If you’re looking for the next big thing in varsity sports, it may be time to look away from the fields of traditional stick and ball sports and towards a computer screen.
Or at least that is the hope of Brennan Beal, president of the UNB eSports Society.
Beal, a third year computer science student originally from Nova Scotia, certainly sees the potential in the world of competitive gaming and is hoping to help UNB take advantage of its astonishing growth in popularity. He believes it is in the university’s best interests to get in on the ground floor and grant varsity status to its eSports teams in the near future.
A quick look at global eSports market statistics suggests that Beal might be on to something. According to a report by market research company Statista, worldwide eSports revenue has increased from $130 million USD to nearly $700 million since 2012, and is expected to increase to almost $1.5 billion by 2020, with nearly 80 per cent of that revenue coming from sponsorships and advertising.
It is becoming more and more common to see stadiums around the world filled with tens of thousands of fans to watch their favourite teams play games such as League of Legends, Dota 2 and CS:GO.
Canada, however, is still a bit behind other regions like Asia and Europe in terms of eSports popularity. Beal believes this makes Canadian eSports an ideal market for investors.
“I think the companies are soon going to start investing and it would be good to have the university on board and prepared to accept it when it gets here,” he said.
However, Beal knows it may not be easy to convince university administration that it is an enormous industry worth not only taking seriously, but also investing in. He says he has already run into the issue of people not understanding what the eSports Society does.
“I had a meeting with the (UNBSU) vice-president of finance and the clubs and societies co-ordinator and they had no idea who we were or what we were going to do even though we were already a ratified club for a few years and we still are. They had no idea what we did.”
Beal’s solution to this problem revolves around an ambitious rebranding of the society, set to begin in January, which will see them significantly increase the amount of events they run and competitions they participate in.
“We’re going to be running weekly intramurals across seven or eight different titles in January, plus still having weekly Smash and having end of semester tournaments with prize funding,” he said, adding that they will also be planning a number of social events to attract people who aren’t necessarily big into the gaming scene.
His plan also involves running the club in a more business-like manner than it has been in the past so that he can prove to UNB that they can be both successful and profitable.
“(The goal is to) increase our standards and have everything be more formal and auditable and have our competitive teams bring in results so that we can eventually be seen by UNB as a varsity level club.”
He hopes to have a pitch ready for UNB’s athletics director by April 2019.
For now, his focus is on continuing to grow the eSports Society, which currently stands at around 100 active members. People of all skill and experience levels are welcome to join via the club’s Facebook group, he says, and the club is open to everyone—including non-students.