Heroes of the Dorm may have brought in just a .1 Nielsen share last year, but the excitement — and business potential — of esports is growing already in 2016. It just makes sense that Blizzard Entertainment and ESPN are bringing the college-focused Heroes of the Storm event back for a second year.
And the prize pool is $500,000 — with $75,000 for each player on the winning team to use toward future tuition.
Both Activision-Blizzard and ESPN have made significant moves already in esports this year. The giant sports network announced a new effort to cover competitive gaming, while Blizzard’s parent company acquired Major League Gaming, an esports event organizer. And with market research firm Newzoo betting esports will hit $463 million this year and $1.1 billion by 2019, look for more deals and mainstream TV appearances for competitive gaming. Even if troglodyte sports-talk host Colin Cowherd thinks competitive gaming is a joke and threatened to leave his job at the network if he was ever forced to cover it. Well, esports are still airing on ESPN, and you’re not, Cowherd — even if it was your insulting remarks about the intelligence of baseball players from the Dominican Republic that got you kicked off and not Blizzard’s MOBA.
Teams representing colleges and universities from the U.S. and Canada are eligible for the event. You can sign up your team here. Registration ends February 18, with the qualifiers taking place online between February 20 and March 6. Fantasy sports even play a role in this event — it has its own “March Madness”-like bracket, with $10,000 for the person with the most accurate submission.
The early rounds appear on ESPN3, the network’s streaming service. Twitch and YouTube also have the early rounds. ESPN2 broadcasts the semifinals (the Heroic Four) and the championship match (the Grand Finals) .
“Last year’s Heroes of the Dorm was an amazing experience for the students playing and everyone watching, and we’re excited to again offer college athletes an epic opportunity to team up and compete for scholarships in 2016,” said Mike Morhaime, the CEO and cofounder of Blizzard Entertainment. “It’s inspiring to see players from last year’s championship team, the UC Berkeley Golden Bears, now thriving in pro esports careers—we look forward to seeing how this year’s competitors shape the future of competitive gaming.”
Last year, 460 schools took part in the tournament. ESPN has been broadcasting college sports throughout its 36-year history. The finals were in April and broadcast on ESPN2, the first time an esports event was on a major network.
Here’s the tuition breakdown for the winners, according to Blizzard:
- First-year undergraduate students: up to $25,000 per year for three years
- Second-year undergraduate students: up to $25,000 per year for two years
- Third-year or later undergraduate students: up to $25,000 to cover one year of tuition or student loans
- First-year graduate students: up to $25,000 per year for two years
- Second-year or later graduate students: up to $25,000 to cover one year of tuition or student loans
- In addition, one substitute player per team will win up to $25,000 for one year
“ESPN clearly has a history of serving fans of both college sports and esports,” a network spokesperson told GamesBeat over email. “When we launched the esports section on ESPN.com a few weeks ago, it marked an increase in our commitment to serving this audience for the long-term. Recognizing emerging opportunities has always distinguished ESPN, and our coverage of esports — including this latest agreement to bring back our coverage of Heroes of the Dorm for the second straight year — is reflective of that approach and our commitment.”