The HSEL is partnering with NRG eSports and The National Association of Collegiate Esports (NACE). NRG eSports is a professional gaming organization backed by several well-known investors, including Shaquille O’Neal and Alex Rodriguez.
With that kind of financial backing from NRG eSports, the HSEL’s Summer Open Title will award the winning team with two hours of playtime against Svennoss, the current top Fortnite player, according to fortnitetracker.com.
Although the real prize might come from the partnership with NACE.
NACE will be scouting the Summer Open, with 70 of their partnered college recruiters, for potential college recruitment and scholarship opportunities. With the new “free agent” system that HSEL has instituted for their Summer Open, high school students can partner up with friends from any high school in the U.S., opening these scholarship opportunities up to those who don’t have an esports league at their high school.
Esports is now a multi-million dollar industry, expected to reach $905.6 million this year. Just last month, Ashland University in Ohio became the first college in the U.S. to offer scholarships to top “Fortnite” players. For those who aren’t quite up to the rigors of becoming a competitive esports player, the industry is creating other new jobs, including esports doctors.
“Fortnite” is the current most-watched and most-streamed titleon streaming platform Twitch. The co-op survival game, released last year, saw a surge of popularity after the release of the free-to-play “Fortnite Battle Royale,” in which 100 players compete to be the last man standing. Earlier this week, publisher Epic Games announced that they will provide $100 million to tournament prize pools for the 2018-2019 season. Though the title is currently not recognized by professional esports leagues, Mason Mullenioux, CEO of HSEL, gave Variety his reasons why he believes that won’t be the case for long.
“‘Fortnite’ has the perfect mix to become an esport,” said Mullenioux, “It’s easy and fun to pick up and play, hard to master, and keeps you wanting to play game after game. It’s also no secret that Epic Games wants to make Fortnite a lasting esport.”
In addition to publisher backing, Mullenioux noted professional teams, such as NRG eSports, signing top “Fortnite” talent and the priming of high school and college talent for the game’s future as an esport.
“It’s happening right now,” Mullenioux stated. “The future will only be much bigger.”