By staff writer
Esports is one of the fastest-growing sports in the world, and Atlanta is quickly becoming a southeastern hub. In 2017, the video game industry had a more than $750 million economic impact in Georgia, and global revenue in 2019 is expected to reach $1 billion. Georgia is currently home to more than 75 gaming companies, including Hi-Rez Studios, based in Alpharetta. Part of the reason for the industry’s staggering growth is its overwhelming appeal to younger generations.
Atlanta will soon welcome its own Overwatch League team. Until this year, the LA-based league hasn’t moved out of its hometown to host games, but the 2019 season will begin in Dallas, TX, in April and then move to Atlanta in July. Atlanta’s first-ever esports teams, dubbed the Atlanta Reign, was purchased last summer through a joint venture by consulting firm Province, Inc. and Cox Enterprises, which together formed Atlanta Esports Ventures.
“[Esports] is outpacing any other sport — traditional or not — by a wide margin,” Paul Hamilton, president and CEO of Atlanta Esports Ventures, told Atlanta magazine. “You’re seeing a huge number of eyes in a demographic that, traditionally, has been hard to reach.”
The Overwatch League copies the format of professional sports leagues and franchises teams by city, providing fans with a home team to route for. The league has a preseason, a regular season, an all-star break and playoffs, just like traditional sports leagues. There are codes of conduct for players and coaches, skilled announcers, loyal fans and primetime spots on television. The league also attracts sponsorships and doles out prize money. In fact, in 2018 the prize pool was a staggering $3.5 million.
Atlanta’s leading gaming proprietors are bullish about the growth potential of the industry and the viable investment opportunity it offers to businesses. The metro area’s higher education institutions are also supporting the industry. For example, in the fall of 2017 Georgia State University launched an esports program, which helps students make the necessary connections to start careers in the industry. And it goes far beyond just being a gamer, including areas like social media management, esports reporting, event management, game testing, team coaching, business strategy, broadcasting and more. In fact, of the program’s inaugural 350 students, only 20 percent had an interest in competing.
In 2019, Hi-Rez Studios co-founder and COO Todd Harris has plans to host SMITE and Paladins Pro League regular-season games at its gaming production studio, Skillshot Media. These games are expected to attract more than 100 professional esports players to the Metro Atlanta area. This follows the November 2018 SMITE and Paladins World Championship, which was held during the first eSports Week at global gaming festival Dreamhack Atlanta. The events spanned three days, attracting more than 31,000 spectators, while another 10 million watched online.
The global esports industry continues to see significant year-over-year growth, generating a tremendous impact for both businesses and post-graduate talent and contributing significantly to Georgia’s economy. And Atlanta is at the heart of it all. Focus: Atlanta will be keeping an eye on this exciting digital transformation in 2019 and beyond!