What is the state of esports in San Antonio? KSAT explains

SAN ANTONIO – Some consider it a mere hobby or pastime, perhaps even unproductive. But the idea that playing video games can’t create opportunities is starting to be a thing of the past thanks to the growing popularity of esports.

Competitive video game players can now win huge cash prizes and scholarships. High schools and universities are launching esports programs, and companies are actively seeking esports athletes for jobs in technology and engineering.

In this episode of KSAT Explains, we take a look at what San Antonio is doing to become a great player in this new arena, and the benefits the sport can offer student athletes, professional players, and the San Antonio community as a whole.

(Watch the full episode in the video player above.)

What is esports exactly?

Let’s start at the beginning.

Esports means “electronic sports”. Electronics like in video games. Esports are basically just competitive video games.

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There are a variety of game genres included under the esports umbrella: sports, first-person shooter, fighting, to name a few.

There are a variety of game genres included under the esports umbrella. (KSAT 2021)

Many games played competitively are team-based. And different games have their own separate leagues with a set number of teams and professional players. Leagues last a predetermined number of weeks, much like a regular season in the NFL and NBA. Many leagues are international.

Teams or players are ranked based on their performance and compete against each other throughout the season. Eventually, the top teams or layers make it to the playoffs, and then the top two teams or players face off in the finals.

The prize pools from these tournaments can be incredibly lucrative. One of the most popular esports games, Dota 2, has its final tournament after a year-long season. The prize pool was just over $40 million in 2021. The winning team ended up taking home over $18 million Divide among five team members.

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And you’ve probably heard of a game called Fortnite. Their World Cup finals had a $30 million prize pool in 2019.

Of course, these huge financial returns associated with esports are not the norm.

Just like in traditional sports, these high prices are extremely competitive and reserved for players who put in the time and effort to play a video game. Reaching that level requires the same kind of commitment that any traditional athlete must have to get into a professional sports league, like the NBA.

Leading Team OG takes on Team TNC Pro at the Dota 2 International Championships on Wednesday, August 9, 2017 in Seattle. Members of five-person eSports teams each select fantasy world hero characters and the teams then compete to control the game world map. The Championship, pitting 16 teams against each other for $24 million in prize money , runs until Saturday. (AP Photo/Elaine Thompson) (Copyright 2017 The Associated Press. All rights reserved.)

Any player can decide to focus on the competitive game of their choice. Once they feel confident enough, they can seek out local or regional tournaments to get into esports.

Many players spend years participating in these small tournaments. This is where they begin to develop their skills. Most of these tournaments charge a small entry fee, which goes into a small prize pool so players can earn money trying to work their way to the top.

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Unlike other sports, there is an interactive live streaming element to esports, on streaming platforms like Twitch and Youtube. Many celebrity streamers have made a name for themselves by live-streaming their gameplay for hours and interacting with viewers. If you’re familiar with esports, you might be familiar with the player names Shroud, Nickmercs, and Ninja.

On a larger scale, tournaments can also be streamed. The big ones have production teams dedicated to producing, with graphics and commentators – all the elements you’d expect from a traditional sports broadcast.

“It’s more than just a game,” said Chris Saenz, owner of The Texas Gambling Empire and the athletic director at the YMCA of Greater San Antonio. “It really is an entire industry.”

And even for the majority of us who don’t play video games competitively, there is money to be made. The video game industry in the United States generates more than $90 billion in economic output each year and Texas generates $4.1 billion annually, according to a 2020 report from the Entertainment Software Association.

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The industry doesn’t just include esports – it also includes video game developers and publishers, distributors, video game stores, and arcades.

But when we talk specifically about esports, many players in the gaming industry believe that hosting tournaments can benefit a city’s local economy.

An esports arena is coming to San Antonio

San Antonio is among the growing number of cities that will soon have an esports arena.

Port of San Antonio Tech Port Center and Arena should be a major contender for established esports sites. It will be the first in the country built from the ground up, specifically to host and broadcast esports tournaments.

Here’s what the Tech Port Center and Arena will look like when they’re finished later this year. The nearly $70 million center is located in the heart of the Port SA campus. (KSAT 2021)

The nearly $70 million center will be located in the heart of the Port SA campus. It will contain a 3,100-seat arena, food hall and a new home for the San Antonio Science and Technology Museum.

Tech Port general manager Eric Blockie told KSAT that he prepared for the center’s opening by visiting other esports arenas across the state and country.

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“They all have great attributes going for them, but I think what we’re doing is we’re bringing the next level,” Blockie said. “We bring the data. We bring technology to it. We bring the ability to stream, which is what we’re really passionate about.

The goal is to host major esports events and tournaments, drive economic growth, and serve the San Antonio community.

But will this $70 million investment be worth it?

Although probably too soon for a definitive answer, we reached out to Chino Lee, Chief Revenue Officer of Arlington Esports Stadiumor ESA, one of the stadiums recently visited by Blockie.

According to Lee, there are a few things that have been key to their success: strong partnerships, support from the city of Arlington, and the ability to branch out, making sure they don’t present themselves as an arena . alone for competitive play. They also host other events, which the Tech Port Center and Arena plans to do. Still, Lee told us that around 60% of ESA events each year are esports-specific.

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Arlington Esports Stadium (KSAT 2021)

Port SA’s decision to invest millions of dollars in an esports arena was not only due to the potential economic impact of the events. It’s also because of the talent they hope to attract.

“If you look at our customers in aerospace, robotics, cybersecurity and even military missions, they all see esports and gaming as a new area to find, recruit, retain talent, a way to optimize their operations and virtualize their training,” said Will Garrett, vice president of talent and technology development and integration at Port SA.

And for some, the Tech Port Center represents something else: an opportunity to transform the lives of local students.

“I think the Tech Port Center will be an eye opener for any youngster because you have it all,” said Sam Elizondo, the center’s LAN games and esports director. “It just gives me hope in a time when there may not be so many, especially for our young people…just a great satisfaction to know that we are building something here that I know will changing lives through a medium that I truly and sincerely love.”

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Esports at local schools

Plans for the Tech Port Center include providing development programs for professionals and students, to give them exposure to the gaming world they might not otherwise get.

But even before those plans were set, more and more local kids were learning about esports, as more and more schools set up esports teams.

Meet some of the students and instructors involved in esports programs at St. Mary’s University, Incarnate Word University, and Jefferson High School by watching the video below.

What do you want us to explain next? Let us know in the dialog box below.

Copyright 2022 by KSAT – All rights reserved.

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