Esports’ College Epicenter Calls Kansas City Home

Esports’ college epicenter calls Kansas City home

The next time you see someone with eyes glued to a computer screen, fingers rapidly mashing buttons on the keyboard, occasionally twitching toward a pile of nearby energy drinks, don’t assume he’s wasting his life on video games.

That person could be just as talented at his (or her) respective passion as a Division I football or basketball player. There’s also a chance that person will go on to participate in a form of college competition, esports, and earn scholarships just as valuable as those secured by counterparts on the football field or basketball court.

And if college competition is in the offing, whether they’re in Seattle or back east or elsewhere in the Midwest, a lot of their direction will probably come from right here in Kansas City.

Esports originated as a free-for-all battlefield when it came to organized competition, especially at the collegiate level. But now, thanks to the National Association of Collegiate Esports (NACE), competitive collegiate esports has a platform on which to build.

Based inside the NAIA’s offices on Grand Boulevard in Kansas City and working in conjunction with a host of NCAA and NAIA schools, NACE is the umbrella organization for collegiate esports programs nationwide, from four-year universities to smaller schools like Park University in Parkville, the University of Saint Mary in Leavenworth, Kan., and KC’s Columbia College.

“It’s a lot of STEM (science, tech, engineering, math) majors, which is a whole different demographic than you would see in traditional sports,” said NACE marketing manager Victoria Horsley. “So we’re reaching out to a whole set of students and a whole different niche, and it’s really nice to be able to see them blossom in college like other people can.”

Since launching in July 2016 under NACE executive director Michael Brooks, the organization has grown to govern more than 120 schools — or 94 percent of colleges currently involved in esports.

Horsley said schools such as Missouri and Wichita State often start out playing Overwatch and League of Legends — two popular video games — when they submit their declaration of intent with NACE. Many later branch into games that are considered more niche, such as Rocket League, Rainbow Siege Six and Counter-Strike: Global Offense.

NACE has yet to see a groundswell of support for collegiate esports competing in traditional sports games — FIFA or Madden, for instance — because game developer EA Sports typically stages its own competitions.

But it’s not just the opportunity to play at the collegiate level that attracts prospective participants.

“Some of our schools don’t offer a whole lot, and then some offer full rides (scholarships),” Horsley said. “It just kind of varies depending on the school, and how much money they have.

“But we hosted a Smite and Paladins tournament in the fall, and we offered $100,000 in scholarships in partnerships with Hi-Rez Studios, which is the developer of those games.”

The relationship between participating colleges and NACE is a two-way street, with schools often incorporating esports into their official teams in order to draw in more STEM majors. The average ACT score of esports students governed by NACE is an impressive 30 out of 36.

“Traditional sports attract the other side of college offerings: School of Business, School of Journalism, those kind of things,” Horsley said. “It’s really beneficial to us to see that … a president of a university can ask, ‘How can I get more math majors?’ and then they see something like esports come in and they see that’s a way to draw attention to (STEM) students.”

At the start of 2018, NACE had just 50 schools in its books. A year later, that number has more than doubled.

Horsley looks forward to the continued growth of both NACE, here in Kansas City, and esports overall.

”For us, personally, it’s awesome,” she said. “We’re kind of on the ground floor of something that is really, really growing. I think it’s really, really great. I get to see the firsthand changes that it makes for students.”

BY SHAUN GOODWIN JANUARY 10, 2019 02:39 PM

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What Side of History Will You Choose?

What Side of History Will You Choose

Is this a good time to enter the eSports industry? That question is either yes or no. History will prove that the decisions people make today are decisions on which side of this line in history they want to be on.

I get asked this questions maybe two or three times a week, “Do you have any concerns about entering into the eSports industry”? And the answer is, No. As a matter of fact, it’s “No . . .” Check out this video to find out why.

What Side of History Will You Choose?

(Transcript) I get asked this questions maybe two or three times a week, “Do you have any concerns about entering into the eSports industry?” And the answer is, No. As a matter of fact, it’s “No . . . “ And the reasons why is just because it’s a one word answer. It’s a binary question and the answer it either Yes or No. And the answer is no because really, the decision I had to make was, “What side of history do I want to be on?” That was it. So I know that this is a defining moment . I know a lot of people don’t understand it. You know what? 1988 and 1989 and 1990, people didn’t understand the internet and now it completely controls everything in your life. It was a binary decision back then too.

Are you going to go all in or are you not going to believe it at all and believe it’s a fad? It’s “What side of history do you want to be on?” So I just want to encourage you if you’re trying to get the answer to that question. Sometimes people talk to me and they want me to convince them of what they should decide. I’m not going to try to convince you. As a matter of fact, I told my colleagues this week, “I don’t want you to spend one minute trying to convince anyone of this. Not one minute.”

People have to decide for theirselves what side of history they want to be on. And I want to encourage you to make that decision too.

If you’re interested in learning more about opening a Contender eSports franchise, Contact Us at any time.

The Big Three Questions of Opening an eSports Gaming Center

The Big Three Questions of Opening an eSports Gaming Center

When considering opening a gaming center, people often visit several locations as they research the pros and cons of an independent location vs a franchise. It is not uncommon to notice at many independent locations that there are a bunch of computers sitting around with wires all over the place, that the place is almost always empty and that the owners look downtrodden.

In the video below, I compare an independent hamburger restaurant (Taylor’s Hamburgers) to the McDonald’s franchise.

The Three Big Questions

At Taylor’s Hamburgers I noticed that it’s small, there’s no branding anywhere, there’s no training anywhere. . . good hamburgers, good people, but that’s about it. However, there are many McDonald’s locations surrounding Taylor’s. What McDonald’s did was they looked at an opportunity where individuals were passionate about a certain thing, in this case, hamburgers and they took their passion and turned it into a business and they were happy with that. There was nothing more to it. Ray Kroc and not necessarily the McDonald brothers, but particularly Ray Kroc looked at that opportunity and said, “Look. . . If we take this thing that people do love (the do love it), there’s a huge audience for this, there’s a huge consumer base for it and we apply standards, branding, structures and training . . .”

Have you ever seen the movie “The Founder”? You should watch it, because you’ll see the process that someone goes through to take something that is loved by people and to standardize it in order to expand and grow it throughout an industry or throughout a country.

Visiting one or two single hamburger restaurants is not a proof of concept. If you want to be part of a franchise, you can’t use independent locations as a proof of concept. You have to look at the industry, see what’s happening and see if you can capture it. You have to ask yourself:

  1. Can I get a better location?
  2. Will I provide a better service or product?” It doesn’t matter what franchise it is, these rules apply to everything.
  3. Can I be a better operator? i.e Can I execute better on marketing, on customer service, on managing building the brand, on PR?

It doesn’t matter what franchise it is, these rules apply to every industry.

We hope this is helpful to you. Honestly, it always comes down to the same three things; questions only you can answer. We hope that you’re able to do that.

If you’re interested in learning more about opening a Contender eSports franchise, Contact Us at any time.

eSports Joins the Big Leagues

With one of the fastest growing fan bases in pro sports, a youthful global audience that’s already larger than Major League Baseball’s and top players who are quickly joining the ranks of millionaires – eSports have entered the mainstream phenomenon.

Did you know?

  • The eSports monthly audience in 2018 has reached 167M and is predicted to reach 276M by 2022.
  • eSports rivals traditional pro sports. eSports viewership is already outpacing some major league sport audiences. Unlike traditional sports, most eSports viewership is online.
  • Who’s Watching? A young, digital and global audience.
  • Lucrative monetization opportunities arise as a result. Like traditional sports, media rights will eventually become the largest source of eSports revenue, followed by sponsorships.
  • Landmark media deals are taking shape. To date, there have been several landmark media rights deals.
  • Player earnings are surging. Growing prize pools are a key factor in audience growth and player earnings are beginning to resemble other pro sports.
  • Traditional pro sports are joining in. eSports keep fans engaged during the offseason. For developers, tournaments can further grow audiences, engagement, and monetization
  • There’s no stopping eSports. Audiences, prize pools and monetization opportunities will be growing rapidly over the next five years.

Watch what happens when a Goldman Sachs analyst plays with the pros. 

View the Infographic and read the full article by Goldman Sachs.

The Rise of eSports: How Big Can This Business Get?

LendEdu recently did a survey to evaluate changing spending habits as it relates to eSports. The findings are revealing in a sport that is emerging to the forefront of cultures in every country.

When we talk with potential franchisees about eSports, the first thing many of them say is “What is eSports?“. After a brief explanation, we typically hear back about a week later with the same response: “Ok, I have no idea how I have missed this .. but ever since we discussed eSports, I see it and hear it everywhere around me!”. That experience will fade away in the months and years to come, as the trends become as much a part of the culture as buying $5 coffees (i.e. remember the first time you walked into a Starbucks and said, “$2.95 for coffee! No one will ever pay that”). Yep… it’s the same thing.

Here are some findings

They surveyed 1,000 self-identified eSport fans, and they came away with the following key findings:

  • 62% of respondents indicated that they have spent money on eSports before, with the estimated average eSport expenditure coming in at $566 per year.
  • 49% of respondents would rather spend money on eSport event tickets instead of sporting or concert tickets. Further, 51% of respondents would rather spend money on eSport merchandise instead of sporting merchandise.
  • If they only could afford one, 45% of parents would rather pay for their child’s one-on-one video game lessons instead of sport or academic lessons.

Read the full article by Mike Brown at LendEdu.

League of Legends on TBS

Turner & IMG’s ELEAGUE, in partnership with Riot Games, will show League of Legends – the world’s most-played PC game – in a 1 Hour TBS special set to show Friday, Oct. 19, at 10 p.m. CST on TBS. ELEAGUE’s Esports 101: League of Legends will provide a lighthearted, easy to understand intro to League of Legends – the fast-paced, team-based strategy battle game with millions of gamers worldwide and with 14 professional leagues.

This is just another example of eSports taking center stage in media around the world. The growth is outstanding.

The show – co-hosted by League of Legends experts Bil “Jump” Carter & Kelsie “KayPea” Pelling – will celebrate the culture, history and in-game elements of the title’s global esports scene. ELEAGUE’s Esports 101: League of Legends will debut during the LoL World Championship 2018 (Sept. 22 through Nov. 3 in South Korea).

Read the full press release on ELeague.

Building a Nationwide High School Esports League

Over the last several months much of the media coverage on the growth of the sports has been related to what is happening in colleges and universities. While the growth in this sector is rapid, there is a similar growth pattern in high schools.

The eSports Observer notes, “High schools could prove to be a crucial formative period for any future gaming star. For many institutions, developing a dedicated facility for gaming isn’t nearly as costly as in traditional sports. “Most people are surprised by how easy to build an esports program at their school, and how affordable too” said Parnell. “The biggest onboarding process we have to overcome is the IT equipment. Really understand how the IT network is set up, unblock certain websites…ports for servers, for particular games we’re rolling out.””

The ideal scenario would be for high schools to provide centers directly for their students. Obviously, there’s a financial barrier of entry for this, which leads the way for third-party gaming center to provide the same kind of services to the high schools.

Building a gaming center in a community is more than installing technology. It is the opportunity to provide easy access to all local universities and colleges, high schools and clubs throughout the city, not to mention those who simply love gaming and are not yet directly connected to the community.

Listen to the informative podcast on Soundcloud.

Ohio State University eSports Program

Imagine a world-class soccer team, such as Manchester United, deciding to build a stadium in a city that has never heard of soccer. First would come curiosity, then observers, then fans … And very quickly you would not find one person in the city who did not know what soccer was. It would affect all age groups, every part of society, and the general awareness of something that was previously not known would become standard.

This is precisely what is happening with eSports.

Major entities and influencers around the world are pushing global awareness like never before. We see it with celebrities, professional athletic teams, and Rockstars.

This past week Ohio State University became the next big influencer.

Ohio State University (OSU) is developing a new comprehensive esports program that will bring together academics, collegiate competition, and multidisciplinary research. The program will span across five of the university’s colleges, with a focus on game studies and esports.

The curriculum will include undergraduate and graduate esports degrees, an elective course in esports content production, and online certification programs for specialized credentials. Part of the program extends to the OSU’s Wexner Medical Center, where prospective students will study the relationships between the brain, bodies, and behaviors of esports athletes.

The phenomenon is about to happen Ohio’s only evidence of what will happen in key cities around the world. This is not something to be relegated in the United States to New York and Los Angeles … But rather it will touch every town in one way or another.

The same is true outside of the US. What city do you live in? Have you done a quick Google search for eSports in the name of your city? You might find some interesting developments.

Continue Reading the original story in The Esports Observer.

Why Esports should be in the Olympics in 2024

Why Esports should be in the Olympics in 2024

Jonathan Pan is the Senior Advisor of Esports at Turner. He started off his esports career as a Product Manager at Riot Games before becoming Co-Founder and CEO of Ember, a North American League of Legends Team. Most recently, he was Head of Esports at BRaVe Ventures, which was acquired by Turner. Prior to Riot, he was a Senior Consultant in the Financial Services Office at Ernst & Young.

Jon received his MBA from NYU Stern, specializing in entertainment and finance, and a B.A. in Economics and Philosophy at Baruch College. Jon is a veteran of Afghanistan where he served as a Captain in the U.S. Army.

This talk was given at a TEDx event using the TED conference format but independently organized by a local community.

Transcript of Jonathan Pan’s Ted Talk

Today is Sumail Hassan’s birthday. Sumail is probably one of the most interesting 18 year-olds you’ve never heard of. Last year Sumail was named by Time magazine as one of the top 30 most influential teams. The reason Sumail was on that list was that he is one of the best two players in the world. If you’re not familiar with Dota 2, it is one of several online video games where professional teams compete for fame and fortune.

Sumail started playing Dota 2 when he was 7 and living in Pakistan. He didn’t have his own computer so what he would do is pile up on a motorbike with his cousins and his friends to go to the local internet cafe to play. Despite these circumstances, Sumail became so good at the game that he was recruited by a top American eSports team when he was 15. By the time he was 16 he became the youngest player to earn more than 1 million dollars in prize earnings. A big part of those earnings came from winning the Dota 2 World Championship in 2015. His team won 6.6 million dollars for winning first place. The future Olympians of tomorrow will include eSports players like Sumail, not because eSports is a sport of the future, but because eSports is a sport of today.

Today professional teams are competing for millions of dollars in front of millions of fans. Professional eSports tournaments are being played at marquee stadiums like Madison Square Garden in New York City, the Staples Center in Los Angeles and the Bird’s Nest in Beijing. There are more than 30 sports organizations globally involved with these sports, including teams such as the Philadelphia 76ers and Manchester City, a football team in the English Premier League.

These sports organizations and their billionaire team owners are getting involved with eSports because they know that there are more people watching and playing eSports than ever before. Meanwhile, traditional sports have been declining on both fronts. Olympic ratings are down 15%. The National Football League regular season ratings are down 9%. English Premier League is down 19%. Not only are people watching sports less, but people are also playing sports less in the United States. Over the past few years, millions of fewer children are actively playing team sports. One reason why people are watching and playing sports less is that it is becoming very expensive.

ESPN, the top American sports cable channel, is on track to pay 7.3 billion dollars for rights this year. That’s more than any other company in America. Meanwhile, they’ve lost 9 million subscribers since 2013. For sports participation, 38% of families earning less than $25,000 participate in team sports. Children from families earning $100,000 or more participants at a level of 67%. Another study shows that up to 10.5% of a family’s gross income is spent on sports. A typical family earning the median income in America could be spending up to $5,800.

Besides financial considerations, some people and institutions believe that eSports is actually taking away from sports viewership and participation and they are right. In a study conducted by NEWS OOH, 76% of eSports entities say that the time they spend watching eSports is taking away from the time they would spend watching sports. Younger generations are growing up in front of computers and other devices rather than a television.

When we look at digital hours watched, eSports far eclipses traditional sports. Comparing the Super Bowl, one of the largest sporting events in the world, to the League of Legends World Championship, the biggest eSports event in the world, the numbers are amazing. 43 million unique viewers watched the League of Legends Finals compared to less than 5 million viewers of the Super Bowl. Additionally, it’s not just about watching main tournaments on one platform, Twitch. Over 100 million people tuned in every month to watch their favorite players and influencers practice and play.

This image is of a Korean player named Faker, who is often called the Michael Jordan of eSports. His opponents and fans call him god. Last month, 245,000 people tuned in to watch god practice. For context, that’s like saying for your favorite athlete, whether it’s a football player or a basketball player, you would rather watch him or her practice than compete against an actual team. This is part of the reason why the eSports audience continues to grow; you’re not just watching matches, you’re also watching people practice and just having fun.

It is estimated that 385 million people will watch eSports this year and this number will grow to 589 million by 2020. Another interesting thing about eSports audiences is that not only do they watch, but they also play. League of Legends, which we mentioned earlier, has more players than the number of people who live in Germany, France or the United Kingdom. It’s clear that eSports are here and that eSports are big.

Thomas Bach, president of the International Olympic Committee, says he wants to bring sports to the youth because they have a lot of options to chose from. He would like that them to choose sports and come to the Olympics. Mr. Bach is right and I believe the sport that we should take to youth is eSports, but before we do, there are three hurdles we must overcome.

The first hurdle is shelf life.

When you think about traditional sports, they last forever and don’t have a shelf life. You could play soccer forever. However, eSports, at its core, are video games created and maintained by private game developers, but this trend is changing. Historically, game developers would develop a game, put in a box and sell it in a store. As a customer, I would go in, pay upfront and enjoy that experience. I would then come back next year for the second version of the game. Now games are being developed as a service. Game Developers like to update them constantly to keep gamers hooked for a longer period of time.

Steam, the largest distribution platform for online video games, created 50% of their top games before 2016. One of these games is Counter-Strike and the image of what it looked like in 1999 has changed with incremental improvements over the last 18 years. Last month, more than 1 million people tuned in to watch a current rec tournament of Counter-Strike.

The second hurdle is organization.

Many sports are organized by committees. Examples: Snowboarding had to align themselves with the International Ski Federation and BMX had to align themselves with the International Cycling Union. However, there aren’t many comparable international organizations for eSports. On the national front, South Korea does have a model. In 2000, Korea formed an organization called the Korean eSports Association, also known as KeSPA, and they have really grown and evolved with the Korean eSports ecosystem. KeSpa preserves the competitive integrity, they actively litigate against match-fixers and cheaters and they have the ability to ban players for life.

KeSpa also works with game developers to promote the quality of life for Korean eSports players. Professional eSports players are guaranteed minimum salaries and they have a minimum one year contract. They also regulate internet cafes to combat internet addiction as well as to promote the amateur Korean eSports scene on the international front.

The International eSports Federation, IeSF, was formed in 2008 with the goal of making eSports an official Olympic sport. IeSF has also done a lot of work with Tesla over the past few years. IeSF consists of 46 countries. 22 of these countries recognize eSports as an official sport today and the other 24 are in the process of doing so. Last year IeSF petitioned the International Olympic Committee to recognize it as the official organizing body for eSports.

The Third Hurdle is No Physical Activity

The third and most interesting hurdle is the perception that eSports require little to no physical activity. Like many of you, as a sports spectator, I grew up thinking that all athletes need to look a specific way, so I was really focused on my appearance. eSports, like many other sports, involves having a healthy body, will, and mind. Many athletes are very muscular, as is Grayson Gilmer, one of my former players. Gilmer, a former high school football player from Texas, joined our team as an esports player with biceps that are bigger than my head.

If having muscles and being physically fit matters to you, know that it does exist in eSports. However, I’ll be the first to admit that not every single player in eSports looks like Grayson. But the trend is shifting towards more physical fitness. eSports athletes only care about one thing. . . winning. Being physically fit helps them win. eSports athletes and gamers, in general, are no longer the nerds hiding in their parents’ basements. They look physically fit and I think this is a good image to convey since we’re talking about the Olympics.

It’s also important for eSports athletes to feel and understand what Olympic athletes think about. Michael Phelps, who has won 23 gold medals, calls eSports athletes “his fellow athletes”. He believes that the skill, training, and devotion required to become an eSports athlete makes them athletes as well. I agree with Michael Phelps. I saw firsthand how much work it took to become an eSports athlete when I had my own eSports team. I formed a team with my co-founder back in 2015. We wanted to put as much infrastructure and support behind our players like the traditional sports organizations do. We hired Ryan Swayze, a personal trainer in Los Angeles. Ryan likes to run through fire for fun. Here’s a short clip of how he helped our team create a sound body, mind, and spirit. He also broke the stigma of the classic gamer just eating Cheetos and drinking Mountain Dew all day. At first, our players doubted the physical training, but when they started winning games, they incorporated physical training into their routines. Remember, the only thing they care about winning.

For mindset training, we had a combination of help from Jonathan Carter and Walden Greene. Carter, on the left, is a certified instructor in the United States Army’s master resilience trainers course. Resilience is very important in eSports because the matches are mentally exhausting. Mark Cuban, owner of the Dallas Mavericks calls eSports five-dimensional chess. Carter trained our players the same way he trains soldiers and their families to cope with deployments and to develop resilience.

Walden Greene helped us create a high-performance environment. eSports is not about just clicking your mouse or keyboard faster to win. eSports requires a lot of strategy and, more importantly, real-time strategies, to win. Greene focused on this, as well as goal setting and player communication. Our team trained from 9:00 a.m. until midnight five or six days a week. This kind of training is what led the United States to start offering athletic visas for certain eSports athletes. As mentioned earlier, Michael Phelps calls eSports athletes “his fellow athletes” because of the level of training that eSports athletes practice. Given this level of training, I believe eSports should be at the Olympics.

So what’s next? How do we get there?

The first step is the International Olympic Committee should recognize IeSF as the official organizing body for eSports. Second, it would be tremendously helpful if Los Angeles was selected as the host city for the 2024 Olympics. I’m not just saying that because I’m from L.A. Los Angeles has a unique abundance of infrastructure and talent for eSports competitions. Some of the top game developers and top eSports teams are located in Los Angeles and eSports is incredibly popular in Southern California. Having locally popular youth-oriented sports increases the chances of them being added to the Olympics; karate, baseball, and skateboarding were added to the Tokyo Olympics because they were locally popular.

If you agree with me and would like to help go to change.org and search for eSports Olympics to sign my petition. Let’s help bring eSports to the Olympics and leverage this global phenomenon in a positive way to improve body, will, and mind for millions of young people around the world. Thank You.

Southern New Hampshire University Adds Esports Varsity Team

SNHU Esports Team

Sultan Akhter is an athlete, but he doesn’t play centerfield or shortstop.

The senior business major will captain the Southern New Hampshire University (SNHU) Esports team in its inaugural season this fall.

Along with fellow students playing games like Hearthstone and Fortnite, Akhter will compete for scholarship money as a member of the team’s League of Legends squad.

“An esports team is basically a competitive video gaming team,” he said.

The program is the first competitive esports team in New Hampshire and one of only a handful in New England.

ESPN lists fewer than 100 varsity esports teams in North America, though that doesn’t include club-level teams.

Playing under the auspices of the National Association of Collegiate Esports, SNHU’s team will field squads for four games – Fortnite, Hearthstone, League of Legends and Overwatch and battle online against teams from schools across the country.

Tim Fowler, SNHU Director of Esports, said in addition to the scholarships SNHU will offer next year, college esports teams are competing for real money to continue their education.

The esports industry as a whole has exploded in popularity, size and profitability in recent years. Forbes reported that industry-wide revenue is expected to top $900 million this year and could reach $1 billion in 2019.

“The skills you learn in esports are the same you learn in traditional sports,” Fowler, a former college lacrosse player, said. “I remember playing as a team and being a part of that community, and that’s what I’m trying to build with esports. The real core values you take away from traditional sports are the same you’re taking away from esports.”

Continue Reading the original story at SMJU.EDU.

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