ASIA, EUROPE AHEAD OF THE US IN COLLEGIATE ESPORTS
While the year was ending with 15 confirmed schools giving out eSports scholarships via tuition assistance and/or room and board, the number is much higher now.
But you gotta wait for that report.
It may seem that the US is taking the lead but Asia has been driving down this path for a while now.
TNL Industry Guest Post 003: James Kozachuk has been building the collegiate eSports ecosystem since 2011, with key roles at the Collegiate Starleague and the High School Starleague. He is currently a researcher at the University of Central Florida, where he studies the effects of eSports programs on students. In addition, he works with Blizzard Entertainment's collegiate eSports division, Tespa and has provided his collegiate analytics and data services to multiple Fortune 500 companies. The article has been edited for length.
/01 COLLEGIATE ESPORTS IN ASIA
When anyone involved within the eSports scene hears the words "collegiate eSports," they immediately picture leagues like Riot Games' "ULOL Campus Series," Blizzard's "Heroes of the Dorm," or universities like UC Irvine and Robert Morris University creating arenas on their campuses. While North America has been building this scene for years, the Asian scene has been developing even more rapidly.
Hot off the success of the first ever developer run collegiate tournament (Garena, Riot Games' South East Asian distribution partner, called their "Inter-Varsity Tournament") in 2012, the world was introduced years later to the first "Campus Series" event. University students from Singapore and Malaysia participated in separate tournaments and crowned national winners.
By 2016, Campus Series events would be introduced to almost every major country in the region: China, The Philippines, Indonesia, Vietnam, Hong Kong, Taiwan, and Thailand.
These tournaments even culminated in a grand-finals in Taiwan - moved originally from Thailand as a result of the Thai King's death in 2016.
There's also action on the international level.
A fight between the best Chinese and American universities was sponsored by DouyuTV - the Sequoia/Tencent backed version of China's Twitch - and organized by Tespa, Blizzard Entertainment’s collegiate eSports team.
/02 COLLEGIATE ESPORTS IN EUROPE
Europe's disadvantage in collegiate eSports is that their students do not share the same level of school pride in sport that we've got here in the good Ol' US of A. Most sports focus on city clubs, rather than schools - especially given how distributed European campuses are.
That is, except for the United Kingdom, the birthplace of school club sports.
The National University eSports League (NUEL) has been organizing collegiate esports competitions since 2010 and has partnered with Riot Games in some capacity since 2015. Almost 3,000 students from 96 institutions - 60%+ of all institutions in the UK - participated in this league.
That makes it the most densely populated collegiate league in the world.
While the United Kingdom may be ahead of the other European nations in terms of schools and players, various leagues have cropped across the continent: France, Italy, Portugal, Spain, and Germany.
Wait, is this starting to sound familiar?
Enter the University eSports Masters, a competition that brings the top teams from each nation together for a one-of-a-kind regional finals. While there appeared to be no developer support during its first iteration in 2016, Twitch and their new Student initiative have begun their support in the league for the 2017 season.
While not part of the University eSports Masters, a special shoutout is needed for the Dutch Collegiate League. Two years running, the DCL was featured on their nation's FOX Sports channel in 2016, just as eSports has penetrated traditional sports TV channels here.
Also interesting is Riot Games’ recent hire of a Collegiate Esports Manager for CIS (Russian block) nations last year.
More collegiate esports on the horizon?
/03 COLLEGIATE ESPORTS IN OCEANIA
Wait, there's more?
There's more. Riot Games has been running their Oceanic University Championships since 2013, and ESL has partnered with the University eSports League, another Australian university competition.
In June 2016 it was announced that League of Legends would be the newest sport to be sanctioned by the Australian Sports Commission and the title would be played at the premiere university competition, the Regional and Australian University Games.
Having an eSport title being officially sanctioned is a big deal as it cuts through a whole lot of bureaucracy needed to build the right infrastructure.
In addition to Riot Games hiring a CIS region Collegiate eSports Manager, they also hired a similar role in Oceania.
If it's not obvious, Riot is investing heavily in the future of international collegiate eSports and their place in it.