On the heels of a sold-out Barclays Center crowd in Brooklyn, N.Y., for the Overwatch League Grand Finals last month comes news that some parents are now treating eSports as they used to treat Little League — by hiring personal coaches for their kids.
The Wall Street Journal reports that moms and dads are shelling out as much as $50 per hour to help their sons and daughters become better Fortnite players.
Here’s how The New Yorker recently described that wildly popular game: “Fortnite, for anyone not a teen-ager or a parent or educator of teens, is the third-person shooter game that has taken over the hearts and minds — and the time, both discretionary and otherwise — of adolescent and collegiate America. Released last September, it is right now by many measures the most popular video game in the world. At times, there have been more than three million people playing it at once. It has been downloaded an estimated 60 million times. (The game, available on PC, Mac, Xbox, PS4, and mobile devices, is—crucially—free, but many players pay for additional, cosmetic features, including costumes known as ‘skins.’)”
All told, the total number of Fortnite players is estimated to be 125 million, and Fortnite developer Epic Games is on track to bring in revenues upwards of $2 billion this year. The mobile version even out-earned Candy Crush Saga and Clash of Clans during its first three weeks on the market, and expert players can earn big bucks.
"There's pressure not to just play it but to be really good at it," Ally Hicks, who purchased four hours of lessons for her 10-year-old son, told The Wall Street Journal. "You can imagine what that was like for him at school."
Journal reporter Sarah E. Needleman spoke with many parents who expressed similar reasons for hiring Fortnite coaches. “Some of those parents are hoping that their kids will turn their hobbies into lucrative e-sports careers, a college scholarship — or, at least, a slice of Fortnite developer Epic Games' $100 million competitive prize pool,” she wrote.
And colleges, sensing that audience, are using gaming opportunities since they could be another new recruiting sell for student-athletes.
While Overwatch remains the granddaddy of eSports games when it comes to competition — Activision Blizzard Inc. recently sold two more franchises to its live-action Overwatch league— eSports doesn’t appear to have captured the hearts of television viewers as much as it has live audiences. According to Sports Media Watch, ESPN’s live coverage of the Overwatch League Grand Finals pulled in just 188,000 viewers, the network’s least-watched original program of the day.