Collegiate Esports in a Post-Pandemic World
Written by Contributing Intern Matthew Carrico
As of now, things are slowly beginning to reopen as the world tries to find a new sense of “normalcy” following the isolation stage of the pandemic. With the vaccine and mask mandates keeping the risk of infection at an all time low, it is a relief to some people that they can get back to something similar to what life was like before the pandemic. The pandemic has halted many activities and events that we like to preoccupy ourselves with including sports. Where sports has all but stopped on the traditional front, the pandemic has allowed the esports industry to see its biggest boom ever and is now one of the most profitable industries.
As it currently stands, the esports industry is worth $1.08 billion dollars in 2021 and projected to grow to $1.8 billion next year. In comparison, the current worth of the NFL is about $3.48 billion, and esports is projected to reach similar numbers within the coming decade. It should not come as a surprise to some how the esports industry was able to make great strides during the pandemic. Traditional sports have many travel requirements and physical interactions that risk the virus being spread further. In contrast, esports requires no travel as esports are collectively played in a digital format thus not risking any form of contact. As a result, esports was able to reach new audiences desperate for something to fill the void as traditional sports came to a slow down. Of course, esports would not be what it is today without its stakeholders.
Schools and Esports Leagues
Collegiate esports has done nothing but see many highs when the industry was officially introduced back in late 2014 with Robert Morris University announcing its official varsity esports program and many schools following suit. While many athletic colleges also boast strong esports teams, like Clemson, esports acts as a creative avenue for many small universities to shine. Specialized leagues help make collegiate esports the powerhouse it is. Many companies, schools, non-profit organizations, and lone investors have emerged to make a name for themselves in the booming industry. LevelNext, PlayVS, and Collegiate StarLeague are just a few notable examples of those who introduce leagues for games such as Counter StrikeS:Global Offensive, Call of Duty, League oo Legends, Overwatch, etc. that brings that added spice of variety to this industry.
On the topic of traditional sports and esports, what makes the marketing vastly different from these industries is that many esports titles are products for sale at your local electronics section or by digital download. Companies such as Riot, EA, and Activision Blizzard help make, promote, and administer the assets necessary to make esports a reality. In sharp contrast, companies do not own traditional sports. It is up to the players and audience to make sports what it truly is.
Esports Governing Bodies
Esports, like any fine system, would not be able to hold together without the right leadership. This is where the role of governing bodies and organizations come in to enact rules and regulations for all facets of the industry including career, competition, business, and education as a few examples. Today, there are quite a few bodies that esports has to thank for remaining intact. The most notable being the National Association of Collegiate Esports (NACE) which is helping esports expand in all sorts of directions while trying to maintain an inclusive and welcoming environment. This is largely because the current gaming climate is still largely male-dominated and many people have made great strides to enforce positive messages and encourage more participation from gamers from a variety of backgrounds. Without these systems today, the industry would most likely have crumbled.
Looking to the future, it looks like the esports industry is setting up professional gaming as a viable career choice. Many more students are taking esports programs into consideration as they apply to the school of their choice. Just because more students are taking interest does not mean that every popular esports currently available and in the future will make impacts with the likes of Rocket League, Overwatch, or Call of Duty but will find its own place with their own audiences/players.
The esports and gaming industries will continue to coexist and evolve together. As gaming technology develops with each generation and computers continue to garner better processing power, esports will continue to advance to news levels and maintain appeal to new and old audiences alike. We are currently in the ninth generation of console gaming with the likes of the PlayStation 5 and Xbox Series XS taking the forefront. 5G will make mobile and PC more favorable to the current generation. And technology will continue to become more powerful thus ensuring more in depth and realistic gaming. Depending on your perspective towards these, it can not be argued that the future of esports will be nothing but eventful.
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