Last year was a big one for the world of professional Esports. The NBA was the first professional league to take online gaming seriously, following the formation of the National Association for Collegiate Esports (NACE); they held a draft in which 102 Esports players were selected to participate exclusively in their basketball-themed game franchise NBA 2K.
KU is the newest addition to the growing number of Kansas schools entering partnership with NACE in an effort to join the wave of online gaming. The current list of schools includes WSU, Pratt, McPherson, Kansas Wesleyan, University of Saint Mary, Central Christian College, Baker, Ottawa, Highland and Fort Scott.
Starting in January 2020, KU will compete in “League of Legends.” The Jayhawk Esports Team will be composed of current KU students, many of whom have already been competing in Esports via a student organization, KU Gaming Community.
WHAT IS ESPORTS?
Esports, in short, is a form of competitive, organized video gaming. It is a global market and in 2017, over 580 major Esporting events took place.
However unorthodox, these sporting events draw very large crowds and bring in big money.
According to Newzoo, a research company dedicated to tracking the trends in connection to games, Esports and mobile phone users - it is estimated that the global audience for Esports will grow to 495 million in 2020.
Their data also shows that 2019 total revenue streams brought in by Esports is $1.1 billion; that figure includes sponsorships, media rights, advertising, merchandise, tickets and game publisher fees.
Esports players, like traditional athletes, can rake in big money. Winning a tournament can mean millions of dollars in prize money, which is typically shared amongst the winning team members.
ESPORTS AT THE COLLEGIATE LEVEL?
Depending on the program and school, collegiate Esports varsity members are afforded many benefits.
Gamers will be coached on technique; they will receive a jersey; teammates have access to state-of-the-art gaming labs, networking opportunities and more. Being a current student in any program is standard, and in some cases you must be full-time.
The most significant benefit is access to potential grants and scholarships for competing in tournaments.
On Nov. 17, KU held its first tryouts for team-building. Since it’s a new program, it will start small and compete in the most popular event for Kansas colleges – “League of Legends.”
As a member of NACE, varsity Esports teams have huge opportunities for competition. Currently, NACE counts more than 175 institutions as members. This organization is member-driven and was formed to help legitimize collegiate Esports by guiding members on starting varsity programs, providing a network of communication between administrators, a recruiting network and a collective voice representing 94% of all institutions in the collegiate varsity Esports space across North America.
For more info, visit union.ku.edu/jayhawk-esports.