Last week, before Army met Navy for the 120th time in Philadelphia, steps away from where the new Fusion Arena will stand, Comcast NBCUniversal’s Military and Veteran Affairs hosted a Vets Play Business Forum titled “What’s the Business of Gaming? Why Esports?”
The forum was hosted by Simone Boyce of NBC News and featured three panelists, each with a perspective on how Esports is changing how people think about business, education, and even the military. A fireside chat with a professional Esports athlete and broadcaster also highlighted how individuals can create new careers in this emerging industry.
Esports is Becoming Big Business
Joe Marsh, CEO of T1 Entertainment & Sports, a global Esports joint venture created by Comcast Spectacor and SK Telecom, vocalized the importance of Comcast reaching out to new audiences. Investing in Esports helped Comcast connect with a younger demographic, and one that typically has ad-blockers enabled on their browsers.
“We reached new audiences by investing in Esports,” said Marsh. “When players find out that Comcast is putting money toward something they enjoy and love, they, in turn, love Comcast.”
While reaching new audiences and enhancing reputation is good for business, Marsh also pointed out that Esports is pushing boundaries and creating conversations regarding equality – and Comcast is part of that conversation.
“Gaming is the ultimate equalizer. By providing opportunities and a chance to succeed, we can take Esports further. I think the general stereotype of a gamer sitting in a basement eating Cheetos is over. We are now seeing Esports as a booming business that is opening doors for all.”
Army Using Esports for Recruitment
Colonel Patrick Michaelis, Deputy Commanding Officer of the U.S. Army Recruiting Command, said Esports and gaming is emerging as a natural fit for the Army. With about 60 percent of younger Millennials and Generation Z playing games online, Esports is a popular environment to market the Army to the next generation.
He explained how the Army uses soldiers’ and prospective recruits’ shared interest in gaming because of the shared values of teamwork, strategy, competition, communication, and cognitive skills. 60% of younger Millennials and Generation Z play games online.
“We just look at what these gamers bring to the table: natural problem-solving. We are not looking at the best player, but rather the right player, and these games help us find the right people,” said Michaelis.
He went on to explain that the Army doesn’t need the most elite individual Esports players, but rather they need members who can form teams, do their jobs well, and complete missions. The Army sent out an announcement that it was looking for volunteers to establish its first Esports team. They received over 6,500 applications for just 30 spots.
Esports Going to College
Harrisburg University has become a hub for students interested in the gaming industry thanks to its unique Bachelor’s Degree in Esports, and what was once considered a hobby has now become a legitimate resume builder and degree offering.
Harrisburg University President Eric Darr explained how it was one of the first in the country to offer full scholarships for its Esports program. Just two years ago, the university launched an Esports management program. “We provide a bachelor’s degree in Esports management, that includes a business aspect, marketing, and the technology of live event logistics. These are skills that are desperately needed today and will be even more so in the future as arenas open across the country.”
The university also hosts an annual festival called HUE Fest, which features 65 collegiate teams that compete in an Esports tournament. It has become one of the largest collegiate Esports competitions in the world. The level of event preparation and production for the three-day tournament provides students with hands-on learning opportunities.
How Esports Can Be a Great Career
Professional Gamer and commentator Rosemary Kelley “Nekkra” echoed President Darr’s points on the potential and growth of Esports careers. Kelley grew up playing games, but she never imagined she could turn her favorite hobby into a career. She originally planned on pursuing her Ph.D. in environmental science, but when she was recruited to commentate an Esports tournament after years of just doing it for fun, she was sold on the supportive and welcoming community.
When asked if she had any advice for aspiring professional gamers Kelley responded, “Honestly, just do it. It’s a great career.”
Kelley just returned from her first international tournament in Sao Palo, Brazil. She said it was amazing to think that she will be able to travel and see more of the world while pursuing a career she loves.
A Bright Future
Despite the different backgrounds of the four panelists, each shared the same belief regarding Esports: this is just the beginning.
As the Esports phenomenon continues to grow worldwide, we look forward to continuing to bring industry experts to Philadelphia – and eventually our new arena – to position the city as the national leader in Esports.