Joshua Shuart has seen the future and it involves esports.
Shuart, professor and co-director of the sport management program at Sacred Heart University, is shepherding the student appreciation of esports – or, more formally, electronic sports – from a happy hobby into a lucrative career path.
“We’ve had an active team for the last five years to compete in tournaments, but we’ve never had an academic component to it,” he said.
Esports is one of the fastest growing industries within the economy. According to Business Insider, total esports viewership is expected to grow at a 9% compound annual growth rate between 2019 and 2023, up from 454 million in 2019 to 646 million in 2023.
Separate forecasts from NewZoo, an esports data research firm, is projecting this industry will hit $1.8 billion by 2022, with 69% of revenue coming from sponsorship and advertising and the rest coming through media rights, live event ticket sales, merchandise sales and in-game purchases.
Beginning in the fall 2020 semester, Sacred Heart began offering esports as a minor, with Shuart and Andrew Miller, associate professor and director of the graduate sports communication and media program, directing the program.
Shuart defined the academic focus as a “cross-disciplinary program” consisting of a digital editing course that provides training editing digital audio and video; a sports broadcasting course that provides instructions related to programming, publicity and promotions; and a “foundations in esports” course that aims at the business side of the pursuit with consideration of esports sponsorship, athlete management, intellectual property and media rights.
The minor also includes a sport marketing course that offers insight on how marketing, promotion, and public relations principles apply to the sport industry; a sport venue and event management course that plumbs the principles and fundamentals of managing and financing sport and entertainment venues; and a “capstone in esports” course that features a semester-long project in an area of industry interest.
For this semester, the latter course will be the enabled for the creation and coordination of an esports tournament that Sacred Heart is hosting this spring, which will include teams from eight Connecticut colleges and universities.
“We thought that focusing on the management-business side and the media side were best because we have strong foothold in those two areas,” Shuart added. “We have an undergraduate major in both of those areas and a master’s degree also in sports communications – and that’s where all the money is right now.”
Shuart pointed out that Sacred Heart differs from most school in bringing the esports focus into the academic studies realm.
“A lot of schools have esports competitive programs, where you can go and compete as a gamer,” he said. “We think this program is unique is because we’re focusing on creating careers for kids who are interested in it. You might not be good at all at video games, but you want to work in the marketing or sponsorship side. We’re not preparing competitive gamers through the program. We’re preparing people for jobs, internships and whatnot.”
Roughly 50 students signed up for the minor in its inaugural semester last fall, and the program brought in a series of industry professionals to offer their experiences and insights on the career paths in this field.
The university has been satisfied with the initial response to this new minor, and Shuart acknowledged plans are underway to expand the subject.
“It is sort of a two-phase plan,” he said. “We thought we roll out the minor first, and we’re looking to roll to convert it into a full major as well. We are going to be working through the summer to try to potentially launch something in the next year.”
Courtesy: West Fair Online