For those who are unfamiliar with eSports, you are now of an ‘older’ generation. Let that settle for a moment. eSports is a blanket term for competitive online gaming. It’s already massive, and it’s going to get a whole lot bigger, with prize pools and audiences rivalling the biggest physical sporting events on the calendar.
The UK is already the 5th biggest video gaming market in the world, with approximately 32.4 million people playing games, between them spending £5.11 billion in 2017. The UK gambling market brings in £13.9 billion, with online casino and poker sites like Full Tilt Poker representing around 33% of the market share.
Creative industries may be the key to the UK economy in the future, and eSports is showing itself to be a key player worthy of investment and infrastructure.
First UK eSports Scholarship
The University of Roehampton in London, has become the first university in the country to offer an eSports scholarship for students. The university is fully established and has been a higher learning institute since the 1840s. It is also known as a pioneering place, since was one of the first universities in the country to admit women.
The scholarship will offer £1,500 a year to gamers on the pretext that they will show commitment to eSports – presumably with some sort of tournament presence – as well as academic progression. There will be ten scholarships available for the first year, starting in September 2019. The scholarships will be given to both undergraduate and postgraduate students as part of the existing sports scholarship program.
Official University eSports Body In Operation
An official university eSports body has already been in operation since May 2018. The National Student Esports (NSE) body will support the development of the university eSports landscape, and is endorsed by the national governing body for university sports in the UK.
As well as decision making, the NSE will run the first official university eSports championships. Universities will have the chance to enter their teams, and the event will start in October 2018. Expect more universities to develop eSports teams and resources given the prize money and stature involved.
Students who have not yet reached university age of education need not despair. College courses are available across the UK relating to eSports. Liverpool College have partnered with Visionary Sports Investment (VSI) to develop a course on eSports business, covering how to hold small and large events, develop teams, and market eSports. The college held a FIFA ‘18 World Cup tournament to celebrate the course, which will begin in the next academic year.
The first British eSports Championship will also take place for younger students this year, with applications running in September. League of Legends will be the game of choice, along with two other games that have yet to be confirmed. The championship will run every week from October, until the final is held in the Easter holidays of 2019 at the NEC in Birmingham.
A Newzoo report titled “2018 eSports Market Report” shows that by the end of the year, the eSports economy will be worth around $905.6 million globally (£688.4 million) – a 38% growth from the previous year. There are expected to be around 380 million viewers in 2018. League of Legends tournaments can attract as many as 43 million viewers, more than the NBA finals. eSports is now being taken seriously, and in the UK it is universities who are supporting the growth.