University News

Saint Joseph’s University Launches Multi-Faceted Esports Program

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Students previewing the new esports lab as part of a soft-launch in March 2020.

Saint Joseph’s University announced the launch of a multi-faceted approach to esports, an industry that is growing by every measure – fans, revenue and job growth – in a trend accelerated by the COVID-19 pandemic.

According to an annual report on the industry, the total global esports audience is expected to grow to 495 million people and revenue will grow to $1.1 billion in 2020, up 15.7 percent from 2019. And Philadelphia is a leading player in the industry’s growth with plans to have a $50 million esports arena built in the city, one of the nation’s first slated to open in 2021.

“Esports builds the same skillset that we are known for as a liberal arts university founded in the Jesuit tradition – teamwork, communication, decision making,” said Director of Athletics Jill Bodensteiner. “Esports is a cornerstone of the future of sports globally and presents an opportunity for our students both academically and recreationally.”

The University’s approach to esports features an investment in a technology-focused esports lab, academic programming to launch recession-resistant careers, and elevation of the student gaming club to a club sport within the athletics department. This comprehensive approach complements the University’s strategic plan, which focuses on preparing future-proof leaders through an innovative campus master plan, interdisciplinary academics and a holistic student experience.

The esports lab is a tech-forward, multi-use space that will serve as the home of Saint Joseph’s esports club sport, an esports classroom and recreational space. Additionally, the lab will provide an additional revenue stream for the University as a location for esports camps during the summer months. 

“Building our esports lab was a collaborative partnership with our on-campus gamers,” said Francis DiSanti, chief information officer at Saint Joseph’s. “They guided our decisions and gave us the inside information on what matters – best-in-class technology, an ergonomic and health focus, and the need to facilitate teamwork, analysis and coaching.” 

This fall semester, Saint Joseph’s is offering the University’s first academic course in esports marketing. The course will be taught by adjunct faculty member Jim Multari ’05 (MBA), vice president of national sales strategy and insights at Comcast Corporation, a marketing industry veteran with more than two decades of expertise in the technology vertical. The curriculum will provide students with an overview of the esports industry including history, current status and the future of the industry. The course will also focus on sales, and marketing and event management.

“Saint Joseph’s has long been known for our specialty business programs,” said David Allan, Ph.D., professor and chair of the marketing department in Saint Joseph’s Haub School of Business. “Esports is a domain where we will be growing a level of expertise and programming to meet the needs of industry and the interests of students. Esports provides pandemic-proof and recession-resistant careers in a variety of industries including sports marketing and computer science.”

The esports marketing course adds on to already existing University coursework in the gaming realm including Interactive 3D Game Development, Human Computer Interaction, Digital Aesthetics and Civic Media.

Saint Joseph’s student experience reaches far beyond the classroom into recreation, student life and athletics. Competition within esports provides the perfect arena in which to build upon this same skillset. With this in mind, Saint Joseph’s is elevating the current esports student club to a club sport, providing access to support from Campus Recreation and the Department of Athletics.

“By transitioning to a club sport, our on-campus gamers will have a solid foundation to enter into the intercollegiate competitive gaming world,” said Bodensteiner. “I look forward to seeing our Hawks competing with other universities on platforms like Twitch and YouTube Gaming.”

Over the next year, the esports club sport will focus on competition in three games: Smash Brothers, League of Legends and Overwatch.

For more information on Saint Joseph’s esports programming, visit sju.edu/esports.