The Esports Combine highlights why Indiana is the esports capital of the world
Indianapolis has long been known as the home to the NFL Combine, bringing talent and recruiters from across the nation to an equal playing field where players are assessed and given the opportunity to showcase their skills. In recent years, Indiana has added another combine to our roster called The Esports Combine™ where colleges, universities, high schools, and semi-pro teams scout talent for their burgeoning esports teams and programs.
Created by esports aggregator Harena Data, The Esports Combine is the world’s largest and most successful college recruiting and networking event dedicated to connecting aspiring esports players and video game fans. For players, this is an opportunity to earn esports scholarships and find top collegiate programs that will help build upon their aspirations. For colleges and universities, this is an opportunity to attract more talent and build their programs.
The Esports Combine’s mission is clear: pave the way for the future of esports by facilitating networking, competition, and collaboration to grow opportunities for players, communities, and programs.
In addition to growing the sport, Harena Data also saw an opportunity to bring esports talent and teams to Indiana in an effort to solidify our status as a leader in the esports industry. “We are in the center of America and can act in certain genres of esports as a hub,” says Bill Dever, Chief Strategy Officer of Harena Data. “There is a massive amount of activity behind the curtains here in Indiana, and esports will eventually be engaged on an NCAA level.”
Since Indianapolis is already home to the NCAA offices and is centrally located in the US, hosting The Esports Combine here was an easy decision. “Indiana Sports Corp has already pioneered work in this space as we are the center for sports like motorsports and basketball,” says Dever. “There is no reason why we should not add esports to that list.”
“Esports is a multi-billion dollar industry that the state of Indiana is working hard to expand its footprint in,” says Ryan Vaughn, President of Indiana Sports Corp.
Why The Esports Combine is important
As we’ve seen in recent years, esports is growing rapidly and shaping talent in unexpected ways. “Esports and video gaming are proving to not only be a discipline within itself,” says Dever. “Schools are finding that the skill sets growing from esports have application in a variety of areas. Esports is truly becoming a portal for advancement, and we are focusing on this as well as building and defining distinct university programs.”
Dever says university involvement is critical to growth of the sport. “University involvement contributes to a much-needed physical and academic discipline.
“The Esports Combine allows students and colleges to connect on how esports can enhance or provide additional opportunities to the collegiate experience.” says Vaughn. “Much like traditional sports and athletic recruitment, this type of event allows prospective students and parents to discover how esports can be viewed as much more than a hobby. Plus, it provides an opportunity for schools to get access to top esports talent to build their emerging programs.”
What’s next for esports and Indiana
The Esports Combine is the perfect opportunity to blend opportunity and connection for schools and players. Each year, the event brings in more participants and recruiters and facilitates engaging panels, workshops, and networking. Even in the midst of COVID, the Combine drew over 1,000 attendees in a completely virtual format. This year, Harena expects even more attendees.
With so much momentum and support behind the sport, it’s hard to not get excited for the possibilities and opportunities for the future of our state. There is still some uncertainty as to what’s next, however, with the lingering impact of the coronavirus.
“The impact of COVID-19, in many ways, has changed the way we view the sports and sporting events industry for many years to come,” says Vaughn. “When the traditional sports experience was not possible, it forced our industry to be innovative about how we utilize tech to create positive experiences, engage fans, and keep all those involved safe. Although COVID-19 changed how we execute sporting events, it allowed us to think outside of the box in how we still make events successful when traditional means are not possible.
Despite COVID, the esports industry has strengthened. “COVID has shown the sport’s resilience in regards to both play and economics. It really is a universally played and applicable discipline,” says Dever.
The future is bright for esports, both for the industry and for players. “I anticipate esports to become more of a formalized career/scholarship path similar to how sports are now run at the NCAA level,” says Vaughn. “For now, it’s about creating awareness of the opportunities and connecting organization and human capital to make it happen.”
Dever believes the industry is about to open up significantly. “The industry is about to widen past the transitional 12 esports titles. I think the word gamification is going to give credibility for esports involvement in middle school and increased activity in secondary schooling. I also think various cloud-based initiatives such as embedding Xbox capability in smart TVs is going to turn the fire that is esports into an inferno. We are just at the tip of the iceberg, and I think Indiana and Indianapolis could be the defined market leaders that will surprise a lot of people,” says Dever.
“The esports industry has a wide open landscape of possibilities in the future,” says Vaughn. “Whether it’s done virtually or in person, the possibilities are endless on how this can grow and continue to be an investment for organizations and schools.”
What to expect from The Esports Combine
The third annual Esports Combine will be held from October 15 to 17 in a completely virtual format to keep competitors healthy and safe. Teams of five will compete for scholarships and networking opportunities. Panels and workshops will also be available for learning opportunities, and players can connect with recruiters from their favorite schools.
Harena Data expects a deeper engagement from secondary schools as well as a focus on a more defined esports curriculum. Representatives from a variety of organizations will be there, which can open up opportunities to become a nationally-recognized team and further emphasize the need for esports to be a NCAA-recognized sport.
To learn more about the Combine or register, visit https://combine.gg/.