MORGANTOWN, W.Va. (WBOY) — This fall, West Virginia University will be breaking in its brand new esports program, which will compete in four games, and launch a new minor focused on the business and organizational aspects of the esports industry in early 2023.

The new program is being spearheaded by two individuals. Josh Steger is the director of esports and is the acting coach for each of WVU’s collegiate esports teams, and David Chen is working to develop the academic side of WVU’s esports program.

Steger comes from WVU Potomac State College where he played a large role in the creation of the esports program at PSC. Chen has worked in the world of business and finance for nearly 20 years and currently serves as an advisory board member for FaZe Clan, one of the largest esport brands in the world.

“We’re building a really competitive team,” Steger said. “We kind of want to be like our traditional sports where we’re competing at a top level. But we also have our academic side, so we really want to make sure we can give career-focused jobs to students at WVU.”

WVU will be competing in the following video game titles:

  • Madden NFL
  • Call of Duty
  • Valorant
  • Rocket League

Steger said that they are looking at what other colleges are playing and what is popular in the professional esports scene so that players at WVU can advance their esports careers after college.

“If we have gamers that want to go professional, we want to be able to make sure that we can get them to the pro level,” Steger said.

WVU is working with several different colleges and tournament organizers when it comes to planning matches with different universities, one of them being the North American Collegiate League (NACL). The NACL works with more than 400 different universities in more than 30 countries and hosts video game tournaments and league play for universities and colleges with scholarship prizes.

Meet “Uros”

Vincent “Uros” Tran (WBOY image)

One of the games WVU will be competing in is called Valorant, a 5v5 tactical First-Person Shooter (FPS).

WVU Valorant player Vincent “Uros” Tran, a sophomore majoring in Integrated Studies, is an “Immortal” ranked player, putting him in the top 0.7% of Valorant’s 15 million monthly active players.

Tran said his parents “didn’t understand anything” when he told them he was getting into esports, but as they watched him play, they got more used to the idea.

“Playing on your own, it’s tough,” Tran said. “Playing with a team that you can depend on, just like any other sport in general like football or something, you have more energy and it just makes it more fun.”

What is Valorant?

In the game, players select different characters called “agents” that each have different play styles and unique abilities.

Teams will take turns attacking and defending on a chosen map. The attacking side will fight their way to designated areas on the map to plant the “spike,” which is essentially a futuristic bomb. After the spike is planted, the defenders will have 45 seconds to defuse it before it detonates and the attackers win the round.

Defenders will win if they diffuse the bomb or prevent the attackers from planting the spike before the round is over. If all five players on a team are eliminated, they will lose the round. The first team to win 13 rounds wins the game, with each match typically being a best of three games.

What’s in the minor?

David Chen will be teaching one of the esports business and marketing classes at WVU and says that during the program, students are really going to feel what it’s like to work in the esports space.

“They’ll be pitching to people that are actually in the industry; they’ll be speaking in front of people that are in the industry, there will be a final project that will exist in the industry,” Chen said.

The academic minor will contain three new interdepartmental courses from the College of Applied Human Sciences and the John Chambers College of Business and Economics:

  • Esports governance
  • Esports marketing
  • Esports business

“It’s very atypical of what I think is being shown out there in the esports world,” Chen continued. “With us, we wanted that interaction, and it’s cool that they get to meet with guys from all the different organizations and things that we’re doing.”

Electives will be offered from those colleges along with the Reed College of Media, and the esports minor is expected to launch in early 2023.

Why esports?

Esports has been steadily growing in the background of internet culture over the last 20 years, and its growth is only speeding up. According to a report by Newzoo, one of the foremost gaming industry market research companies, the esports industry is on track to generate $1.38 billion in global revenue in 2022. One of the biggest money makers for tournament organizers and team organizations is sponsorships, with 60% (or $837.3 million) of global revenue coming from sponsorships from companies like Coca-Cola, Red Bull, Honda, Bud Light and Intel, just to name a few.

North America on its own has 22.4 million people who watch an esports competition more than once a month. However, Asia, the largest esports market, dwarfs North America in that category with over 160 million frequent viewers.

You may remember a story in 2019, of a 16-year-old named Kyle “Bugha” Giersdorf winning $3 million in the Fortnite World Cup. That’s $3 million from winning a single event, and Bugha isn’t even close to being among the highest-grossing players in esports.