Last April, Columbia College hosted the first Midwest Campus Clash, billed by organizers as the largest esports tournament in the Midwest. The event returns Friday and Saturday, with a field of seven colleges and universities competing for a share of $25,000 in prize money in the main event.
Columbia College has made a name for itself in esports, generally defined as video game competitions organized into leagues and tournaments. In addition to hosting the Midwest Campus Clash, Columbia College was one of the first schools to launch a scholarship esports program back in 2015.
There are now more than 60 schools in North America that field varsity teams, according to an unofficial tally kept by ESPN. Beyond Columbia College, eight other Missouri schools have varsity teams: Central Methodist University, Culver-Stockton College, Fontbonne University, Maryville University, Missouri Baptist University, St. Louis College of Pharmacy, Southwest Baptist University and Stephens College.
There’s a growing industry around the competitions, which generate revenue from branding, advertising and media deals. Global esports revenue in 2016 was $463 million, according to Newzoo, a market research firm. That figure is projected to exceed $1 billion in 2019.
The media is taking notice. In addition to outlets that have sprung up to cover esports exclusively, major news organizations like ESPN and The Guardian now have entire sections of their websites devoted to esports.
An embrace from pro sports
The titans of traditional sports leagues are starting to embrace esports as well. Owners of 13 NBA teams have invested in or acquired businesses around esports, ESPN reports. In addition, six MLB teams and three NFL teams share ownership with esports teams. That includes the St. Louis Cardinals, who earlier this year were part of a $38 million investment in Vision Esports, a vehicle created to fund esports companies.
On tap in Columbia
The main event this weekend at Columbia College is a tournament in League of Legends, a multiplayer online battle game. Teams will compete for a share of $25,000 in prize money, with the first-place team taking home $15,000.
The Midwest Campus Clash also will feature a tournament around the game Rocket League and an expo featuring a variety of esports activities and experiences.
The main event will be streaming Friday and Saturday on Twitch.