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Muma College of Business to Host Inaugural USF eSports Summit Later this Month

By Keith Morelli

eSports Summit

TAMPA (September 6, 2019) -- Just over a month ago, the video-game rage Fortnite crowned a champion. A 16-year-old gamer not only bested the rest, but walked away with a $3 million prize to the cheers of 15,000 gaming fans crowded into a New York arena. His winnings were only a part of the $30 million purse awarded to other contestants along the way.

Playing video games for fun – and now profit – has gotten as close to mainstream entertainment as it can and is positioning itself as what may be the next prime-time phenomenon.

And the Vinik Sport & Entertainment Management Program is riding the crest of that wave by sponsoring the inaugural USF eSports Summit later this month. Gamers and executives from across the nation will gather at the Muma College of Business to offer insights about the rapid emergence of this thing called esports.

Video gaming has grown from Pong into a sophisticated industry now that features main events of gamers pitted against each other in venues full of raucous fans. According to Newzoo, a worldwide leader in games and esports analytics, the global esports industry is expected to exceed $1 billion in revenue in 2019, representing 27 percent in year-over-year revenue growth. Global esports viewership is expected to hit 450 million in 2019, which is a 15 percent bump from last year. These staggering stats are the basis for predictions that the market’s innovation and popularity are attracting wider interest and more importantly, new investments.

The speakers and panelists at the summit will take a look at the inner workings of the esports industry and how USF and the Tampa Bay region is poised to benefit from the fastest-growing segment of sports and entertainment, said Michelle Harrolle, director of the Vinik Sport & Entertainment Management Program, which is coordinating the event.

"Esports is the wild, wild West on Fire," she said, "and our vision for the summit is to educate all stakeholders in the Tampa Bay area on the business side of esports. We have an amazing list of expert speakers from around the United States.

“When you leave the summit,” she said, “you will truly understand the business ecosystem of this billion-dollar industry."

The summit, sponsored by Fox Sports Florida, is open to the public. Individual passes are $79, though the event is free for all USF students, faculty and staff. Registration opens at noon on Sept. 18 in the Muma College of Business atrium. Featured guests will speak and panel discussions will take place between 1-5:30 p.m. To find out more about the event, click here.

Nearly 400, including students, sports and entertainment executives, esport investors, technology leaders, government and community officials and economic development professionals, have already registered to attend.

Among the guest speakers: Tampa Mayor Jane Castor, Jeff Vinik, owner of the Tampa Bay Lighting and co-executive chairman of aXiomatic Gaming; Matt Marcou, commissioner of Madden NFL with EA Sports; David Glass, founder of iX Ventures; and Matt Samost, vice president of new ventures with Tampa Bay Sports and Entertainment. Also invited to share insights are sports marketing experts and professionals who help host esports tournaments. Topics will include video-gaming culture, growth, investment and branding.

“We want to make sure that it starts as an entry-level education,” Harrolle said. “So we’ll start off by explaining what esports are, and then we’ll dive deeper into the industry.”