The growth of League of Legends worldwide has propelled the game and MOBA genre from something associated with “geeks” to an actual sport, attracting millions of viewers worldwide and filling out stadiums in the U.S for championship finals.
Robert Morris University has validated the sport once again, offering athletic scholarships for League of Legends players at their college. The sponsorship will offer 50 percent of their tuition fees and living costs, which is estimated at around $19,000 free income.
This is a breakthrough in the sports legitimacy, scholarships have been offered before but this is the first University to offer a program for any eSport. Riot Games will be working with RM University on funding and development.
The university will be taking in 27 players to create three teams from nine players, the teams will play in the Collegiate Star League for a chance to play in the Collegiate Championship, with a prize pool of $100,000.
Kurt Melcher, RM University’s associate athletic director, said League of Legends is a “competitive, challenging game which requires significant amount of teamwork to be successful” and wants to make sure it is legitimised as a sport.
League of Legends is the biggest online game in the world, 67 million players play once a month and 27 million play daily. Riot Games has become a notable brand of eSports, drawing in crowds of over 20 million online and creating a league system, LCS, that is watched weekly with over 500,000 viewers daily.
League of Legends is also very popular in South Korea and China, two large adopters of eSports and online video games. The Season 4 championship will be held in South Korea and Riot Games is expecting a larger audience turnout than last year.
Other MOBA games like DoTA2 continue to impress as well, with Valve’s prize pool the highest out of any eSports event, currently at $8 million and still climbing.