Cloud 9, Digital Chaos and Evil Geniuses probably do not mean much to the average person, but for avid esports fans, these are some of the highest ranking teams in the United States.
As professional video gaming has exploded from $250 million in global revenue in 2015 to $700 million in 2017 and is expected to reach $1.5 billion by 2020, according to video game research firm NewZoo, those in the industry are seeking to embed esports into the national culture. To do that, video game publishers are placing an emphasis on collegiate competitions.
Activision Blizzard Inc.'s (ATVI) Tespa, in August, launched its revised collegiate esports program whose focus is to expand the network of college esports enthusiasts in North America and accustom competitions to a regular schedule for consistent broadcast. Tespa is expected to give out $1 million in prizes and scholarships for its league competitions during the 2017-2018 school year.
On Aug. 30 Boise State University has joined the list of major universities to approve a varsity esports program. The list already included University of Utah, Georgia State University and Miami (Ohio) University.
"Just like sports around the world, we want [esports] to be part of the culture," Tyler Rosen, co-president and co-founder of Tespa, told TheStreet. "Parents sign their kids up for little league growing up, then they play for school teams, and once they're in college, they have fans rooting for them. It's a culture experience that really connects the population. It's the same idea; we want to create esports and gaming to be a cultural phenomenon in that we're competing but we're also creating opportunities for growing and people of all different backgrounds to come together."
Rosen said affiliating competitions for games such as Overwatch, Hearthstone, Heroes of the Storm and, new this fall, Rocket Legend with the names of local universities for whose sports teams fans are already cheering helps to break down the barriers to esports and gaming that traditionally may have connoted negative stereotypes.