Asia Ahead of the US in Collegiate eSports

ASIA AHEAD OF THE US IN COLLEGIATE ESPORTS

Promotional Image for Tencent's 2015 Campus Series (Photo: Tencent)

Promotional Image for Tencent's 2015 Campus Series (Photo: Tencent)

Collegiate Feature Writer: James Kozachuk

Well, here’s that headline again.

Is it because Haikou College of Economics won the League of Legends International Collegiate Championship last Sunday? Or maybe that more and more Chinese universities are offering scholarships? Or perhaps that Tencent has begun to work directly with MIT to fund their research into collegiate eSports?

Those are all part of this narrative but it’s not the point I want to focus on today. The level of engagement in collegiate eSports in Asia, specifically China, is incredible. Before heading to China, let’s look at how other regions compare to established a baseline.

 

NORTH AMERICA

Teams Participating in the 2015 North American Championship Series (Photo: Riot Games)

Teams Participating in the 2015 North American Championship Series (Photo: Riot Games)

The United States is the undisputed leader in collegiate eSports, with competitions ranging back to at least 2009, 40+ schools giving scholarships worth millions of dollars, and one university crowned queen among the rest. 

  • American Video Game League (AVGL): AVGL published that their competitions attracted students from 1,100 different institutions. After running some math on the tournaments they ran, we can estimate around 5,000 students took part this season.
  • Collegiate Starleague (+ULOL qualifiers): CSL reports that 30,000 students from over 900 institutions took part in their competitions. The number of institutions taking part is lower for CSL as they have a strict “all players must attend the same institution” policy, whereas AVGL is more lax.
  • Tespa: Tespa doesn’t report their individual player or team counts, but a cursory estimate from their tournament portal is 25,000 students this year.

North America: 30,000 (CSL) + 25,000 (Tespa) + 5,000 (AVGL) = 60,000 students. There’s definitely a lot of overlap between the tournaments and within the tournaments themselves, however we have a target size for the current US market size.

 

EUROPE

University eSports Masters in 2017 (Photo: UEMasters)

University eSports Masters in 2017 (Photo: UEMasters)

Europe is known for their incredible collaboration between organizers. The University eSports Masters grew from six to eight organizers/nations almost immediately after the first article in this series. Each of these organizers have their own tournaments, and connect with a lot of local students:

 

 

Europe: 3,000 (UK) + 132 (Ireland) + 312 (Germany) + 264 (Netherlands) + 3,861 (Portugal) + 900 (France) + 1440 (Italy) = 9,909 students. With an educated guess to include Spain, that brings us to about 10,500 students. 

 

OCEANIA

Riot Oceania University Championship (Photo: Riot Games)

Riot Oceania University Championship (Photo: Riot Games)

There's eSports development happening in this region - PE firms buying teams, Australian Rules Football team buying teams and major CPG brands sponsoring teams - it's not fully there yet; but the groundwork is being laid. As mentioned in the first article in this series, the Australian Sports Commission has announced that League of Legends will be a sanctioned game at their Unigames competition.

 

Oceania: 150 (Australia) + 6,000 (Malaysia) = 6,150 students. The Australian Unigames national qualifier ended yesterday (July 17) and Queensland University of Technology will face the University of Canterbury at the official UniGames sometime between September 24-29. There’s also a Singapore Collegiate League, but it’s difficult to find data about the raw number of students they have participating and it's not nearly as big as it's Malaysian counterpart. 

 

CHINA AND TAIWAN

~6M Chinese Students Participate in Collegiate eSports (Tencent).

~6M Chinese Students Participate in Collegiate eSports (Tencent).

And now where's we get to some serious numbers.

 

“But James, China has a huge population compared to any of the other regions!”

 

Sure, but a higher percentage of the China and Taiwan population are engaged in competitive collegiate eSports.

So why is this?

It’s actually a really simple reason: Tencent and Garena use a different competitive and community-building system; they have created competitive ladders for collegiate eSports. Their methodology gets incredibly invasive, requiring every student to send Tencent (China) or Garena (Taiwan) a scanned copy of their student ID card, their major, and proof of enrollment. But in return students will be linked up with students from their school, and matches they play will be recorded as points for their institution.

That last point shouldn't be taken lightly. 

There’s a huge sense of national pride and the two Chinese eSports loving students I’ve talked to have said that they enjoy the collegiate ladder, although they recognize that their own schools will never win given that other universities like Minjiang University will more than likely consistently win.

For an unfortunate sports analogy, it's like still caring about the NCAA Tournament event though you go to a Division II school that has 0 chance of making the big dance.

This ladder system is a way to easily affiliate with one’s school and feel like your part of the community while contributing to your school’s competitive identify. You don’t have to be the best player, but you have to be an A player.

Such a system hasn’t been tested in North America or Europe, but could very well be a way to help grow collegiate eSports. The closest we’ve come is the Clubs system in League of Legends, but there are issues with that as well that I'll cover in a future article.

After University of Toronto got taken down 2-0 by China's Haikou College of Economics last week we're certainly going to need a boost in order to win next year. Whether that be a direct community integration into the game client, improvements in collegiate recruiting, or the creation and expansion of the best collegiate eSports programs in the world- we'll need something.

 

SO WHAT NOW?

 

Asia clearly has a dominant lead AND with Asian eSports investment easily exceeding $1B+ this year, the US has a lot of catching to do. With the rapid growth of US schools providing eSports scholarships and other initiatives, hopefully these are all good signs of starting, let alone improving the infrastructure.

eSports Week In Review | 40 Colleges Giving $4M+ In Scholarships, ELEAGUE's Record Ratings

ESPORTS WEEK IN REVIEW | 40 COLLEGES GIVING $4M+ IN SCHOLARSHIPS, ELEAGUE'S RECORD RATINGS

 

ELEAGUE Street Fighter V Invitational Winner Punk (Photo: Turner)

ELEAGUE Street Fighter V Invitational Winner Punk (Photo: Turner)

TNL Take: Even with a short week - when did Memorial Day extend into Tuesday? - eSports still saw a lot of activity.  We looked at the massive growth in the Collegiate eSports space as well as ELEAGUE's fantastic TV ratings for Street Fighter.

Naturally the biggest news of the week was dropped on Thursday morning with Riot Games "worst-kept-secret" of franchising coming to NA League of Legends which The Next Level will cover next week.

Here's what happened this week:

 

WEDNESDAY 05/31

2017 Q2 COLLEGIATE ESPORTS REPORT: 40 SCHOOLS GIVING $4M+ IN SCHOLARSHIPS

TNL Infographic 041: 2017 Q2 Schools With eSports Scholarships (Infographic: The Next Level, Source: James Kozachuk)

TNL Infographic 041: 2017 Q2 Schools With eSports Scholarships (Infographic: The Next Level, Source: James Kozachuk)

TNL Infographic 042: 2017 Q2 US Schools With eSports Scholarships (Infographic: The Next Level, Source: James Kozachuk)

TNL Infographic 042: 2017 Q2 US Schools With eSports Scholarships (Infographic: The Next Level, Source: James Kozachuk)

TNL Infographic 043: 50 US Schools With eSports Scholarships, Programs, Courses (Infographic: The Next Level, Source: James Kozachuk)

TNL Infographic 043: 50 US Schools With eSports Scholarships, Programs, Courses (Infographic: The Next Level, Source: James Kozachuk)

TNL Infographic 044: 2017 Q2 eSports TV Ratings (Infographic: The Next Level)

TNL Infographic 044: 2017 Q2 eSports TV Ratings (Infographic: The Next Level)

TNL Infographic 045: ELEAGUE TV Ratings History -Total Viewers (Infographic: The Next Level)

TNL Infographic 045: ELEAGUE TV Ratings History -Total Viewers (Infographic: The Next Level)

 

NEXT WEEK ON THE NEXT LEVEL
 

  • LEAGUE OF LEGENDS FRANCHISING: WHAT'S IT MEAN FOR ESPORTS?
  • TNL ESPORTS GUEST PODCAST 005: PARIS-ST GERMAIN, HEAD OF ESPORTS W/ BORA "YELLOSTAR" KIM
  • ESPORTS TEAM BRAND DEALS: DR. PEPPER, VODAPHONE, RUSSIAN BANK
  • BUD LIGHTS 2ND YEAR INVESTING IN ESPORTS
  • MORE BRANDS THAT SPONSORED EA MADDEN'S CLUB SERIES
  • AND MORE....

 

Have a great weekend!

2017 Q2 Collegiate eSports Report: 40 Schools Giving $4M+ In Scholarships

2017 Q2 COLLEGIATE ESPORTS REPORT: 40 SCHOOLS GIVING $4M+ IN SCHOLARSHIPS

Riot's League of Legends Collegiate Championship (Photo: Riot Games)

Riot's League of Legends Collegiate Championship (Photo: Riot Games)

TNL Industry Guest Post 005: 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.

TNL Take: When people talk about eSports, they often talk about its exponential growth. Usually there's a bit of an exaggeration with these numbers but collegiate eSports is no exaggeration. We've been seeing exponential growth in the scene since inception and it doesn't seem to be slowing.

We estimate 655 students from 40 universities will receive a collective $4.1M+ in scholarship tuition packages for representing their institution as a varsity player in competitive League of Legends, Overwatch, CounterStrike: Global Offensive, and other video game tournaments next year.

Send that quote over to your parents, spouse, or literally anyone you know and they will think you're crazy.

Maryville University 2017 League of Legends College Champions (Video: Youtube)

 

/01 GROWTH

TNL Infographic 041: 2017 Q2 eSports Schools With Scholarships (Infographic: The Next Level, Source: James Kozachuk)

TNL Infographic 041: 2017 Q2 eSports Schools With Scholarships (Infographic: The Next Level, Source: James Kozachuk)

Fall 2014: Thirty Robert Morris University students were given scholarships to join the first ever varsity eSports team

Fall 2015: University of Pikeville and Maryville University join the fold

Fall 2016: 6 more universities begin offering scholarships

Fall 2017: At least 27 additional universities will recruit student athletes to play on behalf of their institution.

This brings the current total of announced eSports scholarship programs up to 38 in the US with The Next Level estimating 60 schools by the end of the year.

TNL Infographic 042: US Schools eSports Scholarship Growth (Infographic: The Next Level, Source: James Kozachuk)

TNL Infographic 042: US Schools eSports Scholarship Growth (Infographic: The Next Level, Source: James Kozachuk)

In addition, a number of schools have elevated their student teams to varsity status, although do not currently provide scholarships. These institutions include: Keuka College, Five Towns University, Miami University (Ohio), Principia College, University of South Carolina (Sumter), DigiPen Institute of Technology, Jarvis Christian College, University of Mount Union, Talladega College, and Illinois Wesleyan.

What's fueling the growth?

Regionality and precedence - along with of the crazy investment and allure of eSports across all facets of sports.

TNL Infographic 043: US Schools With Scholarships, Programs, or Courses (Infographic: The Next Level, Source: James Kozachuk)

TNL Infographic 043: US Schools With Scholarships, Programs, or Courses (Infographic: The Next Level, Source: James Kozachuk)

When each university announces their program, their press release typically refers to a local institution that has recently created a similar program. It's the reason why we see such a cluster of eSports programs at schools within the same or neighboring states.

 

/02 BIG NAMES

Almost 2/3 of the eSports programs are part of the National Association for Collegiate Esports (Photo: NACE)

Almost 2/3 of the eSports programs are part of the National Association for Collegiate Esports (Photo: NACE)

With so many similar colleges creating programs, there's bound to be a few traits that the majority of them share. In the case of collegiate eSports, that's their traditional athletic governing body.

Robert Morris University in Chicago is not part of the NCAA but they are part of the NAIA, the National Association of Intercollegiate Athletics. So is Pikeville, Kansas Wesleyan, Midland, Columbia College and so on.

So what did the NAIA do?

Well nothing really but what did someone affiliated with the NAIA do?

Create the NAC eSports, or NACE. NACE is a 501(c)3 non-profit organization whose mission is to "promote the education and development of students through intercollegiate eSports participation." 

They're looking to build the NCAA of eSports and they're doing well: two-thirds of the collegiate eSports programs are affiliated with NACE.

You know them, you love them: The NCAA. (Photo: Wikimedia)

You know them, you love them: The NCAA. (Photo: Wikimedia)

What's the NCAA's reaction?

Not much.  

But one of their biggest conferences, the Big Ten Conference, expanded on their partnership with Riot Games to provide scholarships and a competition for eight of their conference schools (Penn State and Nebraska declined to participate).

BTN League of Legends Schedule (Photo: BTN/Riot Games)

BTN League of Legends Schedule (Photo: BTN/Riot Games)

The Big Ten Network's announcement came after another large athletics conference, the Pac-12, announced their intent to add eSports to their roster.

Unfortunately it's been over a year since the Pac-12's announcement last May and no further information has materialized.

University of Utah eSports (Photo: University of Utah)

University of Utah eSports (Photo: University of Utah)

Likely tired of waiting for their conference to integrate eSports, the University of Utah announced their program a few months ago. While the school is known for it's strong athletics program, it also boasts one of the most established game development programs. Funding and support for the UoU eSports scholarships will come from this Entertainment Arts and Engineering program.

 

/03 DIVERSITY

University of Utah's Female Gaming Leader (Video: Youtube)

A defining characteristic of eSports is each games' accessibility to any individual that wants to compete. There's amazing organizations like AnyKey out there working with professional players, teams, and leagues out there  and recently they published a white paper on diversity and inclusion in collegiate eSports.

This is critical as the collegiate eSports has an amazing opportunity to really showcase the strength of diversity within our scene. We're now starting to see some institutions build the foundations of that mission.

Stephen's Women's College (Photo: Stephen's College)

Stephen's Women's College (Photo: Stephen's College)

In April 2017, Stephen's College announced the first varsity eSports program at an all-woman's college.

Jarvis Christian College, a Historically Black College (HBC) in Texas, is a member of NACE and will likely be announcing an eSports program soon.

Jarvis Christian College (Photo: Jarvis Christian College)

Jarvis Christian College (Photo: Jarvis Christian College)

Hopefully these two institutions will help set the precedence to keep driving diversity in collegiate eSports forward.

 

/04 IS COLLEGIATE ESPORTS HERE TO STAY?

To answer this question, we need to understand the motivations for why colleges would create eSports programs. While many may point to high tuition fees, and bringing in students to their campus, it's much more nuanced than that.

Colleges create programs to engage their students. To have their school represented in a new, growing, and unique field. To be able to bring down students to their amazing facilities (or eSports arena) and have that be the one thing they vividly remember from their trip.

Twitch and CLG Support Collegiate eSports with Southwest Baptist University (Photo: Southwest Baptist University)

Twitch and CLG Support Collegiate eSports with Southwest Baptist University (Photo: Southwest Baptist University)

There are colleges that are doing it really well, such as Southwest Baptist University and Columbia College (Missouri). Between the two of them they've hosted multiple events on their campus, have begun strong high school outreach, and are generally staying engaged with their community.

University of California Irvine is another great example, having run symposiums with both eSports researchers and AnyKey, organizing a woman's summer camp program for high school students aspiring to get involved in eSports, in addition to creating a certificate program for eSports Management.

UCI's eSports Management Certificate (Photo: University of California, Irvine)

UCI's eSports Management Certificate (Photo: University of California, Irvine)

In previous semesters eSports courses have been offered at Lewis University, Miami University (Ohio), and Emerson College but this is one of the first announced certificate or degree program.

Programs that stay involved are the ones we'll see alive and with the strongest legacy ten years from now.

Plus where else can Columbia College defeat Ohio State in sports?

President of Columbia College Talks About Their eSports Program (Video: Youtube)

[Edit: One year ago to the day, I wrote in The Next Level 008 about "The Collegiate eSports Opportunity". The space has clearly seen massive growth in the past year from not only the number of schools providing scholarships, but programs, courses as well as the international opportunity.

Massive thanks to James Kozachuk for doing the ardious, month long due diligence on the Collegiate eSports growth and opportunity. Amazing work] 

eSports Week In Review: The 1st $100M Team?, eSports In The Olympics By 2024, 2 Podcasts

ESPORTS WEEK IN REVIEW: THE 1ST $100M TEAM?, ESPORTS IN THE OLYMPICS BY 2024, TWO PODCASTS AND MORE

USA Today "eSports In The Olympics Could Happen Before You Know it" (Photo: USA Today)

USA Today "eSports In The Olympics Could Happen Before You Know it" (Photo: USA Today)

This week The Next Level started the first part of a series on the International High School and Collegiate eSports space, when we may see the 1st $100M eSports team, eSports in the Olympics by 2024 and 2 podcasts.

Next week: A special Brand research report 🎮 💰 📈 🚗 🍔 
 

Here's happened:

MONDAY 04/17

A GLOBAL SCENE: HIGH SCHOOL ESPORTS IN ASIA AND EUROPE - PART 2

Garena Taiwan Campus League (HS and Collegiate)

Garena Taiwan Campus League (HS and Collegiate)

TNL eSports Podcast 019.png
eSports Becomes A Medal Event In The 2022 Asian Games (Photo: AOC)

eSports Becomes A Medal Event In The 2022 Asian Games (Photo: AOC)

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Have a great weekend!