Why Your School May Need an Esports Program

Bob Nilsson Director, Vertical Solutions Marketing Published 26 Aug 2019

Esports Survey Results and Infographic

“Esports should be considered vital for a student’s brain development process, because gaming itself is a brain developing exercise and many schools have adopted games like StarCraft into their curriculum. I look forward to seeing this in our colleges and universities in India.” – College student in India

“Esports are eGood!” – IT manager at US community college

If you don’t yet have an esports program at your school, the time has come to start planning one. And for very important reasons, including student recruiting and retaining, preparing for the job market of tomorrow, blending on-campus and online experiences, and overall enrichment of the student experience. esports may be less costly and easier to get off the ground at your school than you realize.

We asked schools and colleges around the world about their involvement with and plans for esports. We found that the concept is already broadly understood and rapidly being implemented. At a minimum, esports require a coach, players, game stations (owned or borrowed), and a connection to the Internet. The other end of the spectrum is open-ended, involving a gaming arena, recruiting and training staff, training rooms, travel budget, and scholarship funding.

How Large Are School Esports Today?

Our survey found that 20% have an esports program. But that’s because it’s new – 70% have had the program for less than a year. Less than 10% have had it for longer than 3 years. According to ESPN, there are now 125 varsity collegiate esports teams around the country. Most of the esports programs are intercollegiate, but 24% are intramural-only.

Implementing an Esports Program

In terms of housing the esports program, they are primarily managed within an academic department today, with slightly fewer schools managing their programs through their athletic departments. 

  • Academic Department: 40%
  • Athletic Department: 30%
  • Other: 32 %; includes club, student activities, arts, IT department

Today, 40% of schools have a special esports competition facility. The network has either recently been upgraded (76%) or will be upgraded within a year (24%).

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7 Days Out: League of Legends; Games that draw 100 million watchers

The Netflix series 7 Days Out profiled Yiliang “Doublelift” Peng, one of the best League of Legends players in the world. The show begins with the semifinals of the North American League of Legends Championship Series in Los Angeles and ends with the championship. Competitors vie for a $108,000 first place prize. Going on to the world championships can mean a first place prize of $2.4 million.  

Governing bodies can help out; 45% of schools with esports programs are members of one. The most popular is the National Association of Collegiate Esports (NACE). Others mentioned in our survey include North America Scholastic Esports Federation, Esport Gaming Association Australia (EGAA), High School Esports League (HSEL), GPAC Conference, and TESPA. For high school PlayVS bills itself as “the official league for high school esports”.

What are the primary barriers?

The biggest perceived hurdles are finding the resources and the expertise to launch the program. To help with the planning, SUNY Canton shared how they did it at Extreme Connect during their session, Introducing and Implementing Esports at SUNY Canton. Some schools go as far as offering financial aid and incentives (18%). Other schools require the students to play from home because they don’t have the right equipment, or they require students to bring their own equipment. We asked about annual expenses:

  • $0-$10,000 – 67%
  • $10,000-100,000 – 12%

Here are more comments from the survey

  • Interesting way to keep students on campus
  • I am trying to get funding to establish an esports program for my school district and my principal is very supportive if I find funding
  • I think that we will be doing a disservice to our students if we don’t offer esports. It’s hard to ignore this esports wave of momentum that is occurring. With colleges offering scholarships and building esports arenas, we can’t ignore this!
  • Need more in-depth study.
  • Great way to get students who may not normally get involved to get Involved
  • It’s hard to get buy-in from admin and many staff members since they consider it a game, low educational value, and low exercise.  The prevailing thought is that students are playing sports and should continue to play sports, not esports.  It is hard to define it as a separate category and get the buy-in needed.
  • We are just investigating the feasibility
  • I don’t like it in the intercollegiate world due to the gender equity challenges it brings. In club sports competing against other schools I think it is a great fit.
  • Seems to be a waste of time and effort with little educational value.
  • I was very skeptical, but the previous university I worked at added a program and it has been very successful and good turnout.
  • I think we as a school need to be prepared for this and perhaps allow set up a pilot program
  • Esports would make a great addition for students who would like to participate in esports and increase value to the university’s enrollment.
  • I feel that with the way esports is growing, all higher institutions must make a concentrated effort to make esports a priority to their respective curriculum.
  • I love the idea of having an activity that might catch kids who don’t have a place right now.  I’m eager to try something in this area.
  • It’s a great idea and would encourage kids who aren’t into physical sports to participate in something extracurricular.  It may encourage more sense of belonging, and provides a chance for them to excel in their own way.
  • It is gaining interest in our area – just need the right coach.
  • For a public institution, I feel that it is an inappropriate use of limited resources unless the program is funded through sponsorship and grants.
  • Very mixed emotions.  I don’t like it being referred to as a sport as very little physical activity is required. But, also see value in some of the video games being played with the use of strategy and hand/eye coordination.
  • Esports are a great way for kids to learn teamwork and. Communication skills, also strategy and healthy competition, as well as leadership.

For more information visit our esports solution page and watch our esports splash video!

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