Harrisburg University of Science and Technology’s new varsity esports program, which begins play in September, now has a team name and a full roster.
University President Eric Darr and head coach Geoffrey Wang on Thursday unveiled the team’s Storm name and 16-player roster.
“Storms have the potential to change the landscape,” Darr said. “We have the ambition to change the esports landscape, not just in Central Pennsylvania, but nationally.”
The esports industry has grown by leaps and bounds over the past few years. Short for electronic sports, esports involves teams competing head to head in multi-player games in front of a live audience or online through gaming broadcasters such as Twitch and YouTube.
According to a report from industry researcher Newzoo, esports accounted for $665 million in revenue last year and could exceed $900 million this year. Other projections say it’s a budding billion-dollar industry with money pouring into professional esports leagues featuring franchise teams and sponsorship deals.
Harrisburg University expects to spend about $2.5 million to $3 million to launch its program, Darr said. The university first announced plans for the esports program last fall. Harrisburg University is part of the National Association of Collegiate Esports (NACE).
The Storm, Harrisburg University’s first and only varsity team, will play its first major competition as part of the Harrisburg University Esports Festival at Whitaker Center for Science and the Arts.
The event, scheduled for Sept. 21 and Sept. 22, will combine nationally known music acts such as Lit and Alien Ant Farm with a 32-team collegiate esports tournament. Teams will compete in League of Legends and Overwatch for a grand prize pool of $50,000.
Darr hopes the HUE tournament will help build a regional fan base for HU’s esports team. One of the primary goals in starting the esports program, he said, was to expand the HU brand nationally.
“Sports is a way to get the HU name out there,” he said.
The team also will help generate new revenue for the university, especially on the sponsorship side.
The program has financial backing from D&H Distributing and Vibra Healthcare, two of the midstate’s largest private companies, as well as multinational brands such as HP and Intel. Collectively, sponsorships have generated more than $150,000 to date, Darr said.
Beyond the festival, the Storm players will compete in NACE league play for three separate games — League of Legends, Overwatch and Hearthstone. The team also will play in developer-run tournaments connected to those games.
The 16-player Storm roster is available on the team’s homepage. It includes two current Harrisburg University students, as well as a mix of seasoned and rookie esports players. All have received full-ride scholarships to the university.
The recruitment process started with more than 500 applications that came in from around the world, according to Wang.
Player surveys and online tryouts and scrimmages whittled the number to a top 35 list. The university flew those individuals into Harrisburg for final tryouts and interviews before selecting the top 16 players.
A meet the team event will be held on Aug. 9 at Whitaker Center.