UC Irvine launches esports arena
Well this is interesting – the University of California, Irvine is launching a dedicated esports initiative. What that means is they’re working with Riot Games to build an arena with a staging area and webcasting studio. I’m excited about the parts that might lead to more academic research into esports and competitive gaming. I’m more curious about the idea of academic scholarships for people on an esports team simply because of the time commitment each thing requires. The other part I’m thinking about is the League of Legends side of things.
Riot has been interested in League of Legends at universities for years now and has a collegiate program to support this. In the US and Canada you can set up and register a League of Legends club. Riot don’t actually hold events or competitions for these clubs themselves but they do offer help with prizing and so on. There’s also a European project which I spoke to them about a couple of years back, although Europe is more complicated because it involves a lot of different languages and a lot of different university systems. It’s part of getting non-players to view gaming, and your game specifically, as an investment.
Riot’s involvement explains the focus on League of Legends in the university press release.
Esports: The New Football Scholarship? Gaming Scholarships For College Grew 480% Last Year
Parents who think that video games are an academic distraction, take heart: pounding on the controller can now help pay for college. At Robert Morris, video game scholarships can be worth up to half of tuition and housing, or $19,000. What’s more, since the NCAA doesn’t regulate e-sports, they’re not bound by the rules of amateurism. A couple of Robert Morris players, for example, recently played in a semi-pro tournament and each earned around $1,000. The players look a bit like fighter pilots, and play League of Legends, a five-on-five battle game popular among college students. In other words, all that time your kids spend on Fortnite just might not be a complete waste. Esports is growing an incredible rate – 41.3% year-over-year, according to a Newzoo report. That growth is transforming the space into a $1.5 billion market by 2020, says Newzoo’s Peter Warman, when about 300 million people will be watching eSports. By contrast, the almost 100-year-old NFL made $14 billion last year, the MLB is around $10 billion, the NBA is just over $7 billion, and the NHL is at about $4 billion.
With growth rates for esports so high, it’s likely that professional gaming will eventually overtake some or all of the major professional sports leagues. That’s probably why colleges and universities are getting into the act. I asked Brooks about the recent growth, how schools are awarding eSports scholarships, and what life as an varsity esports athlete is like. Outside of NACE we know of 6 other varsity institutions and I believe they all give scholarships.