Holland College is starting slow as it explores the possibility of jumping into the fast lane of the ever-growing world of eSports.
The college’s athletic department is hosting an online video game racing tour, which it is calling the Canadian eMotorsports Series, beginning May 24. NASCAR Heat 4 on the Playstation 4 console will be the game used as the college looks to gauge the market for future growth.
“It’s eSports and it’s a phenomenon that is occurring globally now, so we might as well attach ourselves to it,” athletics director Albert Roche said. “It’s just a good gateway for us to take a good look at it and see what interest is out there.”
The college is looking to fill a field of 39 racers to compete in the 25-race tour. Competitors, who do not have to be college students or staff, pay $50 to register and race online. There are cash prizes for each race and the season championship. The payout will be determined based on the number of racers.
“That’s pretty cheap entertainment,” Roche said.
“We’re confident we will be able to get the field filled. It’s a novel and innovative approach to maybe a new realm of sport.”
We're just 39 days away from the first @eMotorsportsCAN series race.— Hurricanes eMotorsports 🏁 (@eMotorsportsHC) April 24, 2020
Here are the six students and staff that will be racing on behalf of the Hurricanes.
ESports is an exciting new venture for us and we're excited to be competing alongside racers from across North America. pic.twitter.com/2VTedEyggr
If successful, Roche said there’s a possibility to grow the initiative.
“It does present itself in terms of a very basic model that could be easily scaled,” Roche said.
“We’re just kind of carving our way through it. I don't have all the answers, but there’s too much potential there not to try to own a little bit of it.”
Durham College in Oshawa, Ont., moved from club to varsity status in 2018 and now has a state-of-the-art gaming area, which it rents out and where it hosts camps. The varsity team is operated under the athletics department with the gamers treated the same as the department’s athletes. They have seven teams with more than 40 athletes.
Holland College isn’t there at this point, but the tour gives it a chance to explore what may be possible in the future.
The sport continues to grow in popularity.
South of the border, there are more than 720 schools involved with players competing for cash or scholarship money. Some American TV stations have been broadcasting weekly races with actual drivers competing online during the coronavirus (COVID-19 strain) pandemic. NBA and MLB players have also taken part in video game competitions.
Gaming researcher NewZoo said in its annual report earlier this year, the global eSports economy was expected to generate $1.1 billion in revenue in the coming year with three-quarters coming from sponsorship and media rights. It also said the global eSports audience would reach 495 million.
Need to know
Details about the Canadian eMotorsports Series.
– Competitors must be 16 years of age or older.
– The schedule begins May 24 with an exhibition race before the season begins May 26 with the Holland College 250. The final race is Nov. 17. Each race occurs at 9 p.m. Atlantic.
– The series has received guidance and advisement from the developers of NASCAR Heat 4, Motorsport Games.
– The first 15 races comprise the regular season. All racers will be eligible for the playoff races but only the top-16 drivers from the regular season can win the championship. After every three playoff races, the bottom four drivers will be eliminated from championship contention.
– The Canadian eMotorsports Series mirrors the NASCAR Cup Series format but runs its races at half the distance of the actual races.
– All competitors must compete with a racing wheel as controllers are not permitted.
– All races will be live-streamed through the series Facebook page (www.facebook.com/eMotorsportsCAN).
– Register by emailing email@example.com. There were fewer than 10 openings remaining as of April 29.
– Companies can sponsor a race for $50 and will have naming rights and be featured through social media.
– The college is looking to involve its students where possible. For example, a student may be able to sing the pre-race national anthem from home and be featured on the live broadcast.
– More information is at www.hollandcollege.com/esports.