple truth: gaming and gaming competitions are a great way to expand their brand and generate additional profits. And it’s a chance for smaller schools without much of a professional athletics program to help put themselves on the map.
High School to College Transition
At the end of the day, a college is a business like any other. Colleges generate profits by enrolling more students each year. Therefore, these schools must constantly focus on innovative ways of bringing in additional students.
Esports competitions and even majors (more on this in a minute) are a great boost to enrollment because over 100 high schools now have regular eSports programs. Towns all across America now have sports that extend to consoles and screens and not just fields and courts.
By offering academic majors and competitions focused on eSports, these universities are looking to seriously boost their enrollment. And if the growing number of eSports high schools are any indication, college athletics programs around the country will be focusing on Fortnite as much as they focus on football.
Unique Scholarship Opportunities
It’s an open secret that a college degree is required for many of the best jobs. Unfortunately, college tuition gets a bit higher each year. That means that many students who would benefit from higher education may not be able to afford it.
Traditionally, sports programs have helped provide scholarship opportunities to students. Those who can play well may be able to get their school costs covered, even if their academic performance isn’t perfect.
Now, major universities have started offering scholarships for eSports players. The goal is simple: by offering players scholarships, these universities hope to get a jumpstart on creating successful varsity eSports programs. And players and fans alike will benefit from the rapid growth of such programs.
Profits for the Athletics Department
Some remain skeptical of varsity eSports. How will the university make money from such programs?
It’s true that that a university can’t sell tickets to a competition in the same way that they can to a football game. But there are both direct and indirect ways such competitions will make money.
For example, universities can negotiate broadcast rights with channels such as ESPN. And major gaming companies such as Blizzard have offered eSports serious money (over a million dollars) to help nurture the next generation of competitive gamers.
And, of course, these programs bring in students. More students paying tuition for a four-year education translates directly to profit for the school.
Universities in the U.S. and the U.K. are not stopping at varsity eSports. Many of them now offer eSports (and eSports-related) majors.
If “majoring in gaming” sounds too good to be true, that’s because these programs are more than that. Educators are quick to reassure students and their parents that this is a business-related major that focuses on understanding the industries surrounding eSports.
For students, this is a real “win/win.” They get the kind of insider knowledge that could help them go pro at their university or even sponsor their own major league team after graduation. And even if they don’t personally pursue an eSports future, they will have a background in solid business principles.
The Field Will Only Grow
If they are being honest, most university administrators do not know what the exact future of eSports is. However, they are gambling that this field will continue to grow as it has grown in the past.
As a field, eSports has only grown in the last decade. And, fueled by streamers on platforms like Twitch and Mixer, eSports will only continue to grow.
All of this spells good news for the universities and their athletics programs because it practically guarantees additional opportunities. The field will only grow as both games and competitive gaming evolve.
Field of Streams
Game streaming is more popular than ever. And multiple platforms now compete for your time. That’s why it’s major news when a well-known Twitch gamer becomes exclusive to another platform such as Mixer.
With university eSports becoming a regular thing, the question remains: which platform will they favor? If the National Association of College eSports expands, will they formally endorse one platform over another?
Only the future holds the answer. But there is a symbiotic relationship at play here: universities will help streaming platforms grow and vice versa. No matter what happens, college athletic programs are sure to benefit.
Today’s Gamers, Tomorrow’s Movers and Shakers
Ultimately, these universities are doing what they have always done. They are investing in their students and trusting graduates to change the future in new and profound ways.
Whether you’re a pro-gamer or someone who likes to watch the pros play, the next few years will be very exciting. And as these varsity eSports programs grow and eSports majors graduate, we will all benefit from the new gaming world they help create.
Have your own college eSports experience? Tell us your story in the comments below!