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A Look Ahead: Georgia’s eSports Economy Continues to Score

by Kimberly Starks

eSports, or multiplayer, spectator-focused competitive video games, is experiencing global growth — and thriving in Georgia. With the video game industry’s economic impact topping $750 million in Georgia in 2017, the latest figures available, 2018 showed to be another pivotal year.

The pool of eSports players in the state is on a fast-paced trajectory in line with international growth, supported by collegiate programs fostering the digital entertainment industry. eSports has fueled the growth of video gaming with 150 game development studios located in Georgia.

Top gaming proprietors in Atlanta are enthusiastic about the growth potential of the industry.

Todd Harris, co-founder and chief operating officer of Hi-Rez Studios in Alpharetta, Georgia, is planning to hold SMITE and Paladins Pro League regular season games onsite at their gaming production studio, Skillshot Media, in 2019. These games will attract more than 100 professional eSports players to the metro Atlanta area.

“The goal is better competition, upgraded production and additional eSports shoulder content throughout the season,” he said.

Axis Replay, a social gaming club located in Atlanta’s Midtown that officially opens this year, intends to create a welcoming environment for gamers. Chief Operating Officer Lee Merwin said there’s a huge desire for gamers to be around each other face-to-face.

“Atlanta is becoming a hub for eSports, with developers like Hi-Rez and indie game development coalescing around events like Dreamhack,” he shared. “There’s a huge desire among eSports players to be social and face-to-face with each other, a place where they can have high-five moments in person. That’s the environment we’re trying to create at Axis Replay.”

“Georgia is doing a lot of things to create synergy for the development of eSports as a whole, and it is really very exciting,” he continued.

The first eSports Week was held this past November during global gaming festival Dreamhack Atlanta, where the SMITE and Paladins World Championship were hosted. Across three days, more than 31,000 people attended the international event while more than 10 million people watched online, Harris said.

Between live-streaming and live spectator experiences, eSports tournaments are the fastest-growing events in Georgia. With an estimated 215 million viewers, according to the World Economic Forum, eSports focuses heavily on the fan experience. It is on pace to compete with traditional sports and attracts a younger audience.

Proprietors are looking forward to growing experiential gaming events like eSports Week in 2019.

On the talent side, Georgia’s universities have created a community for gamers, with robust collegiate programs fostering the digital entertainment industry and scholarships to support eSports enthusiasts. Students rooted in the rapid growth of the competitive environment bring a wealth of experience and connections to multinational businesses. Several universities such as Georgia State have recently started varsity eSports programs.

Even Georgia’s high schools have eSports teams. 

“Georgia has had an amazing surge of both game development studios and eSports events. We also had some of the world’s most watched eSports events, including ELEAGUE, HRX (Hi-Rez Expo) and BCX (Brawlhalla World Championship),” said Andrew Greenberg, president of the Georgia Game Developers Association.

All of this indicates that Georgia is in line with the global economy — the entire eSports industry continues to see significant year-over-year growth. Global eSports revenues grew 38 percent to $906 million in 2018, according to an annual report, and that is projected to hit the billion-dollar-mark to $1.65 billion by 2021.

This digital transformation will have a considerable business impact for employers and post-graduate talent, making a significant contribution to Georgia’s economy. 2019 will be an exciting year for eSports in Georgia.

Curious about some of Georgia’s top eSports companies? Read about Hype’s favorite picks here.

Featured image via ELEAGUE/Turner

Kimberly M. Starks, APR, is the principal consultant of Blue Scorpion Reputation Management (BSRM), a PR and marketing firm specific to the agribusiness and video gaming industries. She is a member of the board of the Georgia Game Developers Association, the non-profit trade association of businesses and professionals for the video game manufacturing industry of Georgia.

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