Widespread mobile device adoption and on-demand connections — combined with spending on emerging network technologies such as Wi-Fi 6 and 5G — have helped esports shift into mainstream K–12 school communities.
The High School Esports League serves more than 2,100 partner schools in the U.S. and Canada, reaching more than 60,000 students, according to its website. The North America Scholastic Esports Federation, which had 135 affiliated clubs in 2018, now lists on its website more than 850 spread across all 50 states and Canada.
Another sign of esports’ booming popularity: More than half of the country, either officially or unofficially, has some kind of statewide high school competition.
“A year ago, we wondered if esports were just a niche thing,” says Michael Harrison, director of public sector sales and marketing for Intel. “Now, high school teams are getting varsity letters. Universities have shifted from doing it ad hoc to moving into a sanctioned space, creating teams and offering scholarships.”
But it takes more than great gamers dominating in Dota 2 or crushing the competition in Counter-Strike: Global Offensive to support esports programs. K–12 schools, as well as colleges and universities, also need the IT backbone to create digital content on demand, capture fan attention with real-time color commentary and stream live competitions at scale.