Feature Story

It's not your parent's Atari

by Stephanie Chan

It's not your parent's Atari

eSports arenas are growing on college campuses and across the world.

Sports arenas—like the new Warriors stadium in the heart of San Francisco—continue to build around the country. Not known to many is the growth of arguably more technical arenas for eSports gaming. eSports are redefining the world of sports and games through competitive online gaming. NewZoo’s Global eSports Market Report states that global eSports revenues will surpass $1 billion for the first time, reaching $1.1 billion in 2019. Globally, the total eSports audience will grow to 453.8 million in 2019. In 2018, there were 737 major eSports events which generated $54.7 million in ticket sales.

Take the Fortnite World Cup, held at the Arthur Ashe Stadium in New York in July. 16-year-old Kyle Giersdorf won a whopping $3 million as the champion of this event, the largest amount any single individual has won from an eSports event in history. The Fortnite World Cup was also streamed online, and received 2 million views on Twitch and YouTube.

Clearly, eSports are a growing phenomenon and universities are getting in on the action. Ohio State (OSU) has built an eSports arena and will eventually offer a degree on how to work in the gaming field. This is a first-of-its-kind eSports program that includes undergraduate and graduate degrees, online certification programs, and a gaming speaker series. OSU is commited to this emerging field, with the arena just a few hundred yards from “traditional” sports fields, and offering coursework, programs, and specialized uniforms for players. Official enrollment for the major is planned for fall 2020.

Overwatch League is setting up professional teams to play the multiplayer shooter game Overwatch in home cities and in away games, similar to other professional sports. The League’s 20 teams are either renovating existing facilities or building new spaces for gaming. Comcast unit Spectator is building a $50 million eSports stadium in south Philadelphia, and Riot Games has created multiple arenas around the world for League of Legends matches.

Gaming needs great technology

Technology is the backbone for both the games and the arenas. Without blazing fast connectivity, players simply wouldn't be playing, and fans wouldn't be able to cheer or jeer. Cisco provided the networking for Blizzcon’s massive 2018 conference. This two-day event had more than 1,000 machines running, more than 40,000 in-person attendees, and over 10 million people watching the livestream. Cisco’s network was able to handles all of this, plus the 21-football-field-sized length of the conference center. With improved download time, decreased packet loss and decreased lag, players and watchers enjoyed the games without interruptions. 

Illinois College launched their eSports program in 2017, building a new facility on the campus. The university knew it needed the best technology to support the arena, so it stocked the space with Cisco Meraki MR access points, MS switches, and MX security appliances. Learn all about the Meraki Gaming Center by checking this link.

 

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