Esports Are Beginning to Take Hold in Florida
By Space Coast Daily // February 2, 2021
For many people, the thought of getting paid to play video games is the ultimate dream. While everyone needs a job to pay their bills, being a professional gamer would be a true vocation.
Although it may have seemed almost impossible just a few years ago, there are now thousands of people making their living from playing video games. Most of them do this by competing in tournaments and leagues, similar to how athletes compete in traditional sports, receiving prize money and sponsorship revenue for their efforts.
Others supplement this by live-streaming their private gaming sessions through sites like Twitch and YouTube. As well as playing the game, they’ll interact with their viewers, responding to comments, taking requests, and plugging products and services from brands that pay to get their name in front of hundreds of thousands or even millions of viewers.
The types of games that esports competitors take part in varies from shooting games like CS:GO and Call of Duty:Mobile to digital trading card games like Hearthstone. Even online poker has become a magnet for esports competitors with numerous free events being organized by major online poker sites.
As with many other professional sports, the United States is at the forefront of esports. According to Newzoo, the country has the second-highest revenue from esports in the world, behind China. However, when you account for the giant disparity between the two nations’ populations, the US is a clear leader with $0.13 of esports revenue per person vs China’s $0.05.
Competitive video gaming has exploded in popularity across the entire United States of America, including right here in Florida.
Orlando – An Esports Hotspot
According to Wallethub, Orlando is the fourth-best city for gamers in the country. It ranks second in its “gaming environment” metric and ninth for “gamer & developer opportunities”. The city was let down by its below-average internet speed and quality; otherwise, it would have ranked even higher.
Tampa ranked in 38th place, with Jacksonville and Miami in 52nd and 55th spots respectively. St. Petersburg and Hialeah scraped their way into the top 100, in 95th and 96th places, ahead of Laredo, Memphis, Detroit, and Toledo.
Orlando’s position as a center for esports in the state and the country is thanks to several organizations investing heavily in the discipline.
Full Sail University
Full Sail University, which is based in Orlando, opened a $6 million esports facility in the spring of 2019. Known as “The Fortress”, this arena spans 11,200 square feet and can accommodate up to 100 esports competitors and 500 spectators at any one time.
It is being used to host both professional and collegiate-level esports events and was built after several major competitions were held at the campus, including multiple Major League Gaming events and two competitions organized by Red Bull.
Full Sail is investing in esports in the same way that it and many other colleges develop their sports capabilities, anticipating that esports will become as popular as college football and basketball. It’s also reaching out to the wider Florida community, promoting esports and other technologies to the public.
Full Sail Armada, the university’s esports team, competes in most major esport games including League of Legends, Overwatch, and Valorant. Its Call of Duty team recently finished in the top 12 of the CCL 2020 League and second in the Southeast.
Orlando’s Creative Village
The Creative Village, the city’s dedicated area for businesses, workers, and students in the creative industries has become a hotbed of gaming activity.
Electronic Arts, the company behind many best-selling video games like Madden, FIFA, The Sims, Need for Speed, Medal of Honor, and Star Wars, has signed an agreement with the city to move into a 180,000-square-foot office building that will see its 700 employees spread out over five floors. In the coming years, the company hopes to increase its workforce in the city by a further 300 people.
Orlando’s mayor hopes that the move will attract even more gaming companies to the city and prove to be a boon to gaming and esports right across the state.
Florida is succeeding at esports because of interest from the public and private sectors and its large community of gamers. Remove any one of these, and it would likely fall down the rankings very quickly.