eSports are fast becoming a huge industry. eSports, or electronic sports, are organized competitive video gaming events, especially at the professional level. A competitive gaming enthusiast, accounting major Todd Arnold was absorbed by the idea of eSports and wanted to bring it to the two main aspects of his life – school and work. Todd found other players on campus, and he eagerly joined the USI e-sports club more than a year ago. He soon took a leadership role and after implementing some changes, his recruiting efforts helped increase the club’s membership by nearly 500%.
Outside of the club, Todd picked up invaluable information when he worked as a production assistant at one of the country’s largest events. He met professional players and networked with production engineers, learning the technology requirements and other factors behind the scenes for putting on a large event. While most people only dream of turning a hobby into their own business, he was ready to take the next step and form his own company.
Todd utilized the skills from his accounting courses and created a formal budget, business plan, and other financials for starting an eSports business. In 2014 he pitched his idea at Startup Weekend Evansville, a three-day community entrepreneurial event sponsored by the Romain College of Business. Although his wasn’t chosen as a final idea, Todd continued to follow his passion and soon formed Evansville Esports.
Todd sees his company as a gateway for local players to compete against other players on a local and regional level. Evansville Esports is the only company in the area that brings together teams of players, fans, and spectators for eSports events. In 2014, Evansville Esports hosted seven events. Each one increased in the number of paid players, spectators, online viewers, and cash prizes.
Todd enjoys working with business owners who share his passion for eSports. For now his focus is advertising and operating profitably enough to sustain sponsoring an Evansville Esports team. Although he is not actively seeking investors, he has been approached by a few. “I’d consider the possibility, but I’d want to know more about them and what’s motivating them first,” he said. “I don’t want to take the business in a different direction than being completely focused on the players and the community.” He is working toward generating a revenue stream from airing live events and selling online subscriptions that offer different levels of interactivity. He eventually wants to own a facility with the capacity to host large-scale gaming events.
Arenas across the country are selling out as fans gather in this unique atmosphere to watch their favorite players compete. As reported on CBS Sunday Morning, the company that manufacturers the popular video game League of Legends reported that over 27 million spectators watched the League of Legends championship in 2014. That’s more than double the average number of viewers who watched the World Series that same week. Video games brought in over $71 million in annual revenue; more than the music industry at $48 million, and not far behind Hollywood’s $91 billion movie industry (cbsnews.com).
|Todd Arnold (right), founder of Evansville Esports, presents the traveling trophy to the winner of one of his recent video gaming tournaments.|
Todd talked about one of his recent tournaments. "We ran a tournament for Super Smash Brothers, and had to close registration two days early to plan and maintain the event. With more than 100 players, the event was a huge success." He added, "On the same day, Cincinnati had a tournament with 140 players. The fact that a player can have two regional events within traveling distance is a sign of the growth that has taken hold."
Not only are global technological organizations like Intel and Sony engaged in eSports, but universities are starting to get in on the action. Some are sponsoring student teams or hosting gaming events, and a few, like Robert Morris University Illinois, are even awarding video gaming scholarships. Todd doesn’t see eSports as being any different than other organized campus activities or sports. “I think it’s great that universities are getting involved. eSports rival the mechanics of traditional sports,” he said. “There isn’t the physical aspect, but you still have all that comes along with being involved with other sports: sharpening skills, team building, critical thinking, processing what’s thrown at you and coming up with a ‘win’ or ‘correct decision’, dealing with high stress levels, and good sportsmanship. All while maintaining the academic requirements to participate and following the university’s code of conduct.”
Todd thinks it would be a win-win if the USI e-sports club hosted an event against another university team. “I think we could easily fill Carter Hall. I’m confident students and spectators would attend and think it was really cool that USI has this! And it could possibly accomplish other goals: being a fundraiser for the USI e-sports club, creating interest in the university, maybe even increasing student enrollment, or assisting in the development of a 24/7 campus.”
"The Competitive World of eSports." CBS News. 14 December 2014. Web. 25 March 2015.