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  • Examining The Growth Of High School And Collegiate eSports

    [11.16.17]
    - Andrew Heikkila
  • Beyond my identity as a gamer lies my identity as a musician, DJ, and performing artist. Very rarely do these worlds overlap, but when they have it's been a treat, to say the least. Most recently, I was hired to DJ Boise State University's eSports Launch Party, an event set to usher in BSU's newly minted eSports program.

    I wasn't sure what to expect, at first. When I showed up for soundcheck, the Jordan Ballroom was empty, save the announcers, a couple of other people doing sound and lights, and the BSU eSports team. The venue was set up with hundreds of chairs, but I had a hard time believing a collegiate eSports exhibition primarily focusing on League of Legends would actually fill them.

    Nevertheless, the setup was impressive: ten computers on-stage in front of three large displays to broadcast the action left, right, and center; TVs with connected consoles in the back of the room to facilitate games of Overwatch and Rocket League; assorted junk food; and a slick, DJ booth with LED dispaly for me to spin from. Needless to say, I was already impressed by the facilities - and then people started showing up.

    I was blown away by how many people actually attended this event. Every seat was filled. The energy was palpable. It was the difference between watching the LCS on Twitch and actually going to a live sporting event. I never actually thought that I'd experience that in Boise, Idaho ... I mean, I know the numbers support the theory that I would, at least eventually - yet, it was surreal nonetheless to watch BSU not only roll out its eSports program, but to see it received with such enthusiasm and gusto.

    The New National Pastime?

    For those unaware, eSports represents one of the fastest growing facets of sports-entertainment. ESPN reports that around 205 million people watched or played eSports in 2014 - which is equivalent to the population of the fifth largest country in the world - and that figure has only grown since.

    Business Insider's more recent numbers estimate that "approximately 300 million people worldwide tune in to eSports today, and that number is growing rapidly. By 2020, that number will be closer to 500 million."  

    The real numbers, however, exist in eSports' bottom line. Global eSports marketing agency Newzoo suggests that the eSports economy will grow to $696 million by the end of 2017, which equates to a year-on-year growth of 41.3 percent. They project that brand investments over time will double by 2020, pushing the industry's worth to a whopping $1.5 billion. Important to note is that this doesn't include betting on eSports. According to Newzoo:

    "...sports betting is a far bigger business than sports media rights, sponsorship, and consumer revenues put together. As an example, the NFL generated $13 billion last year, but betting and fantasy leagues around the NFL games are supposed to have made north of $50 billion. With most big betting companies already embracing esports betting on a global scale, it's possible that esports betting alone is larger than the esports economy itself."

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