SK Telecom T1, Cloud9, Fnatic – odds are that for the average American, those terms don’t mean much. For avid esports fans, these terms are equivalent to what the New England Patriots are in football or the New York Yankees are in baseball.
While in 2015, the professional video gaming industry had global revenue of $250 million, it reached $700 million in 2017. In the first League of Legends (LoL) World Championship in 2011, the winning team Fnatic took home a prize of $50,000. In the most recent LoL World Championship, team SK Telecom T1 received a prize of $2.68 million, an increase of 5000 percent from its original value. It should, therefore, come as no surprise that more and more college campuses are integrating esports teams in their campus culture.
What many people tend to overlook is the massive following that esports, such as LoL, have gained over the past decade. One contributing factor is certainly the location of esports fan-bases: “Most of those people aren’t in North America,” said Ashley Crocker, Emerson College graduate and current advisor to Emerson College’s new esports program. “If you look at places like Brazil, Vietnam, Korea, China – they have TV stations that exclusively cover esports.” But if you thought that esports are slacking off in viewership compared to other major sports, you are terribly mistaken:
And in all honesty, don’t we all know at least one person that merely watched Super Bowl 50 for the commercials or Coldplay’s incredible halftime show featuring Beyoncé and Bruno Mars. Above all, don’t forget that the first Super Bowl was carried out over 50 years ago, while esports have only been around since the turn of the century.
With the acquisition of esports teams by professional sports teams, the growth of the esports industry is far from over. By 2020, esports are expected to have generated $1.5 billion in revenue.
“I know many pro organizations have already started making inroads with colleges to provide education to their pros and build college based feeder teams,” Crocker said. “If this relationship pans out, it could create a very interesting relationship between colleges and professional esports teams.”
“In the League of Legends Championship Series (LCS), various big-name companies and organizations have bought slots to play in this tournament, including the Cleveland Cavaliers, Houston Rockets, and Golden State Warriors,” said Alec Chan, president of the Northeastern University League of Legends club.
Nationwide college divisions in the esports world may very soon become “the bridge between high school and the professional play much like the NCAA is,” Chan said.
Much like any other sport, a tournament was created for universities from North America compete against each other. In the University League of Legends League (ULoL) a total of 228 universities compete in 38 separate divisions, including teams from Canada, Puerto Rico, the United States, and even one university from the Virgin Islands. 19 universities represent Massachusetts, including Boston College, Boston University, Harvard, Northeastern University, MIT, and Wentworth.
With the opening of the first college esports arena at UC Irvine “we can expect esports to be more widespread and have their own collegiate programs with more scholarships and opportunities for students,” said Yiren Lu, public relations chair at the Boston University PC Gaming Club. “We could see big crowds like the ones at the Beanpot (…) in previous years there definitely has been a LoL rivalry between BU and Harvard.”
A major breakthrough for esports could be the introduction at the 2024 Paris Olympics. “Just like there are tiers in traditional sports, collegiate esports will likely grow a lot faster as the professionals’ scene gains traction,” said Lu.