Steps that must be taken by education providers to make esports a key part of their student attraction strategy
eSports — A New Competitive Differentiator for Schools and Universities
eSports are growing rapidly, with a prestige that is beginning to rival traditional sports. According to IDC, video game revenues were expected to rise by 20% and reach $179.7 billion in 2020. Competitive gaming is fueling this rise, with more young players participating and watching every year. The popularity of esports makes it a focus for the education industry — with young people the core customers — and having a successful esports team can be as advantageous as having a traditional sports teams. In the post-pandemic next normal, this is only likely to accelerate, with fewer people expected to view live sports events. Education leaders need to look at ways to attract new students, improve the student experience, and add prestige to their institution. eSports is one way to empower student success and experience.
Universities and high schools increasingly see esports as an important part of their extracurricular activities, but this comes with challenges. First, finding the right location. This could be a computer lab or a dedicated room with the right equipment. Second, recruiting the necessary talent. eSports are a great alternative for students who can't play traditional sports — providing the social benefits of team building, decision making, and responsibility. Third, creating the necessary conditions for this talent to thrive. Players need coaching and time to develop their skills, as well as opportunities to test those skills against their peers from other teams. Universities and high schools need to develop strategies and allocate appropriate budgets to support successful programs.
Players' skills also need to be accompanied by the right technology. Apart from gaming devices, high-quality networking is the most important part of a technological suite for esports players. With top players reaching far above 400 APM (actions executed per minute), each small lag, inconsistency in network speed, or bandwidth limitation can be the difference between winning and losing. The requirements for esports and optimization strategies for network efficiency may differ from other use cases typical for education. For instance, the stability and consistency of network performance are much more important in esports than for other use cases that focus on transferring large data files. Having a dynamic and flexible network that can be used for learning and research applications during school hours and then instantly and easily reconfigured to be a secure, high-performance gaming environment is becoming a must. Universities and high schools need to engage with IT networking vendors that can advise them on the best practices for switch performance, security, and flexibility.
IDC believes the following steps must be taken by education providers looking to make esports a key part of their student attraction strategy:
- Create a plan on how to attract esports talent, including the budget to achieve this.
- Prepare the right IT infrastructure for your esports team. This means fast-enough gaming devices, but also adaptable networks with demanding SLAs for a secure and seamless gaming experience without lags and network downtime.
- Treat your esports players the same way you would treat teams from traditional sports. Support their growth by creating a skills-oriented environment that will help them to achieve excellence.
- Use your newly gained esports competence to attract more students and increase the prestige of your institution.