The already huge eSports industry is growing more popular every day. Recently, the University of California Irvine got involved in the scene by announcing one of the biggest institutional eSports projects in the country.
The plan includes building a state-of-the-art eSports arena right in the middle of its student center, and an official scholarship program for 10 players.
eSports offering will resemble school’s athletic programs
The eSports scene is not new to the educational environment. Blizzard’s Heroes of the Dorm, a collegiate event of the publisher’s popular multiplayer online battle arena Heroes of the Storm, is a big hit among the competitive gaming scene. Returning after a successful debut in 2015, the tournament gives players the chance to compete for more than $500,000 in scholarships and other prizes.
Additionally, esports has also made it to the classrooms, where schools are introducing new educational programs integrated with the industry.
UCI’s newly-initiated eSports program is supposed to operate similarly to an athletic program, where 10 students are recruited to play on a varsity League of Legends team for half-tuition scholarships, said Mark Deppe, the acting director of UCI eSports. The university plans to transform the underutilized recreational center Zot Zone into a 3,500-square-foot eSports arena with 80 computers to give the new team the resources they need and to host other eSport clubs on campus.
According to Deppe, there is little to no risk in this project, as sponsorships and other revenues are expected to cover scholarships, construction, and any additional future costs.
Thanks to its reputable name and large campus, UCI was able to attract big sponsors like iBuyPower, a gaming PC manufacturer, and Riot Games, the developer behind the currently most successful game in eSports, League of Legends.
UCLA could follow in UCI’s footsteps
When it comes to timing, UCI has definitely chosen the right moment to make its moves. With a market that’s worth approximately $750 million and expected to grow to $1.9 billion by 2018, as well as an estimated viewership of 134 million, the eSports industry is clearly not just a temporary thing.
With this in mind, UCLA, could also capitalize on the growing competitive gaming scene.
UCLA’s Game On, an underutilized gaming-oriented recreation zone run by the Associated Students UCLA, could be the perfect fit for an eSports initiative.
Although it’s just under 700 square feet, the area could be equipped with enough resources for a new varsity eSports team as well as other gaming clubs. If the university plays it right, it could attract enough sponsors for Game On to become self-sustainable, including the revenue from renting out the space.
Similar to UCI, UCLA also has numerous eSports fans on campus, many of whom cannot find space for events or group practices, said Alex Tao, director of AUGment, an umbrella organization of hundreds of students that brings UCLA’s eSports clubs together. Currently, Game On cannot be used by eSports clubs because the clubs can’t reserve space and because there are no available PCs.
With an eSports team and a reinvention of Game On, UCLA could bring recognition to these clubs which already compete for the university, while allowing the school itself to capitalize on their success.