Heroes of the Storm [official site] developer Blizzard is hosting a student eSports tournament called Heroes of the Dorm. The grand prize: up to $75,000-worth of college tuition* for each member for the winning team.
eSports developers and third parties setting up initiatives for student players is not a new thing, but it has been generating more interest in the last year or two as the prizes on offer have increased. If you're part of a great team you could earn a sizeable chunk of your university tuition. This isn't about scouting for talented young players to recruit and put on the pro scene where eSports is a full time job. This is about eSports existing in tandem with compulsory and further education and how companies are approaching that. I don't think I've talked about that on RPS so here are a few cool examples:
The High School Starleague has been running since 2010 in the US. Initially it catered to high schoolers interested in StarCraft 2 but has expanded to include League of Legends and Dota 2. In 2014 they announced HSL would be offering $20,000 in scholarship prizes. It rose to $35,000 for the 2015 season.
That initiative revolves around students setting up clubs at schools. It's about competitive play, sure, but there's also an aspect of building understanding between parents and teaching staff about what eSports are and why the students want to get involved. The rules also stipulate conditions where to be eligible to compete players need to meet some minimum academic requirements - they cannot be under academic probation or any other school-related disciplinary action, for example.
In an interview for Red Bull, HSL's chief operating officer Jesse Wang told me:
"We also encourage safe gaming, which is playing in a responsible manner. We don't want the image of addictive gaming that has been perpetrated by our society over the last decade. I think eSports is doing a really good job of showing that gaming isn't something that people just do that's addictive, it's something they compete in and put a lot of dedication and time in."
League of Legends has had a collegiate scene for a few years now, but last year they announced a North American scholarship prize pool of $100,000. The North American Collegiate Championship is open to full-time undergraduates of accredited universities. If the students already have their tuition paid the prize can sometimes be converted to cover other related expenses - books, housing and so on.
Riot has also been working to extend that program to other regions, although I remember languages and different university systems being part of the reason an EU version wasn't as straightforward to set up as a NA one.
Obviously, where developers are concerned, there's a business case for incentivising people to get involved with and then stick with your game as part of their schedule or social life.
Heroes of the Dorm is closer to what Riot is doing than HSL. The competition is boasting a prize pool worth more than $450,000 (Battle credit, gaming PCs, potential scholarships) which is an attractive number, especially if you're staring at university tuition fees and expenses. There's also the fact that if you register and are validated you get to skip both the closed beta access lottery and £29.99 early-access fee for the game. I can imagine the latter meaning a number of students will form teams and enter simply to take advantage of the access to the game.
Poking around in the rules (because I do things like that while enjoying an 11am flapjack) Blizzard have also stipulated a grade point average:
"A Winner must be enrolled full time each semester according to the requirements of their chosen college, university or graduate school and must make satisfactory academic progress toward a baccalaureate or graduate degree by maintaining a minimum 2.500 cumulative GPA."
Basically, you have to prove you're maintaining your education to a certain level - I think a 2.5 is on the cusp between a B- and a C+. It's a sensible inclusion on Blizzard's part as it helps avoid any accusations that marketing a game at students will distract from a player's education.
Signups are until 26 March, online open qualifiers are 28-29 March. April involves the top 64 teams taking part in a single elimination tournament (best-of-3 format) and the remaining four teams will take part in a live final.
The tournament is North America only at the moment but I've dropped Blizzard a line to ask if there's anything under consideration for other regions.
*Depending on which year of study you're in, when you graduate and whether your tuition is already paid