It’s a fast-growing industry that’s projected to generate $1.38 billion in revenue in 2022 alone, yet the mention of esports still mystifies most people.
To the uninitiated, esports might seem like a bunch of people playing video games. But a rising number of academics, students, professionals, finance experts, and fans know otherwise—esports is a massive industry with enthusiastic global traction.
During the pandemic when in-person sporting events shut down, esports boomed, now boasting a global audience projected to grow almost 9% to reach 532 million people this year. Much like the athletics industry you’re more familiar with, there are leagues and teams, sponsorships and media rights, fans, and athletes all within esports. And though much of the industry takes place virtually, watching games live at an arena is becoming more common.
For young professionals who are more than just video game enthusiasts but esports management specialists who can help established organizations grow and bring others into the area, the industry is huge and full of potential.
And—true to Endicott’s innovative roots—the College is at the forefront of the swell of collegiate esports management programs.
An esports win at Endicott
The College embraced esports in 2019—just before a global lockdown changed the industry drastically—by creating new courses and a minor in esports management. This fall marks the first recruitment efforts to build a cohort of new B.S. in Esports Management majors.
“Along with the increase in growth of the many facets of esports comes the necessity to offer academic programs to produce graduates that will support the industry,” explained Dr. Deborah Swanton, Dean and Professor, School of Sport Science. “Our Esports Management degree program combines a liberal arts foundation with well-established sport management and computer science courses to create an interdisciplinary experiential degree that uniquely positions Endicott at the forefront of this expanding global enterprise.”
The primary driver of this new program is Professor of Sport Management Dr. Dina Gentile, who in 2019 began researching and writing an esports management textbook, inspired largely by her observations of the strategies and online relationships her son was building as a gamer.
“I thought, this is something that I need to research a little bit more just to understand my child, but I also realized this is an industry that we need to tap into—now, before it grows so far that it’s out of our reach,” said Gentile.
Many colleges approach esports management differently, Gentile explained, usually by starting an actual esports team under their athletic department. While there’s no competitive esports team at Endicott, “academically based esports management is where we’re making our mark,” she said.
But with the Esports Management club, Gaming Gulls club, and intramural esports, there’s plenty of esports to be had on campus!
“I think we’re changing the way schools adopt and embrace esports management as an academic discipline.” —Dr. Dina Gentile, Professor of Sport Management
“A lot of smaller institutions are looking at Endicott and realizing, ‘Oh, we don’t need a team.’ And you don’t need a team, because this is an academic program just like sport management. We don’t have professional baseball teams on campus, but we’re teaching our students how to manage and market professional baseball teams. So, I think we’re changing the way schools adopt and embrace esports management as an academic discipline.”
The program’s disciplinary approach also sets Endicott’s program apart. Using existing classes in computer science, esports students get a much more technical curriculum that tailors their knowledge to include game programming and design.
A common question about an esports management major is what separates it from a sport management major—why is a specific program focus on esports needed when many of the skills and concepts seem similar?
As Gentile explains, much like a sport management degree is a more specialized iteration of a business management degree, so is the esports management degree a more specialized iteration of a sport management degree. In each case, the specifics of each focused program produce students with distinctive, industry-ready skills that will put them ahead as professionals.
“One of my favorite things about esports is the immense market currently open for it, and the opportunities it can bring to anyone, whether athletic or not.” —Kainu’u Gavin ’24, sport management major
Through Gentile, Endicott continues to be an industry pioneer, including hosting an Esports Management Summit that took place in August 2022 to coincide with the release of Gentile’s Introduction to Esports Management textbook. Gentile is also spearheading the esports management track of the annual Commission on Sport Management Accreditation conference.
Teaming up with a burgeoning industry
The growth of esports means an increased need for esports professionals, and opportunities for specialists may come from surprising places.
Gentile expects college and high school athletic departments will soon be hiring esports athletic directors to develop programs. There are also esports products, esports team management, specialties like shoutcasting (the term for esports broadcasters), staffing at standalone esports complexes like Helix eSports at Patriot Place, and more.
“It’s a whole new profession,” said Gentile. “There are product managers, the development of new products, we can also have students get involved with game design. There are a lot of nonprofit organizations that are involved in esports to reach young people who are in areas that don’t necessarily have the capabilities to hop online. Just as you might sign up for swimming lessons at the YMCA, there are standalone arenas or facilities where people can go and sign up for a membership, and they’re able to stream and play there.”
While the online nature of esports means work opportunities can be global, Endicott students have taken advantage of local organizations for internships.
Seth Rawls ’23, a sport management major with an esports minor, has been watching the esports industry skyrocket since he was a kid playing video games. His first internship was with the Massachusetts Youth Soccer Association, where he put together an online FIFA tournament.
“It was in the middle of COVID-19, so no active sports were happening,” Rawls explained. “I was responsible for running the tournament, making sure the brackets were set, managing live streams, and using my graphic design skills to design the logo. That was all fun and a great internship for COVID-19. I feel like I made an impact on these kids—that they had the opportunity to be competitive and be kids and play games.”
Kainu’u Gavin ’24, also a sport management major with an esports minor, spent his 2021 internship with the Cabrillo College Athletic Department researching and developing a proposal for an esports management department at the college.
After graduation, Gavin hopes to pursue a position with a professional sports organization and is looking at esports organizations as a possibility: “Since many are still in their infancy, it would be an amazing opportunity to make a difference within an organization and help expand their reach from traditional sport to non-traditional sport.”
Gavin continued: “One of my favorite things about esports is the immense market currently open for it, and the opportunities it can bring to anyone, whether athletic or not. And, most importantly, how many traditional sports organizations have begun to dip their toes in esports and to benefit from it over time.”
Passion for the game
One of the most noticeable things about taking part in an esports discussion is how passionate everyone is about it. They’re excited to be part of an industry that’s evolving daily and a culture that’s still trying to figure out what it looks like.
Gentile sees this passion in the classroom.
“I see students who are already experts in gaming, they’re already influencers, and they know so much about release dates, about the marketing potential and the companies involved before they even arrive on campus,” she said. “Sometimes I’m in class and I’ll pose a question or we’ll do a case study, and our students just dazzle me with their knowledge base.”
Rawls’ favorite thing about studying esports is the industry’s fluidity.
“Every single assignment is current with what’s happening right now… it’s on my Twitter, it’s on my Instagram,” he said. “I can see it unfolding in front of me, but I’m also able to dissect it in class and see how it works from a management point of view.”
While esports at Endicott is just getting started, Gentile wants to build an esports management-designated lab that serves as a classroom by day and hosts visitors and events by night.
If the trajectory of the program is any indicator, that lab just might be opening any day now.
Take a peek at some of the esports curriculum classes:
- Esports League Operations
- Data Structures & Algorithms
- Esports Management Marketing & Fan Engagement
- Administration of Esports at the High School & Collegiate Levels
- Esports Business Models
- Programming for Games & Interactive Technologies
- Mobile Application Programming & Design
- Esports Management Revenue Generation & Development
- Esports Game Technology
- Managerial Aspects of Leadership in Sport Organizations
Photo caption (top, main): Seth Rawls ’23 is minoring in esports, a program helmed by Professor of Sport Management Dr. Dina Gentile. Rawls has watched esports skyrocket since he was a kid playing video games.