SAN FRANCISCO, CA - OCTOBER 19: CEO of Activision Blizzard, Bobby Kotick, speaks onstage during "Managing Excellence: Getting Consistently Great

One of the biggest executives in gaming is funding a major esports initiative at the University of Michigan. Activision Blizzard CEO, Bobby Kotick, announced today that he’s gifting U of M $4 million to develop an all-encompassing esports program at the school. It’s a huge boost for Michigan Esports as the midwest is becoming a hotbed of winning college programs. Kotick, a former student at Michigan says that “Esports is a truly participant sport that anyone can play and enjoy.”.

Michigan’s Major Play

As reported by Michigan’s School of Information, the massive donation is about much more than the field of play. Primarily, the endowment will establish an esports minor program that includes an introduction to the esports landscape, demographic research, and esports business. It will wholly fund a full-time esports professor that will help build the program and start classes by 2022.

The school is also recognizing which classes they already offer that can fit into the program. Data analytics, user experience, and sports media are all expected to be a part of the new esports curriculum. There are also expected to be units on “Women in Gaming” and “Indie Gaming as Creative Expression For Marginalized Groups”. If all goes to plan, it would make Michigan’s esports minor the most comprehensive esports program in the region.

Kotick has come under fire over the past few years as Activision Blizzard brought in record profits in 2020 and 2021, but has cut staff two years straight.
(Photo by Jason Merritt/Getty Images for Activision)

A Boon For The Blue

On the competitive side of things, the Michigan esports club is excited about the prospect of an esports education. The Student Coordinator of UMich Esports, Alex Downs, told the School of Information he supports the minor. However, he’s a bit saddened he’s graduating before the program is launched.

“It is really a validation of the profession and it gives our club legitimacy. I think some of the leadership who are graduating are going to be excited and a little shocked—and maybe even a bit frustrated we can’t take advantage of the minor.” Downs said.

It must be said that things are moving quickly for Michigan Esports. Formerly known as Arbor Esports, the esports teams at Michigan couldn’t use the official university branding or name until September of 2020. And as of today, they still do not have a varsity designation, meaning they must be run by students and cannot offer scholarships. Hopefully, growing interest in the educational side can lead to more support for the competitive teams.

The dean of the Michigan School of Information, Thomas Finholt says the time is right for esports. […]this is the right place to do it. I think it’s a natural fit at the University of Michigan, given our interest as an institution, as a student body and as alumni, in games.”

The university plans to have its lead professor hired by the end of 2021. And Classes are expected to begin in 2022-23.

Featured Image: Photo by Mike Windle/Getty Images for Vanity Fair