KGOU

Oklahoma Colleges Bet On Esports

Apr 24, 2019

Universities across Oklahoma are developing esports programs to attract new students. Journal Record reporter Brian Brus discusses how the market share for esports has grown and how students at some colleges are receiving esports scholarships. 

 Full Transcript 

Katelyn Howard: This is the Business Intelligence Report, a weekly conversation about business news in Oklahoma. I'm Katelyn Howard, and with me Journal Record reporter, Brian Brus. Whenever most people think of college sports football or basketball typically comes to mind, but some universities in Oklahoma are starting to change that.

Howard: That's  sound from the 2018 OP Live Dallas collegiate Overwatch tournament where students from the University of Oklahoma competed against students at the University of Texas at Arlington in a semi-final round playing the popular video-game Overwatch. And by the way OU won that match. Esports is a trend you recently wrote about, Brian, that colleges are latching on to. It's a type of multiplayer competition using video-games. You write that Oklahoma City University is one of the latest colleges in the state to announce plans for an esports program. Can you tell us more about this?

Brian Brus: Yes. Amy Cataldi, she's the dean of Petree College of Arts and Sciences at OCU, said it's an opportunity to increase diversity from another angle. After all, many of us are not athletic or involved in the performing arts. Cataldi said she would also like to see the esport arena developed as a recruiting tool. She is using this semester to lay the foundation for staff and funding. Cataldi is trying to figure out what sort of scholarships, facilities and equipment are available. She's also working on job descriptions for director and coaches as well as approaching students about their interests and requirements.

Howard: Electronic gaming and esports in particular is a booming industry. In your article you mentioned how research firms like Statista found that global revenue for esports may have surpassed $1 billion.

Brus: Yes. In 2018, the global esports market was valued at nearly $865 million according to market watchers. The vast majority of revenue is coming from sponsorships and advertising. The rest is from esport betting, tournaments, merchandise, and ticket sales. Another data collector, Newzoo, estimates that the global esports market will exceed $1.6 billion by 2021.

Howard: It appears that collegiate players can also benefit. The National Association of Collegiate Esports, or NACE, reports that $15 million was awarded in scholarships to esports players last year.

Brus: Two thirds of esports viewers are college students according to Newzoo, so that would be appropriate. The National Association of College Esports framework allows students to receive esports specific scholarships from the institutions they attend. How financial aid is distributed depends on institutional policies. It is not controlled by NACE. To qualify for an NACE membership, I was told that institutions must be fully accredited by an authorized higher education accrediting agency relative to the region and national affiliation. Programs must be officially endorsed by the schools they represent.

Howard: You write that the NACE has more than 130 member schools involved in its own league. In Oklahoma there are three schools that are already in NACE participants: Rogers State University in Claremore, Carl Albert State College in Poteau, and OU. OU's esports club has been around for only a little over a year, but according to its president Jack Counts the club already has about 575 members. And that's without scholarship incentives. But according to Counts, it's something they're working toward.

Jack Counts: I think that there definitely are some students that we've talked to seemed pretty keen on coming to the University of Oklahoma after learning a lot about what we're already doing and what we plan to do. But I think that that will change even more once we can start to offer scholarships and have a gaming lounge on campus.

Howard: Brian Brus is a reporter at The Journal Record. Thanks for your time today, Brian.

Brus: My pleasure, Katelyn.

Howard: KGOU and the Journal Record collaborate each week on the Business Intelligence Report. You can follow us both on social media. We're on Facebook, Instagram and Twitter: @journalrecord and @kgounews. You'll find links to the stories we discussed during this episode at JournalRecord.com And this conversation, along with previous episodes of the Business Intelligence Report, are available on our website, KGOU.org. While you're there you can check out other features and podcast produced by KGOU and our StateImpact reporting team. For KGOU and the Business Intelligence Report, I'm Katelyn Howard.

The Business Intelligence Report is a collaborative news project between KGOU and The Journal Record.

As a community-supported news organization, KGOU relies on contributions from readers and listeners to fulfill its mission of public service to Oklahoma and beyond. Donate online, or by contacting our Membership department.

The Journal Record is a multi-faceted media company specializing in business, legislative and legal news. Print and online content is available via subscription.

Music provided by Midday Static