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Will Esports Become the New Collegiate Sport?

Collegiate sport – particularly in the United States – has a long and rich history. Games like basketball, baseball, and football not only form an integral part of the university experience, but school leagues also receive prime-time television coverage. The cultural impact, both within the schooling system and without it, is enormous. But now, a new kind of sport has entered the system, dispelling all traditional elements of athletics. Esports, no longer the reserve of extracurricular pastime, is attracting students in flocks to higher education.  

Globally, it’s catching on. Futuresource Consulting’s latest report has analysed the global prevalence of esports within higher education and found that, although attitudes vary by region, esports in education is not confined purely to American settings. The Ontario government has driven a $1 million two-year investment in scholarships for post-secondary students, beginning in Autumn 2022. Similarly, the UK government has approved a £135,000 grant to the University of Warwick to promote esports, with the aim of expanding the university’s Esports Futures programme. 

A Sport of the Youth 

Kids have been playing video games for decades. But it’s only with the advent of the internet, and subsequently, platforms like YouTube and Twitch, that an explosive global market for esports has emerged. And it’s one that’s born directly from the younger generations.  

The 2022 winning team of the industry’s largest tournament, the League of Legends World Championship, were all aged 18-21. “With an esports player being considered mature at 18 years old, and most professional players retiring in their early twenties, universities are fertile ground for nurturing esports players at the peak of their careers”, says Claire Kerrison, Principal Analyst and author of Futuresource’s Esports in Education report.   

Having esports facilities in K-12 state schooling systems is laying a solid foundation for a blossoming collegiate esports culture. While esports is a popular extra-curricular pursuit for K-12 students across the world, it’s also being gradually integrated into the curriculum. According to Futuresource Consulting’s recent report, the installed base of PCs used primarily for esports at K-12 schools is set to grow at a 15.8% CAGR from 2022-2027. 

For schools in many regions, investing in esports is a no-brainer. It helps engage students that aren’t particularly interested in traditional extracurricular pursuits, while also nurturing sought-after skills like leadership, teamwork, decision-making, resilience, and community. Of the schools in the US and Western Europe interviewed for Futuresource’s end-user research, 100% said that their reasons for investing in esports were realised. “It’s a powerful testament to the benefit of esports in education,” says Kerrison. 

What’s Driving the Rise of Esports in Higher Ed? 

With primary and secondary education fostering the growth of esports, it’s little surprise that the trend is permeating across universities. Higher education institutes across the world are offering esports activities at an ever-growing rate. Futuresource’s latest report has found that the global installed base of PCs primarily used for esports at universities is set to rise by a 14.6% CAGR 2022-2027. 

As esports becomes increasingly popular, the number of HiEd qualifications related to esports is also rising. Universities are recognising the strong financial incentive for esports, with institutions reporting an almost immediate and complete return on investment. The esports “aesthetic” – RGB lighting, geometric imagery, and block colours – acts as a clear draw for prospective students. Gradually, esports is gaining a reputation for being a respected collegiate sport. It has all the hallmarks of its physical counterparts – a spirit of competitiveness, a devoted and widespread viewership, a distinctive look and feel. A darkened room illuminated by neon light strips offers a more intimate venue than an open pitch, but in many ways, esports is slotting into the collegiate tradition with ease. 

Is there Anything Stopping Esports from Enduring Success? 

Esports is certainly witnessing a greater pattern of adoption, but it’s important to bear in mind that attitudes vary wildly by country. In South Korea and Japan, parents are countering the rise of esports ‘academies’ with significant criticism, expressing doubts over the advantages of esports in mainstream classrooms.  

The other question is one of inclusivity, which should be a given. After all, esports is free from the emphasis on physical attributes as in other sports. There are still few professional female gamers, casting a negative light on esports as a whole, particularly considering women represent around 40% of gamers worldwide. Esports has the potential to redefine traditional sporting culture, beckoning a new era of openness and diversity. Clearly, there’s still some work to be done. But for now, the impact of esports is undeniable. It’s becoming widely accepted by academic institutions the world over, earning it a badge as the bright and modern collegiate sport. 

Information from this article was sourced from Futuresource Consulting’s latest ‘Esports in education’ market report. For more information, please contact jack.alderman@futuresource-hq.com  

 

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Olivia Lowden

About the author

Olivia Lowden

Olivia Lowden is a Junior Copywriter at Futuresource Consulting, writing blogs that cover a wide variety of topics. Before beginning at Futuresource, she completed her MA in Prose Fiction at the University of East Anglia.

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