For more than a century, traditional sports always looked to the educational institutions as a source for the next generation of both professional players and fans. The tradition is so long and rich that college leagues have spurted out on their own, and represent huge markets. For example, the 2018 Southeastern Conference football season paid out almost $41 million per participant school, making a record profit for both the league and the individual educational institutions.
In this domain, parents and teachers, who otherwise place a lot of emphasis on athletic successes, failed for a long time to recognize the potential of esports opportunities for their kids. Now, the tide is turning as esports are more and more becoming a part of the educational landscape.
The Scholarship Programs
One of the essential factors that managed to change so many minds, at least when it comes to parents, are the esports scholarship programs. Currently, around 200 US colleges are offering a sum of about $15 million each year in scholarships - in 2015, this sum stood at about $2.5 million. In high schools, the scholarship system is less developed but it is catching up fast. Recently a startup called PlayVS, that is designed to organize high school esports leagues, managed to raise $46 million from companies like Adidas and celebrity esports investors like Sean "Diddy" Combs.
Today, an average esports scholarship student gets about $4,800 per year, while others are getting their tuition at a 50 percent discount. This, in turn, allowed many schools and colleges to organize esports events that are racking up millions in prize money for the same educational institutions. Right now, the investment needed to start an esports program in a school is still relatively small - $32,000. But, the sum will increase as the competition heats up. All this shows that the esports ball is rolling in the educational domain and schools are eager not to miss out.
School Esports Titles
Like it often happens in esports, the early birds get the bigger worm. In 2013, Blizzard helped to create Tespa, which is an official collegiate league and brought its titles to student competitions. Tespa now encompasses about 850 schools and almost 20,000 players. So far, it paid out over $3 million in tournament winnings. But, more recent esports titles are making up the difference in other markets.
That is why Fortnite is the most popular esports title among high school students, and it is only a matter of time before it pushes into the Overwatch and LoL territory, which are more geared towards college students. All the while, the viewership base is expanding, showing that the bedrock of this esports structure is definitely solid. In the future, the number of gaming titles considered esports will rise, and it looks like the collegiate esports niche will accommodate their growing numbers.
Currently, more than half of college esports scholars see professional esports as a viable career option. More schools are bound to follow those already with esports programs and continue to strengthen their presence in this niche, which will in turn fuel the overall esports industry. Thanks to this, it can be said that the educational esports field will most likely see increased growth when compared to the rest of the esports domain.
Image source: Esports Edition