New data from Extreme Networks, Inc. (Nasdaq: EXTR) and eCampus News shows that the esports industry is nascent, but growing rapidly. The report, which surveyed 281 technical and administrative leaders across K-12 and higher education in North America, Latin America, Asia Pacific, Europe, and Middle East, found that 1 in 5 schools already have an esports program, and 71% are considering or might consider adding an esports program in the future. Only 9% of schools cited lack of student interest as a reason for not having an esports program. The results underscore the momentum of the esports market and indicate that schools are embracing esports programs to boost student recruitment and retention, better prepare students for the job market, and blend on-campus and online experiences.
Key findings include:
Esports improves overall campus experience, drives recruitment, and diversifies learning: 88% of schools with esports programs in place said that their program diversifies extracurricular activities, 56% said it improves overall campus experience, 47% said it fosters interest in STEM, and 41% said it helps with student recruitment. Schools also find that esports can help develop in-demand job skills. SUNY Canton, home to the first varsity esports squad in New York State and the first New York State esports team to join the National Association of College Esports (NACE) leverages its esports program to offer degrees in game design and development, technological communication, cybersecurity and graphics and multimedia.
League of Legends and Overwatch reign supreme: According to Esports Earnings, Dota 2 and Counter Strike: Global Offensive are the top games in professional esports leagues, based on prize pool. Our survey reveals that at the school level, League of Legends and Overwatch are the most popular games, as 81 percent of schools involved in esports compete in League of Legends and 50 percent compete in Overwatch, followed by Fortnite with 37 percent. Others with frequent mentions include FIFA, Hearthstone, Dragonball Fighter Z, Rocket League, and Super Smash Brothers.
Schools are using scholarships to attract esports talent: 20% of schools say they are already offering scholarships and financial aid to encourage students with esports experience to apply and enroll; and another 67% say they are considering it.
Fears of high program costs are misguided: 45% of schools cited cost as the primary barrier to launching an esports program, yet the survey found that 69% of schools with esports programs estimate annual expenses to be less than $10,000.
Designated esports facilities are on the rise, and the network is key: 59% of schools with an esports program either have a designated esports facility or are planning on building one. But to be successful, it’s critical these facilities have the proper IT infrastructure in place. The network is a critical component to building an esports program, interconnecting powerful gaming stations and myriad devices, minimizing latency, and ensuring a smooth spectator experience. Schools need to have a reliable, high-speed wired and wireless network with analytics to optimize esports programs and maximize value.
Bob Nilsson, Director of Vertical Solutions Marketing, Extreme Networks
“Esports quickly emerged as a global phenomenon, and we’re now beginning to understand the significant benefits it can bring to schools. Far more than a ‘game,’ forward-looking educational institutions realize that esports programs elevate campus life, engage students, and foster new skills. With organizational buy-in and a strong network infrastructure in place, schools across K-12 and higher education can kick-start their own esports programs and reap the benefits.”
Laura Ascione, Managing Editor, eCampus News
“In the last few years, we’ve seen the meteoric rise of professional esports leagues and ballooning audience sizes. But the results of this survey underscore that the next frontier for esports is the education sector. As success of the early adopters shows, schools that invest in esports are investing in their students.”
Extreme Networks is the Official Wi-Fi Solutions Provider of the National Football League, delivering high-density Wi-Fi or Wi-Fi analytics solutions to 25 NFL teams, and during the past five Super Bowls. Extreme's networking solutions are deployed in professional sports stadiums around the world, and at more than 17,000 schools and 4,500 college campuses worldwide, powering digital education initiatives and enabling competitive esports programs.