Esports' quick rise has some universities offering degrees in gaming phenomenon

Ohio State University is among U.S. colleges that are launching programs aimed at capitalizing on the booming esports industry as the global market is expected to surge to more than $1 billion this year.

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Shenandoah University in Virginia and Becker College in Massachusetts are set to join Ohio State University in offering esports courses.

Becker College launched its Bachelor of Science in esports management in September after its initial “soft release” last year.

“It's no longer kids playing games in their basement,” Alan Ritacco, the dean of Becker College’s School of Design and Technology, told The Associated Press. He said the top esports players in the world now earn almost as much as the highest-paid stars in professional golf or tennis.

Ohio State’s undergraduate course will include the application of games to health and medicine.

Shenandoah University offers the “first multi-track esports major in the United States, and the first esports major in Virginia.” The school started its program in September as well.

Shenandoah also has an esports team that competes in the National Association of Collegiate Esports (NASE).

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According to Newzoo, the global esports market is expected to climb to $1.1 billion this year – a $230 million increase from 2018 on the growth in sponsorship deals, merchandise and ticket sales.

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The analytics firm expects the global esports audience to grow to about 454 million with fans mostly turning to the Amazon-owned Twitch and Microsoft’s Mixer to watch professionals play video games.

The Associated Press contributed to this report.