Why (and how) universities of all kinds invest into esports

Over the last several years, colleges across the United States and Canada have been dipping their toes into esports. In many ways, esports and universities are a natural pair: esports is increasingly dominating young people's media consumption habits, and provides significant benefits to campus life.

But universities are large, complex organizations, and no two campuses are quite the same. UC Irvine’s flagship esports program is among the biggest undertakings in collegiate esports, and the structure of the program makes sense for a school like UC Irvine, a large school competing for elite in-state students with strong connections to the local game industry. But that doesn’t mean its model can simply be copied at other campuses. Designing an intelligent collegiate esports program means taking stock of your university’s goals and its resources in order to craft the program that’s right for your campus.

Often, when Power Play speaks to universities, there’s a sense that embracing esports is a radical proposition. And while doing so is exciting and new, esports doesn’t have to signal a sea change in policy or strategy. In fact, esports can be linked to all kinds of common, existing goals, whether in athletics, recruitment, or research. Esports are, in many ways, just as flexible and varied as universities themselves, and so can be deployed to address all kinds of different university needs.

Maybe esports will help make the difference to a prospective student on the fence about two competing schools. Or maybe you want to shore up campus culture. If serious STEM research is a priority for your campus, esports has benefits for that too. Perhaps you’re interested in generating career pathways in digital broadcasting, or the business of new media. As collegiate esports becomes more popular and academic conferences take note, the potential for universities getting their share of media rights is now in play.

At Power Play, we match programs to problems to generate solutions. We also think that the question isn’t “if” universities will invest into esports, but when. For those forward-thinking campuses that have already taken the plunge, esports is already paying dividends. If you’d like to join their ranks, let us know. No matter your goals, we know how to help.

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