Esports: Changing the definition of athletes in college and beyond

Esports phenomenon changing gaming stereotypes

There’s a new sport gaining popularity, and it doesn’t involve a field, a court or even a ball.

In this sport, you can catch gamers banging away at their keyboards, competing against other players in a virtual sphere.

This is the new world of esports, or electronic sports, and it is a growing phenomenon that’s attracting a new kind of athlete.

“I always say games are easy to pick-up on, difficult to master,” said Christian Anton, a third year student at the University of Denver and a member of the DU Esports Club team.

The world of esports just crowned its first world champion team, the London Spitfire, and a growing number of universities are even offering scholarships to competitive video gamers.

“It’s really becoming a mainstream activity, especially among millennials and those younger than me, like Gen Z,” Anton said.

The athletes

Anton is a computer science major at DU, with a triple minor in mathematics, history and public policy. A smart guy who argues his fellow keyboard warriors are, without question, athletes.

“The definition of what is a sport and what isn’t is rather fluid,” Anton said. “Some people say stuff like car racing is a sport, while others say, ‘All they do is turn left for about three hours.’ What you can’t argue with is it’s a task that you can improve with over time and with practice.”

At DU and Colorado State University in Fort Collins, there are now both casual and competitive esports clubs.

“It really should be considered a sport,” said Kyle Tong, a founding member of the casual esports club at CSU.

The clubs even have team captains, like Reave Hosman, for different games and skill levels.

“With every incoming freshman or first year class, we’ve grown,” Hosman said. “We’ve doubled, we’ve tripled. It really is incredible.”

Gaming is also bucking the stereotype that it’s a loner activity.

“There is a lot of camaraderie among fellow gamers,” Tong said. “And they socialize together. They’ll play a game together and they’ll go talk and say, ‘Oh, you’re this person, you’re that person. It’s nice to get to know you in person. Oh, it’s great to meet you.'”

Big business

Esports is certainly big business, inspiring new gaming centers like a huge facility in the Denver suburb of Lakewood.

“It’s big enough to be called an arena,” said James Love, director of communications for N3rd Street Gamers. “We have one in Philadelphia and one in Denver. In a nut shell, esports is competitive video gaming. I like to call it the biggest industry that nobody has heard of because it has flown under the radar for so many years.”

But those days are perhaps over. And Love said these controller commandos exhibit uncanny reflexes and more.

“There is an extraordinary amount of hand-eye coordination,” Love said. “It also takes a lot of focus. It takes breathing. So, a lot of the training that goes into traditional sports translates to the training that esports athletes go through.”

Let’s get physical

At one of Denver’s premiere one-on-one physical training facilities, The Body Shaping Company, trainer Briana Phillips appreciates the intensity of gaming.

“There’s definitely some skill involved within esports,” Phillips said.

But, she said the dedication, focus and skills of traditional athletes versus gamers are night and day.

“On a physical level, having to perform, whatever sport it is — you can’t really create that sitting down watching a screen,” Phillips said. “It’s just a different level of physical activity, dedication and passion.”

Equestrienne Natalie Anderson spends several hours a week in the gym.

“This is what helps me continue to compete at the level that I enjoy doing,” Anderson said.

She argues the stakes are simply higher for traditional athletes compared to gamers.

“I can certainly appreciate the skill it takes to master anything,” Anderson said. “But, I don’t think they’re necessarily comparable in that you’re not putting your body on the line in esports. There’s just a physical component of, if I come in and I’m not focused, I could have a serious accident or get hurt.”

While there are certainly a myriad of opinions, esports is certainly a game changer. And, it’s dispelling stereotypes about playing video games.

Dispelling the stereotypes

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“The idea that it’s a 300-pound guy in his mother’s basement or something like that? Totally wrong,” said University of Denver computer science professor and department chair Scott Leutenegger.

He said the intellectual abilities of esports athletes are unmatched and undeniable.

“Beyond fast reflexes, they work with a team, they communicate, they think ahead,” he said. “That’s called telescopic probing — if I do this and this and this. Just like chess. Thinking in multiple stages of what you are going to do, but unlike chess, you need to do it as a team. So, in many ways, it’s much more complex than chess.”

Leutenegger said gaming builds a sense of community and esports clubs can help build a university’s reputation.

“I do think more and more universities will be providing scholarships to esports athletes. Absolutely,” Leutenegger said.

Are the players nerds of jocks? He said probably both.

He also pointed out that there are thousands of job opportunities in esports game development and programming.

“These students are actually getting into a career field that is going to be rewarding to them in many ways,” Leutenegger said. “It is going to be lucrative to them.”

Women in esports

For professionals like Cait Culpepper, esports is a culture and career field that’s changing all the time.

“It’s exciting,” she said.

She said her handle name is ‘TinyCait.’

Culpepper is breaking barriers. First, as a woman in esports.

“I think there’s definitely room in this esports sphere,” she said. “We just need to make room for ourselves.”

And second, beyond competing, she’s making a name for herself as an esports event organizer.

“My dad always asked me how I was going to make money doing this,” Culpepper said. “I spent 10 years in the fashion industry in Los Angeles. Eventually, I was like – I just need to take a risk and try to get into this industry and it has worked out so far. I’m an event manager planning big, amateur, open tournaments.”

Big money

Those kinds of tournaments can pay out huge purses, similar to golf.

Love said the prize pools range from $500 to $10,000, and it’s only growing. The higher you place, the more you earn.

“Just like every sport, you have the elites,” Leutenegger said. “And you can make a lot of money.”

Beyond that, Anton said you can also pick up sponsors and some leagues are discussing annual salaries.

“They’re trying to make salaried employees where their primary income is from their sports team, like the NFL or NBA,” Anton said.

Corporations are certainly starting to take the surge in popularity seriously. In a recent tournament that aired nationwide, Coca Cola, Toyota and State Farm all paid for advertising time.

Eliminating socioeconomic barriers

The doors at N3rd Street Gamers are also wide open to the casual gamer. It’s just $10 to play for four hours.

“There’s a low barrier of entry,” said Love. “And there’s a huge demographic of gamers here. We want to provide you a safe place to game with the best equipment possible.”

Whether you consider them athletes or not, esports are certainly becoming more mainstream and popular by the minute.

“It’s not a sport in the traditional sense. We’re not physically exerting ourselves, that’s pretty obvious,” Hosman said. “But, I would say that these games, with the amount of focus and the amount of hand-eye coordination and the amount of effort that we put in, are as — if not more — mentally draining than any other sport out there that people play.”

Tong said they have the competitive spirit — their fun just happens to take place on a computer.

“What’s so wrong with that?” he said.

Anton said esports is also a great way to make new friends.

“Everybody on the team has a different role they can fill, or several different roles,” he said. “Just like you have your quarterback, your linemen and your wide receivers in football. In a game such as Overwatch, you have your team.”

Those teams include several different roles, like healers, attackers, attacks and more. The team has a goal they work toward together.

“It’s not a bunch of couch potatoes,” Leutenegger said. “It’s a bunch of active people that also do esports.”

by Russell Haythorn
PUBLISHED May 1, 2019

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Will Smith invests in esports company and FACEIT holds massive PUBG event in London

Will Smith joined the server

Esports organization Gen. G has raised $46 million in funding with big name Will Smith part of the group of investors. This move comes as China looks to capitalize on esports growth in the region and new tournaments fill up the esports calendar for 2019. The new funding will help increase brand awareness and prepare teams for future tournaments.

It also helps to have such a star as Will Smith investing their cash into your organization. The industry as a whole is expected to pull in more than $1 billion in revenue.

Say hello to the European Esports Federation

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National esports organizations from 12 countries within Europe gathered in Berlin to discuss plans to launch a new European Esports Federation, which would be positioned as such that it would be able to oversee the industry in participating countries. As reported by Esports Insider, attendees compiled The Berlin Declaration, outlining what the group aims to achieve.

Countries who sent representatives to the event to found the new European Esports Federation included the United Kingdom, France, Germany, Turkey, Russia, Sweden, Austria, Hungary, Serbia, Slovakia, Ukraine, and Belgium. With so much money expected to be generated from esports in the coming years, it makes sense to start forming such federations.

Let’s FACEIT, PUBG was great in London

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This weekend saw the FACEIT Global Summit competitive finals for PUBG held in London. Attendees who watched the games at the ExCeL Arena in London were rewarded with the opportunity to win big using their FACEIT accounts as an added bonus. The event was but phase one of PUBG’s esports calendar for 2019, inviting 24 teams from around the world to participate on the big stage.

We’ll have additional coverage from the show at the ExCeL Arena in London so stay tuned.

by RICH EDMONDS
PUBLISHED 21 April 2019

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Esports just made its way onto ‘The Simpsons’ — here’s why that matters

Key Points

  • “The Simpsons” has featured esports in an episode.
  • It shows the growing significance and popularity of the esports industry.

He has discovered a comet. He has performed in a boy band. Now Bart Simpson has found himself at the heart of what could be a billion-dollar industry this year: esports.

The perennial Springfield Elementary School student became an electronic sports athlete — esports athlete, for short — in Sunday’s episode of “The Simpsons” titled “E My Sports.” Bart essentially gets a new computer and finds himself glued to “Conflict of Enemies,” based on Tencent-owned publisher Riot Games’ “League of Legends” game. He eventually travels to Seoul to play in a world championship match with Homer acting as coach after the latter finds out how much money can be made in esports (the highest-paid players can make millions).

Co-executive producer Rob LaZebnik said the episode was meant to embody a “cultural tipping point” that has seen esports dominate a lot of conversation about the future of entertainment, sports and media.

“I think it feels kind of inevitable,” LaZebnik told CNBC. “Obviously, video games have been around for a very long time now, and combine that with the fact that everyone is online and on his or her phone, [the expansion of esports] feels so inevitable to me.”

“League of Legends” has been one of the key games driving the growth of esports for years, with 2018′s World Championship finals drawing in almost 100 million unique viewers, about the same number as this year’s NFL Super Bowl.

This comes as esports viewership and revenue overall has increased year on year. Research firm Newzoo estimates that the global esports audience, which includes casual and dedicated viewers, will reach almost 454 million this year. Company sponsorships could account for up to 42 percent of the $1.1 billion in revenue projected by Newzoo.

Riot Games, which was consulted for the episode, says “The Simpsons’” focus on esports benefits the industry as a whole.

“We hope that this episode, on top of all the work we’re doing around the world establishing leagues that are working with leading brands like Nike and Mercedes-Benz, as well as the rising popularity of streamers and pro players, will make a real impact on how people view ‘League of Legends’ esports in the long term,” a Riot representative told CNBC.

The show producers toured the training facilities of one of the world’s oldest esports teams, Team Liquid, for the episode. Team Liquid owner and industry veteran Steve Arhancet ultimately believes esports’ appearance on “The Simpsons” shows the staying power of the space in Western culture, a shift from the more Asia-focused approach esports had traditionally taken in the past.

“There’s many young kids out there who will empathize with this episode on ‘The Simpsons’ more than any other football, soccer or basketball episode they’ve created — just like I would have,” he said. “It’s another milestone that shows esports is here to stay.”



by Annie Pei
PUBLISHED MON, MAR 18 2019 • 9:06 AM EDT

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Five eSports Predictions: What Does The Year Hold For Companies And Developers?

Between League of Legends appearing in the Asian Games and worldwide phenomenon Fortnite dominating headlines, 2018 has been a formative year for eSports. Never before have games had such an assertive presence in mainstream media and entertainment.

As the CEO of a mobile eSports platform for developers, venues and sponsors, I don’t believe the trajectory of eSports is slowing anytime soon — bigger, better things lie ahead. Whether you’re an industry veteran or just starting to explore how eSports fits into your business, these are five key trends to keep in mind while planning your business strategy for the remainder of 2019.

New titles will shake up the top five eSports rankings.

This year, new games will likely challenge incumbents for supremacy. Prominent 2018 launches include the inaugural season of Activision Blizzard’s Overwatch League, the introduction of the NBA 2K League, and new battle royale title Call of Duty: Black Ops 4. With fresh content flooding the market, the most popular eSport of the future has likely yet to be created.

Given increasing eSports democratization, consumers will be hungry for innovative content, and top rankings are ripe for the taking. Currently, the most popular consumer trends I’ve seen include shooters, multiplayer competition and mobile experiences — so future blockbusters may feature these elements.

Why does this matter? Understanding what games are trending and why is essential for anyone in the space, whether you’re running a gaming company or a non-endemic brand looking to access the growing eSports audience. For game developers, keeping a pulse on community reactions and responses to new industry trends is critical to developing relevant themes for future titles. Watch closely to see which games are picking up traction. Industry analyst studies, focus groups and preliminary beta testing are all useful options to consider for additional insight.

Brand investments in eSports will increase.

With eSports viewership projected to grow to about 600 million by 2020 (paywall), sponsorships could become more valuable to brands looking to gain an advantage in an increasingly lucrative and competitive market.

Sponsors like Coca-Cola, Mercedes-Benz, T-Mobile, Adidas and even the U.S. Navy have already invested in eSports. Given the positive results of engaging with this global audience, brand investments will likely increase this year, with even more non-endemic corporate sponsors coming aboard.

Gamers are arguably one of the most sought-after audiences — many are young (paywall) and often loyal to their games of choice. According to Dot Esports, research firm Newzoo estimates that global eSports awareness will reach 2 billion by 2021. If you’re in the eSports business, I recommend looking to capitalize on this influx of interest in 2019.

For developers looking to grab a slice of the audience, focus on creating a game that’s simple to pick up, complex to master and fun to watch. The combination of these elements is what I’ve found makes a great spectator sport — and once you get viewers on board, the sponsors will likely follow.

Mobile eSports will go mainstream and sell out professional stadiums.

With an estimated 2.3 billion mobile gamers worldwide (paywall) in 2019, mobile is an incredibly popular gaming platform. As mobile eSports become an increasingly important part of the ecosystem, even more competitors could view it as mainstream entertainment.

This year, you may see more players earning sizable salaries and collegiate scholarships from mobile eSports. In addition, mobile eSports events could sell out more professional sports stadiums. In countries like China, mobile gaming is already taking center stage.

Keep an eye on your smartphones, because they’re growing at breakneck speeds in terms of both technical capability and consumer adoption — GSMA estimates that there will be 5.9 billion unique mobile subscribers in 2025. Developers — especially those that may have overlooked mobile in the past — should consider how rapidly advancing mobile technology can help them achieve a blockbuster hit and reach the largest subset of gamers. I believe the key to breaking into this industry is creating a game that is easy to learn, has a compelling core loop, and offers its players strategic depth in terms of game mastery. This stimulates player acquisition and new user performance metrics — ultimately driving player retention and deeper game monetization.

The industry will experience heightened cheating risks.

While eSports growth has been impressive, it’s not without risk. Similar to offline sports, the growing fame and fortune of athletes can also attract cheaters.

In 2018, BattlEye banned over a million PUBG accounts for hacking. According to PCGamer, banning cheaters is also the “highest priority” for Fortnite developer Epic Games. In Asia, hackers are facing jail time and multimillion-dollar fines for developing and distributing cheats. Although the industry is working tirelessly to prevent cheating, it’s likely that as eSports grow, so too will fraudulent efforts.

This year, I expect more eSports to institute fairer environments for their games, just like we see in offline sports. Whether it’s by integrating increasingly comprehensive third-party anti-cheating software or developing their own, developers creating the next big eSport will have to keep cheating at bay. Otherwise, their game might be over before it begins.

A boom in availability and production value could occur for eSports broadcasts.

Now featured on YouTube, ESPN and more, eSports are quickly becoming a hot area of growth in digital entertainment. ESL, a large eSports league that runs CS:GO and Dota 2 tournaments, signed an exclusive streaming deal with Facebook in 2018 for an undisclosed amount. Twitch’s exclusive rights to stream the Overwatch League is purportedly worth as much as $90 million.

Both traditional and emerging channels are vying to showcase tournaments to viewers. I’d count on seeing even more significant broadcasting collaborations among both cable networks and social media juggernauts in 2019.

Companies and developers planning to break into eSports broadcasting in 2019 should keep the growing number of distribution options in mind to ensure they’re picking the best channel for their content.

The eSports landscape is shifting quickly, and I project the coming months to be some of the most important for the industry’s future. As eSports viewership is expected to grow and mobile devices are becoming more widespread, businesses should consider how they can take advantage of this growing sector.


by Andrew Paradise
Andrew Paradise is the CEO and Founder of Skillz, the worldwide leader in mobile eSports, which was ranked #1 on the 2017 Inc. 5000 list.

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Arkansas Activities Association launches Esports in high schools

Arkansas Activities Association launches Esports in high schools

LITTLE ROCK (KATV) — The world of competitive gaming, known as Esports, has evolved its way into high schools across the Natural State.

Esports stands as an ever-growing global industry projected to be worth $1 billion in 2019, according to Esports analytics group Newzoo.

This is a dream-turned reality for one Lake Hamilton High School senior.

“I’ve been playing since middle school so whenever the opportunity came up to play again my love competitively, I was like, this should be easy,” said Steven Tyler Turner.

The Arkansas Activities Association partnered up with PlayVS, a California-based Esports league that focuses solely on high schools.

PlayVS has coordinated with the National Federation of State High School Associations to to write rules for high school play.

High schools in more than 12 states are affiliated with PlayVS.

Students must meet certain academic standards in order to participate as is the case for students wanting to play sports such as football, baseball or basketball.

More than 80 schools in Arkansas have signed up for eSports, which offers competition in the spring and fall semesters.

The games offered are Smite, League of Legends and Rocket League.

Arkansas Activities Association launches Esports in high schools1
Students at Lake Hamilton High School spend after school hours practicing for upcoming online competition against other high school teams. (KATV Photo).
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Turner’s specialty is League of Legends.

“It really forces you to learn how to cooperate with people and League of Legends is known for people getting really mad or tilted,” Turner said.

The AAA’s first and foremost goal is to boost student participation, especially by attracting those who aren’t involved in any extracurricular activities.

Derek Walter, AAA assistant executive director, stressed the importance of students learning a variety of life skills while playing video games competitively.

“How can we get them to participate with a team? A teacher coach that will teach them life lessons to teach them how to lose. That’s a huge thing in life,” Walter said.

Walter admits he’s a bit surprised at the positive reception from school administrators, seeing how video games carries a stigma when it comes to correlating gaming with physical exercise.

“We thought we’d have a lot of negative comments regarding the physical aspect of it but really, we still want those kids to do those extracurricular activities where they’re physically active so we’re really not trying to take away from that,” Walter said.

Arkansas Activities Association launches Esports in high schools
Both boys and girls are welcome to participate in competition. Games include League of Legends, Smite and Rocket League, all of which are non-graphically violent. (KATV Photo).
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Logan Horton serves as AP World History teacher and Esports coach at Lake Hamilton High School. Horton is adamant when it comes to the benefits of team-based video game competition.

“In the last few years, we’ve seen this really big emphasis on STEM (Science Technology Engineering and Math) so I can show and encourage these parents Esports will involve them in teamwork and communication and critical thinking skills. All these things that we’re trying to teach students in school anyway,” Horton said.

While focused mainly on academics and school bond, Turner knows there’s great potential for Esports to take off in Arkansas.

From the potential of receiving scholarships for Esports simply earning bragging rights in the state championship , Turner is ready to drum up competition.

“It’s really fun to be able to play a game and to know you’re able to do it for a cause greater than doing it for enjoyment. I think it’s just inspiring to just be a part of this blowup,” Turner said.

According to PlayVS, 200 colleges and universities in North America provide scholarships related to Esports.

Henderson State University is the first college in Arkansas to have an official eSports team and offer scholarships for competitive gaming.

To learn more about AAA’s role in the Esports program, click here.

To learn more about PlayVS, click here.

by Zack Briggs Sunday, February 17th. 2019

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Interpret: Women make up 30% of esports audience, up 6.5% from 2016

Interpret- Women make up 30% of esports audience, up 6.5% from 2016

Women’s viewership of esports grew from 23.9 percent of all watchers in 2016 to 30.4 percent in the fourth quarter of 2018, according to a report by market researcher Interpret. That 6.5 percent change is a considerable leap, considering the heavy representation of men in both esports audiences and professional athletes in the past.

“Changing behaviors among a large segment of people is difficult. Progress of this size always takes time; however, a [6.5 percent] gain in gender share over a two-year period is a trend in the right direction,” said Tia Christianson, the vice president of research in Europe for Interpret, in a statement. “If two years from now, the female audience grabs an additional 6 percent in share, esports viewership will be in gender parity with what we consider standard among traditional console and PC games.”

She added, “As an industry, more progress will be made as females’ role in traditional esports titles continue to grow, given the efforts from some of the industry leaders. More likely than not, a lot of that growth may come in non-traditional esport genres, and especially games tailored to mobile and tablet devices.”

Interpret- Women make up 30% of esports audience, up 6.5% from 2016
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Christianson said that women’s viewership has consistently gained share nearly every quarter since 2016.Of those that play games considered an esport on console/PC, only 35 percent are female. Of those that consider themselves esports watchers, 30 percent are women. Of those that watch esports leagues, 20 percent are women.

Of those that play games considered an esport on console/PC, only 35 percent are female. Of those that consider themselves esports watchers, 30 percent are women. Of those that watch esports leagues, 20 percent are women.

But casual gaming (defined as those who log many hours on mobile and few on PC/console) is dominated by women at 66 percent.

Interpret said the slow increase in traditional female fans of esports may be due to an increased prevalence of mobile games in competitive gaming. According to Skillz, a platform that offers mobile competitive gaming and boasts a large selection of casual games, 7 of the top 10 mobile earners on their platform in 2018 were female.

Skillz has shown that one of the keys to increasing female participation in esports or competitive gaming may be through mobile and tablet devices, with games in nontraditional esports genres.

Extremely low female involvement in major esports titles like CS:GO (24 percent female), DOTA 2 (20 percent female), Hearthstone (26 percent female), Rainbow 6: Siege (23 percent female), and even Overwatch (26 percent female) highlights the core challenge in attracting more female esports fans, Interpret said.

BY DEAN TAKAHASHI @DEANTAK FEBRUARY 21, 2019 12:01 PM

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Newzoo Estimates eSports Revenue Will Eclipse $1 billion This Year

Newzoo estimates esports revenue will eclipse $1 billion this year

PHOTO: The crowd roars during the Overwatch League finals on July 27 at the Barclays Center in New York City. Market research firm Newzoo released projections for the esports industry Tuesday that include $1.1 billion in expected revenues for 2019. Photo by Bryan Bedder/Getty Images for Blizzard Entertainment

The esports market is expected to eclipse $1 billion in revenue for the first time in 2019, according to a market report from research firm Newzoo released on Tuesday.

The esports industry brought in $865.1 million in revenue in 2018, according to Newzoo, and stands to reach $1.1 billion in 2019 based on the company’s projections. With a growth rate of 22.3 percent year over year, Newzoo predicted that the industry will rake in $1.79 billion in revenue by 2022.

These numbers are more modest than previous reports from the firm, which outlined $1.5 billion by 2020. The industry will take an additional year, to hit those numbers, according to Tuesday’s report.

The audience for the space is also expected to grow to include 453.8 million people who consume at least one esports event per year in 2019, with 201 million of those fans watching at least one esports event per month, according to the firm. In 2018, Newzoo found 394.6 million people watched at least one esports event per year.

In October and November, more than 58.3 million hours of the League of Legends World Championship were consumed by viewers, with the majority of that viewership stemming from China. By comparison, the second most-watched tournament, the Dota 2 Asia Championships in February 2018, accrued a total of 12 million hours viewed.

The majority of the esports revenue will come from brand investments, which Newzoo categorizes as sponsorships, advertising and media rights. Forty-two percent of revenues are projected to come from sponsorships, which have hit record numbers in the past few years, according to the report. In the past few months, companies such as Coca-Cola, Alienware and others have forged global deals with the Overwatch League and League Championship Series respectively.

Newzoo also predicted an uptick in interest from media companies both on digital and linear TV. In late 2017 and throughout 2018, the League Championship Series and Overwatch League struck multimillion-dollar deals with ESPN, while the Overwatch League also finalized a two-year, $90-million deal with Amazon-owned livestreaming platform Twitch. Other livestreaming platforms such as Facebook, YouTube and Caffeine — which raised $100 million from Fox News in September — have committed to making bigger investments in the space as well.

Despite increased interest and revenues, average spending per fan will likely increase but still remain very low compared to traditional sports, Newzoo said. In 2019, regular esports consumers will spend $5.45 per year on esports, excluding the purchase of game titles.

Of the 173 million people who consumed esports more than once a month, 72 percent were men, while 28 percent were women, according to Newzoo’s report. The dominant age range for both was 21-35, including 39 percent of men and 15 percent of women. Of viewers who watched at least once per year, Newzoo found that 66 percent were men and 34 percent were women.

Although the benchmark of $1 billion provides optimism, there are some signs that the esports industry is struggling in other areas. Despite more than $500 million being committed to franchise fees in both the Overwatch League and Riot Games’ League Championship Series and League European Championship in 2017 and 2018, some investors have looked to sell, while some teams have made layoffs within the last six months.

In October, OpTic Gaming and Houston Outlaws parent Infinite Esports & Entertainment — which committed $33 million in franchise fees to the Overwatch League and League Championship Series in 2017 — laid off 19 employees and ousted CEO Chris Chaney. Their main shareholders, a group comprised of Texas Rangers owners Neil Leibman and Ray Davis, are now looking to sell majority stake of that company for around $150 million, ESPN reported in January.

Infinite’s ownership group is not alone. Vision Venture Partners, the parent of Echo Fox and Twin Galaxies, had layoffs in November after its H1Z1 Pro League began to unravel in fall 2018. The Overwatch League had layoffs, too, after it overspent its original estimates, league sources said. Its parent company, Activision Blizzard, also shuttered the Heroes of the Storm Global Championship in December, and Activision Blizzard is expected to lay off hundreds employees this week, per a Thursday report from Bloomberg.

BY JACOB WOLF, ESPN STAFF WRITER FEBRUARY 12, 2019 02:39 PM

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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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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.

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