Over the past decade, there hasn’t been an area of sport that has seen as much of an uptick in interest as the world of eSports has.
The industry is, after all, producing hundreds of millions of dollars in revenue behind an audience that is expected to triple its viewership over a five-year period.
With the opportunity to build something special behind the growing field that is eSports and a top-notch gaming program that is already well-established at the school, Shawnee State has wasted no time taking advantage.
First-year head coach Kyle Trapp, a 2011 graduate of Northwest High School and a 2016 graduate of Full Sail University, could have as many as 45 members in the inaugural version of the SSU eSports roster, which means that the eSports program — with the amount of participants in the program in addition to the amount of dollars that the field generates — could become a major attraction, to say the least, for Shawnee State University as a whole.
“With the more interest that I am getting, I could definitely see this program becoming like having football at SSU,” Trapp said. “And with the gaming program already in place, that can go hand-in-hand with each other. With where we’re at now, it’s really a no-brainier in my mind.”
To believe that Shawnee State may have a true gold mine on its hand, it only takes one look at the facts to see how that could be possible.
According to Newzoo.com, the global eSports world had 281 million viewers in 2016 alone. By 2021, that number is expected to grow to 580 million individuals.
And even when not looking at the massive amounts of individuals who are tuning into the live streams that are omnipresent within the eSports world, the revenue that is generated is simply incredible. In North America and China alone, $509 million worth of revenue, or 56 percent of all global eSports revenues, was produced, according to Newzoo.
In Ohio, eSports is already big-time. One doesn’t even have to go past Scioto County to find that out, as Jordan Hyland and Tyler McGraw’s Complex eSports business has drawn individuals from all four time zones in America into the county. Then, there’s Game Arena in Hilliard, a suburb of Columbus who is seeing similar success. In the case of the former, Hyland and McGraw, after only two-and-a-half years of operation, have seen enough interest to move to a new location from The Complex grounds in West Portsmouth to its new location, which will open up in July on 1548 Gallia Street — a stone’s throw from SSU.
“They’ve been pulling in amazing numbers,” Trapp said of the eSports program. “With Jordan, he’s been telling me that he’s been pulling people in from Washington, D.C., North Dakota, and South Dakota. The amount of daily numbers that are a part of these events are truly incredible. As for Game Arena, they’ve worked with Ohio State on a couple of events, and they bring people in from all over the world and from an international standpoint to come in. They’ll have anywhere from 15 to 50 people depending on the hour, and when they have tournaments going, they’ll have three people deep at each of the 50 units that they have waiting to play. It’s insane when you’re talking about the kind of interest that goes into these games.”
Shawnee State, in general, is already in a great position to capitalize on the growth of the business.
Trapp, who was named as the first head coach of the eSports program on March 14, worked with SSU athletic director Jeff Hamilton and the National Association of Collegiate eSports Director Layne Shirley en route to garnering acceptance into the NACE by May 15. The association, which has 76 eSport programs in the NACE across the United States, will have schools such as Boise State, North Texas, Georgia State, Georgia Southern, Western Kentucky, Miami (Ohio), and Mount Union among others involved in the program. Fellow Mid-South Conference members Campbellsville (Ky.) and Pikeville (Ky.) are also a part of the NACE.
In addition to competing against well-known brands, Shawnee State will be doing so across popular game modes. In all, the Bears will be competing in Hearthstone, League of Legends, Overwatch, Rocket League, and Smite in 2018, and more competitions could be added across additional games before the start of the year.
“As soon as they named me the coach, I was ready to go,” Trapp said. “I just wanted to get all of this started because I knew that we had the resources on this campus to do some special things. This will really be such a good thing for the community, as well. With us being able to bring Boise State and a lot of these extra eyeballs to Portsmouth and Shawnee State University, it’s really going to help.”
And for those who believe it won’t be taken seriously as a sport, think again. After all, it is a business that could very well be producing billions of dollars in revenue by the end of the current decade.
“People need to understand that these guys are going to be treated as athletes,” Trapp said. “As weird as that sounds, it’s true. They have to go through the exact same concussion testing and physicals, and they will be on a training regimen or even a diet nutrition guide. Those are methods that have been thrown around. If you want to be taken seriously, you will have to adapt your lifestyle to be taken seriously in an athletic adventure.”
Reach Kevin Colley at (740) 353-3101 ext. 1930 OR on Twitter @KColleyPDT