IT STARTED IN PRO SPORTS ARENAS and soon spread to colleges and universities. Are high schools the next frontier—and solution provider opportunity—for esports? Tina Fisher thinks so. The executive director for vendor management at D&H Distributing says the move by high schools to create, operate, and scale venues for their esports programs has created serious demand for IT services and products, a dynamic that is “providing numerous opportunities, many of them ongoing, for channel pros.”
According to the recent report Global Entertainment and Media Outlook, from consultant PwC, global spending on esports increased fivefold between 2014 and 2019, growing from some $194 million to $980 million. And PwC projects spending on esports to surge at a compound annual growth rate of 18.3% between 2018 and 2023 to reach almost $1.8 billion.
At the top, the esports market comprises professional organized teams that compete for cash prizes by playing popular video games such as League of Legends, Overwatch, and Dota 2, in tournaments that are often streamed via services such as YouTube and Twitch.
At many colleges, esports is now a revenue-producing varsity sport. The National Association of Collegiate Esports (NACE), a Kansas City, Mo.-based nonprofit association, reports that it has 200-plus university members that contribute over $16 million annually in esports scholarships.
And now the popularity of esports is surging at the high school level, where educators see them as a way to build technical skills and boost engagement among students not otherwise inclined to participate in school-sponsored activities. The High School Esports League (HSEL), another Kansas City, Mo.-based organization, promotes the acceptance of varsity-level esports in high schools, provides a gaming platform, and works with members to “make esports available to every student.”
“Now that more [high schools] are looking to compete face to face with other schools,” esports is growing even more, says Julian Meloni, a former professional esports gamer and now owner of REAL Solutions Technologies, a Caldwell, N.J.-based MSP.
As a result, high schools creating specialized environments for esports “are looking for everything from the right hardware to networks that are both secure and have the right capabilities for hosting esports competitions,” Fisher says, creating opportunities for resellers, systems integrators, managed service providers, and other channel pros.
REAL Solutions Technologies, for example, provides high school esports programs with MSP services, including network and technical support, software management, and anti-virus.