With the Big Ten Network signing up for a two-month-long League of Legends league (no pun intended), collegiate eSports has leaped forward towards making video games a legitimate competitive arena.
Competitive video gaming came into its heyday with the easy access to in-depth competitive games such as DOTA, League of Legends, and more recently, Overwatch. The official college LoL league shot up this year as compared to last. Rather than the paltry 32 teams partaking in the college scene last year, Riot reports over 200 college teams will be competing to be the newest eSports champions in the game.
In fact, according to the official LoL site, the 2017 Campus Series kicks off today, January 23, at 3 pm PST (6 pm EST). The match features gamers from the University of Wyoming facing off against UC Irvine.
The stakes are higher than just a championship. The students comprising the teams, including the coach and manager, will each receive $5,000 in scholarship money, and that is just for taking part. Riot will be paying the dividends this year, no doubt in an effort to expand the playerbase for the Campus Series in the future. Hopefully this year’s event will garner enough attention that other groups will get involved with funding the students. Fortunately, Riot is not alone in offering the scholarships this year.
League of Legends states, “Competition this year will be fierce. More than 200 teams (up from 32 last year) will compete over nine weeks to determine the best from the North, South, East, and West conferences in North America. The competition will culminate in an eight-team tournament, the 2017 League of Legends College Championship.
“It’s also a big year for scholarships, with three of the four top seeds in the North offering scholarships to League players, as well as UC Irvine’s new scholarship program seeing its first season.
“And Irvine is going all-out towards embracing eSports. According to ESPN, “UC Irvine launched the biggest esports initiative yet: in addition to scholarships, it will offer a 3,500 square-foot facility complete with a stage for competitions, a live broadcasting studio, and almost a hundred personal computers.”
One of the interesting aspects to the eSports leagues is the lack of a need for mobility. Most of the games will be hosted online, rather than at a specific location, reducing the stress load on both those running the league as well as the students involved. As long as the players have a decent internet connection and PC, they can join from almost anywhere in the world.
Right now, only the Big Ten is getting into the eSports leagues with ULoL and offering streaming and viewing options for subscribers. The Pac-12 plans on getting their own piece of the LoL action, especially after Blizzard’s Heroes of the Dorm (Heroes of the Storm) events have gone so well.
According to ESPN, “‘eSports is a natural fit for many of our universities located in the technology and media hubs of the country,’ said Larry Scott, Pac-12 commissioner.”
Professional gaming is taking off as well, whether a player is simply streaming on YouTube or Twitch or going to the big leagues and competing on well-known teams from the official League of Legends competitions. Not only that, many analyst groups are predicting a massive rise in the popularity (and profitability) of competitive eSports.
Considering the NFL is a multi-billion dollar industry with some cities having more than one team, it seems likely the future of eSports will become highly profitable, both for players and for companies.
For those who are interested in organized play at the college level, ULoL has a site dedicated to finding which universities offer official clubs. Most states have at least one university offering some sort of League of Legends club for those interested.
So what are your thoughts on the future of collegiate eSports? Tell us what you think in the comments section below!
[Featured Image by Chung Sung-Jun/Getty Images]