Gaming cafés have grown out of fashion in recent years. Save for a few spots here and there in major cities, most PC players elect to build their own setups instead of going out to play. But that’s starting to change now that eSports are on the rise. In places like New York City, Internet cafés provide the opportunity to organize tournaments, leagues and competitive events. University of California-Irvine realizes that eSports are on an upward swing, and, according to Business Insider, is unveiling their own eSports arena in response.
Reported on by Paul Szoldra, UCI eSports Director Mark Deppe “transformed the former campus pool hall into a state-of-the-art gaming arena that’s set to open on September 23.” The arena will plan to host “regular student gamers” alongside UCI’s “10-player [eSports] team, which will compete in tournaments that include millions of dollars in prize money.”
Currently, UCI is recruiting students on scholarships to play for the team, with Business Insider reporting that the university will pay half of a player’s tuition just to compete. For non-competitors, the arena is still open: Charging $4 an hour, the arena is powered by 70 top-of-the-line gaming rigs, $300 Vertagear chairs and high quality headphones for teammate communication. Although each machine cost $2,000, the arena was “cost-neutral” to get up and running. Instead, iBuyPower, Logitech, Vertagear and various other tech companies gave the university gear and money to get the eSports arena underway. A variety of titles will be available in the arena, including Overwatch, Diablo 3 and Final Fantasy 14.
The investment is part of an ongoing trend in supporting and legitimizing eSports as a competitive sport. With ESPN already covering eSports news and competitive events easily topping Twitch streaming hours, eSports events are only on the rise. Time will tell if this move will help bring eSports into the same level of prestige as the NCAA. But one can only hope so, now that places like UCI are funding professional players.