The National Association of Collegiate Esports announced that it has signed a partnership agreement with Hi-Rez Studios to build varsity esports competition in SMITE and Paladins. The partnership will help provide the necessary infrastructure and resources for colleges and universities to expand their esports departments into additional esports, creating valuable opportunities for more students to compete and earn degrees.
The partnership with Hi-Rez Studios was spearheaded by an exploratory committee made of administrators from NACE member institutions. As part of the new partnership, NACE and Hi-Rez will create recruiting systems and outreach to help connect coaches and interested students together. To nurture the growth of collegiate esports and the creation of content around varsity competition in Hi-Rez game titles, the seasons will be coordinated with Hi-Rez’s professional leagues. Competition will start beginning in August of 2018 and will be split into separate semesters of the academic year.
“When the very first colleges started varsity esports programs, they typically started with teams in one to two different games. Now that we have models in place for developing an esports department and our first institutions have matured more the goal has shifted to expanding these departments into more games. Fundamentally this means more opportunities for students interested in games beyond Hearthstone, League of Legends, or Overwatch,” said Michael Brooks, NACE Executive Director. “Working directly with the publisher of the games brought into the varsity level is paramount in order to see the space grow. This allows access to systems needed by administrators to lead teams and offers security for schools in how they operate their programs. Hi-Rez Studios was one of the first publishers to recognize the clear need for publishers and administrations to work together if the collegiate space is to have success.”
“We’ve seen increased campus excitement around varsity esports ever since Georgia State announced their varsity Smite team last year”, said Todd Harris, Hi-Rez Studios Chief Operating Officer. “With NACE advancing varsity esports across the US, and now sanctioning both Smite and Paladins as varsity, we’re excited to work with NACE member universities to expand their programs, and assist with talent identification both into college and post-graduation to potential professional esports opportunities.”